Let’s be real – many of our expectations in life were set by the fictional characters we grew up watching. Characters are the heart and soul of every story, and without them, it would be impossible for any story or material to exist. In fact, film and TV characters that are flawlessly well-written serve as companions in our journey that make us feel more seen, heard, and understood than the actual people in our lives.
Character development is an important part of the writing process because the characters determine the world of the story, the conflict, and the plot. Well-developed and compelling characters are multi-dimensional, flawed, and have clear motivations, wants, needs, a backstory as well as personality traits and emotions that make them as complex as real human beings. Remarkable characters would also have a strong and clear arc that allows us to see their transformation, regression, or growth from the beginning until the end of their journey in the story.
When all of these elements are incorporated into a character, there’s no doubt that their legacy will be immortalized in the world of storytelling. Here are six of the most timeless and memorable film and TV characters that have left indelible marks on our lives:
If you haven’t seen BoJack Horseman (2014), you’re definitely missing out on one of the most well-developed characters in the history of modern TV. The animated show and its characters may look colorful and adorable on the surface, but at its core, it tackles serious social and mental issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and sexism through each of the character’s journeys. The protagonist, BoJack Horseman, struggles with narcissism, pessimism, depression, and addiction as a result of his traumatic childhood and career. He tends to sabotage his relationships and isolate himself from the world because he doesn’t believe he is worthy of anything good in life. Throughout the show, we see a different side of BoJack and the little steps he’s taking to make peace with his past, overcome his addiction and vices, open his heart, and cultivate meaningful relationships with the people around him.
Breaking Bad’s (2008) pride and glory are definitely its extraordinary characters, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Walter White, in particular, has a unique character arc that goes from being a typical family man and a chemistry teacher to using his expertise in making and selling illegal drugs. His character transformation, despite going from hero to villain, is initially acceptable and worth rooting for because he seemed like a good-natured man at the end of the day. Everything that he has done was justified through his love for his family by ensuring that they are financially secure even if it entailed losing them, his reputation, and himself in the process. Walter’s ultimate demise was necessary because wrongdoings should be punished even if the intention behind it was good. It was the most justifiable way to redeem himself and pay for all the mistakes and damages he’s done to his family and the people around him.
To all The Vampire Diaries (2009) stans out there, you know what’s up. Damon’s character can be summarized as a bad boy with a good heart. He was innately impulsive, threatening, remorseless, insensitive, and selfish, and killed anyone who got in his way. He believed that being bad was easier than being good because people didn’t expect anything from him. We also got a deeper understanding of his personality when we saw the trauma he had to endure in his childhood and the abuse he got from his father. But he gradually changed his ways when he fell in love with Elena, and the love they had for each other transformed him into a compassionate, caring, vulnerable, and selfless man who would do anything to protect his loved ones. In fact, he chose to give up his immortality to become human and live a normal and fulfilling life with her.
Connell and Marianne
Perhaps one of the most emotional and heartbreaking love stories ever told, Normal People (2020) follows the lives of high school sweethearts, Connell and Marianne, as they navigate through the ups and downs of adolescence and adulthood. These characters have contrasting personalities and social statuses in life – Connell being the popular kid in school from a humble and loving family and Marianne being a loner from a wealthy and abusive family. But one thing they have in common is their shared intelligence and their unique view of the world. Throughout the story, we see the two lovers grow in every stage of their lives – from how they see themselves, interact with new people, overcome their inner struggles, and make decisions about their future. Their characters realistically give us an insight into the challenges of transitioning from being a teenager into a young adult as well as how our relationships evolve as we continue to grow.
The Harry Potter series wouldn’t be the success that it is if it weren’t for one of the most memorable characters ever written. From the get-go, Snape’s character was established as an antagonist who is feared, malicious, mysterious, and on a mission to make Harry’s life at Hogwarts as miserable as possible. However, in a shocking twist in the series, we found out that Snape has done nothing but protect Harry ever since he’s known him. Because of his love for his mother, he sacrificed himself to watch over him and keep him safe on her behalf, even if it means risking his own life.
Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, The Godfather (1972), is a masterclass on character development. In the beginning, Michael has always been an outsider and never wanted to do anything with the family business. But after his father’s shooting, he took matters into his own hands and became the head of the mafia. Throughout the trilogy, we see Michael’s character go deeper into a world of violence and corruption despite his disgust towards it in the past. He became more heartless and more dangerous than his father ever was, and becomes consumed by vengeance. But what connects and anchors us to his character is his immense love for his family and that he would stop at nothing to protect their safety and well-being.