In principle, this should be a rather simple list. Put some fantastic names in a hat, sort them, and then write some fanboy nonsense about how awesome these folks are on the inside. But this is Animated Times, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We tossed over fifty names around the office, dropped a few, added a few more, dropped a few more, re-added ones we discarded, and then battled over the results.
We could have easily made this list fifty or a hundred items lengthy and yet overlooked a fan favorite somewhere. To be honest, this list was difficult to compose because science fiction has provided us with so many interesting personalities throughout the years. Over the years, the genre has stolen aspects from other genres and merged them to produce some amazing narratives. The characters at the heart of the story are what keep us coming back for more.
With sci-fi seeing a renaissance of great tales and characters recently, we take a look back at those who have defined the genre thus far.
5. Rick Deckard – Blade Runner
There’s a solid case to be made that Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty should be here instead; he has more to do emotionally, and his “Tears in the Rain” phrase is more memorable than anything Ford says, but it’s Ford’s sulky performance as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner that made the cut.
Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford didn’t have a lot of chemistry together, which is why Ford’s Deckard is such a break from Ford’s regular character. There’s none of Han Solo’s or Indiana Jones’ brash charm here. In between eating noodles from street sellers, he’s a working guy who chases illicit replicants around a cyber-punk Los Angeles of 2019.
The neo-noir backdrop, the dialogue by Sam Spade, and Ford’s acting are all excellent. It’s Ford’s subtlety that allows Rutgers’ Batty to shine, which is why it’s so good. Few leading males can pull this off, but Ford does.
4. Boba Fett – The Star Wars Saga
Boba Fett is one of the most recognizable characters in the original Star Wars trilogy, despite the fact that he is notoriously lousy at his job (he is meant to be one of the most dangerous men in the galaxy, after all) and talks very little. Boba Fett immediately drew the attention of the audience with his tremendously amazing T-shaped visor and Jeremy Bullock’s attitude.
While Darth Vader’s disdainful “No disintegration” admonition to Fett distinguishes him as the badass of the bounty hunters assembled by Vader to find Han, Leia, and the crew of the Millennium Falcon, it’s something about Jeremy Bullock’s posture that gives the performance its edge. He’s always had his rifle ready, and his stance says he’s ready to get savage at any time. It’s a small thing, but it’s significant.
3. Rocket & Groot – Guardians of The Galaxy
Rocket and Groot, the breakout heroes of the decade’s unlikeliest mega-hit Guardians of the Galaxy, are two of the most recent additions to the list.
Rocket and Groot resemble some of the greatest sci-fi characters of all time. Rocket has more than a hint of a young and mercenary Han Solo, while Groot has a LOT of Chewbacca. They appear to have quite different moral compasses on the surface and are largely along for the ride. However, each has far more going on than seems on the surface. A lesser filmmaker might have reduced them to mere comedic relief, but James Gunn recognizes lightning in a bottle and isn’t afraid to let it loose. In Rocket, he provides a heart to a Racoon-like monster with a nasty temper and a large cannon. Bradley Cooper is an excellent choice for his voice, as he manages to turn him into a hilarious genius (“I Need that guy’s leg”) who begs Groot not to die. Rocket’s small hand joins the other Guardians’ in the climactic scenes against Ronan, as he prepares to die protecting a cosmos that has done him nothing but damage. He’s a small hero, but he has a big heart.
2. Yoda – Star Wars
There have been many excellent mentors throughout film history. Indeed, the mentor role is one of the great archetypes of Western literature, and a hero is frequently nothing without wise words and instruction to fall back on. So, after decades of these figures appearing in literature and film, it’s all the more astonishing that the best of them all should take the appearance of a little green puppet.
Yoda, who Luke underestimates, demonstrates his strength in the force and begins to open Luke’s mind to new possibilities. He is patient, and most crucially for a mentor, he lets Luke fail. Yoda is dismayed when Luke enters the cave and faces the evil apparitions there, but he urges Luke to look past his error.
It’s a tribute to Frank Oz’s voice and puppetry abilities that Yoda genuinely comes to life. The prequels’ CGI Yoda is never as good. Mark Hammil is another player who has gone unnoticed. His ability to act beside a puppet on a swamp-filled set is astounding.
Yoda is one of the finest characters in a series full of them, thanks to his wisdom, strange speaking manner, and sense of humor.
It’s not often that the evil guy becomes a fan favorite, but Darth Vader captivated the crowd from the outset. His scuba-gear breathing device set him out from the rest as he stepped through the shattered bulkhead, his gleaming black armor a startling contrast to the white of the Alderaanian ship and white armor of his Stormtroopers. Over time, he progresses from being Tarkin’s enforcer (remember, in Star Wars, he accepts instructions from Tarkin) to a key role, finally revealed to be Luke’s Father and the saga’s core character.
His return from the depths of darkness to save his kid from The Emperor costs him his life. He dies in the light, though, and is reunited with his former comrades in the hereafter. Despite the numerous horrors he participates in as Darth Vader, the light stayed inside him long enough for Luke to rekindle it.