We’re all familiar with the iconic characters of cinema: the intrepid hero (Indiana Jones, Rocky Balboa), the dastardly villain (Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Darth Vader), the selfless superhero (Captain America, Wonder Woman), and the homicidal psychopath (Annie Wilkes, Norman Bates). The private investigator (Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe), the police detective (John McClane, Harry Callahan), and the federal agent (Clarice Starling, Jack Ryan). The cyborg (T-1000, Robocop) and the sidekick (Goose, Samwise Gamjee). The teen queen (Regina George, Cher Horowitz) and the hapless dad (Clark Griswold, George Banks).
But what about the characters with no names? The characters whose names represent a physical characteristic (The Ten Commandments’ “The Blind One”, for example) or a job title (“Wig Salesman” from Amadeus). They might be part of a group, like “Woman at Bar #1” from The Departed, Fargo‘s “Bismarck Cop #2” or Shampoo‘s “Model #3”. Perhaps their name denotes a geographic location, such as Raging Bull‘s “Detroit Promoter” or “Oklahoma Patrolman” from The Last Picture Show. Maybe they are referred to by a simple pronoun, like Die Hard‘s “Woman” or Poltergeist‘s “Husband”.
Their name might be an article of their clothing, such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade‘s “Fedora” and “Panama Hat”. Perhaps the name is nonsense outside of that particular film’s context: “Second Swallow-Savvy Guard” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a great example. You might immediately visualize the character (for example, Back to the Future‘s “Clocktower Lady”, pictured above). You might never be able to pick them out of a crowd, like the twelve characters named “Hero Orcs / Goblins / Uruks / Ringwraiths” in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (their mothers probably know).
So here’s to the unsung heroes of cinema, the nameless masses, the glue that holds a movie cast together. The following are actual character names from iconic motion pictures; your job is to guess which movie they’re from. Some of these films are big-budget crowdpleasers, others are cult classics. All of them have insinuated themselves into our collective consciousness to one degree or another. I couldn’t think of a better way to organize them, so they are in chronological order by release date. I’ll reveal the answers tomorrow; in the meantime, happy guessing!
- Aged Actor, Leading Man, Doorman, Autograph Seeker, Stage Manager (1950)
- Miss Lonelyhearts, Miss Torso, Man on Fire Escape, Miss Hearing Aid (1954)
- Car Driver, Assassin in Bedroom, Submarine Captain (1967)
- Mission Controller, Astronaut, Ape Attacked by Leopard (1968)
- Field Reporter, Zombie/Posse Member, Washington Scientist (1968)
- Cat Man, Deputy, Dancing Girl, Hooker #4, Pickup Truck (1969)
- Prison Chaplain, Conspirator, Handmaiden in Bible Fantasy, Desk Sargeant (1971)
- Michael’s Bodyguard, FBI Man #1, Impressario, Ellis Island Doctor (1974)
- Fight Announcer, Club Corner Man, Paulie’s Date, Owner of Pet Shop (1976)
- Playmate of the Year, Soldier in Trench, Catholic Priest, Helicopter Pilot (1979)
- Wise Man #2, First Centurion, Intensely Dull Youth, Alarmed Crucifixion Assistant (1979)
- Mean Mongolian, Giant Sherpa/1st Mechanic, Tall Captain, Peruvian Porter (1981)
- Lumberjack, Ray Gun Geek #1, Ray Gun Geek #2, Freshman, Organist (1983)
- Violinist, Hotel Manager, Tall Woman at Party, Hot Dog Vendor, Library Ghost (1984)
- One-Legged Man, Terrified Soldier, Rape Victim, Medic (1986)
- Chemistry Teacher, Bagpiper, Dormitory Porter, Senior Student (1989)
- Freshman Smartass, Assistant Coach, Beer Delivery Guy, Liquor Store Clerk (1993)
- Wilson’s Trainer, Gawker #1, Shot Lady, Long Hair Yuppie-Scum (1994)
- TV Reporter #1, Cheerleader in Bathroom, Young Girl in Video Store, Bored Teen (1996)
- Stereo Customer, New Year’s Eve Young Stud, Donut Boy, Man with Gun (1997)
- Food Court Maitre D’, Next Month’s Opponent, Bus Driver with Broken Nose (1999)
- Angry Promoter, Waving Girl, Plaza Doctor, Swingo’s Desk Clerk (2000)
- Michigan Girl, German Teacher, Kissing Girl, Skater Girl, Marymount Captain (2004)
- Bank Manager, Assistant DA, Heckler, Cop Heckler, Prison Ferry Pilot (2005)
- Chinatown Merchant, Pool Hall Goon, Fight Club Boss, Super Soldier #2 (2016)