10 Classic Movie Characters

Saturday, January 22 by Joshua Wade

Featuring some of the most iconic characters in film history, these ten classic movie characters have earned some of their portrayers Academy Awards, while others have served to launch the careers of actors like Sylvester Stallone and Christopher Reeve.

  1. Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane – “Citizen Kane” (1941) Considered to be the greatest film ever made, “Citizen Kane” was nominated for nine Academy Awards and was written, produced, and directed by Welles who starred as the megalomaniacal Charles Foster Kane in his feature film debut. One of the greatest classic movie characters ever conceived, Kane was based on newspaper magnate William Randolph Hurst.
  2. Myrna Loy as Nora Charles – “The Thin Man” (1934) The sultry and sarcastic better half to William Powell’s drunken detective Nick Charles, Myra Loy’s portrayal as classic movie character Nora Charles revived her lagging career and led to fourteen movies with William Powell, including five “Thin Man” sequels.
  3. Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara – “Gone with the Wind” (1939) One of the greatest female classic movie characters in film history, the character of Scarlett O’Hara earned Vivien Leigh an Academy Award for Best Actress. The film is considered one of the greatest films ever made and was the longest American sound film up to that time.
  4. Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa – “Rocky” (1976) One of the most beloved classic movie characters in sports movie history, Rocky Balboa made Sylvester Stallone a superstar and spawned five sequels. The story of an underdog boxer and his fight for the American Dream earned an Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as Best Actor and Best Writing nominations for writer-actor Stallone.
  5. Diane Keaton as Annie Hall – “Annie Hall” (1977) Woody Allen’s best known and most beloved film, “Annie Hall” was actor-director Woody Allen’s first serious film and marked a turning point in his career. The film also won Diane Keaton an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal as the charming, ditzy titular character.
  6. Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine – “Casablanca” (1942) One of the greatest noir films ever made, “Casablanca” won an Academy Award for Best Picture and secured Humphrey Bogart’s place in film history for his portrayal as charismatic bar owner Rick Blaine. The classic movie character earned Bogart a new status as a romantic leading man, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
  7. Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey – “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) One of the most beloved characters ever to grace the screen, Jimmy Stewart’s warm and selfless turn as George Bailey is one of writer-director Frank Capra’s finest characters and remains Stewart’s most memorable role.
  8. Christopher Reeve as Superman – “Superman” (1978) The first of four films to feature Reeves as the titular superhero, Reeves' portrayal defined the character of the honest and benevolent Man of Steel. Superman proved to be Reeves’ most notable character and sent him from at unknown actor to an international superstar overnight.
  9. Gary Cooper as Longfellow Deeds – “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936) Another of Frank Capra’s most memorable characters, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” was Cooper’s first collaboration with Capra and was the first to feature Cooper as a good natured everyman–a character he would play often and for which he would come to be remembered.
  10. Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale – “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) Featuring some of the most recognizable musical numbers in movie history, the wholesome fairytale story of a Kansas farm girl in the magical land of Oz featured Judy Garland’s most memorable character, Dorothy Gale. Dorothy Gale made Judy Garland a gay icon and remains one of the most important and influential characters in gay and lesbian culture.