America's 100 Greatest Heroes & Villains
Virtuous Heroes and Wicked Villains


The 400 Nominees

by American Film Institute (AFI)




The American Film Institute in Los Angeles conducted their sixth polling, 100 Heroes and Villains. AFI again celebrated American cinema, and revealed America’s 100 greatest good and bad guys/gals (50 of each), either fact-based or fantastically-fictional, as chosen by voters - a jury of 1,500 directors, actors, screenwriters, critics, historians and others.

[Compare to the list of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) that in 2002 had polled their own membership of Internet-based cinema journalists for the top 100 greatest screen villains of all time, accessible here.] The list of 400 nominated films was made available before the final voting. The AFI left the judgment calls to jurors about the categorization of virtuous heroes and wicked villains, advising them only to not vote for a character as both.

Note: The films that are marked with a yellow star are the films that "The Greatest Films" site has selected as the 100 Greatest Films

Facts About the 400 Nominees for Greatest Heroes and Villains:

  • The ballot featured 400 nominees -- alphabetical from Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey in Swimming with Sharks (1994)) to Zorro (Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro (1940)), with 398 others.

  • 19 of the nominated candidates were team entries --
  • Some of the candidates were nominated en masse --
  • The most represented male actor on the ballot was John "Duke" Wayne with seven characters, including:
    • The Ringo Kid in Stagecoach (1939)
    • Sgt. John M. Stryker in The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
    • Captain Nathan Brittles in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
    • Ethan Edwards in The Searchers (1956)
    • Davy Crockett in The Alamo (1960)
    • Tom Doniphon in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
    • "Rooster" Cogburn in True Grit (1969)

  • Harrison Ford, Gary Cooper and Henry Fonda each portrayed six different nominated characters.

  • Bette Davis was the most represented actress with four mentions:
  • Faye Dunaway and Sigourney Weaver both portrayed three different nominated characters. Other prominent women among the heroic nominees (who didn't place) included: Kay Miniver (#245) in Mrs. Miniver (1942), Foxy Brown (#39) in Foxy Brown (1974), Sarah Connor in The Terminator, and Scarlett O'Hara (#264) in Gone With the Wind (1939).

  • Alfred Hitchcock directed 11 films starring nominated characters, the most on the ballot. Directors John Ford and Steven Spielberg each directed 7 nominated characters.

  • John Huston penned the most screenplays featuring seven nominated characters:
  • Other screenwriters with multiple nominated characters included James Cameron (6), William Goldman (6), Oliver Stone (5), and David Webb Peoples (5).

  • Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars (1977) trilogy was joined on the ballot by four of his film comrades: Darth Vader, Han Solo, Princess Leia and Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi. No other film placed more characters on the nominee list. However, Luke Skywalker (and Princess Leia) did not place in the top 50 Heroes list - they were superceded by Han Solo (#14) and Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi (#37). Vader made the top 50 Villains list at #3.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger was nominated twice in opposing roles as the android killer & protector robot: for the original The Terminator (1984), and again for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). He was honored for his villainous role (at # 22), but not for his heroic role.

  • Non-human characters were on the ballot, including:
  • There were two no-shows within the nominees: the Blair Witch in The Blair Witch Project (1999), and 'The Man' in Bambi (1942).

  • Comic book or animated characters included:
  • Real-life characters included the following, among others:
    • Louis Pasteur (Paul Muni) in The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)
    • Emile Zola (Paul Muni) in The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
    • Geronimo (Chief Thundercloud) in Geronimo (1939)
    • Abraham Lincoln (Henry Fonda) in Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
    • Thomas Alva Edison (Mickey Rooney) in Young Tom Edison (1940)
    • Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper) in The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
    • Marie Curie (Greer Garson) in Madame Curie (1943)
    • John Dillinger (Lawrence Tierney) in Dillinger (1945)
    • Lt. Colonel James H. Doolittle (Spencer Tracy) in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1945)
    • Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) in My Darling Clementine (1946)
    • Joan of Arc (Ingrid Bergman) in Joan of Arc (1948)
    • Annie Oakley (Betty Hutton) in Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
    • Calamity Jane (Doris Day) in Calamity Jane (1953)
    • Audie Murphy (Audie Murphy) in To Hell and Back (1955)
    • El Cid (Charlton Heston) in El Cid (1961)
    • T. E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) in Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
    • Jack Jefferson (James Earl Jones) in The Great White Hope (1970)
    • Gen. George Patton (George C. Scott) in Patton (1970)
    • Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Gregory Peck) in MacArthur (1977)
    • Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) in The Boys From Brazil (1978)
    • Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) in Gandhi (1982)
    • Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) in The Right Stuff (1983)
    • Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep) in Silkwood (1983)
    • Steve Biko (Denzel Washington) in Cry Freedom (1987)
    • Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) and Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) in The Untouchables (1987)
    • Dian Fossey (Sigourney Weaver) in Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey (1988)
    • Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) in Malcolm X (1992)
    • Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) in Apollo 13 (1995)
    • William Wallace (Mel Gibson) in Braveheart (1995)
    • Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) in The Insider (1999)
    • Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) in Erin Brockovich (2000)


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