Doesn’t everybody have movie characters (or at least portrayals) that have stayed with you since childhood? I’ve been working on developing my own characters for a new story, and it got me thinking. What makes a great leading man? I am beginning to compile a few lists like these for all different types of characters, but I thought I’d start off with my top ten BIG SCREEN hunks, accompanied with a small description of why I chose them. I realize this is quite the eclectic list…which should come as no surprise if you know me.
10. Bill Pullman as JACK in While You Were Sleeping
Could there ever be a more likeable actor than Bill Pullman? I just trust this guy. This character of Jack is so real, humorous, self-deprecating, and delightfully jeaned-up (it seems like every scene he wears medium wash jeans and a matching jean jacket). I think the sincerity of his character is another factor in adding him to this list. It’s like we all knew someone like Jack. We might have fallen for the flashy friend (or in this case, the brother), but then we realize the right one was standing beside us all along (not for Lucy, but you get the drift). I love that Jack can laugh at himself when ripping his jeans, or the fact that he would even be suspicious of Lucy’s relationship with Joe Jr. Seriously, that’s brotherly devotion and pure awesomeness.
9. Anthony Andrews as SIR PERCY BLAKENEY/THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL in The Scarlet Pimpernel
Okay, this is a goofy character, but not for reals. The true Sir Percy Blakeney, or Scarlet Pimpernel, is the essence of manhood during the French Revolution. He could sword fight, smuggle out people sent to the guillotine, and woo the most beautiful actress, all the while playing the part of a fool. Is there anything more attractive than a man of morals that doesn’t care what the rest of society thinks of him? I think not.
8. FLYNN RIDER in Tangled
I know what you are thinking… really, an animated character? YES. Flynn Rider is the best. Besides being super handsome (for a cartoon, ok), he is actually a pretty complex character, and he proves he has a heart of gold. He DIES saving Rapunzel from Mother Gothel. Now that’s romantic! And his voice is so perfect, if I do say so. Audible chocolate.
7. Allen Leech as TOM BRANSON in Downton Abbey
Downton people are my kind of people, and by far, Tom was my favorite character! Besides having an incredible accent, I love his character! He was so principled, stubborn, at times even reckless, and yet, he still had a softness about him that seems lost in today’s men (that’s the worst stereotype… I am sorry, but I can’t help but say it). He was a forward thinker. Intelligence is always attractive. And by the end of the show, everyone (including the dowager) had fallen in love with him.
6. Richard Madden as KIT in Cinderella
Kit was a major improvement than the 1950’s Prince Charming. He was actually human (and his voice wasn’t like a radio announcer from back then), and he was such a gentleman. He was kind, easy to talk to, persuadable (but only by conscious reasons), and loyal. He had conviction, AND those eyes are pretty dreamy. The first time we saw it in the theater, my 7-year-old turned to me and blushed. “He’s handsome, Mommy.” Yes, but wasn’t he so much more?!
5. George Clooney as JACK TAYLOR in One Fine Day
Okay, let’s talk about this character. He maybe came off as irresponsible in the beginning, but he turns out to be a super loveable guy that is willing to replenish the class fish by driving all over New York City at midnight…and really, his voice and handsome features? Who else picks up a kitten for his daughter randomly? Not my husband (he knows there would be death involved if that happened). Definitely iconic.
4. Richard Armitage as JOHN THORNTON in North and South
I don’t know how I missed this miniseries until a few years ago, but it’s amazing and partly because of Mr. Thornton’s character. Most of us like the mysterious man. John Thornton was that. He came off so harsh and relentless in the beginning. But once again, we find a kind, constant, and principled character. He was stubborn and strong, but he also was smart enough to realize his mistakes and progress to a become a better person. I loved it. I also love this accent. Again. I am a sucker for accents.
3. Matthias Shoenaerts as GABRIEL OAK in Far from the Madding Crowd
This is another new one for me, but Gabriel Oak is iconic. Viewers fall in love with Matthias’s portrayal from the moment we meet him. He is so earnest. He is a hard worker, CONSTANT, serving, considerate, patient, and a true friend. It probably also helps that he has some of that rugged charm the ladies find so attractive (unless that’s just me???). At the end of this movie, I was so glad the heroine finally got it right. I wanted to throw a shoe at her.
2. Jonathan Crombie as GILBERT BLYTHE in Anne of Green Gables
I’ve never been able to figure out why Gilbert Blythe is so endearing, but I don’t know if I’ve ever rooted more for a character to win the heroine’s heart than Gilbert. Maybe it’s because he always cared for her (even if a little immaturely at the beginning, but really- what better way to foreshadow greatness than to start with hair pulling in school?), or perhaps it was his genuine goodness or boat-rescuing-skills. I sometimes wished I could knock Anne on the head and say, “CHOOSE HIM, CRAZY GIRL!” My husband would say it’s his feathered hair that gets all the ladies, but we all know it’s so much more.
1. Colin Firth as MR. DARCY in Pride and Prejudice
You guys, I tried so hard NOT to do it. It’s so cliché, BUT… he was perfect. Also, I love his hair. I know that’s superficial, but I thought it’s worth noting. This version of Mr. Darcy is the only one, as far as I am concerned. He comes across as so far from perfect at the beginning, but throughout the story (and through Colin’s amazing acting), viewers can’t help but feel themselves softening toward him, eventually falling down the slippery slope. We end up loving him enough to sit through hours of this movie. Seriously, he’s just a reserved guy that got a bad rap. He ends up being the best brother, employer, and friend. He also proves that constancy once again trumps every other flashy quality. Darcy puts off every expectation to marry Elizabeth. And also, isn’t it so attractive how humbled he becomes when she first turns him down? Instead of making him bitter, it just makes him better.
MY HONORABLE MENTIONS: Tom Cruise as JOSEPH in Far and Away, Jeremy Northam as MR. KNIGHTLEY in Emma, Josh Lucas as JAKE PERRY in Sweet Home Alabama, and Anthony Howell as ROGER HAMLEY in Wives and Daughters.
Did anyone else catch most of mine were from period pieces? Why is it that contemporary movies and stories often lack men worth labeling as iconic? Who did I miss? I know some of you out there are titanic fans, notebook die-hards, etc. I want to hear who you would have put on the list!