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The 30 greatest '80s movie characters

Scott Howard (Teen Wolf)

The movie character: High school student who has to deal with a lot more changes than puberty has to offer. Thankfully, his lycanthropic outings from boy to wolf bring with them exceptional basketball skills, newfound confidence and enviable popularity.

Why we love them: On paper, the concept of a teenage boy turned werewolf sounds ludicrous, but Michael J. Fox not only makes it work, he makes it look cool

Defining moment: Catching a wave on top of best friend Stiles' wolfmobile, surfing the roads and ending with a long handstand as the van drives down the street. It's the coolest moment of the film, even if it should come with a "For the love of God, don't try this at home" warning onscreen.

Axel Foley (Beverley Hills Cop)

The movie character: Fast-talking, resourceful, animated cop with a honking great laugh.

Why we love them: It's easy to forget that Eddie Murphy can make good movies, and Axel Foley is essentially the comic playing a more exaggerated version of himself.

Defining moment: Blagging his way into staying at the Beverley Palm Hotel by pretending to be a journalist for Rolling Stone. Just for fun too, apparently.

Tony Montana (Scarface)

The movie character: Rank-rising criminal who ends up with a criminal empire, enormous power and a huge pile of cocaine, and yet his gaudy suits and lack of etiquette betray his real social standing.

Why we love them: You're meant to find him despicable, but Pacino's swagger is the quintessence of badass. 

Defining moment: Coked up to the nines and willing to take on a large group of assassins with his “little friend”. It’s an epic exit for this larger-than-life gangster.

Jareth, The Goblin King (Labyrinth)

The movie character: Evil sorcerer-type ruler of goblins who has a dulcet-toned singing voice and keeps his entire sock wardrobe down the front of his tights.

Why we love them: David Bowie playing to type still makes for one of the kookiest performances of the era, but Jareth is quite literally enchanting from start to finish.

Defining moment: Contact juggling his crystal balls (stop sniggering). There's never a better way to suggest otherworldly mystique and intrigue than to display the same talent as those painted statue buskers you get along the South Bank.

Jake Blues (The Blues Brothers)

The movie character: Paroled convict, brother of Elwood, rhythm and blues enthusiast and snappily dressed shades wearer.

Why we love them: John Belushi was apparently a troublesome headache on set, but he channels that cheekiness into a blues brother who comes alive on stage. 

Defining moment: His epiphany which sets the Bluesmobile rolling towards a plot and sees the sturdy parolee covered in James Brown’s music from God and backflip-dancing down the church aisle.


The movie character: Obnoxious “bio-exorcist” with a penchant for song-and-dance routines and undead prostitutes.

Why we love them: It's like watching a firework which never runs out of gas. He's a bottomless pit of pranks, gags, and exotic verbiage. 

Defining moment: A fast-talking, quite disgusting introduction to the character when he is first summoned by the Maitlands culminating in being asked “Can you be scary?”. One hidden, offensive hand gesture later and Beetlejuice demonstrates an unseen terrifying face which we can at least tell involves tentacles of some kind.

Snake Plissken (Escape From New York)

The movie character : Former Special Forces operative turned criminal, with one eye and a huge chip on his shoulder. Probably because everyone keeps telling him they thought he was dead.

Why we love them: Metal Gear Solid fans will enjoy the overt associations to Solid Snake, and everyone else can appreciate the entertainment value of Kurt Russel as a self-knowing anti-hero.

Defining moment: Snake holding his own in a bare-chested fight against a giant hulk of a man with ridiculous facial hair, all before finishing the job by driving a nail-studded baseball bat into the back of his skull.

John Bender (The Breakfast Club)

The movie character: Self-confessed criminal of high-school; the rebel that we all wish we were, saying whatever the hell we want to the teacher and somehow getting the most popular girl in school in the process.

Why we love them: Make no mistake; Bender's an jackass, but he's really good at being a jackass. You can't help but be impressed. 

Defining moment: As far as insults go, it's not the most cutting, but when Principal Vernon outlines the rules for the day of detention and asks if anybody has questions, there is something bold and playful about Bender's response "Yeah, I have a question. Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?" Instant character establishment.

Roy Batty (Blade Runner)

The Movie Character: Replicant and leader of the Nexus-6 escapees. He has superhuman strength and intellect and yet is still struggling to come to terms with emotions. Perhaps that’s why he is so concerned with the rain covering up his tears.

Why we love them: Cold, remote, and yet a majorly intense presence whenever he's on screen, Batty is exactly the kind of villain Blade Runner deserved. 

Defining Moment: That final speech before death, detailing the incredible things he has seen that will be forever lost in time. One beautifully poetic speech that sums up the horrid predicament of being faced with your own mortality and turns everything around – having spent the entire film as the chief antagonist, when he ends with “Time to die” you just don’t want him to.

Maverick (Top Gun)

The movie character: Aviator by nature, aviator by sunglass-brand. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is a United States Naval Aviator Lieutenant in the Navy training to become an advanced fighter pilot.

Why we love them: Is Maverick meant to be a genuine American idol or a satirical jab at US jingoism? However you perceive him, there's something to love about his scene-stealing confidence. 

Defining moment: His locker room confrontation with fighter pilot rival Iceman, in which he tells him outright “That’s right, Iceman… I am dangerous”. It certainly lends the character more edge than the volleyball scene anyway.