*Caution: Some implied spoilers ahead!*
I figured it was about time I did something a little different. So here’s something a little different!
2019 was an interesting year for movies, television and video games, to say the least. It provided some real winners in each of those areas, as well as more than a few duds. But with the good came some truly memorable characters, so I decided to compile a list of the ones I personally found to be the most memorable.
I have decided to simply acknowledge film, TV and video game characters into one list this time around. Because of that, this list also isn’t numbered. Instead, I’ll simply list these characters in alphabetical order. It is also for this reason that I’ll limit each individual work to one character (or two ‘tied’ characters if I feel said characters were of equal importance, and those ties will be listed by which character’s name comes first alphabetically).
Also, it’s important to note that characters are memorable for different reasons. Not every character has to be a deeply-written character. Their status in the public conscious and how well they played the roles they were made for often dictate how iconic a character is destined to become.
Because I am also busy compiling my lists of best films and video games of 2019, and planning my ‘Best of the Decade’ stuff, I will keep this short and sweet.
With that said, let’s move on to the top 10 characters of 2019!
Anna and Elsa (Frozen II)
I think it’s safe to say Anna and Elsa’s status as iconic characters has long-since been established. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: They’re simply the two most likable characters Disney has ever created.
What helps boost Anna and Elsa’s standing on this list all the further is how Frozen II does what any great sequel should do by building on these characters’ personalities and further developing who they are (unlike say, Toy Story 4, which seemingly undid all of Woody’s character development from the past three films just to have him ultimately betray his life’s philosophy in the last five minutes, but I digress).
Frozen II has allowed its characters to grow and mature past who they were in the first film, a theme that the film itself expresses rather beautifully to its audience.
I could have simply listed “the cast of Frozen II” in this spot because, well, they’re all s’darned likable. But it’s Anna and Elsa who rightfully remain at the heart of the story.
Arthur Fleck/The Joker (Joker)
Despite some thematic inconsistencies, Joker is a haunting film. Although according to Martin Scorsese this film can’t be considered cinema, Joker is indeed cinema. And pretty damn good cinema at that.
Joker takes the most iconic of comic book villains, and puts him at the center of a character study in the traditions of Martin Scorsese’s films (the irony), and gives him one of his better origin stories.
Though the film suffers somewhat by trying to paint the Joker with some sympathy even long after the character has none, seeing the downfall of Arthur Fleck into the unflinchingly evil Joker is as mesmerizing as it is tragic. And it’s brought to life by Joaquin Phoenix’s unforgettable performance.
The Child/Baby Yoda (The Mandalorian)
Like I said, not every selection on this list is going to be the center of a character study, or even particularly deep. “The Child,” more popularly known as “Baby Yoda” from Disney+’s Mandalorian series is an example of a character who could win our hearts without doing much at all.
Though the series’ titular Mandalorian is also worthy of a spot on this list, it’s “Baby Yoda” who seemingly elevated the series from being a really good Star Wars show into the realms of pop culture frenzy.
The series has a simple, small-scale setup (which feels so refreshing for Star Wars it’s practically a godsend): A hardened Mandalorian bounty hunter is sent on a bounty for a particularly valuable ‘asset.’ But when that asset turns out to be this adorable little guy, the Mandalorian grows to love him, and becomes something of his surrogate parent. The series then becomes all about the Mandalorian’s quest to protect “the Child” from the very people he was once working for. In turn, we end up loving “Baby Yoda” just the same.
But most importantly, it’s an adorable, magic baby.
The Goose (Untitled Goose Game)
Again, not every character has to have a deep personality and strong backstory to be great. Sometimes, a character just has to leave an impression.
Enter The Goose.
Much like the walrus is nature’s clown, geese are nature’s jerks.”The Goose” of Untitled Goose Game exemplifies this. Making a to-do list of dastardly deeds to commit against unsuspecting civilians for no real reason other than “because goose,” the Goose quickly gained internet fame for its laser-focused simplicity. And, despite being a jerk, the Goose is probably infinitely less obnoxious than just about everything else that’s famous on the internet. And for that, I salute you, Goose!
Luigi (Luigi’s Mansion 3)
I’m going to just say it now: The Goose and Luigi are the only video game characters on this list this year. Sorry, but 2019’s more “serious” story-driven games didn’t quite hit the mark. But a jerk-ass Goose and a returning icon like Luigi? How could you go wrong?
Why Luigi gets a spot for this particular year is because the character’s personality has perhaps never been on display so prominently as it is in Luigi’s Mansion 3. While the original Luigi’s Mansion was our first glimpse into the cowardly side of the younger Mario brother and its 3DS sequel followed suit, it’s here in Luigi’s Mansion 3 where Luigi has become as expressive and humorous as classic cartoon characters like Daffy Duck or Goofy.
The game’s fluid animations allow Luigi to be expressive like he never has been before, which makes Luigi’s ventures inside of a haunted hotel a constant riot. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a rare example of a video game nailing physical comedy down pat.
Pennywise/It (It: Chapter 2)
Two evil clowns in one year? Well, I guess referring to clowns as “evil” is kind of redundant… Still, two memorable clown villains in one calendar year.
Sure, Joker’s Joker is certainly the more complicated character between the two, but there’s still something perversely interesting about Pennywise: A kind of cosmic demon that feeds off fear, grows more powerful through mankind’s own evil acts, while simultaneously magnifying the evil within those same people. Oh, and “It” takes the form of an evil clown kind of just because. It can take any form to bring fear out of its victims, but the clown Pennywise is “It’s” form of choice.
Though Stephen King’s It had previously been adapted into a TV mini-series in 1990, this rebooted version gave us a genuinely memorable and frightening movie monster in a time when such things are kind of rare.
skekSil/The Chamberlain (Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance)
Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance turns the wondrous fantasy world of Jim Henson’s so-so 1982 film into the epic it was always meant to be. I don’t have enough good things to say about this series.
Along with a unique mythology and world building, the biggest pleasure of Age of Resistance is its cast of characters. Both new characters and those returning from the original film are turned into figures so memorable, you may actually forget you’re watching puppets.
Though original characters such as the heroic Gelfling Deet or her innocent Podling sidekick Hup are indisputably wonderful, the world of The Dark Crystal is most remembered for the villainous Skeksis. And no Skeksis is more memorable than skekSil, better known by his professional title of the Chamberlain.
The Chamberlain was the most memorable character from the original film for his unique speech and constant “hmmms,” but Age of Resistance builds on the character in such strong ways, I believe it elevates him to being one of the all-time great fantasy villains.
A power hungry survivalist willing to help and hinder friend and foe alike so long as he ultimately benefits, the Chamberlain is a master manipulator like no other. With consistently terrific writing for the character, and a pitch-perfect recreation of his original voice by Simon Pegg, the Chamberlain was, hands down, one of 2019’s best characters.
Steve Harrington (Stranger Things 3)
Stranger Things is a great series, but one that had a risk going past its first season: being a show with a cast largely comprised of (good) child actors, there was always the risk that it wouldn’t have the same appeal once the cast got older. Combine that with a solid but sometimes confused second season (good lord, that Eleven standalone episode!), and the show’s third season (fittingly titled “Stranger Things 3” as a tribute to the show’s love affair with movie franchises) had a lot to prove.
Thankfully, Stranger Things has saw fit to make each season feel distinct in one way or another. And while the third season isn’t without it’s faults (we’re probably gonna need a reason why the Russians wanted to open a previously-closed portal to a dimension ruled by an evil, mind-controlling demon-monster come season 4), it was a marked step-up from the previous season.
One reason the third season worked is that, much like its young cast, the characters within the show were allowed to grow and mature. That may be obvious for the younger cast members, but perhaps no character has shown more character growth over the course of the series than Steve Harrington.
Originally the atypical 80s movie bully in season 1, Steve Harrington has since become the de facto “goofy uncle” to the show’s younger heroes. At first a punk who thought too highly of himself, Steve Harrington has evolved into someone who no longer cares about being “cool” and is instead a more emotionally open and fun-loving person.
Season 1’s Steve Harrington was the kind of bully we all wanted to see fail. But season 3’s Steve Harrington is humorous and heroic, and we feel sympathy for him whenever things don’t go in his favor. Talk about a turnaround.
Steve Rogers and Tony Stark (Avengers: Endgame)
In all honesty, I kind of had to go with both of the two “core” Avengers. Though the Marvel Cinematic Universe will roll on, Avengers: Endgame served as the grand crescendo of the mega-franchise’s first eleven years and twenty-plus features.
While the question always lingered how Marvel could bring finality to Endgame when the MCU was bound to continue afterward, they managed to pull it off in numerous fitting ways, none more poignant than the fact Endgame served as the last hoorah for the MCU’s two biggest heroes, Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Steve Rogers (Captain America).
Two different characters who followed two very different paths over the MCU’s first decade, Endgame found a fitting way to close the book on both heroes’ stories. The smarmy Tony Stark was the Avenger who kickstarted the MCU, and the good-spirited Steve Rogers remained at its heart. While the MCU will carry on with plenty more superhero crossovers, Avengers: Endgame served as a fitting swan song for the two heroes who were, in most people’s eyes, the Avengers.
Lance Corporals Tom Blake and William Schofield (1917)
You know what’s great about 1917? Its simplicity.
Two soldiers – Lance Corporal Tom Blake and Lance Corporal William Schofield – are sent on a mission to deliver a message to call off a doomed attack. The film then follows their quest to deliver said message.
Through that simplicity, 1917 manages to delve deeper into its two central characters, who struggle for survival amidst the devastation of war and the harsh elements of nature. It doesn’t take long for us to root for Tom and William and hoping for their survival, clenching our fists and biting our nails at the sight of every next hardship they face.