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.
60. Holland March (Ryan Gosling) & Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) | The Nice Guys (2016)
Do buddy cop (or buddy private investigator) stories even work if you don’t have an odd couple at the center of it? Holland March and Jackson Healy are great proof of that. They’re also proof that the odd couple’s chemistry is paramount to the film’s success. Both characters offer actors Russell Crow and Ryan Gosling to flash their under-appreciated comedic brilliance. Say what you will about Shane Black as a filmmaker (or person) but the dude definitely knows how to write a comedic duo. Exhibit A right here.
59. Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) | Get Out (2017)
The first word that comes to my mind when I think of this character is intuition. It’s certainly his greatest attribute and what makes him so compelling as a character. While Get Out is full of great moments of dread, we never fear that Chris is putting himself in more danger than needed. The scares all happen around him; never because of him. We feel his pain when falls into the sunken place and we share his desire to get out of it (see what I did there?). His keen awareness and hyper-awareness is a welcomed change for a lead character in a horror flick.
58. The Driver (Ryan Gosling) | Drive (2011)
The Driver is the epitome of cool. Ryan Gosling has perfected the stony-faced outcast role, and he employs it to perfection here. A stuntman by day and getaway driver by night, the Driver is equally accomplished at both jobs. But as he gets embroiled in a messy relationship with his neighbor, and involved with some shady characters, things start to spiral out of control for him. Even though he doesn’t have a lot to say and remains emotionless throughout most of the movie, you really want him to be able to escape from the life of crime and settle down.
57. Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) | True Grit (2010)
The superstardom of John Wayne dominates the original True Grit as the wayward US Marshal Rooster Cogburn, and Jeff Bridges is equally fantastic int he role. But Hailee Steinfeld’s performance brings the shine to the character that is the true focus of the story— Mattie Ross. Most young girls couldn’t hold their own with Wild West outlaws, sheriffs and marshals, but Mattie Ross is the exception. Her character is on full display as she bargains a poor horse salesman down with her wit and incessant chatter. Ross is. fully realized character that never loses her humor despite being fueled by vengeance for the man who killed her father.
56. Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) | The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Leonardo DiCaprio has never been better than his performance as the real-life Jordan Belfort. DiCaprio is unhinged as the shady Wall Street manipulator, constantly high on qualudes and drunk on his own power. Unlike many of these powerful characters though, Belfort is not a serious guy in the slightest. Instead he funnels that power into having the most luxurious fun a guy could have. Making it, of course, all the better when his house begins to come crashing down.
55. Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) | Sicario (2015)
I’ve often thought that No Country for Old Men and Sicario would make a good double feature. They share a subject matter and setting, but I also think that two of the main characters make for an interesting contrast. On paper, Alejandro and Anton are similar characters. They are emotionless killers. They both seem empty. We aren’t sure what drives them. With Anton, we never find out. Maybe he’s just a psychopath or maybe he’s evil incarnate. By the time we get to the end of Sicario though, we find out that Alejandro is nothing like Anton. Alejandro is driven by something very specific, and it’s the only thing driving him to do anything. It’s the only thing keeping him alive. And that thing is vengeance.
54. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) | Knives Out (2019)
I adore mysteries. I adore comedy too. Thrust those two together, and I am in heaven! Clearly modeled after the literary detective Hercule Poirot, Benoit Blanc is heralded by those who know him as the ‘world’s greatest detective.’ And he proves that he is, even when it comes across to the audience that he hasn’t figured out a dang thing. Blanc’s southern drawl and eccentricities are as entertaining as his metaphors and snark. While Knives Out and Glass Onion are based around a mystery, we still get to learn more about who Blanc is beyond just his super-sleuthing. Daniel Craig may be James Bond to many, but in my mind, at the end of the day, he’s going to be remembered for his hilariously complex performance as Benoit Blanc. The detective is one of the best things to come out of the 2010s, and I’m thrilled that we’re getting a third Benoit Blanc film.
53. Annie Graham (Toni Collette) | Hereditary (2018)
Some horror films live and die by their premises. They ask an audience to believe a guy can kill you in your sleep or that a little boy can see ghosts. Some horror films live and die by their villain. Others by how much sex and violence they promise.
And a few live and die by the performances. Hereditary would not have worked if the lead was weak. The character of Annie needed an actress who could run the full gamut of emotions, who could inspire sympathy and disgust in the audience. You needed to believe her but there also needed to be doubt. Is she crazy or is something malicious happening to her family?
Hereditary is a perfect example of a film being completely dependant on the strength of the central character and Toni Collette knocks it out of the park. She gives one of the best performances in any horror film to date.
52. Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) | Call Me By Your Name (2017)
If Pedro Pascal is the internet’s daddy, Chalamet is most assuredly it’s twink boyfriend. It seems like everyone became obsessed with him immediately but his sudden rise in fame started here. In Call Me By Your Name he plays a seventeen-year-old boy named Elio who spends his summers with his parents at their villa in Northern Italy. He comes from an intellectual and cultured background, with his father being a professor of archaeology and his mother a translator. Elio himself is highly intelligent, fluent in several languages, and an accomplished pianist and music composer. He spends much of his free time composing music, and his family often hosts musical evenings where he plays for their guests.
Elio is introspective and sensitive, with a tendency towards melancholy at times. He is often lost in thought and contemplation, and can appear aloof or distant to others. He is also deeply passionate and emotional, with a strong sense of empathy and an intense desire for love and connection.
When the charming and confident Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives to work with his father for the summer, Elio is initially put off by his brash manner. However, they soon develop a deep and complex relationship, shaped by Elio’s confused feelings of desire, insecurity, and fear. Over the course of the summer, Elio comes to understand and embrace his own sexuality, despite the social and cultural taboos surrounding same-sex attraction. He also learns to confront his fear of vulnerability and emotional intimacy, ultimately experiencing a profound loss and heartbreak as his relationship with Oliver comes to an end. The closing credits (as well as his father’s own admittance of bisexually late in the film) are strong indicators to the viewer that his summer in Italy has fundamentally changed him. His journey of self discovery is beautiful as it is heart breaking. Even if you don’t identify as gay, you can still see yourself in him. We’ve all had that crush that broke our hearts and that pain feels like everything in the moment. This moment just happens to be caught on celluloid for all time.
51. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) | Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
There are some villains you hate. Some villains you love to hate. And some villains you just love. Loki clearly falls into the last category. Who can help it? Sure, he tries to use an alien army to take over Earth, but he’s so damn charming while he does it. Tom Hiddleston’s performance is spectacular, conveying layers of emotion that give depth and nuance to Loki and pave the way for his redemption in later movies.
70-61 | 50-41
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!