The Presidential Election here in America has been a tornado that has divided and confused many Americans more than any other election, but in time, the dust will settle and things (hopefully) repair and improve themselves. My therapy for most things isn’t smoking weed, getting drunk, or fishing, but instead I watch movies. I figured it made sense to make a Top 10 List for the occasion. This time around, I will be making of the best and worst leaders in film history.
I will be excluding real life characters depicted in film because if you want that list you should just read a book and figure out the obvious for yourself. It’s strictly fun and film for this list and I can tell you that it’s much harder to pick these people than I imagined.
1. Aragorn son of Arathorn (Lord of the Rings Trilogy)
Viggo Mortensen brought to life one of the greatest characters written in literature as well as film with his role as Aragorn, the reluctant king and ruler of Arnor and Gondor led a life solitude as the Ranger of the North for much of his life before his true calling rang and he answered to become the man who led the likes of men, elves, dwarfs, and Hobbits to fight the evil forces of Sauron, the dark Lord of Middle Earth.
His courage is evident on film for nearly every action he takes. He leads with courage, kindness, and cool in order to keep those he holds dear protected. A genuinely good and heroic figure in the films, he is without a doubt my favorite leader in films as he eventually takes his rightful place on the thrown and leaves us with the most tear inducing quote of the franchise which is him talking to the Hobbits and saying, “You bow down to no one”.
2. Captain America (Captain America, MCU)
Chris Evans as Captain America has been a transcending figure since he appeared for the first time in the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2011 in Captain America: The First Avenger. Since then, Evans has encapsulated what it means to be a true leader, putting yourself in danger without hesitation to protect someone else, no matter the circumstances. The beautiful part about Cap’s legacy is that he was doing this before he ever became a super-soldier and he’s only done more for people in the films since he dawned the vibranium shield.
3. Katsumoto (The Last Samurai)
You would think Tom Cruise’s Nathan Algren would be the focus point of leadership in The Last Samurai, but it’s the actual samurai that takes the cake for leader here. It’s only because of Katsumoto (Ken Wantanabe) that Cruise’s character becomes what he is. Fighting a war that is trying to destroy his way of life, Katsumoto recognizes enough that there is something more to Algren than meets the eye. Their friendship and perspective for one another grows and only minimizes their cultural division. The sacrifices he will make for his people is unparalleled and very much the way of a true samurai.
4. King Leonidas (300)
While his methods seem more extreme at times that brave, there is no question 300’s King Leonidas exudes bravery, courage, confidence, and all other things that lend to a leader among men and women. Born and raised a Spartan, he earned everything that was thrown at him while taking on all challengers that opposed him and his people. Without hesitation, men flocked in droves to fight for and with him, but he only took those capable and willing to die for what they believed in. To be fair, Leonidas was a real person, but this fictionalized version of him presented a bit of a loop hole for me to include him.
5. Woody (Toy Story franchise)
Who would have thought that toys could bring such life to a generation? Apparently John Lasseter did when he created and directed Toy Story and gave us the iconic character of Woody voiced by Tom Hanks. The joyous nature of the organized toy cowboy resonates with my child self as well as my adult version to this very day. His meticulous efforts to keep order, stability, and warmth among his fellow toys is one of the most deeply touching moments in film history, especially after the events of Toy Story 3.
6. Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator)
Maximus started off as a leader and military general for Caesar in this fictional sword and sandal epic from director Ridley Scott. Russell Crowe becomes the Roman general who leads his men through years of battles and war only to be tricked by a villainous prince whose daddy issues lead Maximus to become a slave then gladiator after his own tragedies. Maximus leads through example through the film’s acts and becomes the inspiration for thousands of people through Rome including his fellow gladiators in the process.
7. Caesar (Rise & Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)
Andy Serkis brings to life one of the modern day icons of film with the rebooted Planet of the Apes protagonist Caesar. Consider him the Moses of the ape world as he tries to lead his species as he tries to lead his species to a promise land beyond humans. It’s a tragic and thrilling aleghory of sorts which presents a element of emotion we can only wish to find in people. His once passive nature shows how he wants to keep peace between species without trouble, but as we all know, trouble will eventually find you. It’s in those moments that Caesar showcases his growth as a leader to get away from his own pride or arrogance to do what is good for the greater good.
8. Juror #8 (12 Angry Men)
Henry Fonda gives a performance of a lifetime as a juror who does whatever it takes to bring forth justice. It’s something that truly great leaders will always try to do and that is profoundly just in of itself. In this iconic courtroom drama about 12 jurors trying to come to agreement in a murder trial, they each hit snags of morality, and heat exhaustion to a point their desires of justice vanish, but it’s Fonda’s juror #8 who upholds the intergrity to bring forth a truth and honor to his peers in hopes of realizing what has really happened. There’s a reason this film gets shown in schools and classrooms across America and it wouldn’t be what it is without Juror #8.
9. Ellen Ripley (Alien franchise)
Through extreme circumstances comes the reveal of one’s true character and that’s no more apparent than in Ellen Ripley throughout the Alien franchise as she is stuck aboard the Nostromo. Fighting off aliens and protecting herself as well as crew mates presents it’s sets of challenges when that alien bleeds acid and has a taste for flesh, but Ripley seems to always fight on and protect who she can even with the little bit of training she was given by the space marines. It’s the dark horse pick for a reason and that’s exactly why she’s such a great leader.
10. Babe (Babe)
This is not a joke, I repeat, this is not a joke. Heroes and leaders come in all shapes and sizes with little to no exception in movies. Director George Miller went away from the Mad Max franchise for a long while to create more kid friendly films later on in his career with one of them being the underrated talking animal film that is Babe. A childhood favorite of mine, Babe was always fascinating because he’s not leading a revolt