22 Unforgettable Character Introductions in Movies

Sometimes a character is introduced in a movie in a way that immediately tells you all you need to know. Is this character friendly, bad, cool or slick? Is he/she the ultimate hero? The ultimate badass? The ultimate gangster? In this list you will find 22 character introductions that stick. If you’ve seen the movies, chances are you probably remember them. Enjoy!

22. Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather

Played by
: Marlon Brando
First lines: “Why did you go to the police? Why didn’t you come to me first?”
Why memorable: What better way to introduce the mighty Don Corleone than to show him during a day at the office? We learn a lot of things from this. For one thing, he has power, lots of power. He has everybody in his pocket. Respect and honor matter more to him than money. Don Corleone knows how to treat a friend, but when you’re in his debt you can expect him to ask something in return. Through three little visits by relations we learn exactly how the Don works (a favor for a favor), what his principles are (“you can act like a man!”) and how he sees himself (“we’re not murderers, despite of what this undertaker says”). Marvelous.

21. John Tuld in Margin Call

Played by
: Jeremy Irons
First lines: “Please, sit down.”
Why memorable: He arrives by helicopter, the CEO of a big Wall Street bank, at the brink of the mother of all market crashes. The moment he enters the conference room, he hypnotizes everybody, including the audience. Jeremy Irons completely rules in this scene. He has great lines to work with (“Maybe you could tell me what is going on. And please, speak as you might to a young child. Or a golden retriever. It wasn’t brains that brought me here; I assure you that”), and his delivery is completely mesmerizing.

20. Garland ‘The Marietta Mangler’ Greene in Con Air

Played by
: Steve Buscemi
First lines: “He’s a font of misplaced rage. Name your cliché. Mother held him too much or not enough.”
Why memorable: The fun thing about Con Air is the high density of insane criminals on board of a hijacked airplane; Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom; Johnny 23; Diamond Dog; et cetera. When you think you’ve got them all, a new bunch arrives, including Garland Greene aka the ‘Marietta Mangler’, who slaughtered 37 people. “Should be interesting”, Grissom says. Greene’s entrance is pretty hilarious; a steel security truck; a gimp-like suit; loads of guards and impressed remarks by the toughest of criminals. Then Grissom has his mask removed and we look at…Steve Buscemi, a creepy Steve Buscemi no less. Later, he surprisingly turns out to be pretty friendly.

19. Isaac Davis in Manhattan

Played by
: Woody Allen
First lines: “Chapter 1. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. Uh, no. Make that; he romanticized it all out of proportion. Better.”
Why memorable: This particular scene really nails Woody Allen. While we view beautiful black and white images of Manhattan, we hear him in a voice-over describing why he loves this city. Typically Allen, he does so in a really neurotic way, changing his description about six times in only a few minutes. Boy, can he talk! Arguably Allen is not portraying Isaac Davis here, but he is really playing himself. In either case, you get to know the man right away with this intro. Whether that is positive or negative is a matter of taste.

18. Django in Django

Played by
: Franco Nero
First lines: “Whatever I’m doing here is none of your business.”
Why memorable: What a great way to start a movie! First, we get a credit sequence in which we see a mysterious man carry a coffin behind him through the desert. We don’t see his face. The campy credits seem to come straight out of an old Italian horror flick. The title song ‘Django’ plays and not only is it beautiful, it also tells us the story; once you’ve loved her, whoa-oh…now you’ve lost her, whoa-oh-oh-oh…but you’ve lost her for-ever, Django. In the scene after, Django eliminates five sadistic bandits that want to burn a girl alive. It is confirmed, Django is a bloody hero! No matter what happens next, we will be with him.

17. Amélie Poulain in Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain

Played by
: Audrey Tautou
First lines: “Les poules couvent souvent au couvent.” (‘The chickens cluck more often than the rooster crows.’)
Why memorable: The romantic fairytale Amelie, opens with a depiction of the childhood of main character Amélie Poulain in Paris neighborhood Montmartre. Because of circumstances and the personalities of her parents, Amélie grows up at home, where she retreats into her own fantasy world where vinyl records are made like crepes and crocodile monsters come to visit her. This introduction gives us the perfect sense of who Amélie will become as she grows up; a woman who wants to make people happy with little things and a woman impossible not to love.

16. Bill in Kill Bill

Played by
: David Carradine
First lines: “Do you find me sadistic? You know I’ll bet I could fry an egg on your head right now if I wanted to.”
Why memorable: His handkerchief tells us who he is; Bill from the title. The guy that needs to die! What he does in the first scene is unforgivable; shooting the lovely Bride (Uma Thurman) through the head. Yet, there is this duality about Bill that makes him interesting. He is a cold blooded bastard here, but the way he touches the Bride and the things he says, tell us that he really cares about her. We want to learn more about him. The fact that we don’t see his face only adds to his mystery. Add to that his awesome voice (David Carradine’s) and you’ve got a character (and bad guy) entrance to dream of.

15. Lolita in Lolita

Played by
: Sue Lyon
First lines: “Goodnight (kisses mother). Goodnight (kisses Humbert Humbert).”
Why memorable: The middle-aged college professor Humbert Humbert (James Mason) immediately rents the room of the house he is checking out when he sees 14-year-old nymphet Lolita in the garden. “What was the decisive factor?”, asks landlady and Lolita’s mom Charlotte Haze. “Was it the garden?”
“No, I guess it’s your cherry pie”. Yeah right Humbert, you horny old goat. It is understandable though. Actress Sue Lyon looks terrific and plays the seductive vamp Lolita completely and utterly convincing. Mason’s facial expressions in response to Lolita are hilarious.

14. Darth Vader in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

Played by
: David Prowse (body) and James Earl Jones (voice)
First lines: “Where are those transmissions you intercepted? WHAT have you done with those PLANS?”
Why memorable: The ultimate sci-fi baddie makes his introduction right at the start of Episode IV. His evil nature and his power are apparent from the first frame; his black cape, his helmet, his breathing, et cetera. The way he chokes a rebel to death makes us fear him. Darth Vader is evil, incarcerated, or rather incyborgated. A really great introduction to a brilliant character.

13. Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men

Played by
: Javier Bardem
First lines: “Step out of the car please, sir.”
Why memorable: In his first two scenes in No Country for Old Men, Anton Chigurh is like the Devil himself. Although his haircut is something awful, this man surely is frightening. Even the hardened sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones thinks so. First, Chigurh uses his handcuffs to kill the cop who arrested him. He does so with a sardonic pleasure, almost as if he is possessed. Afterwards he immediately kills another man, a civilian this time, using an oxygen tank. This is beyond much doubt the most brutal introduction to a mad killer ever.

12. Bridget Gregory in The Last Seduction

Played by
: Linda Fiorentino
First lines: “I can’t hear you people! You maggots sound like suburbanites. 50 bucks for a lousy coin set, you sell one at the time. I got a hundred bucks for the next sucker who makes a triple sale.”
Why memorable: The greatest of femme fatales is Bridget Gregory in The Last Seduction. Right from the get go her deadliness is obvious. Yet, she is still stunningly sexy and irresistible. In this scene, she is bullying men around in a sales office. Her aggression is off-putting, yet she could pull in any guy like a magnet. Bridget is a woman you just don’t say no to, no matter how obviously bad for your health she is.

11. Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West

Played by
: Charles Bronson
First lines: “And Frank?”
Why memorable: Three men that look like bandits are waiting for a train. When it arrives nobody exits. Then, when they are about to leave they hear the music. Hello Harmonica. Our mysterious hero plays rather than talks. He seems to be looking for a man named Frank, who the bandits work for. It is not hard to guess his purpose with Frank when he kills the three men. Harmonica does not only play, he knows how to shoot too.

10. Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday

Played by
: Bob Hoskins
First lines: “Good old George.”
Why memorable: Our favorite British gangster Harold Shand, is introduced when he arrives at the airport. He walks around in a cool white suit and with a very cool, tough guy expression. The musical score is awesome. This is a guy who is in control. He is the man! We definitely want to spend more time with Harold. A great character like Harold Shand deserves an introduction like this.

9. Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Played by
: Harrison Ford
First lines: “This is it… This is where Forrestal cashed in.”
Why memorable: The first thing we see are his whip and his hat, the two most important items Indy carries with him. He wouldn’t be Indiana Jones without them. We don’t see his face though. That comes later when one of his companions wants to shoot him in the back. He turns around and uses his whip to take away his revolver. You don’t surprise Indiana Jones like that! From here on we know; this is the greatest adventurer in the world and we will gladly follow him to the darkest places.

8. Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Played by
: Betsy Brantley (performance model) and Kathleen Turner (voice)
First lines: “You had plenty money nineteen twenty-two. You let other woman make a fool of you.”
Why memorable: When you hear the name Jessica Rabbit, wife of wacky toon character Roger Rabbit, you just assume you are dealing with a rabbit. Wrong! She is the most beautiful woman ever animated. Gorgeous, voluptuous shapes and a face to dream off; Jessica oozes sex. Private detective Eddie Valiant is stunned when he sees her perform in a nightclub and with him the audience.

7. Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean

Played by
: Johnny Depp
First lines: “What do you say to three Shillings and we forget the name?”
Why memorable: The pirate of all pirates is introduced brilliantly. Jack Sparrow is seen standing proudly on a mast in a beautiful tilting shot, supported by epic-sounding music. But, as it turns out; the ship is not as impressive as it initially appears. It is a small sized sloop and it is sinking. The best part is that Jack exactly makes it to the shore; the second he puts foot on land, his ‘ship’ is gone. That immediately makes clear the dilemma of his character; he is a pirate without a ship. And he walks kind of funny, but hey; it is Johnny Depp after all.

6. Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski

Played by
: John Turturro
First lines: “Are you ready to be fucked, man?”
Why memorable: Talking about unforgettable… Everybody who has ever seen The Big Lebowski remembers this scene: the purple outfit, the one polished nail, the bowling ball licking, the perfect strike and his Latin dance to celebrate. Jesus Quintana is forever branded in the collective cinematic consciousness thanks to this moment. This is truly legendary stuff.

5. Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Played by
: Gene Wilder
First lines: “Welcome my friends”
Why memorable: Which kid wouldn’t want to meet a master chocolate maker? Before his entrance in the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, he is already presented as legendary; he was born to be candyman. Then we meet him 40 minutes into the movie and we think; so this is the guy? Hehehe. Gene Wilder puts one quite the show. He first fools the crowd by acting as a cripple and then he charmingly invites the lucky golden ticket winners into his factory, including poor kid Charlie Bucket and his granddad. Heart-warming and lovely.

4. Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd.

Played by
: Gloria Swanson
First lines: “Have him come up, Max.”
Why memorable: A screenwriter, Joe Gillis, has a blow-up and walks up to a fancy Hollywood house to get a spare. Then he meets her; Norma Desmond, a famous actress from the Hollywood silent pictures era. Her motto: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” Her madness is apparent from the beginning as she takes Gillis for the funeral director there to bury her deceased chimp. Then they start talking about movies and we learn her narcissistic personality, forever ruined by her career. She is both sad and dreadful, a wonderful character, and introduced very poignantly.

3. Jill in Once Upon a Time in the West

Played by
: Claudia Cardinale
First lines: “Sweetwater. Brett McBain’s farm.”
Why memorable: You don’t need words for a great introduction, director Sergio Leone shows us. In this beautiful scene we witness how a strong, independent woman arrives in the Wild West and things are about to change. The music by Ennio Morricone is breathtaking and so are the images of Jill walking through the town looking for her escort. We don’t need an explanation; just seeing her on that train station tells us all we need to know.

2. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs

Played by
: Anthony Hopkins
First lines: “Good morning. You’re one of Jack Crawford’s aren’t you?”
Why memorable: Hannibal is introduced as the character was originally envisioned; deeply scary and fascinating. It is the anticipation that is created before meeting him that makes his introduction work like hell. FBI agent Starling is nervous about the meeting and so are we. FBI-boss Crawford tells Starling; don’t tell him anything personal, you don’t want Lecter inside your head. Prison director Chilton calls him a monster. Then, when Starling finally arrives at his cell, he is already standing there; this is enough to give you the chills. In the conversation that follows we learn that he is charming, extremely intelligent and psychopathic, but in a very complex way. This whole scene is unforgettable.

1. Frank in Once Upon a Time in the West

Played by
: Henry Fonda
First lines: “Now that you’ve called me by name.”
Why memorable: Henry Fonda originally turned down the role of Frank. Director Sergio Leone flew to the United States and met with Fonda, who asked why he was wanted for the film. Leone replied: “Picture this: the camera shows a gunman from the waist down pulling his gun and shooting a running child. The camera pans up to the gunman’s face and…it’s Henry Fonda!” (source: IMDb). Until then, with one exception, Fonda had only been cast in ‘good guy’ roles. Leone wanted the audience to be shocked. And it works like hell. Combined with his own theme music (all main characters in OUATITW have musical leitmotifs that relate to them), it is the most powerful character introduction ever. Those deep blue eyes, that sardonic smile… this is what evil looks like.

Originally published on FilmDungeon

The Many Saints of Newark (2021, Review)

Directed by:
Alan Taylor

Written by:
David Chase
Lawrence Konner

Cast:
Alessandro Nivola (Dickie Moltisanti), Leslie Odom Jr. (Harold McBrayer), Jon Bernthal (Johnny Soprano), Vera Farmiga (Livia Soprano), Corey Stoll (Junior Soprano), Ray Liotta (‘Hollywood Dick’ Moltisanti), Michela De Rossi (Giuseppina Moltisanti), Michael Gandolfini (Teenage Tony Soprano), Billy Magnussen (Paulie Walnuts), John Magaro (Silvio Dante)

“My uncle Tony…” It is certainly great to hear Christopher’s voice again. He narrates the story in this long awaited Sopranos prequel from the grave. Chrissy forms the link between the spirit world – where the beloved show now resides – and the world of The Many Saints of Newark, which is now coming to life on cinema screens worldwide and on streaming service HBO Max.

This world, which is set in the 1960’s in New Jersey, is inhabited by many familiar characters in their younger years: Tony Soprano, ages 9 and 17, his parents Johnny Boy and Livia, his uncle Junior, Silvio Dante, Paulie Walnuts, Big Pussy Bonpensiero, and a couple of others. The main character is Christopher’s father Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), who was referred to as a legend in the series, but never seen. Logical, since he was already dead when the show started.

We meet Dickie at the Jersey station, where his father Hollywood Dick, played by Ray Liotta, brings home a new Italian wife from the home country. She is into the handsome and charming Dickie immediately, which complicates the already difficult relationship between him and his mobbed-up father. And soon it leads to a dramatic moment early in the film, which is also none of the highlights of the movie. Both Nivola and Liotta are terrific in their roles. For Liotta, a double role that is; he also plays Dick’s twin brother Sally who’s in jail for life for whacking a made member.

Dickie is a troubled man obviously. He resembles his future son Christopher in many ways: he’s a compulsive law breaker, has an explosive temper and is a murderer. He is also searching. Dickie has the deep desire to do something good, something special to elevate his existence out of the mundane. But he doesn’t know how. Dickie is involved in the numbers rackets in Jersey together with a bunch of black criminals. In the first part of the movie, the 1967 Newark riots take place in which the black riotters, who are structurally discriminated against, face off against the police. In the second part of the film, Dickie’s black business partners get ambitions of their own which leads to a violent conflict in the Jersey underworld.

Besides having his own activities, Moltisanti is also deeply involved with the DiMeo crime family in Jersey whose members love him. But as we know from the show, in this volatile milieu inhabited by envious sociopaths, danger is always lurking. It is this world that young Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) is inevitably drawn to. Dickie becomes his mentor, but on advice of Sally, whom he goes to visit in jail, he turns his back on him. Although the film was marketed as the story of how Tony becomes a gangster, there is not one defining moment through which this happens. This is really at the early beginning of his transformation. Dickie is certainly an inspiration for him with all his influence, his money and his women. But above all, Tony is just talented, and the invitation for him to join the Family is there.

The casting of Michael Gandolfini – son of the deceased James Gandolfini who became a legend by portraying Tony Soprano – works wonderfully well. He is obviously a gifted actor like his father, but the way he resembles his dad as Tony is uncanny at times. Especially during the scene in which he and his friends hijack an icecream truck and start handing out free ice creams. Another standout performance is given by Vera Farmiga as Tony’s batshit crazy mother Livia. The dynamic between her and Gandolfini is great, and the scene between her and Tony’s school counselor is genuinely touching.

Other positive points of Many Saints are the terrific sixties soundtrack, the dark humour and the many clever references to the show that fans will love. A point of critique is that although it feels cinematic, which The Sopranos also did by the way, the screenplay is written more like a long television episode. Storywise, a few cogs are missing and the ending comes too suddenly.

David Chase has expressed interest in doing another period piece about young Tony Soprano together with Terence Winter, who wrote some of the best Sopranos-episodes. Winter responded positively, so there might be another return to this universe Chase has created. But if it doesn’t, that’s okay by me. The Many Saints is a very enjoyable return to the show that still ranks as one of the best ever. The Many Saints can now be added as a great cinematic companion piece.

Scanners

Director: David Cronenberg
Written by: David Cronenberg
Features: Stephen Lack, Jennifer O’Neill, Patrick McGoohan, Michael Ironside

Year / Country: 1981, Canada
Running Time: 103 mins.

Master of body horror David Cronenberg, moves into the mental domain with this masterful movie. Scanners are telepathic humans who pick up every thought in their surroundings and can ‘scan’ other people.

The drifter Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) is a scanner who isn’t aware of his condition. He is a victim of it. But under the guidance of scientist Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) – head of the scanner programme of security company ConSec – he learns to use his gift.

ConSec, like the United States army has done, uses these ‘telepathic curiosities’ to gather information on potential enemies. It goes wrong however, when the psychopathic super-scanner Darryl Revok (a superb Michael Ironside) starts an underground movement of scanners. And they murder anybody who won’t join them on their mission to conquer the world…

Ruth enlists the yet unaffiliated Vale to help him stop the telepathic maniac Revok. Together with Kim Obrist (Jennifer O’Neill), ‘good’ scanner Vale meets on his journey, he goes after Revok and a clash of powerful minds ensues.

Scanners shows once again why Cronenberg is one of the most skillful directors working in this genre. The way he is able to convey a sense of unease and danger with little means is remarkable. And Scanners – which allegedly had a troublesome production history – belongs to his finest works. With brilliant sound design and an extremely memorable ending.

Rating:

Biography: David Cronenberg (1943, Toronto), also known as the King of Venereal Horror or the Baron of Blood, grew up in Toronto. His father was a journalist and his mother a piano player. Cronenberg graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in literature after switching from the science department. He then turned to filmmaking and reached a cult status with a few early horror features including Shivers and Rabid. He rapidly became a very popular genre filmmaker and eventually a true auteur, making profound statements on modern humanity and ever-changing society.

Filmography (a selection): Transfer (1966, short) / Stereo (1969) / Shivers (1975) / Rabid (1977) / Fast Company (1979) / The Brood (1979) / Scanners (1981) / The Dead Zone (1983) / The Fly (1986) / Dead Ringers (1988) / Naked Lunch (1991) / Crash (1996) / eXistenZ (1999) / Spider (2002) / A History of Violence (2005) / Eastern Promises (2007) / A Dangerous Method (2011) / Cosmopolis (2012)

Dungeon Classics #16: Blade II

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

Blade II (2002, Germany | USA)

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman
Running Time: 117 mins.

The first Blade was extremely cool, Guillermo del Toro’s sequel is even better! It’s dark, gory, hyper tense and spectacular. The story revolves around a new breed of vampires – the reapers – who are way more dangerous and bloodthirsty than regular vampires (they even prey on them!). Also, they cannot be killed by silver, only by sunlight. Blade is gonna have a tough time facing these creatures, but he doesn’t stand alone. Whistler (Kristofferson), who somehow survived the first movie, is on his side. So is a group of elite warrior vampires known as the Bloodpack. But can Blade really trust his sworn enemies? Obviously not. The combined group of badasses travel to Eastern Europe to hunt down and exterminate the reapers. Expect hyper cool action and dark horror. Of the three Blade films, Wesley Snipes likes this one best. And right he is.