Cinema is all about immersion; be it the story, the direction or the way it was shot. However, more often than not, to create this illusion of immersion is on the actors, whose job is to fool you into thinking: “Where does the actor begin and where does their character ends?” While many come close to this, only a few leave a lasting mark. 

Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the most iconic character portrayals we’ve ever seen (not ranked), and secretly pray that they don’t fall victim to a cheap cash-grab reboot Hollywood has been infected by. 

1. Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man 

The first Iron Man movie was a defining pop culture moment for nerds like us. Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, showed us that our superheroes don’t necessarily have to be brooding (err…boring). With a satisfying conclusion in Avengers: Endgame, we do not want to see another metal man flying around the New York skyline anytime soon. 

2. Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt 

The Brits have James Bond, but the Americans have Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt. It is really difficult to distinguish the two at this point. That’s testament to Cruise’s commitment to the role and the Mission Possible movies. Even after 26 years of playing the same role, the 59-year actor is showing no signs of stopping. There’s a new Mission Impossible movie scheduled for next year!  

3. Uma Thurman as The Bride 

On paper, Kill Bill looks like the perfect recipe for disaster in the hand of a lesser director. But thank the gods of cinema for Tarantino, and what we got one of the best female-led movies of all time. For which, a majority of credit should go to Uma Thurman, who perfectly captures the character of ‘The Bride,’ a perfect killing machine out for revenge, after being gunned down on her wedding day. 

4. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator

Speaking of a perfect killing machine, how can we not mention Arnie’s leather-jacket-and-sunglasses donning T-800? After the release of the first movie, people either wanted to be with Arnie or be Arnie. That’s enough proof of the impact.

5. Sigourney Weaver as Ripley

The current state of Alien movies leaves much to be desired, especially if you’re following the footsteps of Ripley. Back in the ’80s, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley was a force to be reckoned with. She went toe-to-toe with the Arnolds and Slys of the world, creating a cult-like fan following for herself in the way. 

6. J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson

Fun fact: J.K Simmons’ performance as J. Jonah Jameson was the base idea that led us to this list. His portrayal of the editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle is so iconic, that even the thought of someone else calling Spiderman a menace seems unnatural. The good news is, with the current Marvel continuity, we won’t have to entertain that thought anytime soon. 

7. Robin Williams as Ms Doubtfire

Just like Tarantino and Kill Bill, the role of Ms Doubtfire in the hands of anyone but the late Robin Williams would’ve been a disaster. The legendary actor had the unique ability to combine heart with humour, which is rarely seen today. 

8. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow

In the early 2000s, Captain Jack Sparrow made his way into our hearts back as a defining image of a pirate, who trolled the high seas aboard his ship the Black Pearl. On the ground, he swashbuckled from one adventure to the other, with his impressive parkour and sword fighting skills. This description alone should tell you how much of Depp’s performance of the era-defining pirate was more than just repeating “Arghh” over and over again. A legendary feat which we doubt will be repeated. 

9. Sylvester Stallone As Rocky Balboa

Sylvester Stallone took the reputation of having one of the most punchable faces in Hollywood to the chin (quite literally) and made a whole career out of it. While there are many, many great movies in Sly’s arsenal, his portrayal of the enigmatic boxer is unparalleled. 

10. Salma Hayek as Frida

You’ll find yourself repeating the expression “Fits like a glove” over and over again while watching Salma Hayek’s career-defining role as Frida. Co-produced by Hayek, the movie is based on the life of Frida Kahlo — a disabled, queer, revolutionary Mexican painter who slowly became a national icon. The nuances were perfectly captured by Hayek’s portrayal. 

11. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine 

Only Hugh Jackson can fight a dozen bad guys while being bare-chested with fake metal claws. All of the while, making us deeply invested in his character. Jackson’s performance not only captured the gruffness of the comic-book Wolverine, but also the tenderness of Logan. The only sad part here is, we may never see him donning the signature yellow spandex. 

12. Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield

So much can be said about Jackson’s performance as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction. The character of a Bible-reciting, foul-mouthed coffee enthusiast became such a phenomenon that it is impossible to not include him in this list. While we’re at it, let’s start an official petition to get Quentin Tarantino to make a buddy cop movie with Sam Jackson and John Travolta soon. 

13. Jeff Bridges As The Dude

If you think we could do this list without mentioning The Dude, then “Well, you know, that’s just like uh, your opinion, man.” In all seriousness though, Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of the laid-back “The Dude” has become an icon, and it’s still relevant to this day. In case you haven’t seen The Big Lebowski, a masterpiece by the Coen brothers, add it to your queue today!