Since the beginning of film, heroes have been the center of movies. You have superheroes, policemen, figures of worldly importance, and average people that do extraordinary things. The definition of a hero has changed, sure, but many of the same elements are present throughout all great heroes. Here’s my list of the top 10.
10) John McClane (Die Hard, 1988, Bruce Willis). The foul-mouthed McClane is great to watch. The best part is that he is just a regular guy, who finds himself in an extraordinary situation. Willis gives one of the best performances of his career in this film, a role that feels made for him. He kills tons of terrorists, gets the girl, and most importantly does it with style.
9) Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver, 1976, Robert DeNiro). Bickle is a twisted individual. He sees a city filled with murderers, rapists and thieves, and decides to do something about it. Strapping up with a .44 magnum and taking down the city’s thugs that is. It is highly possible that he is viewed as a villain by others, but no matter how messed up I think Bickle is, I can’t help but be fascinated with his character.
8) Oskar Schindler (Schindler’s List, 1993, Liam Neeson). Schindler is the first hero on the list to have no desire for violence or killing. He is just a man who saves millions of lives. He is a Nazi, but only in the sense of the word, for business purposes only. He saved millions of Jewish lives from concentration camps by letting them work in his factories during their genocide in WWII. Schindler is real too, and knowing that his exploits in the movie actually happened, makes him that much more compelling.
7) Batman/Bruce Wayne (The Dark Knight, 2008, Christian Bale). Batman is truly a great character. He has so much potential and Christian Bale performs beautifully. At night, Wayne spends his hours beating criminals to a pulp. During the day, he completes important business transactions, helping to keep Gotham’s economy stable. He has a growl that would make Godzilla shake, an array of fantastic gadgets, and a villain that makes him even better. He is one of the greatest superheroes of all time.
6) Rick Blaine (Casablanca, 1942, Humphrey Bogart). First of all, Blaine is a businessman. He runs a fantastic nightclub, the toast of the town, where everyone knows and loves him. Then things get complicated when his former lover Elsa, and her new husband walks back into his life. Rick has no side on the war, but claims to belong to the side that is winning. Elsa and her husband are trying to go to America. Casablanca is their best shot at freedom. Rick and Elsa reconnect in one of the most satisfying 20 final minutes in film history.
5) Rorschach (Watchmen, 2009, Jackie Earle Haley). Rorschach is definitely the most disturbing hero on the list. He is at times cringe inducing, but is always fun to watch. He’ll do whatever it takes to get justice, whether that is breaking a man’s fingers to discover a villain’s whereabouts, or busting into a prison to kill a former mob boss. Rorschach is an excellent character, paying the ultimate price to protect the world.
4) George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946, James Stewart). George Bailey is one of those guys you are rooting for from the start. He has an “awe shucks” type of demeanor that makes you love this guy. All things go wrong, at the most inconvenient times for poor George. Then he figures out his life does indeed have a purpose, and everything turns out well in the end. Just the sort of ending you would hope George would get.
3) Captain John Miller (Saving Private Ryan, 1998, Tom Hanks). Hanks gives one of his finest performances (trust me, there are many) in this film. From the start Miller is troubled, but manages to hold his composure in front of his men. All his soldiers admire and respect him, willing to lay down their lives on his word. The struggle in emotion Miller deals with is incredible. I love Hanks in this film, and it is without a doubt the greatest war movie of all time.
2) Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981, Harrison Ford). Ford gives the performance of his career as one of the most iconic characters in film history. The man in the hat is funny, charming, brave, tough, smart, and most importantly believable. He is an everyman trying to do right the best way he knows how. He is probably the most iconic figure in American film history. I love this character, and I can’t imagine anyone else playing it the way Ford does.
1) Rocky Balboa (Rocky, 1976, Sylvester Stallone). Alas, we have come to a conclusion. This is where our champion is crowned. Rocky Balboa is the greatest hero of all time. Sly Stallone gives undoubtedly the greatest performance of his career. He is the ultimate underdog. Almost broke, living in a run-down apartment, in a bum neighborhood, Rocky takes a shot at fighting the world’s greatest boxer: Apollo Creed. He doesn’t even care if he beats Creed. All he ever wanted to do was go the distance. And that is why I love Rocky.
Well there you have it folks, my list of the ten greatest heroes in film history. If you have not watched any of these movies, I suggest with the utmost importance that you watch them. Immediately.