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The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time

You can never go wrong with a 100 Greatest Movie Characters list, mostly because you’ve increased the chances of picking something, anything, that people can agree with. With that said, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more agreeable yet distinctive collection than Premiere‘s picks.

100. Roger “Verbal” Kint

Played by Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects (1995, dir. Bryan Singer)

He doesn’t look like much — a balding, palsied, sad-sack thief with a limp. But one thing Verbal can do is talk, and after surviving a botched drug deal and ensuing boat fire that’s left a slew of men dead, talk he does — to Special Agent Kujan (Chazz Palminteri), a cool cat who figures he has this mouse cornered.

Verbal’s tale is fantastical, involving frame-ups, corrupt cops, a lawyer named Kobayashi, and an archvillain named Keyser Soze.

His story’s so good, in fact, that it lands him back on the street, easy prey for the evil forces manipulating him. Until he undergoes one of cinema’s most unexpected transformations and disappears right before our eyes.

Defining Moment: Sitting alone in an office, awaiting interrogation, Verbal, seemingly bored, scans a bulletin board.

You never know when you’re going to need a few details.

99. Kevin McCallister

Played by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone (1990, dir. Chris Columbus) and one later film

“He’s only a kid, Harry — we can take him.” So says burglar Marv (Daniel Stern) to his partner in crime (Joe Pesci) as they prepare to raid a home whose sole inhabitant is an eight-year-old boy who was accidentally left behind when his family went away for Christmas. As Bugs Bunny might put it, they don’t know him vewy well. “This is my house. I have to defend it,” Kevin vows, devising ingenious booby traps that send the crooks tumbling. But it’s not just the cartoonish slapstick that made Alone one of the most successful comedies of all time: It’s the sweet heart and courageous tenacity of the kid himself.

Defining Moment: Standing in front of the mirror, Kevin proceeds to make pop culture history when he slaps aftershave on his cheeks, letting out a startled, piercing “Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!”

98. Antoine Doinel

Played by Jean-Pierre Léaud in The 400 Blows (1959, dir. François Truffaut) and four later films

He steals, he plagiarizes, he’s lazy . . . and yet Antoine is cinema’s most sympathetic bad boy. Sure, Léaud’s winsome face helps, but what really sells the kid is Truffaut’s complex conception and flawless execution—the movie shows us that Antoine’s transgressions are the flailings of a not-yet-lost soul looking for love and understanding.

Four more films—including the immortal Stolen Kisses—would show us where Antoine went from Blows’ indelible final freeze-frame.

Defining Moment: As priceless as the final shot is Antoine’s reaction when the reform-school shrink asks him if he’s ever slept with a girl.

97. Ace Ventura

Played by Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994, dir. Tom Shadyac) and one later film

If, as a boy, Jim Carrey were to boast that one day he’d be a world-famous movie star, people might’ve said he was talking out of his ass. Well . . . witness Ace Ventura, the pet detective partial to animals (“I don’t do humans,” he says, rather disturbingly, at one point), crime fighting, and speaking out of his tush.

While tracking down the kidnapped Miami Dolphins mascot (a dolphin named Snowflake) and Dan Marino, Ventura is unimpeachably gut-splitting with his ridiculous hair, his Matlock-on-crack sleuthing skills, and his cringe-inducing catchphrase “All … righty then!”

Defining Moment: Lying to his landlord, Ace insists that he has no pets in his apartment. As soon as the landlord is gone, Ace calls his animals, and all manner of chirping, squawking creatures run and fly to him as he stands proud, a most twisted Noah.

96. Tommy DeVito

Played by Joe Pesci in GoodFellas (1990, dir. Martin Scorsese)

Calling this two-bit hood volatile is like saying Siberia is a little on the chilly side. A walking fireplug of seemingly inexplicable sadism and constantly wounded pride—you get the feeling he always wants to be insulted, just so he has an excuse to blow the insulter’s head off—he is perhaps the single most irredeemable character ever put on film.

Defining Moment: The “How am I funny?” stuff is, of course, classic, but the one-sided showdown with Spider at the card game really demonstrates Tommy’s heart of darkness.

The 95 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time at Premiere.