The 2010s were a hell of a decade for film. Disney had a stranglehold on the box office. A24 cornered the market on low-budget cinema. Blumhouse made horror great again. Moviegoers finally embraced foreign film (kinda) and critically acclaimed movies were being shot on cellphones. The age of the mega-blockbuster essentially destroyed moderately budgeted films. Streaming provided hundreds of hours of new content (some of which was provided by some heavy hitters, such as Scorsese and the Coen Bros). Weird independent filmmakers were allowed the opportunity to direct huge movies. And previously thought impossible to see films such as The Man Who Killed Don Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind were actually released. It was a decade in which the Oscars finally got it right (for two years at least) and which everyone tried and failed to be Marvel (RIP Dark Universe). Blank checks were cut regularly, resulting in some amazing titles such as Blade Runner 2049, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Irishman and not-so-great titles like A Wrinkle in Time, The Last Airbender, and Cats. The decade was impossible to pin down but what no one can dispute is the amount of indelible characters it produced. McConaughey had a career resurgence, DiCaprio was on fire and the MCU was a movie star-making factory. It felt like every new blockbuster introduced at least five new fan favorites, so limiting this to one hundred was a bloodletting but eventually we here at SAW did it.
These are the 100 Greatest 2010s Movie Characters.
100. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) | Deadpool (2016)
Wade Wilson is more a collection of humorous and violent non sequiturs than a coherent character – and yet he is a damn entertaining collection of those things. Ryan Reynolds inhabits the Merc With a Mouth like he was born to play the role. The only other marriage of comic book character and actor that works this well is Ron Perlman and Hellboy. The first film injects an element of pathos into the character that somehow works, despite this being a man who jokes about masturbating with a tiny, regenerating hand. The second film doesn’t gel as well, but I’m still there for Deadpool (and Peter – is he in this list?), and god help me I’m probably in for Deadpool 3.
99. Olaf (Josh Gad) | Frozen (2013)
I’d like to start by saying I’m appalled that Olaf isn’t higher on this list. As far as snowmen go, he’s got Frosty beat by a mile. Josh Gad gives amazing depth to a character who could have easily been dismissed as comic relief. The love between Elsa and Anna is the focus of Frozen, and Olaf is the literal embodiment of that love — a magical friend Elsa created to make her little sister happy. Outside of his importance to the sisters and their relationship, Olaf is simply delightful — he’s funny, friendly, wise and, of course, an excellent singer. As far as Disney movie sidekicks go, Olaf is certainly one of the best.
98. Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson) | The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
Not since Gene Autry has a performer/character left their mark on the Singing Cowboy trope as hard or as definitively as Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs. I’m not an expert in the genre, but from my (admittedly limited) knowledge about the subject, the Singing Cowboy was never portrayed this badass before. Autry, Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter are many things, but they sure as hell ain’t badass. I have no doubt they’re extremely efficient at saving the ranch or cleaning up the lawless town but I don’t need to watch any of them to know they ain’t looking like John Wick with a guitar while they do it. Buster Scruggs is very much a singing cowboy. The Coen Bros. took a character archetype that fell out of popularity close to fifty years ago and updated it by making him feel like John Wick. Scruggs is neither a send up nor a parody of the genre and Nelson never feels like he’s playing it tongue in cheek. It’s an earnest portrayal of an archetype bordering on self parody with a performance that equals the best of the duos filmography.
97. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Bruce Willis) | Looper (2012)
Looper is a time travel movie and I do love me a good time travel movie (not as much as Duke and Jacob, though). That’s really just the Macguffin to hang a story about a man (men?) who will do anything for the person they love. Anything. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great as a Looper – someone who kills people sent back from the future. And then his future self arrives and things get crazy. Bruce Willis is always good value and the playoff between the two characters is great, but Gordon-Levitt is the heart and soul of the story (despite those prosthetics) and I love the way the movie turns on two men making the hardest choices for the ones they love, even if they’re the same person.
96. Michael Cera (Himself) | This Is the End (2013)
Celebrities playing fictionalized versions of themselves always allows for filmmakers and actors to have some fun. This is the End is an entire movie built around this concept. Stars like Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill have more room to work, but the actor obviously having the most fun with an outrageous version of himself is Michael Cera. Cera known for his roles at quirky and nerdy characters in great comedies, is shown here as a wild party animal. He does an absurd amount of cocaine and inappropriately smacks Rihanna’s ass. It’s hysterical to see the fictionalized version of his real self be so against the type that we’re used to him playing in his best roles. But it’s even more hysterical seeing how this party animal dies in the destruction of the apocalypse.
95. David Collins (Dan Stevens) | The Guest (2014)
The fawning for nostalgia is in full bloom. All things 80s are cool and hip, and superficial in most respects. But, every once in a while, we are treated by a filmmaker who understands homage supersedes nostalgia as a setting. Enter 2014’s The Guest, a slick throwback to ’80s and ’90s flicks without ever directly force-feeding the audience memberberries.
The titular guest happens to be David Collins (Dan Stevens), an elite Army commando come to pay respect to his fallen buddy’s surviving family. Fresh off the bus and in dusty boots, David is instantly charming to Mom and Dad, and is compelling to the kids: he’s respectful, a bit dry with his humor, and indispensable to the needs of those who’ve graciously accepted him into their home. David offers an ear to bend to the father, who can’t seem to stop complaining about work, helps the mother with laundry, is a true hero, and even resolves the 80’s cliché of a high school bully for the son. But David is not quite as he seems.
After a brief First Act stringing along audiences, it’s swiftly revealed that David is more Terminator than he is Mrs. Doubtfire. The man is a sociopathic killing machine practically engineered by a secret detachment within the government. The movie goes full action-thriller as David dispatches everyone he so easily charmed, and, to both the actor and filmmaker’s credit, the audience has fun with it. David is practically on auto-pilot, perpetrating evil on plainly innocent civilians (until the Army is called in like any good 80s plot point), and even then it’s probably safe to say most audiences are still fans of the man. David is just that likable a person. You would probably let a rucksack-hauling Dan Stevens into your house if he smiled in your doorway; the regret would come later after.
94. Moses (John Boyega) | Attack the Block (2011)
When you first meet Moses (John Boyega) he’s evidently a thug, the leader of a youth gang, and wouldn’t be out of place in one of the “hoodie horror” films of the early 2010’s (like Eden Lake or Citadel). Then an alien crashes to earth while the gang is robbing a nurse (Doctor Who‘s Jody Whitaker) and things go sideways. Soon Moses and his gang (and the nurse, Sam) are on the run, trying to survive and defeat an alien invasion. Moses reveals a complicated and, in the end, heroic character. It’s been a while since I saw Attack the Block (I’d forgotten Nick Frost was in it, for instance), but I remember Boyega’s Moses. He’s the film’s anchor and your appreciation of the character grows as the film progresses. I just read that director Joe Cornish is making a sequel, featuring Moses, and I for one cannot wait to see it.
93. Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) | The Hunt (2012)
Lucas is a lonely primary school teacher whose life descends into complete turmoil after a false accusation. It’s a horrible situation that, especially in present times, we all have nightmares about. As the small community he lives in assembles into nothing more than a witch hunt, Lucas is really put through the wringer. Mads Mikkelsen gives a phenomenal performance. The pain and anxiety he exudes really hit me hard on first viewing, and every time since. He’s a righteous character that has been unfairly vilified, and even when things seem to have got back on the straight and narrow, it’s apparent there will always be a level of nagging doubt and paranoia surrounding him.
92. Kevin Khatchadourian (Ezra Miller) | We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Kevin might be the most singularly evil person ever depicted on screen. Since We Need to Talk About Kevin is told out of chronological order, the film constantly bounces between pre-massacre Kevin and post-massacre Kevin. The latter is a man reveling in the newfound stardom that unfortunately comes to every high school shooter or serial killer and the former is everything that leads up to it, which is to say: a demented child who delights in tormenting his mother.
From about the age of four up until the day of the incident, Kevin is a complete and total monster. He’s not a charming psychopath, he’s not a sympathetic boy with mental problems, he’s absolute evil. It’s like he’s playing an insidious game with his mother but she doesn’t know the rules and every time she loses, she gets punished. She loses at least twenty times a day, every day for sixteen years, with the ultimate irony being that even after he’s out of her life, the true torment begins.
91. Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) & Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) | 21 Jump Street (2012)
Usually, when a movie reboots a tv show from a bygone era, it fails to find an audience. But there is no secret to 21 Jump Street‘s success, all they did was take the teen comedy and the buddy cop comedy and morphed them together. It was really a no-brainer and this movie would’ve worked had it been branded with the name of an old TV show or not.
A lot of people give Jonah Hill a hard time and I have never understood it. Maybe it has to do with the oversaturation of the actor in too many similar movies (much like that of Seth Rogen) but I don’t feel that Jonah deserves the same type of hate. He came out of the gate swinging with Superbad, and 21 Jump Street proved that he still had the chops to be funny on the fly. This film also shined a new light on Channing Tatum and he’s funnier than I ever would’ve given him credit for. 21 and 22 Jump Street were lightning in a bottle and as much as I would’ve loved a trilogy, it’s probably best that it remains a duology.
Last Decade | 90-81
What do you think of the selection so far? Who are some of your favorite 2010s characters? Maybe they will show up further on the list!