Creating a truly great character is no easy task. Everything has to come together, from the script to the costuming to the acting. But when they do, the result feels like more than the sum of its parts. In a matter of hours or even minutes, great characters manage to feel as real and vivid as anyone we’ve met in real life.
In 2014 we met quite a few such characters in arthouse oddities and studio blockbusters alike, ranging from heroes to villains, comic relief sidekicks to horrifying bogeymen. The only thing all of our favorite characters of 2014 have in common is that days or weeks or months after we first saw them, we haven’t been able to get them out of our minds.
Read our list of the best movie characters of 2014, ordered by release date, after the jump.
Unnamed lead (Scarlett Johansson) in Under the Skin
The not-quite-human protagonist of Under the Skin is blank by design. We don’t know her history and we don’t know her future. If she has a name, we never learn what it is. All of this should make her very boring, but instead that emptiness makes her a fascinating mirror. Through her, we’re able to rediscover humanity through fresh eyes.
At first, that means seeing humans — men, specifically — as fragile prey who are naive enough to believe they’re the predators. But as she becomes more curious and begins to open herself up to the experience of being human, we come to truly understand the beauty and horror of our race.
Lego Batman (Will Arnett) in The Lego Movie
Warner Bros. might have a “no jokes” policy for their regular DC movies, but thank God it didn’t apply to portrayals of DC characters in Warner Bros.’ other franchises. Will Arnett‘s Lego Batman was one of the funniest characters of the year, and arguably one of the best Batmen in recent memory.
The genius of Lego Batman is that he doesn’t really contradict the dark, gritty interpretation of Batman that’s currently in vogue. He just tilts it ever so slightly to the side. If the Christopher Nolan Batman is how Batman sees himself, Lego Batman is how Batman looks to outsiders who don’t have on grime-covered glasses. The brooding anger, the familial angst, the privileged arrogance — it’s all there, but it’s all much harder to take seriously when the Caped Crusader is made of plastic bricks and singing lines like “darkness… no parents… super rich… kind of makes it better.”
Quicksilver (Evan Peters) in X-Men: Days of Future Past
In a very crowded field of mutants, some of whom were played by Oscar-winning A-listers, the one that stood out was Quicksilver. While he only netted a few minutes of screentime, he made the absolute most of every second — appropriately enough for a character who moves so fast, he can race around the room in a blink of an eye and still have time to set up some pranks.
Sure, his club-kid costume looked a bit goofy, but he won us over with his sardonic wit and live-wire energy. And he proved to be more useful than mutants with ten times more training. Your move, Marvel.
Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) in Edge of Tomorrow
It’s doubtful that being lovable is high on Rita Vrataski’s list of priorities, but we defy you not to fall in love with her anyway. The “Angel of Verdun” was one of the most memorable heroes in a year positively jam-packed with superpowered, Spandex-clad beings.
It’s immediately clear that Rita is a tough, no-nonsense type, and that impression bears out for the rest of the movie. But as we (and protagonist William Cage) get to know her better, we also come to recognize her humor, her vulnerability, and her warmth. There’s a reason Emily Blunt ranks so high on fantasy-casting wishlists for Captain Marvel.