The 100 Greatest ’90s Movie Characters (20-11)

There has never been a decade in film quite like the ’90s. It was a time where foreign and independent films were as big as blockbusters. Unlike today where Disney has a monopoly on entertainment, it felt like cinema at that time was one giant sandbox where everyone could play. Auteurs from decades past were making movies alongside indie darlings. Hell, even documentaries were big. It was a fertile period for cinephiles and with that came a wellspring of iconic characters. There was bullet dodging hacker ninjas and Bible quoting hitmen. Charismatic cannibals, Scottish junkies, philosophical slackers and clerks who weren’t supposed to be here today. They made us start fight clubs, believe in ghosts and quote shagadelic spies ad nauseum. These are the characters that made the decade as beloved as it is.

These are the 100 Greatest ’90s Characters of All Time.

20. Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon) and Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis) | Thelma & Louise (1991)

Whatever the female equivalent of a bromance is, Thelma and Louise defined it. Best friends and closer than sisters, you really get to appreciate their friendship as events during the film spiral out of control. Louise (Susan Sarandon) is a mature and loyal maternal figure while Thelma (Geena Davis) is a naive housewife, but also a young vibrant female in her prime. There’s a sizeable age difference between the two, yet they still have a strong connection. When they both give up the grind and monotony of everyday life and hit the road, you can’t help but be inspired by how they have each other’s backs. Right until the very end. 

– Lee McCutcheon

19. Ghostface (Roger L. Jackson) | Scream (1996)

“Do you like scary movies?”

Scream revitalized the slasher, offering something fresh and unique to the stale genre. A large part of the film’s success can be credited to Ghostface and the numerous killers behind the mask. Ghostface isn’t supernatural like Friday the 13th‘s Jason or Halloween‘s Michael Myers; its an identity worn by a number of human characters throughout the franchise. Its an easily attainable costume, making it impossible to figure out the killer based on who would have purchased the costume. With the voice modulator that made them sound like Roger L. Jackson, Ghostface became an unstoppable force, a killer bent on killing Scream‘s final girl, Sidney Prescott. I only got around to watching the Scream movies for the first time this year, but they are already some of my favorite horror movies. Part of the thrill in watching is trying to guess who is under the mask. You’re solving a mystery as much as you are watching a movie, and personally that’s why I love Ghostface. I love the whodunit nature that Ghostface brings to these films. And I’ll keep watching them as long as Ghostface continues to be a compelling antagonist.

– Marmaduke Karlston

18. Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) | Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction is full of exceptional characters and Mia Wallace is sometimes one that is overlooked. Her story arc is probably my favorite in the entire movie and features iconic dancing, awkward flirting, and one of the best sections in the entire movie – the nail-biting overdose scene. There is something undeniably alluring about her, but she also oozes danger and it’s clear she’s not someone to mess with. She just radiates a certain something that I can’t put my finger on. The chemistry between her and Travolta is top level and that’s all down to the mystery and seduction from Uma Thurman’s character. 

– Lee McCutcheon

17. Tracy Enid Flick (Reese Witherspoon) | Election (1999)

More than anti-hero but not your stereotypical protagonist either. Tracy Enid Flick is your classic [and darkly comedic] overachiever.

Made notorious in Alexander Payne’s early title and bonafide 90s cult classic, Election, Tracy Flick embodies all that makes up that brilliant high school do-it-all girl. She’s both a character we all recognize and yet three-dimensional to be uncanny and unmatched. A testament to Reese Witherspoon’s performance. I mean, she pretty much creates a brand new archetype with this unconventional tour de force performance. A top-tier performance that still holds-up 22 years later and still unsettles as much as it identifies.

Pick Flick and have a cupcake.

– Mitch Roush

16. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) | Fight Club (1999)

“All the ways you wish you could be, that’s me. I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not.”

Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden is the toxic ideal of a man, but… that’s still an ideal. Looking as cool as anyone’s ever looked on screen, it’s one of his best performances, and bridged the gap between Brad Pitt the heartthrob and Brad Pitt the screen legend.

– D.N. Williams

15. Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) | Edward Scissorhands (1990)

It’s not easy having scissors for hands. Edward, believing himself to be “unfinished” because he lacks real hands, has spent years living in isolation. It is only after he is discovered by a local Avon saleswoman that he is able to begin his journey of self-discovery. This is Johnny Depp’s breakthrough role and his performance as Edward Scissorhands helped set the foundation for the future Burton/Depp team-ups. Edward Scissorhands might not be my favorite movie, but I can recognize its importance in Depp and Burton’s filmography.

– Marmaduke Karlston

14. David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) | Dazed and Confused (1993)

Most of the guys I know that never left their hometown and continued to hang around high school kids were not as charming and good looking as Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson. That’s actually an understatement; they were all pretty much creeps (sorry, guys). 

But that ain’t Wooderson, man. Wooderson is as cool as they come. He’s got the car, the groovy hair, and the knowing smile. And he’s got all the best lines. 

And that’s why we remember Wooderson. But I would love to see where Wooderson ended up. Did he ever get his shit together and move past those high school girls? Did he go to college, get a job, and start a family? Or is he still cruising Top Notch, combing his hair over to hide a growing bald spot, gut bulging from too many cheese burgers and beers, and hoping, against all odds, to score a little action?

I don’t know.

But I do know this: I’d pay money to find out. 

– Billy Dhalgren

13. John Doe (Kevin Spacey) | Seven (1995)

How he’s not in the top 10 is BEYOND me. In real life Kevin Spacey may be a pariah in Hollywood now, but god damn does he absolutely fucking kill it as John Doe. It’s hands down one of his best performances in one of Fincher’s best movies. Beginning to end it sucks you in. He plays the subtle yet maniacal killer to perfection. Everything he says and does in this film is just eerie.

– K. Alvarez

12. Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Taking great advantage of her diminutive stature and her ability to always look like she’s barely keeping her composure, Jodie Foster brought Clarice Starling to life with the aid of director Jonathan Demme, and centered one of the best Thrillers of all time. Anthony Hopkins is a scene stealer, but Foster is the absolute star of the show. It’s weird to think that she was not Demme’s first choice, and that had he won over Michelle Pfieffer we’d have been robbed of what Foster did with the part.

– D.N. Williams

11. Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) | Goodfellas (1990)

Pesci’s character Tommy DeVito in Martin Scorsese’s classic film is based on the real gangster Thomas DeSimone, who was part of a New York mafia. Pesci is both hilarious and ruthless; however, if we learned anything from Goodfellas, it was to not tell Tommy DeVito that he is a funny guy. He is a bully you can’t help but love.

– Vincent Kane

30-21 | 10-1

What do you think of the selection so far? Who are some of your favorite ’90s characters? Maybe they will show up further on the list!