There’s a Tina Turner song called “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” but 24/7 Tempo begs to differ. “The more heroes the better,” we say and so we’ve assembled a list of 50 of the best of them from the past 90 years of cinematic history, as compiled by the American Film Institute for its report “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains.” (As a counterpoint to all these heroes, these are the most popular villains of all time.)
The list covers an incredible range of characters. There are adventurers on earth (like archaeologist Indiana Jones) and in outer space (such as Millennium Falcon captain Han Solo from “Star Wars”); environmental activists like Erin Brokovich and Karen Silkwood; gunslingers with names like Rooster Cogburn and Shane; soldiers ranging from Sergeant York to General Patton. (Here are 50 of the most-decorated war heroes in American history.)
There are superheroes like Superman and Batman, of course, but there are also characters who are ordinary in many ways, such as Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp, or Marge Gunderson, the mom-to-be police chief in “Fargo.” There are also people who do extraordinary things under difficult circumstances — for instance Atticus Finch, the lawyer who defends an African-American man wrongly accused of rаpe in a small Southern town in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Oskar Schindler, who saves Jews from the Holocaust at great personal risk, in “Schindler’s List.”
There are some antiheroes here, too, such as Harry Callahan from “Dirty Harry” and “Popeye” Doyle from “The French Connection,” both cops who don’t mind breaking the rules, or even breaking a few bones, when chasing bad guys. And there are heroes who aren’t even human, including the cyborg Terminator and everybody’s favorite collie, Lassie.