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VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Matt Klem
These franchises wouldn't be the same without these iconic characters! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for fan-favorite film characters. Our countdown includes Gandalf, James Bond, Freddy Krueger, Axel Foley
Spider-Man, and more!

#20: John Wick

“John Wick” franchise (2014-)
Keanu Reeves has been fortunate enough to play some pretty iconic characters over the years. We saw him as the bumbling Ted in the “Bill & Ted” movies. Then he blew our minds with his martial arts skills as Neo in “The Matrix” films [xref]. And yet as memorable as those characters are, nothing on his resume can really compare to that of legendary hitman, John Wick. Spanning across four films, Wick introduced a whole new world of the underground while giving us a character fans mutually adored and feared at the same time. He’s kept us on the edge of our seats making us wonder how he’ll ever make it through, and we root for him the whole time.

#19: Axel Foley

“Beverly Hills Cop” franchise (1984-)
For younger audiences, the name Axel Foley will either draw blanks, or maybe have them ask if he’s the crazy frog guy. But for those of us who remember “Beverly Hills Cop”, Axel Foley remains one of the most iconic police officers ever put to film. As a Detroit street cop who found himself in Beverly Hills, Axel Foley was written as the perfect character for a fish out of water story. Eddie Murphy’s portrayal lifted the character from just another cop in a film to someone everyone loved. He was part cop, part con man, and all-in on bringing joy to the audience.

#18: Katniss Everdeen

“The Hunger Games” franchise (2012-)
When the first “The Hunger Games” film was released, Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t quite the household name she is today. But when it hit screens in 2012, it seemed like everyone soon knew who she, and her character, Katniss Everdeen, were. The latter character appeared in three more films, further cementing her as an icon of the decade. As a young woman choosing to enter the games to save her sister, she quickly became the face of a revolution. Not only was she an icon within the realm of the films, but she also provided a message of strength and resilience to girls and young women in the real world. The character still remains in the hearts of many.

#17: Ethan Hunt

“Mission Impossible” franchise (1996-)
After seven films, should they just stop calling it “Mission Impossible” and change it to “What kind of insane stunt is Tom Cruise going to try now?” Okay, maybe that title is a bit wordy, but somehow it seems Ethan Hunt keeps accomplishing the impossible. What could have been just another rebooted character in a generic action flick, Hunt, in many ways, seems to be some kind of distorted mirror for Cruise himself. Perhaps that’s the reason why people keep going back to see him again and again. Sure, the character has evolved over the years, but at the end of the day, audiences keep returning just to see what kind of insanity Cruise, *cough*, we mean Hunt is going to try next.

#16: Peter Venkman

“Ghostbusters” franchise (1984-)
For fans of the original “Ghostbusters”, asking them why Peter Venkman is one of their favorite characters is an impossible question. Perhaps the closest we can get is to say that Venkman is so funny thanks to Bill Murray’s killer delivery. Venkman could have easily been just a womanizing creep who fell into a job busting ghosts. But thanks to Murray, we laugh, smile, and enjoy virtually every scene he’s featured in. He’s an unconventional leader that keeps Ray, Egon and Winston from taking their tasks a bit too seriously, all while keeping the city safe.

#15: Harley Quinn

DCEU (2013-)
Up until 2016’s “Suicide Squad”, Harley Quinn was not a name overly familiar to non-comic book affectionados. Thankfully, Margot Robbie's multiple outings as the character have made her a far more common name than before. What makes this character so endearing to fans is a combination of her tragic backstory, and a relentless ability to both show compassion and rage within a moment of each other. She’s got moxie, attitude, and is enough of a flirt to make both the guys and gals' hearts skip a beat. As much as fans have adored the Joker over the years [xref], we’re glad to see this woman get her share of the spotlight.

#14: Mr. Spock

“Star Trek” franchise (1966-)
With pretty much any film or television show, more often than not audiences will connect with characters who stand apart from everyone else. Anyone can be the leader, or the jock, or the popular one. But characters who stand out because they are different are almost always the ones the fans adore. Case in point: “Star Trek”’s Mr. Spock. As an alien from a world with suppressed emotions, Spock stood out among the crew. His differing perspectives on all things human gave the rest of us a completely new way to view the world around us. Perhaps it’s the reason that even 50 years later, fans still are talking about this pointy-eared alien from Vulcan.

#13: Rocky Balboa

“Rocky” franchise (1976-)
When it comes to storytelling, some themes are universal and never seem to get old. A well-written underdog story can produce an uplifting sense of hope in the face of many obstacles. Such was the case for Rocky Balboa in his titular named films. Balboa was a nobody living in Philadelphia who found himself rising to the top of the world of boxing. Audiences love seeing an underdog come out on top and Rocky is a perfect example. He continues to endure after having appeared in eight films, and with more appearances potentially set to come.

#12: Spider-Man

While not only an MCU character, of all the Marvel characters across all the universes explored, Spider-Man has always been arguably the most beloved character of them all. He’s been depicted on film in three separate live action universes, and an animated one. What is it about this character that fans identify so well with? Part of it can be attributed to his unrelenting desire to remain so down to earth. He might be a superhero, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Furthermore, his goofiness is rooted in his adolescence which just makes him feel that more authentic. Fans can debate who’s played him best, but at the end of the day, we all love that he’s just our friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.

#11: Jack Sparrow

“Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise (2003-)
After the spectacular failure of “Cutthroat Island”, Hollywood didn’t really want to go anywhere near pirate movies. So when Disney gave us “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” everyone was shocked at how well it was received. Most of that praise came in the form of love towards lead character Jack Sparrow. Fans enjoyed Johnny Depp’s unique take so much that the mouse house gave us more films filled with the wisecracking pirateer. Sparrow gave us a much needed departure from some of the tiresome characters that killed the genre in the first place. In doing so, it moved the needle back in the favor of pirate movies, while giving viewers something new to chew on.

#10: Wolverine

“X-Men” franchise (2000-)
Which superpower would you rather have? The ability to move things with your mind? Nah, that’s too lazy. Read someone’s thoughts? Too scary. How about instant healing and three giant claws that shoot out of your hand? Of course! And let’s be honest, it’s not just the claws that make Wolverine the coolest of the classic X-Men. Fans have loved this character for years, not just because he can kick some butt. In all the ways we can think of, Wolverine is a rebel, which makes him stand out. As much as Professor X would like to keep him on a leash, Logan plays his own game and like some of the other rebels on this list, that’s what fans are drawn to.

#9: Freddy Krueger

“Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise (1984-2010)
Jason Voorhees [xref], Michael Myers [xref2] and Freddy Krueger are the ultimate trifecta when it comes to the world of late ‘70s/early-to-mid ‘80s horror movies. Both Voorhees and Myers were scary in their own ways. But Freddy was all that more terrifying for one single reason: he came to you in your dreams. With masks and a blade, the others bring the chills but at least you might stand a chance running away. With Krueger, eventually we all succumb to our slumber and could face the threat of the scariest fingernails in history. While all three are certainly fan favorites, we have to give this one to Freddy for being a true nightmare to all of us.

#8: Marty McFly

“Back to the Future” franchise (1985-90)
Every year, countless movies are released around the world. Wait a couple of years, and odds are, most of them will be forgotten. Yet here we are, almost 40 years after its release, and people are still talking about Marty McFly and his time traveling adventures. Perhaps the reason why Marty has been such an endearing character is that his experiences are ones we all wish we could live through. Who wouldn’t want to go back in time and see what our parents were like when they were teenagers? Combine that with Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd’s incredible chemistry, it’s no surprise he’s a character that has endured the test of time. We only hope it’s the film’s density to continue to live on.

#7: Gandalf

“The Lord of the Rings” franchise (2001-14)
From large epic tales to the simplest of stories, there’s usually a place for a great mentor, teacher, or guide. These characters often end up being some of the most interesting, and unique individuals within the associated tale. Like, say, Yoda from “Star Wars”; Mr. Miyagi from “Karate Kid”, and of course, Gandalf from “The Lord of the Rings”and “The Hobbit.” Like the others, Gandalf himself holds quite the power, but often chooses to limit his use of it in favor of helping or guiding the other lead characters in the story. Through their guidance, the audience can easily become enamored with them, without taking much away from the rest of the story. Gandalf is yet another perfect example of this archetype.

#6: Ellen Ripley

“Alien” franchise (1979-)
When the original “Alien” movie was released in 1979, it was practically unheard of to see a woman in the lead role of a science fiction film. Once audiences saw Sigourney Weaver boldly rid the Nostromo of the xenomorphs, it changed the landscape of cinema in terms of gender equality. Perhaps this is one of the biggest reasons why the character has remained such a fan favorite for so long. Ripley isn’t just some gimmick meant to sell tickets to a movie. She’s a total badass hero who’s more than capable of holding her own against the perils of outer space.

#5: Harry Potter

“Harry Potter” franchise (2001-11)
For those who love to experience the world of magic and wizardry, the emergence of Harry Potter from books to films was a welcome gift. Here was a fantasy-driven tale about a young boy who gets caught up into the world of sorcery. For younger fans it was fairly easy to identify with Potter, Hermione [xref], or even Weasley. Their adventures sparked the imaginations of millions and gave kids someone new to emulate. As children, we all want to believe in magic and wish we could fly around on a broom. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that even after all these years, Harry Potter is still as popular as ever.

#4: Han Solo

“Star Wars” franchise (1977-)
If Luke Skywalker was the light, Darth Vader was the dark, then Han Solo was probably somewhere in the middle. Here was a smuggler who was more interested in his next job, and earning a buck, than having anything to do with the rebellion. And it was that kind of attitude, which complemented (xref) Princess Leia’s different form of principled badassery, that drew audiences to him. As the story progressed, we got to see a softer side of Solo which also made fans love him even more. So much so that creator George Lucas received an immense amount of backlash when he tried to solve the “who shot first” question in one of his infamous “updates”. Audiences know their characters, and not even their creator is allowed to mess with them.

#3: Tony Stark

MCU (2008-)
Iron Man wasn’t necessarily the most important character for Marvel in comic books. Sure, he had his many fans, but not quite the same profile as, say, Spider-Man or other fan faves. But like many of the others on this list, the perfect casting made all the world of difference. Robert Downey Jr. was born to play Tony Stark. Both onscreen and off, it very often seems like the actor and his character are almost interchangeable. Much of Tony’s charm and allure comes from the actor’s brilliant delivery. Tony’s appeal comes from both his sarcastic wit all the way to heartfelt moments we never expected. He’s a superhero unlike any other, and fans are still hoping he’ll somehow be resurrected.

#2: Indiana Jones

“Indiana Jones” franchise (1981-2023)
Harrison Ford has the distinction of having two of the top five favorite characters on this list. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both Henry Jones Jr. and Han Solo share a few characteristics that make them so beloved. However, unlike Solo, Jones is at least somewhat more rooted in down-to-earth exploits: literally. He’s an archaeologist who always seems to find himself in the most precarious of situations. And like his smuggler counterpart, he uses his intelligence and wit to always find his way home. Even with the rough patches the franchise has experienced in its last two outings, fans still savor every moment they get with this incredible character.

#1: James Bond

“James Bond” franchise (1962-)
We think it is safe to say that when a film character has been around for over a whopping seven decades, there has to be something about him that keeps the fans coming back for more. Originally featured in Ian Fleming’s novels, with 27 movies, 14 books and various other spinoffs and comics, James Bond is a character who never seems to go out of style. Plus, having the films switch up the star actor from time to time keeps audiences wondering how, or if, he’ll be different each time. Perhaps the best way to sum it up, is to say that, well, James Bond seems to have a tomorrow that never dies.

Who’s your all-time favorite character from a huge movie franchise? Let us know in the comments.