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

My Greatest Cinema Moments Ever

There was a terrific feature in Empire Magazine last month, especially during a pandemic when all cinemas are shut down and barely any major movies are released. They invited their readers and celebrated filmmakers, like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Bong Joon-Ho to share their favorite cinema moments.

They are specifically looking for moments in which the whole audience experienced movie magic. Think Hannibal Lecter escaping from prison in The Silence of the Lambs. Can you imagine the audience’s response when he pulls the face off in the ambulance? I sure can, even though I never saw Silence in cinema. Or the ending in Buffalo Bill’s house where the depraved serial killer is stalking Clarice Starling with night vision goggles? These are memories from filmmaker Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Shaun of the Dead), who initiated this feature.

Wright: “I vividly recall riotous screenings of A Fish Called Wanda and There’s Something About Mary, the unforgettable sound of massed sobs in E.T. or Titanic, or just the palpable energy of the first weekend crowd of Scream or The Silence of the Lambs, which was so electric, you’d think it could power a city. I’ve been lucky enough to have made a few scenes myself where the crowd have drowned out the next scene because they are laughing or whooping (I’m thinking the ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ scene in Shaun of the Dead, JK). Such moments are truly infectious, but again, that’s an adjective that needs to be retired for the moment.”

Other notable contributions in the issue are:
– Darth Vader’s dilemma right before he kills the emperor in Return of the Jedi. By Simon Pegg.
– Luke throwing down his lightsaber, also in Return of the Jedi. By Mark Hamill.
– Neo stops the bullets, but the whole film really, in The Matrix. By Chris Evans.
– The tragic reality of Menace II Society. By Patty Jenkins.
– The ear scene in Reservoir Dogs. By Joe Russo.
– And many many more….

My favorite cinema moment by far is The Lord of the Rings. I went to fellowship on opening day and it was a magical experience. You could feel the whole room just be completely absorbed by the wondrous world Peter Jackson and his team had painted on the screen. It was breathtaking. I remember highlight after highlight, but the ultimate audience engagement happened in Moria where the fellowship faces one challenge after the other. When finally Gandalf sacrifices himself to let the others escape, the audience felt like Frodo: totally and utterly defeated. By the time they face the Uruk Hai at the end, the audience was re-energized, and left the room in pretty good spirit, but also sad because of the loss of both Boromir and Gandalf.

The Two Towers even topped this experience. The way it starts is just a master move. Gandalf being pulled into the abyss and falling and fighting the demonic Balrog. Everybody in that cinema went apeshit. After that: one great scene after the other. But the real show stealer of the evening was off course Gollum. Never before had a digital character been so fully realised. Andy Serkis’ performance is mind blowing. He should have won the Oscar for best supporting actor that year, no question. The movie ends at Helm’s Deep and this is a groundbreaking battle scene in terms of pure scale and spectacle. It is the only movie I saw in cinema three times.

Of course, at the moment there are no cinema experiences at all, but the memories remain. And like many of our favorite movie characters, they will return at some point. No question. True cinema moments are magical. There is no substitute.

Dungeon Classics #2: Death Race 2000

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

Death Race 2000 (1975, USA)

Director: Paul Bartel
Cast: David Carradine, Simone Griffeth, Sylvester Stallone, Mary Woronov
Running Time: 84 mins.

Is there really a movie about a future race in which contestants have to kill people to score points? Yup. This is it. And it gets even better: old people and children earn more points! The top racers are the cape and mask wearing Frankenstein (David Carradine), who has more mechanical parts in him than Darth Vader, and Machine Gun Joe (a young Sylvester Stallone), who got his name by unloading his machine gun in the audience. Other drivers include the outrageously named Nero the Hero and Herman the German. Oh, and the drivers all have navigators, who not only read maps, but also have sex with the drivers in between laps! Who needs Google Maps? The makers obviously had a lot of fun shooting this cult classic and they never forgot what they were making; a funny, violent action B-movie. The tagline says it all: ‘In the year 2000 hit and run isn’t a felony… it’s the national sport!’ Followed by the abominable Death Race 2050 in 2017.

What Do Gollum, Darth Vader & Agent Smith Have in Common?

You were just wondering about that, weren’t you? Well, I’ll explain.

Every big epic in fantasy or science fiction, needs a legendary villain-character like Darth Vader, Gollum or Agent Smith. But these three are not normal evil doers. They are very special, because their destiny is directly tied to the resolution of the whole story. They are more like causal agents than just ordinary bad guys.

Their evil is also much more nuanced than the other main villains in their holy trilogies. And their motivations are often harder to fully grasp. Take emperor Palpatine in Star Wars. He is just evil to the core. There is not a single shade of grey: he is BAD. Darth Vader, on the other hand, was actually a good man before he was seduced by the dark side of the force. Luckily, for the oppressed galaxy, Vader’s son Luke Skywalker felt there was still good in him. Luke exploited this inner conflict, which lead to the death of Palpatine by Vader’s hand at the end of Return of the Jedi. The galaxy was free once again due to Vader’s destiny.

Gollum and Agent Smith (especially after his supposed destruction by Neo in the first Matrix movie) don’t even belong to the villain class and are free agents, so to speak, Smith quite literally. They are just roaming around in their fantasy worlds, driven by their own insatiable desires. Gollum by his addiction to the Ring of Power, and Smith by his need to destroy his arch enemy Neo and the entire simulated computerworld the Matrix with it. But, like in Vader’s case, through their actions they enable the heroes of their stories to fulfill their appointed tasks while they would have otherwise failed.

Like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. He managed to get the ring all the way to Mount Doom, but could unavoidably no longer resist the power of the mighty precious and thus refused to destroy it. Gollum took his chance and jumped at Frodo, bit off his finger, and took the ring. But he could only enjoy it for a brief moment. As a crazed Frodo attacked him, Gollum fell to his doom taking the ring with him. The panic in Sauron’s one eye is very satisfying. His reign is over forever. Gandalf had foreseen this turn of events: ‘My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before this is over.’

Agent Smith’s faith is similar. When Neo realises that it is inevitable that Smith – who he has destroyed before – must now destroy him in order for things to end. He allows Smith to clone him, like he has done to the entire population of the Matrix (‘me, me, me’). But since Neo is the One, the anomaly of the system, this creates a fatal chain reaction eliminating the virus Smith. By pursuing his own purposes, against the will of his masters (the machines in case of The Matrix), he ensures that the humans are set free.

Do all epics have this type of causal agent? What about Harry Potter for example? Well in a way: yes, a very interesting one. When Voldemort tried to kill Harry when he was a baby, he unwillingly put a horcrux (a piece of his soul) in Harry. While Harry was growing up, he slowly discovered his connection to the Dark Lord. In the end, the only way to defeat him, was by letting Voldemort kill him. This villain created a causal agent himself that lead to his doom! Because Voldemort didn’t kill Harry, but just the horcrux. The now released Harry could return and finish off Voldemort in a final confrontation, ridding the wizard and muggle world of this ultimate baddie.

The world is more complex than just good-evil. While most of the characters in these epics are either of the hero or villain archetype, these causal agents are not so easily defined. So to answer the question, what do they have in common? They are tools used by the clashing higher forces to decide the faith of the world. Apparently, free will is absent in these worlds, and we are merely instruments of the ruling powers. This makes sense, for at least two of these trilogies (Star Wars and The Matrix) are inspired by Eastern Philosophy of which some movements (Advaita Vedanta) teaches us that free will is an illusion. The Lord of the Rings seems more in tune with paganism that also suggests that greater spiritual forces can impact the course of events or the ultimate outcome.

The individual destinies of these characters are thus intertwined with the destiny of the world at large. Thereby, they completely transcend a clearcut character definition. Beneath their wicked appearances, they actually become saviors, even though that was never their intention. Gandalf nailed it when he said: ‘Even the very wise cannot see all ends.’ Good, bad, everyone has their own perspective. But in the end, love and goodness will always be victorious.