10 Famous Movie Characters And How We Saw Them First

Do you remember how we first met Harrison Ford as the internationally praised Indiana Jones? One of the most important things about a well-crafted script is the introduction of a key character. When done properly, these crucial moments in film get audiences intrigued by a movie’s protagonist/antagonist, leaving a powerful imprint on their minds and making them invested enough that they will want to keep on watching.

Usually, the best way to introduce a new character is by giving audiences an outlook on their physical appearance accompanied by a captivating situation that will reflect the essential aspects of their personalities. While several movies have managed to present their characters memorably, these are some of the best examples, from The Dark Knight‘s Joker (HeathLedger) to Jaws‘ Quint (Robert Shaw).

Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Terminator’ (1984)

Arnold Schwarzenegger became an international star with The Terminator (1984) and over the next 20 years appeared in two sequels (1991 and 2003).

The Terminator is a 1984 American science fiction film directed by James Cameron. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, a cyborg assassin sent back in time from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose son will one day become a saviour against machines in a post-apocalyptic future. Michael Biehn plays Kyle Reese, a soldier sent back in time to protect Sarah. The screenplay is credited to Cameron and producer Gale Anne Hurd, while co-writer William Wisher Jr. received a credit for additional dialogue. Executive producers John Daly and Derek Gibson of Hemdale Film Corporation were instrumental in financing and production. The Terminator topped the United States box office for two weeks and helped launch Cameron’s film career and solidify Schwarzenegger’s status as a leading man. Its success led to a franchise consisting of several sequels, a television series, comic books, novels and video games. In 2008, The Terminator was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”

The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)

Christopher Nolan‘s globally beloved second installment of The Dark Knight trilogy follows Christian Bale‘s Batman/Bruce Wayne as he fights a newly introduced menance, The Joker, played by the undeniably talented late Heath Ledger. Batman Begins‘ follow-up is extremely praised by moviegoers and is one of the highest-rated superhero films to date, featuring a solid 9.0 score on IMDb.

There is no doubt that Ledger’s take on the universally treasured character is an amazing one — after several years, some still consider Ledger’s Joker to be the most memorable, and part of it also has to do with its amazing introduction in the franchise. Apart from the incredible acting in the scene where Joker first appears, viewers also get a proper glance at both his physical appearance and demeanor as the antagonist perfectly delivers one of his most popular lines, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stranger,” which completely sets the tone for the character and the story that follows.

Miranda Priestly in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ (2006)

There are so many good things about The Devil Wears Prada, and Meryl Streep is definitely one of them. This chick flick follows Anne Hathaway‘s aspiring journalist as she navigates through life after landing a job in a fashion industry magazine. Expecting to eventually become and reporter or a writer, Andy finds herself working hard toward her goals but struggles with the demands of her arrogant boss.

Streep’s icy magazine editor is perhaps the most memorable part of the movie, and for good reason. Within a very small amount of time, viewers get a sense of how feared and respected Priestly is solely by the way every character on-screen reacts to her entrance — when the staff realizes that she’s to be expected soon, everyone is found desperately cleaning everything around the office and making sure nothing upsets or stands in her way.

Don Vito Corleone in ‘The Godfather’ (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather remains a highly referenced and huge movie today, and part of it is thanks to its memorable characters. The 1972 movie is the first installment of the crime drama franchise and follows family patriarch, Don Vito Corleone’s (Marlon Brando), young son, Michael (Al Pacino), who is reluctant in taking on his father’s legacy.

Although the cat is arguably the most memorable aspect of the scene, the opening of The Godfather is hardly forgettable thanks to one of the most iconic character introductions in film — the zoom dolly pull on Vitos’ face and lack of lightening perfectly manage to capture the character’s essence, and his first line, “Why didn’t you come to me first?”, accentuates Don Vito as a huge figure of power and influence.

Hannibal Lecter in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)

Directed by Jonathan Demme, this disturbing psychological horror film follows the quest of a young FBI trainee (Jodie Foster) on uncovering, with the help of a forensic psychiatrist and incarcerated cannibalistic serial murderer, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), the identity of serial killer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), who skins his victims whom he kidnaps and murders.

It helps that Hopkins is a master in his field, but there is no denying that Lecter’s introduction scene in Silence of the Lambs is one of the most well-crafted. The intense questioning scene between Sterling and Lecter gives viewers insight into the serial killer’s mind without telling much, equally exploring his peculiar mannerisms and setting the dynamic for the chilling relationship between both characters.

Indiana Jones in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark introduces Harrison Ford as the internationally praised Indiana Jones: a globetrotting archaeologist and expert on the occult who, during the spring of 1936, sets on a mission to seize a biblical artifact that is known as the Ark of the Covenant.

The first Indiana Jones movie is certainly unique, and the franchise remains very popular even today (a new installment is scheduled to premiere this year). Still, one of the best things about it is the way it manages to perfectly introduce Indy to his audience. During an iconic opening sequence — that many consider the greatest in cinema history — Ford’s character reveals everything viewers need to know about him, starting from the moment he slowly comes out of the shadows and confidently makes his way through the jungle.

Captain Jack Sparrow in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’ (2003)

The first movie of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, The Curse of the Black Pearl, introduces viewers to its fantastic worldbuilding and captivating characters. Among them is, of course, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a very cherished character by fans of the saga. The first film focuses on the savvy pirate’s journey to win back his beloved ship.

What makes Sparrow’s first scene stand out so much is obviously how much character it shows without spoiling all the fun — Sparrow doesn’t say a word, yet the scene conveys the entirety of his personality. Just by seeing the pirate’s entrance, featuring Hans Zimmer‘s incredible score playing in the background, viewers get a glimpse of Jack’s fun personality, confident demeanor, and effortless comedic timing.

Willy Wonka in ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ (1971)

This legendary 1971 American musical fantasy movie by Mel Stuart stars Gene Wilder as the legendary Willy Wonka and follows a poor, kindhearted, and well-intentioned boy, Charlie (Peter Ostrum), who attempts to earn one of the five coveted golden tickets that will send him on a tour of Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory.

A timeless watch that provides all family members a good dose of fun, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory features a bunch of interesting characters. Still, Wonka is the one that stands out the most — especially considering his iconic introduction, planned by Kelly himself, that perfectly established him as a character and fully displayed his fun-loving personality.

Yuki Kashima in ‘Lady Snowblood’ (1973)

Bloody epic crime drama Lady Snowblood (Shurayukihime) focuses on a young woman named Yuki Kashima (Meiko Kaji) who, following the death of her family, is trained to get revenge against the bunch of criminals who brutalized and murdered them. A wonderful revenge hit with tons of action-packed scenes, the Toshiya Fujita movie was the inspiration behind Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

The opening to the 1973 Japanese samurai movie features the film’s best scene as it introduces the stunning Yuki, who is just as beautiful as she is tough. In her character entrance, audiences can get a quick grasp of her determined and headstrong personality as she delivers her lines with grace and elegance despite her actions being brutally violent.

Hans Landa in ‘Inglorious Basterds’ (2009)

Tarantino’s treasured classic, Inglorious Basterds, is set during the first year of Germany’s occupation of France and centers around Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), who sets up an effective team of Jewish soldiers to commit unspeakable, deserved acts of violence against the Nazis. With an incredible screenplay, this gem still stands as one of the filmmaker’s best.

While there are tons of great elements about this bold film, Christopher Waltz‘s chilling performance remains unmatched. Hands Landa’s introduction scene is filled with suspense and terrifyingly good, especially considering the almost effortless way that the character switches from somewhat approachable to blatantly evil.

Quint in ‘Jaws’ (1975

After all these years, Jaws endures a very popular movie among moviegoers of all ages. The movie is about a killer shark who unleashes chaos on a beach community off Cape Cod, which leads a crew of a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to team up in order to stop further disastrous events.

Robert Shaw‘s impeccable performance definitely stands out in the movie, and so do the two legendary monologues his character delivers throughout; one of them takes place right after he scratches his fingers down the chalkboard to get people’s attention. In what is considered an iconic moment in film history, Quint undoubtedly commands the scene, making it hard for viewers to take their eyes off of him.


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Sarah Meere
Sarah Meere
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Sarah looks after corporate enquiries and relationships for UKFilmPremieres, CelebEvents, ShowbizGossip, Celeb Management brands for the MarkMeets Group. Sarah works for numerous media brands across the UK.

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