A good protagonist is always a hard find, we live in an age where people are way more interested in the villains than our heroes, but I have always argued that a good protagonist is just as necessary; otherwise who the hell would you root for? We need characters that we relate to or identify with, a character whose situations, no matter how crazy or how impractical or how unrealistic, are always understandable and relatable, so here I am trying to put in my list of my personal top 15 favorite protagonists from TV/Anime/Films. Why top 15? Well, because I didn’t want to do a top 10.
Okay, so let’s get into the rules. The main point being that it has to be one character per film/Anime/T.V Show, and they have to have been the main focus for a good chunk of the runtime, so characters from Pulp Fiction or Game of Thrones don’t make this list as there is no lead in particular. The other major rule that I have added to this list in order to narrow it down is that each of these characters have to be GOOD people, or at the very least need to have good intentions throughout the run of the film/show/anime, so that is the reason why characters like Frank Underwood or Walter White don’t make this list. I hold no bar on the medium in which the story is told, whether it be animation or live action, so unlike many other lists, this may be a bit more diverse. Now I would also like to note that this, by no means is my list of favorite characters of all time, although some of them here would make it up there. Also, I would like to note that this is judged based on how well the character is developed, how relatable he/she is, their likability, so on and so forth. The last thing I would like to bring up is that this list is not permanent, because I just haven’t seen everything, there is still a lot more to come in the future and a lot more to be seen from the past, so just because your favorite character doesn’t make this list, there is a strong possibility that I may not have seen that show or film. So consider this a list that could be revised later. But for now this is what I came up with, and it may not be the most mature or most thought provoking, but it is what it is, so I hope you enjoy the countdown.
WARNING: there are potential spoilers. I don’t reveal character deaths or anything, but just sayin.
#15 – Kyon (The Melancholy/Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya) (Anime)
The poster of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya may lead you to believe that Haruhi is the main character, but the truth is that Kyon is our main character, the whole story regarding the series revolves around him and his adventures with a time traveller, esper, humanoid and supposedly a god who is in the form of a 16 year old girl named Haruhi (ridiculous plot, I know). Our main character Kyon is at the center of this and befriends Haruhi and ultimately joins the group. Of all the high school characters anime is known for, and trust me they do a lot of high school, Kyon is one of those characters that is most relatable, he is not smart as in he has the highest grades or anything, but he is not stupid to say that he does questionable or dumb stuff, he is a normal high school kid getting along in life, but what makes him a great character in the series and the movie is how caring he can be for others, he is always there, even if he does complain about it from time to time, this characteristic is also featured heavily in the follow up movie, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (which is the reason he is on this list). He is the kind of character that ties everyone together and his sarcasm and reaction to some of the situations he is put in just adds to how incredibly likeable and hilarious he is, and Crispin Freeman, the voice actor nails that aspect perfectly. The choices he makes and the reasons behind them, particularly in the film are incredibly engaging as he really does make hard decisions and has to live with them as the story progressed, and ultimately that’s what makes him a more compelling lead character. So he earns his spot on number 15.
#14 – Forrest Gump (Movie)
Okay, seriously, do I have to say anything about this guy; he is probably one of the most iconic, likeable dumbasses in history, and having Tom Hanks play him never hurts. Forrest Gump is a character that just gives people hope, and even if some of the things he does are impractical, he never comes short on surprising you how much he doesn’t really give a shit about what you say. His reactions to many of the situations he is put in are hilarious at times and just heart wrenching in others. For a guy who has an IQ of 75, he served as a soldier, a table tennis player, a football player in college, a company owner, a father, I mean is there anything this dude can’t do, and what’s great is that you totally buy it. He is the kind of lead character who just accepts things the way they are, there is never a time in the movie where he complains, whines or rants about the situation he is in. He is always kind, gentle and he can be hard to others when he needs to be, but never to a point where he becomes an a-hole and it is totally justified when he does. All of this, and he never ever listens to what others say about him or let what others think about him affect his life in any way and that is what ultimately makes Forrest Gump one of my favorite protagonists ever.
#13 – Chuck Noland (Cast Away) (Movie)
Cast Away is in many ways, one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, and I think that a lot of the credit just has to go to Tom Hanks who literally carries on the entire film with his own presence. Chuck Noland works for a courier service and while he is on a job, his plane accidentally crashes, leaving him stranded on an island left with only the boxes left that contained stuff that were needed to be sent. After finding out that the island is uninhabited, he is left with nothing but his own wits to survive. What makes Chuck Noland an interesting protagonist, is seeing how he survives and the things that he does on the island over the course of four years. He befriends a volleyball whom he names Wilson to rid himself of loneliness, and makes conversations with him from time to time, he learns how to fish with sticks, he learns how to make fire and so on, but watching him stick to his home and ultimately the family he left behind really makes up for some of the most heart wrenching drama I have ever seen. This aspect really kicks in the third act of the film, where he finally learns of what happened to his fiancé and his friends that just shows how much his life changed and how much everything around him has changed, it is ultimately his resolve to move on that I relate to the most, it’s a bittersweet aspect but Tom Hanks just brings his charm into the role and like always just provides a master class performance in doing so, and to this day he remains one of my all-time favorite protagonists.
#12 – Kiritsigu Emiya (Fate/Zero) (Anime)
Emiya is one of the masters of Fate Zero, an anime that is pretty much battle royale (in this case the holy grail war) to the death with one winner standing, there are seven masters and each summon a single powerful servant to help them, and the winner ultimately wins the holy grail, the all-powerful wish granter. Emiya wants this to rid all evil in the world and wants it to be a happy place and thinks that this is the only way to get there. Emiya is pretty much the closest thing to a protagonist Fate Zero has, and it is made pretty clear by the last 10 episodes in a 25 episode run. Emiya is a great character because he is ruthless, and in a very convincing way, he is the kind of character who is willing to do anything if it meant for the greater good. He will kill 100 people if it meant saving the lives of 200 people. While I am not an occasional fan of badass characters that seem to have everything planned out, it just worked for Emiya. He is so focused and determined that it takes the better of him. But the main reason he makes this list is because of his backstory, 2 episodes were actually dedicated to his childhood and how he grew up, and it completely explains where his ideals and motivations came from, and of all the characters on this list, he has the second best backstory a character has ever gotten. While later on in the show he does realize his flaws in his own ideology, it is the journey getting there that truly is well rounded and Matt Mercer does an incredible job of showing the weight of the decisions he makes and how it affects his personality making up for one of my favorite protagonists ever.
#11 – Matt Murdock (Daredevil) (T.V show)
What is a favorite protagonist list than one without superheroes in them? A more recent entry on this list for sure, but hell I made this list just a few days ago. Matt Murdock is a lawyer by day and crime fighting vigilante by night. Matt Murdock was blinded when he was a child due to exposure to chemical leaks, but this ultimately gave him heightened senses that can allow him to read a person’s heart-beat, listen to stuff from far distances and much more. Hell, he’s even learnt martial arts. While many people have considered Matt Murdock a Batman rip off, and some similarities are certainly there, I personally just find Matt Murdock way more believable, yes he has heightened senses and all, but apart from that he is just a human, he is not a billionaire, he doesn’t have chicks by his side, and he doesn’t have any fancy gadgets. When it really comes down to it, he relies on his bare hands and his skills as a fighter to take criminals down; another aspect that makes him such a great character is just how vulnerable he is. He is in danger even when he fights a regular thug for god’s sake. But ultimately, the reason he makes it on this list, is that no matter how many times he is beaten on, he always gets back up even if it means risking his own life, and it is never done in a cheesy way like the rocky movies, but it shows you rather than tell you. Charlie Cox gives probably one of the most underrated performances of the show, because everyone loves Vincent D’onofrio, and while he was awesome, I just loved Charlie Cox’s subtle, grounded and confident portrayal of the devil of Hell’s Kitchen. He is likeable, he is vulnerable, he is relatable and unlike other superheroes, he is human and that makes him all the more compelling.
#10 – Barry Allen (The Flash) (T.V show)
Now, if I have to choose my favorite superhero ever, it will always be the flash, yes I know that this is a more recent entry on the list, but good god, if there was ever a superhero I wanted to be, it would be The Flash, Barry Allen is from the CSI working in the forensics department, who is accidentally struck by lightning due to an experiment gone wrong and is gifted with super speed abilities and much more. Barry Allen is on this list mostly because of how much he learns and develops over the course of the first season. He is incredibly likable and never ever complains or whines about being a superhero, he has fun with his powers, he is helpful to others when he is needed and while he does make some incredibly dumb decisions throughout the show, it never feels unjustified. He is the character I wish I could be, and a lot of this has to attribute to Grant Gustin’s performance, who steals every minute of the show whenever he is on screen, and for those reasons he is one of my favorite protagonists of all time.
#9 – Okabe Rintaro (Steins;Gate) (Anime)
Okay, so let’s get back to anime. Okabe Rintaro is the protagonist of the series Steins;Gate, a time travel series that I recommend to anyone who wants to get into anime. Initially introduced as a self-proclaimed mad scientist, who accidentally discovers a method of time travel with a group of his friends, Okabe develops into one of the most mature well rounded characters I have ever seen. Okabe is the kind of guy, like Kyon, despite all his shenanigans, deeply cares for his friends and as the story moves that aspect of him is delved into deeply, you see unlike most anime where friendship is everything, shows like Steins;Gate and Melancholy of Haruhi decide not to make it in your face and rather develop these friendships as the story progresses. Throughout the series Okabe makes several hard decisions due to toying around with time travel and as time progresses you see how much of an effect that really has on him, and it is his journey as a character that really sticks with you once the show concludes. Saying any more would delve into major spoilers, so for that reason, I end it right here by saying he is one of my favorite protagonists to have come from the medium of anime.
#8 – Woody (Toy Story franchise) (Movie)
Shout out to Tom Hanks for a hat trick, this guy is the bomb, I mean seriously, the dude never ever fails to impress and Woody is certainly no exception. Woody is the protagonist of the Toy Story franchise since its inception. Like many other characters on this list Woody is one hell of a well-developed character. The first film shows him as a selfish, ego filled toy who wants to be played all along and the third film portrays him as a guy who wants to be there for Andy and his friends even if it meant that he won’t be played with all the time, and that takes great writing to achieve that. Tom Hanks, once again delivers a fine performance as Woody, he just gets the mannerisms, the complaining and all the sarcasm right, and he is one of those characters that grows on you by the time you finish the trilogy. What makes woody so special is that he never gives up on anybody, hell he even tries to save the villain’s life in the third film. He is the kind of character that grows on you, and even though sometimes he can get a bit too whiny, again it is justified, and his likability and the fact that he never gives up on anyone at all, makes me want to be someone like him, and he earns the number 8 spot.
#7 – Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock) (T.V show)
Now there have been many renditions of Sherlock Holmes to a point where I still need to see all of them, but the one that I am and will be focusing on is Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the iconic character. You see, while I do like the other renditions of the character, and I have even read the books, the BBC show is the only one that I found to actually focus on Sherlock as a character and not as an interest piece. Many of the other shows and movies have often focused on how Sherlock is really smart and how he thinks things through, but never focused on who he is, how he thinks, what he feels and I was surprised to see that the show did that very well. Sherlock Holmes is a consulting detective for the Scotland Yard police and helps them solve cases that are quote on quote very interesting for him. What makes him such an interesting character is just how interesting he is, I have never seen a character, who no matter how many times he appears on screen, he always surprises you, by how caring he can be, how ruthless he can be, how smart he can be, how socially awkward he can be and so much more. He is the kind of character who leaves you questioning how he will react next, sometimes he is hilarious, sometimes he’s just badass and other times he can be plain cruel, but never does he fail to grab your attention and all of this just credits to Benedict Cumberbatch’s fantastic and subtle portrayal of the character. His interpersonal relationships show his humanity and how much he deeply cares for his friends, particularly Watson. His cases show how smart his deductive skills are and his enemies show just how cruel and relentless he can be. All of this just adds up to what a great character and protagonist Sherlock is and will remain on this list.
#6 – Po (Kung Fu Panda franchise) (Movie)
Now let me get this out of the way. Po is the most likable character I have ever seen. He is nice to others, kind to others, helpful to others, friendly to others and never once did I feel that he was a pretentious character. The Kung Fu Panda franchise follows his story about he becomes a legendary kung fu master, and what makes him such an interesting and a great protagonist is really the likability factor. I mean, let us look at the facts, he never gets pissed off at The Furious Five for petty much insulting him and dicking around with him for being chosen as the dragon warrior, he holds his temper at his master for dicking around with him and fighting him till half the movie, he doesn’t even try to kill the very man who killed his family and species, and never once in the entirety of 2 films does he complain about the position he is given. His character is further explained in the second film, where his backstory is revealed and had it been any other movie it would have decided to go the dark route, but no they make his character a really likable person, thank you for that, again a lot of praise just has to go to Jack Black who knows how to balance the humor with the serious stuff perfectly. But besides that, it is in the first film where you see his relationship with his master grow and it is in the second film where you see his relationships with his friends grow and it really makes him a better and more interesting character as the story goes on, and along with that he is incredibly likable, humble and helpful and for that he is one of my favorite protagonists ever.
#5 – Juror # 8 (12 Angry Men) (Movie)
12 Angry Men is one of my all-time favorites and Juror # 8 is one of my favorite protagonists. 12 Angry Men is a film that follows a jury meeting that consists of 12 Jurors trying to come to a universal agreement as to whether a boy who has been accused of a crime is guilty or not, at first all but one claim the boy to be guilty, and the one who tries to defend him is Juror # 8, who thinks that everyone should talk it out first. Juror # 8 is one of my favorite protagonists because he is someone who sticks to his ideals as a Juror, he sees everyone as equals under the law and never fails to live up to those ideals, I know it may sound cheesy, however it is anything but. The great part about 12 Angry Men is that it questions our protagonist time and time again and each of the points made by other jurors are great obstacles for him to come across, and if we have learnt anything it’s the journey that counts. Yes, each time another juror tries to shut him up, he does his very best to come up with a good counter argument and the way he is able to convince everyone as the film progresses just works, and what I admire about him most is that he never ever tries to shout or yell to get his point across to others he listens to others if they have good points and understands everyone else before he judges them, he is very gentlemanly and mature (thanks to Henry Fonda) and for that reason alone he makes for a great protagonist.
#4 – Wall-E (Movie)
If you are someone who has read my Pixar rankings then you would know how much I love Wall-E, not the movie but the character, of all the protagonists on this list he is probably the cutest and he is very much likable. But the real reason he makes this list is that unlike other characters, his motivation is simple and down to earth, he just wants to be in love, and that itself is what drives him to go to space, save the human race, save planet life and so much more just because he wants something very simple, to be in love, and what’s even better is that all of this is told through expression and not words, with the exception of the word ‘Wall-E’ and ‘Eva’, he never speaks any other word and those words itself speaks volumes. Wall-E is the kind of friend you wish you had someone who cares for you and willing to do anything for you, and that’s what makes him such an interesting character. All of this, it is no wonder he is one of my favorite protagonists of all time.
#3 – Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones franchise) (Movie)
Okay, seriously, do I have to say anything about this guy? He is probably the most iconic adventurer of all time; he is my favorite action hero of all time, he is one of the most likable characters of all time and he is one of the most loved archeologists of all time. Indiana Jones is a character that I looked up to when I was a kid and I still do. He is on this list not because of his iconic status or anything but because he came out during a time when every action movie had to have a hero whose muscles were the size of Mount Everest and bodies were of the size of Goku. It was nice to finally see an action hero who was relatable in that he wasn’t a macho man, like Matt Murdock, who appeared earlier on this list, he is vulnerable, and he gets tired when he has had too much, Harrison Ford always nailed that aspect of Indy very well particularly through his physical acting, but apart from that Harrison Ford always gave it his all whenever it came to Indy and I love him for it. Is he on this list for his vulnerability? Not really, throughout the entire franchise (let’s forget the 4th one) he is shown to be sarcastic, humorous and a bit of a ladies man, making him one of the coolest characters ever and not only that, what makes him very interesting is how smart he can really be, see the last 10 minutes of the third movie if you don’t believe me. I think a part of me always wants to be the adventurer that Indiana is, and I will always remember the times I would think of myself that way. Indiana Jones is one of the most recognizable characters of all time and for good reason, he is vulnerable, he is relatable (most of the time), he is smart, he is cool, he is likable but he isn’t perfect that is what makes him a damn interesting character and a fine protagonist.
#2 – Vito Corleone (The Godfather Parts I and II) (Movie)
Okay, when I decided to make this list, I put Vito Corleone all the way down, but the more and more I thought about his character he just went up, up and up. Now, you may disagree with me, but I consider The Godfather Parts 1 and 2 to be films about Vito just as much as they are about Michael Corleone, so by no means do I consider him a supporting character as the films are meant to compare and contrast these character in many ways, so it is obvious that he can be considered a main character. Vito Corleone is one of the smartest characters I have ever seen period, and in all honesty he is probably one of the best written characters ever. Having a tragic past, Vito Corleone grew up to be a Don of the Corleone family, as it brought him respect and good fortune to his friends and those closest to him, and throughout the entire run time, it is shown how deeply he really cares for them, yes he does do some bad stuff, but all of it for his family, hell after he finds out one of his own died, he wants to stop a war between the families and goes as far as to apologize for everything himself. The moment you first see him on screen, his calm, straight posture and gentleman look just evoke a sense of respect and fear for the guy and a lot of that attributes to Marlon Brando’s portrayal who just reeks of calmness and confidence whenever he speaks, I mean you can take any line he says and it would become quotable. The Godfather Part 2 decides to show you his history, his upbringing and the fact that Robert De Niro had to make us believe him to be a young Vito and the fact that he nailed it was just magnificent. Yes, even though I loved Marlon Brando as Vito, Robert De Niro just gave us an idea of who Vito was as a person, we get to know how he grew up, who he married, who he cared for, where all his gentlemanly manners came from, how he became one of the most feared Dons ever, all because he wanted his family to live a life wasn’t his own but something better, and Robert De Niro was flawless while giving such a performance, but regardless both did a great job to portray a complex and well written character that will be remembered for the ages and he earns his spot at number 2, being one of my favorite protagonists ever.
#1 – Hana (Wolf Children) (Anime)
WHERE THE HELL WHERE ALL THE WOMEN???? I don’t know there just weren’t that many I suppose, but I hope this makes up for it. Hana is the lead character of Wolf Children, a movie about a single mother who is burdened with the task of raising her two children who are part wolves single handedly and what follows is one of the most beautiful films ever made. Hana is a mother, and like all great mothers she is kind, loving, helpful….blah…blah…..blah. But the reason I put her up here is because of how well she handles everything, whether it is raising her children or earning her money or cleaning and rebuilding her own house or farming, and through all of that despite how tired she is or how fed up she may seem, she pulls it together, not in the way that she is perfect in every way, but if there ever was someone I have seen who could have that level of composure, it would have to be Hana. Never once does she complain about her situation to others or whine about how hard it is, she just accepts things the way they are and does her best to deal with it, and ultimately that’s what makes Hana such a great protagonist, yes I know I may be a little biased because she does remind me of my mom at times, but regardless, she is a very well written character, and Colleen Clinckenbeard does such a phenomenal job with her performance. She always brings out the innocence, the love and the care every time she speaks and it never fails to just make me admire her. Yes, of all the characters on this list, she is by far the most admirable one, because of how much she was able to achieve as a single mother, and the way her story concludes is truly bittersweet and was the perfect way to end the film. So with all that, yeah she is my favorite protagonist of all time.
OKAY…OKAY…That was long, even from my standards and I am really sorry but at least I hope you like my choices, and I hope you will stick around for more countdowns, good news is I have finally gotten an admission to an okay college, so finally that is all done, now a new life is ahead and I certainly won’t stop doing this, so guys thank you so much for reading if you have, I really appreciate it, so thank you and until next time
Cheers….and take care