The 30 greatest '80s movie characters

Could we ever see another era of cinema as ballsy and brilliantly bombastic as the 1980's? It gave birth to the modern blockbuster, introduced us to Hollywood household names, and consolidated the science-fiction, action, and horror genres as staples of the theatre-going experience. 

No wonder there's so many unforgettable personalities and cinematic icons to pick and choose from when it comes to running down the decades' best movie characters, though not everyone could make the final cut. So don your best mullet wig, dig out those aviators, and read on below to reminisce on the good times, preferably while listening to some Michael Jackson in the background. 

Josh Baskin (Big)

The movie character: A 12-year-old boy who, after making a wish with a fortune teller machine, finds himself inhabiting the body of a 30-year-old Tom Hanks.

Why we love them: The young and sprightly Hanks is a delight, wide-eyed and dorky in equal measure. We'll just forget about the part where he sleeps with a woman three times his mental age. 

Defining moment: Performing Chopsticks with his feet at FAO Schwarz alongside company owner Mr MacMillan. It’s a perfect blend of fun, friendship, and childlike energy.

Withnail (Withnail And I)

The movie character: Flamboyant and failed thespian who is also a raging alcoholic, prone to drinking all manner of questionable liquids.

Why we love them: A walking, talking tragi-comedy of epic proportions, Withnail's outlandish behaviour may be hilarious, but his final scene is a gut-punch to those who have ever been beset by existentialism.

Defining moment: Belligerently ordering alcohol in a tearoom: "We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now!"

Nigel Tufnell (This Is Spinal Tap)

The movie character: Lead guitarist of Spinal Tap, owner of specially modified amplifiers and writer of that haunting classical piece Lick My Love Pump.

Why we love them: A pitch perfect parody of the kind of British rock stars of that era, made even more impressive when you realise he's being played by the 100% American Christopher Guest.

Defining moment: So many to choose from but it has to be his inability to grasp why amplifiers that go up to 11 are no better than amplifiers that go up to 10, if they can go to the same volume. Why not? “These go to eleven”.

Chunk (The Goonies)

The movie character: Hawaiian-shirt wearing member of the Goonies; a clumsy, heavy-set tattle-teller who gets captured by the Fratellis and manages to save his own life by whining loudly.

Why we love them: Spielberg's Amblin era introduced us to dozens of incredible child actors, but Chunk feels like the character that young star Jeff Cohen was born to play.

Defining Moment: We could say the moment where he tells his entire life story to the Fratellis in order to delay the inevitable. We could even say his first meeting and subsequent friendship with Sloth. But who are we kidding? The Truffle Shuffle wins every time.

John Matrix (Commando)

The movie character: Former Special Forces colonel who has retired to the peace and tranquillity of the countryside with his young daughter where he feeds deer and lifts two tree trunks at once just because he can.

Why we love them: It's Schwarzenegger playing to his (literal) strengths, with an OTT pulp action hero that isn't afraid to make a few winks to the audience amidst his epic killing spree.  

Defining moment: Finishing off his chain-shirted nemesis Bennett by throwing a large steel pipe through him, which then inexplicably gives off steam. All for that final post-kill pun.

Ted Logan (Bill &Ted's Excellent Adventure)

The movie character: Ted Theodore Logan, one half of the Wyld Stallyns, destined to be the greatest rock band of all time, helping the human civilisation to become a utopian society. 

Why we love them: One of the few instances where Keanu Reeves isn't playing a poe-faced action hero, his happy-go-lucky performance here is something that should be treasured forever. 

Defining moment: After Bill departs wisdom on to the mysterious strangers of the future with “Be excellent to each other”, Ted follows it up with his own important life rule: “Party on, dudes”.

Ash (The Evil Dead)

The Movie Character: Hapless hero forced to fend off Deadites – the evil souls of the dead – in and around an isolated log cabin.

Why we love them: Bruce Campbell proved that horror could be as much a space for black comedy as it is for buckets of violence, and his outlandish turn as Ash became the movie's best asset. 

Defining Moment: Fighting against his own possessed right hand, leading to many a slapstick gem before Ash makes a chainsaw-aided sacrifice.

Uncle Buck

The movie character: Crude, unemployed bum with a heart of gold (which he’d probably use to bet on the horses if he could).

Why we love them: God bless John Candy. He may have only been good at playing one character archetype, but he played it better than anyone else could. 

Defining moment: Turning up in a clapped-out, smoke-pillowing, back-shooting car to pick up niece Tia from school, only to warn off her boyfriend Bug from “gnawing on her face in public again”.

Hans Gruber (Die Hard)

The movie character: A highly-organised thief posing as a terrorist, leading a group of henchmen in an attack on LA’s Nakatomi Plaza. His German accent sounds delightfully British and droll.

Why we love them: Alan. Rrrrrrickman. 

Defining moment: “You asked for miracles, Theo? I give you the FBI.” The moment when you realise that Gruber truly is a criminal mastermind, to have the FBI on his doorstep and for it to all be just part of his plan.

Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street)

The movie character: A vicious serial killer turned vengeful spirit who preys on teenagers in their sleep and kills them in their dreams. Has a horribly scarred face and a glove made of sharp blades but is otherwise totally rocking a grungy hat and jumper look.

Why we love them: An incredible step forward for prosthetics at the time, Robert Englund did justice to his unforgettable costume with a turn that's sure to live on in the nightmares of horror fans for eternity. 

Defining moment: His first major, surreal kill: chasing Tina through an alleyway in her dreams, only to manifest in real life and invisibly drag her screaming body up the bedroom wall and onto the ceiling before brutally finishing her off. We are officially scared.