My Ten Most Heroic Hollywood Heroes


You pass through the hallowed threshold. A night crossing into mystery and adventure. Submerged in the darkness, the palpable thrill of anticipation in the air is met with baited breath and hushed tones. Hurriedly, you and your party secret on your way. Feeling your way in the darkness you find safe harbor.

Anticipation builds further as the already dim room goes even darker. Like imaginary astronauts you strap in for parts unknown. Your heartbeat races. You’re ready to be taken to places you’ve never experienced before. To see things you’ve never seen before. To taste. To touch. To beâÂ?¦ someone you’ve never been before.

The curtain goes up� and a collective anxiety hushes through the room.

“What’s going to happen!”

“Will I live? Will I die? Will I find love? Will my heart be broken?”

Why do the movies enthrall us and draw us in to the degree that they do? Why do those god-like images carry over into real life and elevate mere humans to worship-like veneration?

Perhaps it is because these powerful visual images manipulated by an army of talented professionals and presented on a larger than life scale so closely mimic where we spend a third of our livesâÂ?¦ in the womb-like dream world. Where our surreal cerebellums are no longer bound by the finite laws of physics and are free to bend and twist reality and time and space and our selves to conform to the secret dimensions of our heart. (Or not conform.) Where we have the flight of falconsâÂ?¦ Where we have the strength of SamsonâÂ?¦ Where we have the speed of the CheetahâÂ?¦ Where we have the love of a goddess. Where we leave the real world to a time ‘long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away’.

For 120 minutes your name is not Harold or Carla but Harrison or Brad or Jodi. You’re not a dentistâÂ?¦ but a dancer. Not a grocerâÂ?¦ but a gangster. And even if you could never admit to it in your awakened state, you can always re-affirm it in your dreams.

For me, the earliest cinematic images from my youth that have carried over through my adolescence and on into my adult life are those of the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Although I never saw it on the big screen, the introspective story told in mysteriously piercing black and white awakened my mind to a kaleidoscope universe of cosmic possibilities that I had never before considered.

Like me, hundreds of, if not thousands of plot twists and red herrings and epiphanies have blasted through your inner-realms in a dazzling array of blazing Technicolors. And, I’m sure, as did Klaatu and Gort in my case, a multitude of unforgettably colorful characters have burned indelible engrams on your mind.

In appreciation to so many who have worked so hard and invested so much to make this rocket-ride we call life a little more, (and often a lot more) enjoyable, who have pioneered new worlds, rediscovered ancient histories and have brought into our lives such wonderful life long companions, in the following articles I would like to share with you some of the on-screen characters and personas through whom I have increased my repository of the knowledge of humanity and the knowledge of my self.

My Hollywood
Illian Morisson

Part 1: My Ten Most Heroic Hollywood Heroes

What constitutes the quintessential Hollywood hero? We’re virtually bombarded with candidates. Contenders and pretenders. Every author believes he has created ‘the man’, (or ‘woman’), to get us through our darkest hour. Their onscreen realities are as divergent as the stars in the sky, and their stories as expansive. But, for me, there are common denominators that define the really great ones no matter what their time or place.

The quintessential Hollywood hero first of all manifests an epic persona. His personality, history, abilities, (or lack thereof) and all-to-real vulnerabilities, make him fresh, unique. The way he talks, and moves and dresses will be copied and cloned for generations to come. He’s an original.

The quintessential Hollywood hero is confronted with an epic crisis. Even though we have seen the world in peril a thousand timesâÂ?¦ what he is confronted with brings us to the edge of our seats. It challenges our champion with everything he’s got and everything he believes in. And we want him to win so badly, we vicariously climb, not just into the screen with them, but, into their very skin.

The quintessential Hollywood hero overcomes his fears, his weaknesses, his shortcomings, his doubts and every obstacle set before him to achieve an epic victory. Even though we have seen the world saved a thousand times� the way he saves his world just blows us away.

We know, of course, all these pseudo-realities are the sum totals of the real imaginations of a gifted Writer, a talented Actor and a visionary Director. But, when they complicitously orchestrate their legerdemain to perfection, all the academics are lost in the magic.

I culled through many a bona fide nominee, such as The Matrix’s Neo, the Gladiator’s Maximus, Spiderman, Jack Ryan of Clear and Present Danger, and James Bond’s 007. Personal favorites such as Clint Eastwood’s Outlaw Josey Whales, Kevin Kostner’s Dances With Wolves and Robert Redford’s Jeremiah Johnson. Sentimental favorites that were hard to eliminate like Superman, Charleton Heston’s Moses, Rambo, Spartacus, Dirty Harry, Indiana Jones, and Rocky Balboa of Rocky (I through 47).

But here are my 10 most heroic Hollywood heroes:
(Forgive me if I refuse to rank them, I am saving one very special choice for last.)

Zorro of The Mask of Zorro 1998 and The Legend of Zorro 2005. The creative team of Director Martin Campbell, Writers Justin McCulley and Ted Elliot, Actor Anthony Hopkins and Actor Antonio Banderas elevated Zorro to a whole new plateau by featuring not just one, but two new incarnations of the legendary vigilante. I like Hopkins’ Zorro because he is the consummate father figure and sage. A wise, experienced, cultured, altruistic and seasoned warrior. I like Banderas’ Zorro because he overcame his admitted flaws, he is genuinely romantic rather than gratuitously sexual, and dashingly fearless in the face of danger. (In fact, for reference, I like the James Bond characters in their own rights, but if stripped of the technology and stood side-by-side, Zorro makes 007 look like a cheap imitation.)

RoboCop (Officer Alex J. Murphy)
RoboCop of the original 1987 film. Writers Edward Neumeir and Michael Miner, Director Paul Verhoeven and Actor Peter Weller,(Rob Bottin deserves special mention for the creation of RoboCop’s metalic super-persona), created a big screen personality reminiscent of a Dirty Harry on steroids. I like RoboCop because he forces us to face the question: When you have been stripped to the bare bones, and everything that can be possibly taken away from you has been taken away from you, how do you maintain your humanity? Should you even try? Or, should just give in to the monsters inside us all?

Ellen Ripley
Ellen Ripley of Alien 1979, Aliens 1986 and Alien III 1992. Writers Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, Director Ridley Scott and Actress Sigourney Weaver introduce us to the heroine of the new millennium. Ripley didn’t just blow away the ‘damsel in distress’ imageâÂ?¦ she hit it with a nuclear bomb! She stood toe-to-toe with her errant ‘male’ commanding officer, she put the ‘beat down’ on a gone-mad mechanical man, she slew a dragonous beast so terrifying that it has freaked-out even the most jaded modern movie-goer for decades. (OhâÂ?¦ and she even saved her cat!) Ripley, as do few others of my favorites, personifies Rudyard Kipling’s masterpiece of inner contemplation “If”.

Luke Skywalker
Luke Skywalker of Star Wars 1977, The Empire Strikes Back 1980 and Return of the Jedi 1983. Brought to life by Writer/Director George Lucas and Actor Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker grabbed at that heart of the inner child in all of us, especially those who feel trapped by responsibility, who desperately want to break free of the restraints, who feel stranded on the outskirts of the human race and sidelined from all the action, who craves to become his or her own person and live their destiny no matter the risk. In the process, Luke plays an indispensable role in the rescue of his entire intergalactic civilization from the clutches of an omnipotent evil empire. Luke Skywalker accomplishes this in grand fashion and on a cosmic scale.

Captain Kirk
Gene Roddenberry, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Dayton when he was the keynote speaker at a NAACP convention, and Actor William Shatner gave us Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek one of the most iconic heroes in television and motion picture history and one of my favorites of favorites. In my opinion, the character Captain Kirk and his ubiquitous sword, the Starship Enterprise, are so broad in scope that they had to be cloned into Jean-Luc Picard and Star Trek: The Next Generation and Katherine Janewade and Star Trek: Voyager. What I enjoy about Captain Kirk, and his alter-images, is his knight-like loyalty to everyone and everything he is associated with. His friends, family, comrades. But even more so, I admire his willingness to sacrifice those loyalties for his even more intense loyalty to the ideals of truth, justice and fair play. “Honor, duty, countryâÂ?¦’ on a cosmic scale.

William Wallace
With William Wallace of Braveheart, brought to the motion picture screen by Director and Actor Mel Gibson and Writer Randall Wallace, I feel a special need to be respectful and diligent in extending due honor because William Wallace was a real person and a hero in a much truer sense than any other on this list could ever possibly be. William Wallace was loyal to a real life struggle, took real life risks and paid with his ‘real’ life. If it were possible for William Wallace to comment, I’m sure this larger than life man would be truly honored by this larger than life depiction of his legend. Who could not admire his courage in the face of death, dedication in the face of treachery, intelligence in a time of brutality and inspirational charisma in an era of royal charadery? What a man. What a lover.

Legolas Greenleaf
Legolas of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002 and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003. Director/Writer Peter Jackson, Master Writer J.R.R. Tolkien, Writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and Actor Orlando Bloom bring to life the elfin warrior Legolas the man of few words, the friend of pure heart, the warrior of fathomless courage. The Lord of the Ring’s secret weapon. Although not the star warrior, Aragorn, to me Legolas saved the day and stole the show on more than one occasion and emerged as the most interesting of this film’s motley band of heroes. I was left wishing there were a way of expanding on his onscreen adventures. Perhaps sending him, (and buddy Gimley), on some epic personal quest all their own.

John McLane
John McLane of Die Hard 1988, Die Hard 2 and Die Hard With a Vengeance 1995 is yet another argument for really letting loose the reigns on James Bond. Director John McTiernan, Writers Roderick Thorp and Jeb Stuart and Actor Bruce Willis lock-and-load an often imitated and never duplicated one-man army whose firepower is only outmatched by his brainpower and American moxie. The all too flawed Mr. McLane always comes out perfect in the end.

Mr. Incredible
I believe we know Bob Parr, Mr. Incredible of The Incredibles 2004, and his family better than we know any other super-hero in the history of onscreen super heroes. Through Mr. Incredible, Director/Writer Brad Bird and Actor Craig T. Nelson chronologically take us on an ‘incredible’ journey through the life of a ‘super hero and makes it look, well, normal. Even though an animated character, Mr. Incredible got the nod over many others because of the intimacy developed with the character and the realness of the range of his human emotions. His interesting, self-made nemesis, Syndrone, made his final victory all the more celebratory. To me, however, Mr. Incredible’s greatest victory was reuniting his disintegrating family through the affirmation of their true identity and heritage.

Monica Wright
Writer/Director Gina Prince Bythewood and Actress Sanaa Lathan gives us my hands down most controversial selection� Monica Wright of Love and Basketball 2000. Without firing a shot. Without throwing a punch. Without even so much as reducing herself to endless fowl-mouthed tirades. She won what can only be described as a lifelong war with every heart in the audience completely invested in the turmoil of her emotions and desires.

She conquered her foe (the ambivalent, at times callous heart of the love of her life), and her deepest fears for the future, with dignity, with grace, with personal accomplishment and dogged determination. Always 100% true to her task and herself. Her only weapons: a basketball and true love. If she were a real person, I would stand her next to Gandhi as an example of the unconquerable power of love. I have personally witnessed the testimonies of the most ardent real-life misogynist-chauvinists bow down in homage to this humble onscreen heroine. The way she saves her world just blows us away.

There you have it. These are my ten favorite Hollywood heroes and heroines. I’m sure, having your own, you agree with some and strongly disagree with others. That’s what makes movies such a great subject. It gives us so much to talk about. And good conversationâÂ?¦ is the spice of life.


Part 2: My Ten Most Villainous Hollywood Villains

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