Top 10 Characters with a Moral Code

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Q.V. Hough

In film and television, these characters adhere by a strict system of values. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Characters with a Code. For this list, we're looking at characters from movies and television who live by some sort of specific moral code.

Special thanks to our users MikeyP for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at http://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by Q.V. Hough

Top 10 Characters With A Code

In film and television, these characters adhere by a strict system of values. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Characters with a Code.

For this list, we’re looking at characters from movies and television who live by some sort of specific moral code. That means characters who follow straight-up rules – like Columbus in “Zombieland” – won’t be on the list.

#10: Katsumoto 
“The Last Samurai” (2003)

In Edward Zwick’s acclaimed war epic, the ways of Japanese tradition are becoming more and more scarce in an increasingly modern world. Katsumoto is an old soul, still adhering to the Japanese ideals of honor and ritual. A rival American, Nathan Algren, impresses him with his fighting tactics, and so Katsumoto decides to train him in both the Japanese language and in the customs that he upholds. Their poignant friendship leads to a strong bond forged on the code they now share, and one that Katsumoto follows to the end. He demonstrates through his willingness to commit Seppuku, the epitome of wartime honor, that he really is the last of his kind.

#9: Morgan Jones 
“The Walking Dead” (2010-)

When the Zombie Apocalypse arrived, Morgan Jones wasn’t a completely broken man, but all that changed after he lost his son. For a while, Morgan went M.I.A. in “The Walking Dead,” but he re-emerges a changed individual, living by a new code that helps him move forward in life through peace. Learning the way of aikido – a Japanese martial technique of defense that aims to prevent injury to the opponent – from a fellow survivor named Eastman, Morgan essentially re-directs his pain and refrains from the violence that others rely upon to survive. Through his newfound code, the man embraces the idea of life and finds a mental balance that evades so many.

#8: Angus MacGyver 
“MacGyver” (1985-92) 

As a veteran of the Vietnam War, this man knows how to handle a firearm. It’s just that he would prefer not to use it. MacGyver just isn’t your average secret agent. He’s an educated man that understands science can go a long way, and that all someone really needs is a Swiss Army Knife and some duct tape to get out of a sticky situation. In fact, MacGyver is so proficient in his ways that even his fellow characters know what it means to “MacGyver” something. Perhaps the perfect demonstration of his skillset came when he fixed a radiator using some egg. This man lives by a code that substitutes violence with life hacks.  

#7: Bud 
“Repo Man” (1984) 

In a classic example of mid-‘80s cinema, an elderly repo man lays down the law to his young protégé, Otto Maddox. In doing so, Bud explains the unorthodox lifestyle of a repo man, which includes weird hours and developing a strong backbone. And while it’s not exactly good life advice, his “Repo Code” revolves around the intensity of the job at hand. This is a man that has been around the block a few times, and he’s forceful in his convictions, using a rigid protocol to survive. Bud is someone who won’t balk under pressure, and that’s all thanks to his steadfast adherence to a unique value system.

#6: Omar Little
“The Wire” (2002-08) 
Here’s a Baltimore native that likes to rip and run – but he doesn’t touch anybody that’s not in the game. Omar Little’s chaotic lifestyle and surroundings don’t go to his head, partly because of his grandmother Josephine’s upbringing. This here is man with plenty of bravado, yet he keeps to himself and gathers recon about his enemies. He’ll work both sides of the law to accomplish his goals, yet he’ll only do so if his associates respect the manner in which he works. And that’s why the characters of “The Wire” respect Omar’s name: they might not always agree with him, but they understand the nature of his honorable ways.

#5: The Driver
“Drive” (2011) 

In the vast landscape of Los Angeles, this nameless driver offers a unique skillset and has a few simple rules: give him five minutes, and he’ll complete the job. The Driver, as he’s known, doesn’t care for fake friendship or contrived conversations. But he’s someone who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. Even with a cold, no-nonsense demeanor, he proves loyal to a select few individuals in his life, sometimes to a fault. But while this man is perfectly capable of saving the day through his commitment to work and honor, he doesn’t always get away scot-free. Then again, it’s part of Driver’s job to know that danger is inevitable. That just comes with the territory.  

#4: Jon Snow 
“Game of Thrones” (2011-)

While some characters on our list embrace a personal code of ethics, this man commits himself to an organization that promises severe repercussions for disloyalty. Even so, Jon Snow adheres fully to the oath of the Night’s Watch, committing to protecting the wall and refraining from sexual activity or marriage. Okay, okay, he does falter there thanks to one fiery Wildling, but ultimately this bastard chooses his brotherhood. The Night’s Watch is a lifelong commitment, but as “Game of Thrones” fans know, Jon manages to find a loophole there. Even so, as a character, Jon finds clarity in his allegiance to a family code, which is stronger than anything else – a quality he ironically shares with the Lannister family. 

#3: Barney Stinson 
“How I Met Your Mother” (2005-14) 

In stark contrast to Jon Snow, this man doesn’t live by a code of honor, but by a code of how to get laid. Sure, Barney Stinson’s absentee father and one nasty break-up may’ve made him the suit-loving, catchphrase spouting womanizer we know and love, but even so, he does okay for himself. And he is more than proud of it, securing his “legendary” status with his very own Playbook, a physical copy of his sexploitation tactics. But it’s not all dishonorable fun and games for this philanderer: he also has the Bro Code, of which article one is obviously “bros before hos.” If nothing else, Barney is our own sharply dressed Yoda.  

#2: Dexter Morgan 
“Dexter” (2006-13)

After witnessing his mother’s brutal and bloody murder as a baby, this future serial killer recognized a certain “dark passenger” in his life. To satisfy his murderous tendencies, Dexter embraced a violent code, as taught by his adoptive father: he only kills bad guys. From a moral perspective, well, Dexter’s code strays heavily from accepted human behavior, as he takes matters into his own hands when the guilty fall through the cracks in the justice system. As long as he doesn’t get caught and gathers the right evidence, it all makes sense to him. Working for the Miami Metro Police as a blood spatter analyst, Dexter knows the importance of small details. That leads him to be quite thorough in the preparation and execution of his retaliatory killings. 

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Frank Martin 
“The Transporter” franchise (2002-) 

- Harry Waters 
“In Bruges” (2008) 

- Ron Swanson 
“Parks and Recreation” (2009-15) 

- John Ruth 
“The Hateful Eight” (2015) 

- Dinobot
“Beast Wars: Transformers” (1996-99) 

#1: Batman 
“The Dark Knight” franchise (2005-12) 

In the realm of superheroes, the good guys do away with the bad guys in any number of calculating ways. Yes, sometimes they even kill them. Yet, the Dark Knight, in his bleak, amoral world, operates in a very different way than most, which makes him unique. This Batman understands the human element, and part of his code of masked vigilante justice is in knowing the consequences of his actions for those he cares about. To him, society evolves through a moral code of justice, so he uses violence when necessary, unlike other superheroes like Spider-Man and Superman. Not all residents of Gotham City respect the code, but that’s not to say they don’t suffer the consequences of their actions.

Do you agree with our list? Who is your favorite character with a code? For more honorable Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to