Movies & TV / Columns

10 Best Character Introductions in Movies

August 29, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Darth Vader Star Wars

When done properly, the first moment a character walks on the screen can become a defining moment. A moment that solidifies that character’s personality, weight, and attachment to the audience. 

Take Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. Without words it tells us all we need to know about Sparrow. We see him standing proud aboard a ship, sailing into dock, but all is not as it seems. As the camera shows, the boat is sinking but it doesn’t bother Jack in the slightest as he casually steps onto the pier. 

Or From Dusk Till Dawn’s Santanico Pandemonium. I don’t even need to go into details because you already know her first appearance lives on in YouTube clips. 

Or Willy Wonka’s classic trip into a roll in the original Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.

Here are 10 of my favorites… 

Blade (Blade)The still underrated Blade was an anomaly for Marvel in 1998. Up until then their attempts at movies success was a joke so expectations for Blade weren’t exactly high. Seeing this in the theater I can tell you no one was laughing during this scene. Thanks to Wesley Snipes, Blade was pure badass and that was apparent from the first time he appeared on screen. 

Quint (Jaws)This is how you get people’s attention. I still grimace during this scene the moment I hear that scratching on the chalkboard. The speech after, along with the camera’s slow track towards Quint make for a memorable first meeting. Quint’s command of the room makes you believe he might be the guy who can handle the shark. 

Vito Corleone (The Godfather)
Not only is this one of the greatest opening scenes in cinematic history, it introduces us to Vito Corleone in a way that we understand he IS the Godfather. Strong yet fair, he doesn’t need to yell or bully to show his power. Quietly listening, we’re drawn into wanting to know more about this man.   

Harmonica (Once Upon a Time in the West)
What can you say about Harmonica? You don’t even have to be familiar with the story to enjoy this scene. You don’t get a mood like this one anymore. The scene takes its time to unroll, setting up the players, with the anticipation building to its violent payoff. Harmonica was in command even before he set foot off the train. 

Hannibal Lecter (Silence Of The Lambs)
This is another scene where the set up builds to meeting Lecter. You instantly want to know who he is, your eyes scanning his cell for any clue on what makes this seemingly mild mannered prisoner so dangerous. HIs piercing eyes look right into the audience with fierce intensity…that’s Hanibal. As the scene unfolds, most of our initial questions are unanswered only to be left with so many more. 

Darth Vader (Star Wars)
As a kid, nothing beat Darth Vader’s entrance. The stormtroopers snapping to attention, the casual observing of Vader at the aftermath. With Rogue One giving us a little more padding to the story, we know he’s on a mission. And it’s not one of mercy. But at the time, Vader’s presence on screen was everything you want in a villain. Dark, foreboding, and a pinch of fear. 

Jesus Quintana (Big Lebowski)
At one point this was my favorite character intro of all time. Everything about this is so absurd yet completely laid out in a mosaic that makes sense on every level. He was barely in the movie but he was the one I quote the most and the one whose scenes I keep coming back to watch. No offense to The Dude…man. 

Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)
Yes, I enjoy this movie. Miranda’s reputation is set based on the reactions of all those she lords over. Respect, fear, chaos…all fill the office as Miranda makes her way. We know who she is even before she utters a single word. You wouldn’t want to cross paths with her without warning either. 

Jules Winnfield And Vincent Vega (Pulp Fiction)
Pulp Fiction is filled with classic introductions, which seems to be something Quentin Tarantino is very good at. When it comes to Jules and Vincent, they seem to stand out the most. Their conversation seems familiar but incredibly unique as we’re watching two friends/co-workers/killers talk about the vacations, rumors, and massages. Dialogue elevated these two to impressive heights.    

Colonel Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)
I didn’t number this list but if I did…this would be my number one. Everything works, everything clicks, the music, the cinematography, the acting, the tension…it makes sure you never, ever forget Colonel Hans Landa.