And the countdown to my favourite fictional hero continues. In this instalment, we have three, count ’em, three artificial life forms. And a guy who is mistaken for an artificial life form. And there are four female characters, which is tied for as many as we’ve had in a single list. Two of them are attractive European-accented brunettes, one is an animated Mom, and one is a child from a book.
Tron and its associated franchise
Tron, played by Bruce Boxleitner, is the title character but not the main character of the movie Tron and its sequel. In the film’s “real world”, Tron is the name of a program designed to police the internal computer systems of a software development company. But in the digital world inside the system, Tron is a courageous program who fights for the Users, for the freedom for every program to be what it was created to be rather than the subjugation of life under the Master Control Program. He’s a beast on the gaming grid, but not so busy that he doesn’t have time for romance.
69. Eliot Ness
Ness is a Treasury Agent tasked with bringing down notorious crime boss Al Capone. He was a real historical figure, but the story of his adventures in the 1987 crime drama, The Untouchables, are heavily fictionalized. There, Kevin Costner brings earnestness and humility to the role, but also a sense of daring and courage. Ness pursues justice out of a conviction that it is the right thing to do, and is ultimately willing even to push beyond his boundaries in order to serve what he sees as a greater good. I don’t agree with all of his actions, but there is no doubt that he is facing darkness square in the eye so that others—represented by his family—can live peacefully in the light.
68. Wonder Woman (Diana)
In spite of the fact that she is easily the most important female superhero created, and one of the most famous superheros ever, I have never been a particular fan of Wonder Woman…until she showed up in DC’s recent spate of movies. Overall, they haven’t been very impressive but they did turn Wonder Woman into a compelling cinematic character for this superhero fan. Gal Gadot has played her in three movies so far, and has always been a bright spot even when the story was drab and dull around her. In her own movie, especially, she was great as a warrior who was confused and misguided about the world, but genuinely heroic nonetheless.
Star Wars franchise
Many accuse the featured heroine of the modern-day Star Wars films of being a “Mary Sue”—someone who is too talented and skilled at everything to be taken seriously as a character. And there is arguably truth to that detraction—she is a skilled pilot, mechanic, and proto-jedi. And yet at the same time, the scenes of her “powering up” with the force, discovering her abilities and exercising her power to fight back against the bad guys, are so gratifying that I really don’t care. Daisy Ridley brings just the right amount of earnestness and uncertainty about what is happening to her to make the character someone I can connect to and whose journey I am fully on board with.
66. Iron Giant
The Iron Giant
OK, spoilers for this whole countdown…this is the only character who has been played by Vin Diesel to make this list, or even be considered. The Iron Giant is a large robot who crashes onto the earth in the 1950’s and is befriended by a young boy. Like many other similar characters, he is actually a weapon of war who discovers there is more to him than his programming would suggest. Director Brad Bird does such a good job giving the character heart and personality. It’s impossible to not get swept up in his journey of finding newfound purpose inspired by his friendship with young Cody, and also by the ideals of one of the greatest fictional characters of all time, Superman (who might, just might I say, appear elsewhere on this list).
65. Elasti-Girl (Helen Parr)
The Incredibles & The Incredibles 2
Well, it’s interesting that we have two back-to-back animated characters who were created by director Brad Bird on this list. Elasti-Girl, or Helen Parr, is my favorite hero of the Incredibles family of characters—a dedicated mother who only wants to do right by her family, ultimately far more willing to make the necessary sacrifices than her husband is. However, when push comes to shove, she’s a fearless and intelligent combatant who protects her children like a mother bear. Elasti-Girl is the cleverest of the Incredibles characters, doing all sorts of innovative thing with her stretching powers that make her a lot of fun to watch. Incidentally, DC Comics also has a character called Elasti-Girl, a mutated movie star named Rita Farr who was part of the Doom Patrol. She’s not on this list but I’ve always liked that character as well.
Star Trek: The Next Generation & its movies
Data comes in pretty low considering how awesome of a character he is—but there is something about his inherent plight of being an emotionless being forever searching for humanity which keeps him from being someone you could consider genuinely courageous. Still, Data has many other qualities which make up for that—he’s resourceful, intelligent and genuinely kind. And he’s got a clear understanding of right and wrong—really, in any sort of moral argument, it’s a pretty sure bet that Data has the high ground. Like many of his fellow cast, Brent Spiner was a bit of an unknown when he landed the role of Data, but he did such an excellent job with it it’s hard to see him as anyone else.
63. Constance Contraire
The Mysterious Benedict Society (and its sequels)
Constance is the youngest and grouchiest member of the Mysterious Benedict Society—a group of gifted children pulled together to combat a sinister technological threat to freedom and independent thinking. Most of the time, she lives up to her name, being constantly contrary and often belligerent to her fellow society members, constantly complaining about any physical exertion and demanding food and rest. However, she also has a stubbornness and determination that is unparalleled. When confronted with the Whisperer, a mind-controlling machine which attacks you on the basis of your fears and insecurities, she replies with an inspirational, “I DON’T CARE!!” Everything about Constance’s character is re-evaluated at the close of the first book (Spoilers here, if you care) when you find out she is not yet three years old! Suddenly, one realizes that she in spite of her giftedness, she is in many ways, an ordinary toddler. Constance and her fellow adventurers were created by author Trenton Lee Stewart.
62. Kevin Flynn
Coming in a little ahead of the titular Tron is Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges in the 1985 science fiction classic. Okay, “classic” might be a strong word, but for a narrow group of people like myself, it’s suitable. Anyway, Flynn is a computer programmer who created a bunch of popular video games, but was cheated out of the credit for it and wound up running an arcade. With the help of some friends, he breaks into his old company to find the evidence of this crime, and ends up being sucked into the computer system by the malevolent Master Control Program. Once there, he has to navigate the strange environment, survive the world of potentially fata video games, and inspire the local oppressed programs to rise up and take back their system…something he does with swagger and style.
61. Lightning Lad / Live Wire (Garth Ranzz)
Legion of Super-Heroes
Lightning Lad is one of the founding members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, a group of teenaged super-powered defenders from the future, originally written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino. He’s really Garth Ranzz, a native of the world Winath where being born a twin is the norm, who acquired his lightning-generating powers in a traumatic accident when he was a teenager. Considering how long I considered him to be my favorite Legionnaire, it’s a bit surprising that he’s this low on the list, but we don’t fudge the numbers here! Lightning Lad has at different times been portrayed as a hot-headed teenager, a stay-at-home dad, and a seasoned and thoughtful team leader. He’s been killed at least twice, resurrected twice, lost an arm twice, regained it twice…such is the nature of reboots in the comic book world! In every iteration of the character he’s been romantically involved with Saturn Girl, who just might show up elsewhere on this list. Perhaps my take on Garth Ranzz was by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning during their run in the early 00’s, during their “Legion of the Damned” and “Legion Lost” arcs, which took the best of everything that we’d seen before and showed Live Wire (as he was known at the time) to be a courageous young man who was willing to fight to the end in desperate circumstances, who only took on the role of a leader reluctantly but did so with valor. We saw him willing to lay down his life to save a handful of survivors from the Blight, and then later sacrifice everything to stop the monstrous Omniphagous gaining access to the Legion’s galaxy. Amazing stuff.