Top 10 Favorite Film Protagonists
#4 Ellen Ripley – Alien Franchise
While the later films aren’t as good, I still love watching a strong female character captivate the screen. She’s considered one of the first female action stars, but to me she’s one of the first to prove that females can handle lead roles better than most male actors. Sigourney Weaver portrayed this headstrong protagonist through four films. The character never faltered, and is always the beacon of light at the center of each film. We rooted for Ripley because she was up against the greatest odds, but we also rooted for her because she was our leader. She always took the reigns instead of following some shcmuck. I don’t come away happy from the “Alien” films because I saw some awesome action. I come away happy because I just watched a great journey, headlined by an excellent female character.
#3. Derek Vinyard – American History X
Talk about a perfect example of a character arc. Derek Vinyard starts off as a white supremacist and turns into a charming and thankful man by the end of the film. With a unique storytelling style that uses a lot of flashbacks, you get to compare and contrast Vinyard’s character throughout the entire film. Usually, films show a characters internal journey (inner conflict) from point A to point B, but this storytelling style allows a more empathic doorway into a complex character. Not only is Edward Norton’s performance phenomenal, but also the strength of Derek Vinyard is the film’s anchor, keeping it on excellent ground. Check this film out if you’ve never seen it, and pay special attention to the protagonist’s character arc.
#2. Harold & Lloyed – Dumb & Dumber
I can’t say it enough, but this is my favorite comedy. It’s so brilliant, so genius, and so smart that you come away with your stomach hurting from laughter. The pacing and filmmaking can be praised, but the performances by Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey are some of the most iconic ever. Their talents as actors and the beautiful screenplay create cohesive characters that need each other to succeed. Take one of them away, and you get a less than stellar experience. This is why I count them as one protagonist; you need both of them for this great story to be told. The characters are so dumb, but it took genius writing to create them. This kind of comedic intelligence sparkles through Daniels and Carrey’s performances, giving you lead characters that carry you through the journey in exceptional, laughter-filled fashion.
#1. Danny Archer – Blood Diamond
Leonardo DiCaprio deserves an Oscar for many of his roles, but he especially deserves one for his portrayal of Danny Archer. Right off the bat, the filmmakers of “Blood Diamond” build Archer’s empathy, starting a great emotional journey that will have you laughing, crying, and yelling. Add this perfect character development to Dicaprio’s talents, and you got an experience that’s full of deception, betrayal, emotion, and heart. You never thought you’d love such an unlikable character like Danny Archer, but his humanity draws you in, making you root for him and his companion Solomon Vandy. Towards the end, you’re begging Archer to complete his arc and change his ways by becoming a better man. It’s this kind of emotional reaction I look for in every film. The only way to get it is if the protagonist is well developed, full of humanity, and completely relatable. Danny Archer might be a vicious diamond hunter, but he’s a human nonetheless. His internal journey makes him my favorite protagonist of all-time, but the way he captivates audiences and leads you through the film establish him as an amazing protagonist all around.
There are many protagonists within many films. Some are easier to like than others, but in the end it’s all based on your wonderful, personal opinion. So, with that said…