19th Aug2013

The Ten Best: Characters from Steven Spielberg movies

by Phil Wheat

A big part of what makes Stephen Spielberg such a standout director is his ability to tell a story. Within that ability is a subcategory that is just as important. That is the ability to develop and maintain quality characters. Keeping that in mind this list is dedicated to the top ten characters Spielberg created. If a character was based on a real person or already established in another medium, like a novel, they were not eligible for his list. This list was reserved for characters that Spielberg was responsible for bringing to the forefront…

10) Duel Tractor-Trailer

Duel Tractor Trailer

I know calling a vehicle a character might turn some people off. How can inanimate object be considered a character? Well if you watch Duel  you will get your answer. From the grimy design to the it’s menacing presence this simple vehicle became a vindictive object bent on destruction. Right from the get go Spielberg showed his directing prowess with this character.

9) David

David A.I.

Though A.I. Artificial Intelligence is nowhere near my favorite Spielberg film, I can’t deny how powerful of a character David is. He is that new age Pinocchio powered by a great performance by Hailey Joel Osment. His complexity may be the greatest out of any character on this list.  David may not be human, but he begs us to ponder if humanity can exist in an artificial being. Based on his sympathetic plight the answer is surely yes.

8) Bruce a.k.a. Jaws

jaws-shark-eating-boat

Spielberg took what he did with the Tractor-Trailer in Duel  and perfected it with the shark in  Jaws. Considering how little you see of the shark it is mighty impressive how much of an impact it had. A major assist also needs to go to John Williams tremendous Jaws  theme. Those simple notes have become ingrained into the fabric of pop culture. This character will also be the personification of how showing less is always more.

7) Elliot

Elliot

I cannot help but feel bad for anyone who grew up with the name Elliot when E.T. the Extra Terrestrial  was released. The amount of ‘Phone Home’ jokes would have to be unbearable. Besides that issue Elliot is a prime example of to frame a film around a child. He is genuine and earnest, but at the same time maintains a sense of reality. He feels like a real kid dealing with an extraordinary situation, which aids in creating the magic that made E.T.  into such a sensation.

6) Brody

Brody Jaws

Speaking of characters based on realism, Brody is another prime example. Brody is relatable in just how simple his goals are. He just wants to be a good father, ensure the safety of his children, and do what’s best for the city he is sworn to protect. We see him fail miserably at that goal, and have to deal with the awful consequences. Roy Scheider fits the character’s sensibilities remarkably well. He is that character you cannot help but route for despite his faults.

5) Marion Ravenwood

Marion Ravenwood

Surprisingly Marion Ravenwood is the only female on this list. Looking at all Spielberg’s film as a whole there are not many female performances that standout all that well. I am not sure what that says, but I find it rather other odd. Marion Ravenwood was one example of Spielberg handling a female character right. There are many reasons why she, above all other women in the Indiana Jones franchise, has remained such an important force. She can go toe to toe with Indiana Jones and not blink an eye.  Her character is just as much brain as she is brawn, which allows her to be more than an object for Indiana Jones to rescue.

4) Roy Neary

Roy Neary

Of all the characters on this list Roy Neary comes off as the least Spielberg. You could watch Close Encounters of the Thrid Kind and completely despise the way Neary disregarded the needs of his family for his own selfish purposes, but you can also empathize with his internal struggle. Spielberg tends to fill his films with characters that deal with very black and white conflicts. Neary was one of the few that lived within the grey.

3) Quint

Quint

All it took was one long scratch of a chalkboard for Quint to announce his presence on this list. He is a walking fable, a man people make endless stories about, and a person who can weave a tale like no other. Part of that is due to the performance of Robert Shaw. In film full of technical genius he is able to captive by simply telling a story. They just don’t make them like him anymore.

2) E.T.

E.T. Images

E.T. is one of those characters that is so ugly he circles around and becomes cute again. E.T. has the lovability of a classic Disney cartoon character. When people talk about characters that represent the heart of a movie  you look for something to sympathize with. Who could not sympathize with the plight of the lovable E.T.?  In a lot of ways E.T. is fuelled by the purity so many of us lose. For children he was something to by awed by, while for adults  he is a symbol of a simpler time.

1) Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones

When making this list the number one character was easy to come up with. Iconic gets thrown around a lot, but few exemplify that word better than Indiana Jones. He is a amalgamation of classic serials, and still has the attitude of a newer age. Unlike many heroes he maintains a humanity. Aspects like his fear of snakes and his day job as a teacher make him grounded in a form of reality. When he slips into hero mode his feats of bravery become even more impressive. Indiana Jones is a character of endless dimensions—not to mention the fact he has the greatest punch in movie history.

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