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The 30 greatest '80s movie characters


The movie character: Cute-ugly alien with a glowing finger and a preoccupation with the possibility of telecommunications with his home planet.

Why we love them: Somehow, this ugly withered twig of an alien will become your new fictional best friend over the course of two hours. We can't explain why, maybe it's magic.  

Defining moment: Helping Elliott and co evade capture on their bikes by allowing them to cycle up into the sky, making for a quintessential magical Spielberg moment filled with majesty and wonder. Either that or the moment when he gets pissed and falls over.


The movie character: Half brutally murdered cop Alex Murphy and half law-enforcing super-machine.

Why we love them: By the end of the film, you're not even sure if you're supposed to be on his side, but Murphy's fighting skills are an undeniable treat to watch in action. 

Defining moment: In his first real patrol, RoboCop happens upon two rapists and, when one tries to use their victim as a shield, he uses his targeting system to shoot through her dress and leave him without his... ahem... offending weapon. In one swift delivery of justice, RoboCop is established as an efficient, ruthless policing machine.

Yoda (Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back)

The movie character: Wise old backwards-speaking Jedi mentor who looks uncannily like a swamp urchin when Luke first meets him. Still, he's the little green man that we wish every alien was like.

Why we love them: The sagely hermit is hardly a novel idea in cinema, but turning that hermit into a green frogman who speaks only in syntax-jumbled riddles is a masterstroke of hallucinogenic genius. 

Defining moment: Putting his "size matters not" words into action and lifting Luke's X-Wing out of the swamp.

John Rambo (First Blood)

The movie character: Vietnam vet with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and, as a result, a tendency to react badly to violence. He does, however, have the ability to turn into a machine-gun-toting action hero when a multi-million dollar franchise depends on it.

Why we love them: The transformation from mild-mannered war veteran to raging one man army is like nothing else, and Sly is right at the centre of it. 

Defining moment: Cornered, surrounded by police and face-to-face with his old training officer Colonel Trautman, Rambo responds, not by fighting his way out with a Bowie knife, but by breaking down, weeping and telling a story about the atrocities he has seen.

Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters)

The movie character: Parapsychologist and active member of the Ghostbusters whose breathtaking sarcasm and cynical opportunism disguises a good natured hero. Basically everything we want in a best friend.

Why we love them: Murray keeps things as dry as possible, despite all the supernatural ongoings around him, turning him into the audience's reliable anchor to the film's high-concept plot. 

Defining moment: Venkman manages to get the gang out of jail and back to bustin' ghosts by playing up to the Mayor's public appeal, triumphing over "dickless" Walter Peck in the process.

Ferris Bueller (Ferris Bueller's Day Off)

The movie character: Effortlessly cool kid that is the life and soul of the party. Such a dynamic package of smarts, mischief and good-natured humour that there's an argument that he doesn't even really exist.

Why we love them: Matthew Broderick isn't your typical teen heartthrob, but that's the winning formula for a character that everyone can relate to on some level or another. 

Defining moment: Crashing the annual Von Steuben Day parade and winning the crowds over by performing an expertly lip-synced rendition of Twist And Shout.

John McClane (Die Hard)

The movie character: Resourceful, wise-cracking, vest-wearing, follically-challenged New York cop in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Why we love them: He's an action hero with a sense of humour and a normal sized ego, establishing a charm that carries the film with style. 

Defining moment: What else? With a gun taped to his back, McClane wins his Nakatomi showdown, spawning a nonsensical catchphrase and cementing an action franchise at the same time. Yippee-ki-yay, indeed.

The Terminator

The movie character: T-800 cyborg from the future that has been sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor. Cleverly, it has been built to look like a huge, muscular, perfectly toned bodybuilding champ.

Why we love them: Cameron made a very smart move by using Arnie's robotic acting skills as the basis for an all-time great movie villain. We'll forever be in his debt. 

Defining moment: Emerging from an exploded truck with all of Arnie's flesh stripped away revealing just a metal endoskeleton with terrifying red lights for eyes. It's the first time we fully understand just how unstoppable this killing machine really is.

Indiana Jones (Raiders Of The Lost Ark)

The movie character: Adventurous archeologist that set the benchmark for awesomeness far too high for your own history teacher to ever live up to.

Why we love them: The cheeky grin, the endless sarcasm, the obnoxious fashion sense... what's not to love?

Defining moment: Not the methodical testing - and therefore avoidance - of devious booby traps surrounding a golden idol, but the hurried skin-of-his-teeth escape back through them all when things go boulder-shaped. That's what you get for thinking that a small bag of dirt will weigh the same as a solid gold statue.

Marty McFly (Back To The Future)

The movie character: Time-travelling high-school kid with some pretty heavy Oedipal problems.

Why we love them: The epitome of what made the 1980's cool, Marty McFly balances his rock and roll lifestyle with a dorky naivety that makes him instantly lovable. 

Defining moment: Playing an increasingly raucous rendition of Johnny B. Goode to an increasingly bemused room of 50s students who just aren't ready for that yet (but their kids are gonna love it). It doesn't matter though - he nailed that guitar solo.