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32 Characters We Loved In Film And TV In 2014

From actors and pop stars to robots and sentient trees, these are the film and TV characters we can't stop thinking about. Presented in no particular order. WARNING: Spoilers throughout.

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1. Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow), The Comeback

When The Comeback debuted in 2005, Valerie Cherish was ahead of her time. The series was a rich satire of reality television and the way the entertainment industry undermines women, subject matters that the mainstream public wasn't quite ready to face. Flash forward to 2014, the year The Comeback made its triumphant return. The show was darker than ever — with Valerie representing an even more damning indictment of how prestige dramas treat female characters, and how Hollywood treats women of a certain age — but viewers were now ready to dive into the show's scathing tone. (It's worth noting that the show isn't quite a ratings hit. Critical perception of The Comeback, however, is far more positive than it was nearly 10 years ago.) More the point, Lisa Kudrow's powerful, multi-layered portrayal of Val gives us a character who is savvier and more emotionally rich than her first impression would have you believe. Without revealing too much about the pitch-perfect Season 2 finale, The Comeback also gifted us with one of the best realized character arcs in television history. In the end, Val's journey, always grounded in a painful reality, brought equal parts humor and pathos. —Louis Peitzman
HBO

When The Comeback debuted in 2005, Valerie Cherish was ahead of her time. The series was a rich satire of reality television and the way the entertainment industry undermines women, subject matters that the mainstream public wasn't quite ready to face. Flash forward to 2014, the year The Comeback made its triumphant return. The show was darker than ever — with Valerie representing an even more damning indictment of how prestige dramas treat female characters, and how Hollywood treats women of a certain age — but viewers were now ready to dive into the show's scathing tone. (It's worth noting that the show isn't quite a ratings hit. Critical perception of The Comeback, however, is far more positive than it was nearly 10 years ago.) More the point, Lisa Kudrow's powerful, multi-layered portrayal of Val gives us a character who is savvier and more emotionally rich than her first impression would have you believe. Without revealing too much about the pitch-perfect Season 2 finale, The Comeback also gifted us with one of the best realized character arcs in television history. In the end, Val's journey, always grounded in a painful reality, brought equal parts humor and pathos. —Louis Peitzman

2. Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Beyond the Lights

Gugu Mbatha-Raw has had quite the year — first Belle, and then Gina Prince-Bythewood’s music industry melodrama, in which she plays depressive R&B princess Noni Jean. Noni is always in the spotlight but in other ways has been going totally unseen, with no one getting a glimpse of the actual woman beneath the fantasy girl facade. Mbatha-Raw makes it clear when Noni’s turning the charm on and when she’s being real, and there is an immense, understandable gap between the professional smile and the deep loneliness underneath. It’s not always easy to make the sad celebrity sympathetic, but Noni, groomed from childhood to be the success her mother wasn’t, is wonderfully compelling as someone only now realizing how lost she is. Plus, her triumphant removal of her violet hair extensions is one of the year’s most gratifying scenes of self-affirmation. —Alison Willmore
Relativity Media

Gugu Mbatha-Raw has had quite the year — first Belle, and then Gina Prince-Bythewood’s music industry melodrama, in which she plays depressive R&B princess Noni Jean. Noni is always in the spotlight but in other ways has been going totally unseen, with no one getting a glimpse of the actual woman beneath the fantasy girl facade. Mbatha-Raw makes it clear when Noni’s turning the charm on and when she’s being real, and there is an immense, understandable gap between the professional smile and the deep loneliness underneath. It’s not always easy to make the sad celebrity sympathetic, but Noni, groomed from childhood to be the success her mother wasn’t, is wonderfully compelling as someone only now realizing how lost she is. Plus, her triumphant removal of her violet hair extensions is one of the year’s most gratifying scenes of self-affirmation. —Alison Willmore

3. Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), Nightcrawler

There is nothing likable about Lou Bloom, the deeply corrupt, arguably sociopathic (a designation that his portrayer Jake Gyllenhaal rejects) protagonist of Nightcrawler. He lies, cheats, and steals — and that's just in the first scene. But no matter how appalling Lou's behavior is, there's an undeniable draw to him. His intensity and utter lack of morals — reflected by Gyllenhaal's gaunt face and fake smile — make him a character unlike any other. We should be repulsed by Lou, who beats the police to crime scenes and deliberately withholds evidence, and coerces his boss Nina (Rene Russo) into sleeping with him, and yet he's magnetic. But that's the power of Nightcrawler, which appeals to the darkest elements of our psyche. Just as television news clamors for more salacious stories, filled with grotesque images of sex and violence, we tune in as hungry consumers. It's easy to look at the film and its main character as a Network-esque criticism of the TV news industry — and it is — but it's just as strong an indictment of human nature. We are all more Lou Bloom than we want to believe. —L.P.
Open Road Films

There is nothing likable about Lou Bloom, the deeply corrupt, arguably sociopathic (a designation that his portrayer Jake Gyllenhaal rejects) protagonist of Nightcrawler. He lies, cheats, and steals — and that's just in the first scene. But no matter how appalling Lou's behavior is, there's an undeniable draw to him. His intensity and utter lack of morals — reflected by Gyllenhaal's gaunt face and fake smile — make him a character unlike any other. We should be repulsed by Lou, who beats the police to crime scenes and deliberately withholds evidence, and coerces his boss Nina (Rene Russo) into sleeping with him, and yet he's magnetic. But that's the power of Nightcrawler, which appeals to the darkest elements of our psyche. Just as television news clamors for more salacious stories, filled with grotesque images of sex and violence, we tune in as hungry consumers. It's easy to look at the film and its main character as a Network-esque criticism of the TV news industry — and it is — but it's just as strong an indictment of human nature. We are all more Lou Bloom than we want to believe. —L.P.

4. Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), Whiplash

Whiplash may not be a horror film, but Terence Fletcher is scarier than any horror film villain. As portrayed by J. K. Simmons, he is a terrifying force of nature, a relentless bully who pushes drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) to his limit — and then keeps pushing. What's scariest about Fletcher is that, despite his shocking cruelty and casual slurs, he might actually be right: Most of the students he teaches have been celebrated for relatively minor accomplishments, and it's only through Fletcher's abuse that they're able to unlock their full potential. Well, maybe. Whiplash refuses to pass final judgment on Fletcher — is he a misunderstood genius mentor, or is he a sadist who routinely goes too far? The most fascinating thing about the character is that he alternates between being an asshole and being an asshole with a point. It's up to the audience to decide whether the results Fletcher gets ever justify his means. Either way, it's impossible to take your eyes off him. —L.P.
Sony Pictures Classics

Whiplash may not be a horror film, but Terence Fletcher is scarier than any horror film villain. As portrayed by J. K. Simmons, he is a terrifying force of nature, a relentless bully who pushes drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) to his limit — and then keeps pushing. What's scariest about Fletcher is that, despite his shocking cruelty and casual slurs, he might actually be right: Most of the students he teaches have been celebrated for relatively minor accomplishments, and it's only through Fletcher's abuse that they're able to unlock their full potential. Well, maybe. Whiplash refuses to pass final judgment on Fletcher — is he a misunderstood genius mentor, or is he a sadist who routinely goes too far? The most fascinating thing about the character is that he alternates between being an asshole and being an asshole with a point. It's up to the audience to decide whether the results Fletcher gets ever justify his means. Either way, it's impossible to take your eyes off him. —L.P.

5. Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), Gotham

Gotham's Oswald Cobblepot might share a name with Danny DeVito's Penguin from Batman Returns and Burgess Meredith's iteration from the '60s Batman series, but Robin Lord Taylor's portrayal is a thoroughly fresh take on the character. Cobblepot is a frightening blend of overt politeness and barely repressed psychosis: He is charming and unpredictable, prone to violent outbursts following pleasantries. While Gotham may be Batman's origin story, the thread to follow is Cobblepot's transformation from sycophantic hanger-on to criminal mastermind. Over the first half of Gotham's premiere season, Cobblepot has already proven himself to be the richest, most captivating character, with Taylor's performance elevating the series. (Full disclosure: Taylor is a friend of mine, but his inclusion on this list is based purely on merit!) —L.P.
FOX

Gotham's Oswald Cobblepot might share a name with Danny DeVito's Penguin from Batman Returns and Burgess Meredith's iteration from the '60s Batman series, but Robin Lord Taylor's portrayal is a thoroughly fresh take on the character. Cobblepot is a frightening blend of overt politeness and barely repressed psychosis: He is charming and unpredictable, prone to violent outbursts following pleasantries. While Gotham may be Batman's origin story, the thread to follow is Cobblepot's transformation from sycophantic hanger-on to criminal mastermind. Over the first half of Gotham's premiere season, Cobblepot has already proven himself to be the richest, most captivating character, with Taylor's performance elevating the series. (Full disclosure: Taylor is a friend of mine, but his inclusion on this list is based purely on merit!) —L.P.

6. Mason (Tilda Swinton), Snowpiercer

Tilda Swinton's strong, attention-commanding features make her easy to believe as a villain. In Snowpiercer, however, she's nearly unrecognizable under prosthetics that transform her into something, well, cartoonish. But that's what makes Mason so effective: She's prim, proper, and often very silly. She's also a truly terrible person, who blindly follows orders from Wilford with no regard for the lower class she tramples on in the process. Mason is both comic relief for a rather bleak post-apocalyptic film and a menacing figure that stands between Snowpiercer's freedom fighters and the ruler who keeps them subjugated. Swinton, who drew inspiration from Margaret Thatcher and Hitler, among others, plays Mason with just the right amount of restraint. She's outwardly over-the-top, but still believably evil. —L.P.
RADiUS-TWC

Tilda Swinton's strong, attention-commanding features make her easy to believe as a villain. In Snowpiercer, however, she's nearly unrecognizable under prosthetics that transform her into something, well, cartoonish. But that's what makes Mason so effective: She's prim, proper, and often very silly. She's also a truly terrible person, who blindly follows orders from Wilford with no regard for the lower class she tramples on in the process. Mason is both comic relief for a rather bleak post-apocalyptic film and a menacing figure that stands between Snowpiercer's freedom fighters and the ruler who keeps them subjugated. Swinton, who drew inspiration from Margaret Thatcher and Hitler, among others, plays Mason with just the right amount of restraint. She's outwardly over-the-top, but still believably evil. —L.P.

7. Patti Levin (Ann Dowd), The Leftovers

Like every member of the Guilty Remnants, the nondescript, chain-smoking cult in The Leftovers, Patti's motivation is often unclear. She can be cold and quiet, or surprisingly chatty and gregarious, but she's always completely conscious of how she comes across. That's what makes Patti such a perfect foil for Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), who is nowhere near as in control of his emotions. In fact, Patti uses Kevin's volatility to her advantage: Even when it appears that Kevin has the upper hand, it's Patti who is pulling the strings, driving Kevin to break his own moral code and ultimately ending her story on her own terms. Ann Dowd plays Patti masterfully: She manages to make her a fully three-dimensional character without revealing anything about her interior life. The horrible things that Patti does — she eventually reveals herself to be complicit in the brutal murder of Gladys (Marceline Hugot) — are hard to judge because they appear so purposefully orchestrated. We may not know why Patti is who she is, but there's never any doubt that Patti does. —L.P.
HBO

Like every member of the Guilty Remnants, the nondescript, chain-smoking cult in The Leftovers, Patti's motivation is often unclear. She can be cold and quiet, or surprisingly chatty and gregarious, but she's always completely conscious of how she comes across. That's what makes Patti such a perfect foil for Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), who is nowhere near as in control of his emotions. In fact, Patti uses Kevin's volatility to her advantage: Even when it appears that Kevin has the upper hand, it's Patti who is pulling the strings, driving Kevin to break his own moral code and ultimately ending her story on her own terms. Ann Dowd plays Patti masterfully: She manages to make her a fully three-dimensional character without revealing anything about her interior life. The horrible things that Patti does — she eventually reveals herself to be complicit in the brutal murder of Gladys (Marceline Hugot) — are hard to judge because they appear so purposefully orchestrated. We may not know why Patti is who she is, but there's never any doubt that Patti does. —L.P.

8. Baymax (Scott Adsit), Big Hero 6

Look: Baymax, the inflatable healthcare robot who’s repurposed as a fighting and flying machine in this Disney/Marvel melding, is the apex of cuteness. He is one of the eight wonders of adorability engineering. He is squishy and soft as a balloon, or a marshmallow, or a marshmallow-shaped balloon, with a rotund body, stumpy legs, the waddle of a plump toddler, and caregiving on his mind. As voiced by Scott Adsit, he’s inherently calm, earnest, and understated, which yields its own humor — “I am not fast,” Baymax observes mildly while getting dragged through an intense chase sequence. But Baymax is also the heart and soul of Big Hero 6, which is an OK superhero movie and a stealthily affecting one about grieving. Not just a merchandising jackpot (though that’s probably working out pretty well too), he’s the tie between Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) and the memory of his late older brother, serving as a moral guide as well as a super-cool robot and non-stop source of physical comedy. He’s cute, sure, but he’s also touching. —A.W.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Look: Baymax, the inflatable healthcare robot who’s repurposed as a fighting and flying machine in this Disney/Marvel melding, is the apex of cuteness. He is one of the eight wonders of adorability engineering. He is squishy and soft as a balloon, or a marshmallow, or a marshmallow-shaped balloon, with a rotund body, stumpy legs, the waddle of a plump toddler, and caregiving on his mind. As voiced by Scott Adsit, he’s inherently calm, earnest, and understated, which yields its own humor — “I am not fast,” Baymax observes mildly while getting dragged through an intense chase sequence. But Baymax is also the heart and soul of Big Hero 6, which is an OK superhero movie and a stealthily affecting one about grieving. Not just a merchandising jackpot (though that’s probably working out pretty well too), he’s the tie between Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) and the memory of his late older brother, serving as a moral guide as well as a super-cool robot and non-stop source of physical comedy. He’s cute, sure, but he’s also touching. —A.W.

9. Lindsay Lohan, Lindsay

It's unclear why exactly Lindsay Lohan agreed to Oprah's reality series Lindsay: a desire to redefine herself, an attempt to stay sober, the sizable paycheck, or, most likely, some combination of the three. But regardless of her intentions, Lohan's personal demons and contradictions have never been more apparent than on the short-lived (and barely watched) series. At one point, Lohan turned the camera on herself and stared into the lens, crying: Analyzing why she decided to include the footage is far more interesting than knowing why she was crying. This is image that Lohan chose to put forward — and it's deeply flawed. The biggest revelations aren't the ones that Lohan herself drops — her off-hand mention of a miscarriage is still under debate — but rather her failed attempts at editing. The more she tries to skirt around her relapse, the more obvious it is that she doesn't have everything under control. It's a study in chaos, and Lohan has never been more frustrating or relatable. —L.P.
OWN

It's unclear why exactly Lindsay Lohan agreed to Oprah's reality series Lindsay: a desire to redefine herself, an attempt to stay sober, the sizable paycheck, or, most likely, some combination of the three. But regardless of her intentions, Lohan's personal demons and contradictions have never been more apparent than on the short-lived (and barely watched) series. At one point, Lohan turned the camera on herself and stared into the lens, crying: Analyzing why she decided to include the footage is far more interesting than knowing why she was crying. This is image that Lohan chose to put forward — and it's deeply flawed. The biggest revelations aren't the ones that Lohan herself drops — her off-hand mention of a miscarriage is still under debate — but rather her failed attempts at editing. The more she tries to skirt around her relapse, the more obvious it is that she doesn't have everything under control. It's a study in chaos, and Lohan has never been more frustrating or relatable. —L.P.

10. Sam White (Tessa Thompson), Dear White People

Film student and activist Sam White is the distinctive, incendiary voice of the radio show that gives Dear White People its name. “Dear white people,” she silkily intones into the microphone. “The minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, but your weed man, Tyrone, does not count.” Sam’s provocations make her the divisive focal point of campus conversations about race, but despite her witty treatises on how members of the school’s small black community can be divided up into the categories of “oofta” (modulating their blackness to fit in), “nose-job” (downplaying race and aiming to assimilate), or “one hundred” (“black as hell, just because”), Sam herself doesn’t fit as seamlessly into the role of outspoken militant as she’d like. She’s biracial, she prefers Ingmar Bergman more than Spike Lee, and she’s been fooling around with an adoring white guy she’s keeping at arm’s length because she feels uncomfortable with the idea of dating him publicly. Thompson’s a joy when playing Sam in fiery, confrontational mode, but she also shows the exhaustion and uncertainty underneath — while Sam’s been taking others to task for not being true to themselves, she’s guilty of playing a part as well. —A.W.
Duly Noted

Film student and activist Sam White is the distinctive, incendiary voice of the radio show that gives Dear White People its name. “Dear white people,” she silkily intones into the microphone. “The minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, but your weed man, Tyrone, does not count.” Sam’s provocations make her the divisive focal point of campus conversations about race, but despite her witty treatises on how members of the school’s small black community can be divided up into the categories of “oofta” (modulating their blackness to fit in), “nose-job” (downplaying race and aiming to assimilate), or “one hundred” (“black as hell, just because”), Sam herself doesn’t fit as seamlessly into the role of outspoken militant as she’d like. She’s biracial, she prefers Ingmar Bergman more than Spike Lee, and she’s been fooling around with an adoring white guy she’s keeping at arm’s length because she feels uncomfortable with the idea of dating him publicly. Thompson’s a joy when playing Sam in fiery, confrontational mode, but she also shows the exhaustion and uncertainty underneath — while Sam’s been taking others to task for not being true to themselves, she’s guilty of playing a part as well. —A.W.

11. Groot (Vin Diesel), Guardians of the Galaxy

The strong, silent type of Guardians of the Galaxy is both its innocent and its muscle, and that’s never better realized than in the scene in which he impales a group of baddies on a vine-like arm and flings them repeatedly against walls, then turns and gives his cohorts a perfectly sweet smile. Groot’s a plant monster of few words — he uses five over the course of the movie — but he makes good enough use of them that his friend Rocket, at least, understands exactly what he’s talking about. Plus, he’s quite a dancer. —A.W.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The strong, silent type of Guardians of the Galaxy is both its innocent and its muscle, and that’s never better realized than in the scene in which he impales a group of baddies on a vine-like arm and flings them repeatedly against walls, then turns and gives his cohorts a perfectly sweet smile. Groot’s a plant monster of few words — he uses five over the course of the movie — but he makes good enough use of them that his friend Rocket, at least, understands exactly what he’s talking about. Plus, he’s quite a dancer. —A.W.

12. Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee), How to Get Away With Murder

Both Jack Falahee and How to Get Away With Murder creator Peter Nowalk have made a point of not defining Connor exclusively by his sexuality. And that's as it should be! But it's impossible not to talk about Connor's hypersexual queer identity, because it's a) pivotal to the character, and b) groundbreaking for network television. Yes, Connor has skills as a law student outside of rim jobs, but his most memorable moments throughout the first half of HTGAWM's inaugural season revolved around his sexcapades. While he's not the first character to use sex to his advantage, he's one of the few who seems to thoroughly enjoy it. Those raunchy scenes are more than most of us ever expected from a major network, particularly when coupled with lines like, "He did something to my ass that made my eyes water." At the same time, it's been nice to see elements of Connor's softer side. He can be an unabashed slut and still care about Oliver (Conrad Ricamora), his only stable love interest. —L.P.
ABC

Both Jack Falahee and How to Get Away With Murder creator Peter Nowalk have made a point of not defining Connor exclusively by his sexuality. And that's as it should be! But it's impossible not to talk about Connor's hypersexual queer identity, because it's a) pivotal to the character, and b) groundbreaking for network television. Yes, Connor has skills as a law student outside of rim jobs, but his most memorable moments throughout the first half of HTGAWM's inaugural season revolved around his sexcapades. While he's not the first character to use sex to his advantage, he's one of the few who seems to thoroughly enjoy it. Those raunchy scenes are more than most of us ever expected from a major network, particularly when coupled with lines like, "He did something to my ass that made my eyes water." At the same time, it's been nice to see elements of Connor's softer side. He can be an unabashed slut and still care about Oliver (Conrad Ricamora), his only stable love interest. —L.P.

13. Jay Reinke, The Overnighters

Jesse Moss’ documentary is about transient workers searching for a fresh start in the oil fields of North Dakota. It’s about the American dream and the American reality, about faith, and about charity. But mostly it’s about Jay Reinke, the Lutheran minister who’s been housing dozens of these newly arrived men in his church, despite the concerns of his dwindling parishioners. Reinke’s a study in kamikaze generosity — he goes beyond embodying Christian good works into a realm that’s more alarming, as he takes a convicted sex offender into his home (which he shares with his wife and children) and defies neighbors who are alarmed (not unfairly) by the amount of strangers flocking to their area. Moss’ camera peers at Reinke as if trying to solve him, uncovering some startling details about the man’s life as he fights to keep his program open. You can’t fault Moss for his interest, even as the film takes some wrenching twists — Reinke’s utterly fascinating. —A.W.
Drafthouse Films

Jesse Moss’ documentary is about transient workers searching for a fresh start in the oil fields of North Dakota. It’s about the American dream and the American reality, about faith, and about charity. But mostly it’s about Jay Reinke, the Lutheran minister who’s been housing dozens of these newly arrived men in his church, despite the concerns of his dwindling parishioners. Reinke’s a study in kamikaze generosity — he goes beyond embodying Christian good works into a realm that’s more alarming, as he takes a convicted sex offender into his home (which he shares with his wife and children) and defies neighbors who are alarmed (not unfairly) by the amount of strangers flocking to their area. Moss’ camera peers at Reinke as if trying to solve him, uncovering some startling details about the man’s life as he fights to keep his program open. You can’t fault Moss for his interest, even as the film takes some wrenching twists — Reinke’s utterly fascinating. —A.W.

14. Milo (Bill Hader), The Skeleton Twins

Both Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who plays Milo's twin sister Maggie, flexed their dramatic chops in The Skeleton Twins. But Hader is the bigger revelation, if only because Milo is such a daring departure from any of his past roles. A confused, depressed, and bratty gay manchild, Milo is sometimes difficult but always human. His behavior with Maggie, who works overtime to pretend her life is together in a way Milo's isn't, illuminates his character. But equally interesting is Milo's tenuous relationship with Rich (Ty Burrell), Milo's former teacher who became his lover when Milo was still underage. It would be easy for The Skeleton Twins to cast judgment on the inappropriate pairing — and it certainly doesn't justify it — but it's far more interesting to watch the way Milo rejects the narrative of victimhood. He refutes conventional wisdom that he was taken advantage of, something Maggie continues to argue into their adulthood, while also refusing to acknowledge the damage the relationship might have had on his already fragile psyche. —L.P.
Roadside Attractions

Both Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who plays Milo's twin sister Maggie, flexed their dramatic chops in The Skeleton Twins. But Hader is the bigger revelation, if only because Milo is such a daring departure from any of his past roles. A confused, depressed, and bratty gay manchild, Milo is sometimes difficult but always human. His behavior with Maggie, who works overtime to pretend her life is together in a way Milo's isn't, illuminates his character. But equally interesting is Milo's tenuous relationship with Rich (Ty Burrell), Milo's former teacher who became his lover when Milo was still underage. It would be easy for The Skeleton Twins to cast judgment on the inappropriate pairing — and it certainly doesn't justify it — but it's far more interesting to watch the way Milo rejects the narrative of victimhood. He refutes conventional wisdom that he was taken advantage of, something Maggie continues to argue into their adulthood, while also refusing to acknowledge the damage the relationship might have had on his already fragile psyche. —L.P.

15. Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon), Wild

"I don't want to watch another movie about a pretty white girl who thinks she has problems," a friend lamented to me about Wild. I assured her that Cheryl is more complicated than that. Because yes, she is deeply naïve — she is woefully underprepared for her epic hike across the Pacific Crest Trail, sometimes making choices that are baffling even to the most indoorsy viewers — but her pain is as real as anyone else's. Grounded by Reese Witherspoon's best performance yet, Cheryl's grief over the death of her mother (Laura Dern) and her subsequent descent into drug-fueled estrangement from her loving husband (Thomas Sadoski) are emotionally raw and devastating to watch. It doesn't matter that her journey might be poorly conceived, because the story of how she got there is so perfectly told. Furthermore, Cheryl complicates the notion of her own privilege by confronting her own role as a woman alone. It's true that almost every man Cheryl encounters does something nice for her, a peculiarity that leads some of her fellow travelers to call her "Queen." What these men don't realize is how dangerous Cheryl's mere existence is: Every meeting she has is fraught with the threat of rape. In her struggle to emerge as a fully independent woman, Cheryl also demonstrates how frightening that can be — both for the woman, and for the men who can't bring themselves to understand why she's wandering solo. —L.P.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

"I don't want to watch another movie about a pretty white girl who thinks she has problems," a friend lamented to me about Wild. I assured her that Cheryl is more complicated than that. Because yes, she is deeply naïve — she is woefully underprepared for her epic hike across the Pacific Crest Trail, sometimes making choices that are baffling even to the most indoorsy viewers — but her pain is as real as anyone else's. Grounded by Reese Witherspoon's best performance yet, Cheryl's grief over the death of her mother (Laura Dern) and her subsequent descent into drug-fueled estrangement from her loving husband (Thomas Sadoski) are emotionally raw and devastating to watch. It doesn't matter that her journey might be poorly conceived, because the story of how she got there is so perfectly told. Furthermore, Cheryl complicates the notion of her own privilege by confronting her own role as a woman alone. It's true that almost every man Cheryl encounters does something nice for her, a peculiarity that leads some of her fellow travelers to call her "Queen." What these men don't realize is how dangerous Cheryl's mere existence is: Every meeting she has is fraught with the threat of rape. In her struggle to emerge as a fully independent woman, Cheryl also demonstrates how frightening that can be — both for the woman, and for the men who can't bring themselves to understand why she's wandering solo. —L.P.

16. Frank (Michael Fassbender), Frank

Why not take one of the most handsome men in Hollywood and put him in a giant papier-mâché mask for most of your movie? That’s the brazen choice that Lenny Abrahamson’s oddball band saga makes, and it works surprisingly well, in part because Michael Fassbender turns out to be intensely watchable (and unexpectedly funny!) even when you can’t see his face. Frank’s the musical genius of Soronprfbs, an experimental band whose members seem only slightly less weird than their perpetually disguised frontman. Frank is charming, and intense, and very strange, and he embodies all of protagonist Jon’s (Domhnall Gleeson) ideas about great music coming from trauma and madness. But Frank has a more complicated view on talent than its main character, and it’s when the mask comes off that Frank has something new and tragic to show us about romanticizing the relationship between art and mental illness. —A.W.
Magnolia Pictures

Why not take one of the most handsome men in Hollywood and put him in a giant papier-mâché mask for most of your movie? That’s the brazen choice that Lenny Abrahamson’s oddball band saga makes, and it works surprisingly well, in part because Michael Fassbender turns out to be intensely watchable (and unexpectedly funny!) even when you can’t see his face. Frank’s the musical genius of Soronprfbs, an experimental band whose members seem only slightly less weird than their perpetually disguised frontman. Frank is charming, and intense, and very strange, and he embodies all of protagonist Jon’s (Domhnall Gleeson) ideas about great music coming from trauma and madness. But Frank has a more complicated view on talent than its main character, and it’s when the mask comes off that Frank has something new and tragic to show us about romanticizing the relationship between art and mental illness. —A.W.

17. and 18. Ilana Wexler (Ilana Glazer) and Abbi Abrams (Abbi Jacobson), Broad City

They’re not a couple (despite Ilana’s occasional handsiness) but the Broad City broads are most certainly soul mates, the solidity of their friendship the force that kept their New York-set comedy series together through the many wacky permutations of its hugely enjoyable first season. Ilana brings out Abbi’s wild side, while Abbi anchors Ilana (a little — not much can hold that girl back). As likable as Ilana and Abbi are alone, it’s when they’re together that they, and the show, are at their best. The two have yet to become the boss bitches that they are in their minds, but they do make for a joyous affirmation of what it’s like to be broke and free and in your twenties, with a friend whose company you enjoy that much. —A.W.
Comedy Central

They’re not a couple (despite Ilana’s occasional handsiness) but the Broad City broads are most certainly soul mates, the solidity of their friendship the force that kept their New York-set comedy series together through the many wacky permutations of its hugely enjoyable first season. Ilana brings out Abbi’s wild side, while Abbi anchors Ilana (a little — not much can hold that girl back). As likable as Ilana and Abbi are alone, it’s when they’re together that they, and the show, are at their best. The two have yet to become the boss bitches that they are in their minds, but they do make for a joyous affirmation of what it’s like to be broke and free and in your twenties, with a friend whose company you enjoy that much. —A.W.

19. Donna Stern (Jenny Slate), Obvious Child

Donna's predicament in Obvious Child isn't an unusual one: Like countless women before her, she finds herself accidentally pregnant and decides to get an abortion. What makes Donna different — and what makes Obvious Child such a brilliant subversion of the romantic comedy genre — is that she never frets over her choice, and ultimately chooses to respond to it with humor instead of tragedy. Of course there is an emotional component to it — she does shed a tear during the procedure — but how could there not be? Donna is a complex character with very real feelings. She's also a modern woman who refuses to make a choice about her body based on the man who impregnated her. (Max, played by Jake Lacy, ends up being the perfect supportive partner. He is a great character in his own right.) Donna doesn't always make the right choices: She tells Max about her situation over a stand-up set in front of a group of strangers. But it's refreshing that there is never any doubt about her reproductive freedom, or about the fact that, barely an adult herself, she's just not ready to be a parent. —L.P.
A24

Donna's predicament in Obvious Child isn't an unusual one: Like countless women before her, she finds herself accidentally pregnant and decides to get an abortion. What makes Donna different — and what makes Obvious Child such a brilliant subversion of the romantic comedy genre — is that she never frets over her choice, and ultimately chooses to respond to it with humor instead of tragedy. Of course there is an emotional component to it — she does shed a tear during the procedure — but how could there not be? Donna is a complex character with very real feelings. She's also a modern woman who refuses to make a choice about her body based on the man who impregnated her. (Max, played by Jake Lacy, ends up being the perfect supportive partner. He is a great character in his own right.) Donna doesn't always make the right choices: She tells Max about her situation over a stand-up set in front of a group of strangers. But it's refreshing that there is never any doubt about her reproductive freedom, or about the fact that, barely an adult herself, she's just not ready to be a parent. —L.P.

20. Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), Game of Thrones

How tragic that the most memorable thing Oberyn Martell did on Game of Thrones was die. But then, when your eyes are gouged out and your head is smashed, it tends to leave a lasting impression. Beyond his climactic fight with Gregor Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), however, Oberyn was an indelible character in his own right. Charming and unapologetically bisexual, he spent much of the season romancing men and women with a flair that distracted those around him from his true motivation, revenge against the man who raped and murdered his sister Elia. Even if Oberyn ultimately failed in his goal, he proved himself to be an adept fighter and a fearless warrior for his cause. His tantalizing sexual proclivities only deepened a character who, like so many on Game of Thrones, had his life cut short for trying to do the right thing in an unjust world. —L.P.
HBO

How tragic that the most memorable thing Oberyn Martell did on Game of Thrones was die. But then, when your eyes are gouged out and your head is smashed, it tends to leave a lasting impression. Beyond his climactic fight with Gregor Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), however, Oberyn was an indelible character in his own right. Charming and unapologetically bisexual, he spent much of the season romancing men and women with a flair that distracted those around him from his true motivation, revenge against the man who raped and murdered his sister Elia. Even if Oberyn ultimately failed in his goal, he proved himself to be an adept fighter and a fearless warrior for his cause. His tantalizing sexual proclivities only deepened a character who, like so many on Game of Thrones, had his life cut short for trying to do the right thing in an unjust world. —L.P.

21. Bobo (Mira Barkhammer), We Are the Best!

Small, androgynous, with wire-rimmed glasses and a grave little face, Mira Barkhammar is heartbreaking as Stockholm middle-schooler Bobo in Lukas Moodysson’s incredibly charming coming-of-age story. She and her mohawked bestie Klara (Mira Grosin) have fallen in love with punk just as everyone’s declaring it over, and no one at school is impressed by their fashions or the rebellion for which they search. While Klara is more outgoing and sure of herself, Bobo is moodier and less certain, prone to peering anxiously at her face in the mirror as if she could will herself into looking like someone else. When she comforts her single mother, she seems wise beyond her years, and when she and her would-be bandmates feast on ice cream, she lights up like the kid she still pretty much is in this bittersweet portrait of the agonies and occasional joys of adolescence. —A.W.
Svensk Filmindustri

Small, androgynous, with wire-rimmed glasses and a grave little face, Mira Barkhammar is heartbreaking as Stockholm middle-schooler Bobo in Lukas Moodysson’s incredibly charming coming-of-age story. She and her mohawked bestie Klara (Mira Grosin) have fallen in love with punk just as everyone’s declaring it over, and no one at school is impressed by their fashions or the rebellion for which they search. While Klara is more outgoing and sure of herself, Bobo is moodier and less certain, prone to peering anxiously at her face in the mirror as if she could will herself into looking like someone else. When she comforts her single mother, she seems wise beyond her years, and when she and her would-be bandmates feast on ice cream, she lights up like the kid she still pretty much is in this bittersweet portrait of the agonies and occasional joys of adolescence. —A.W.

22. Richie Ventura (Raúl Castillo), Looking

There's still a lot we don't know about Richie, Patrick's (Jonathan Groff) love interest throughout Season 1 of Looking. That's all the more reason it's exciting that Raúl Castillo was bumped from recurring status to series regular for the second season. But even if Richie's background remains somewhat vague, he's still one of the most compelling characters on HBO's gay-centric dramedy. Richie, who frequents the Mission gay bar Esta Noche instead of the whiter, more upper-class Castro, represents a different world to Patrick. As such, Patrick has trouble defining him: He reduces Richie to his characteristics, obsessing over the fact that given Richie's Latino background, he might have an uncut cock. By the end of the season Patrick has learned — along with the viewers — that Richie is perhaps the strongest, most emotionally mature man that Patrick has ever met. It's that same strength that allows Richie to step away from Patrick who, however handsome, can't give him what he needs. —L.P.
HBO

There's still a lot we don't know about Richie, Patrick's (Jonathan Groff) love interest throughout Season 1 of Looking. That's all the more reason it's exciting that Raúl Castillo was bumped from recurring status to series regular for the second season. But even if Richie's background remains somewhat vague, he's still one of the most compelling characters on HBO's gay-centric dramedy. Richie, who frequents the Mission gay bar Esta Noche instead of the whiter, more upper-class Castro, represents a different world to Patrick. As such, Patrick has trouble defining him: He reduces Richie to his characteristics, obsessing over the fact that given Richie's Latino background, he might have an uncut cock. By the end of the season Patrick has learned — along with the viewers — that Richie is perhaps the strongest, most emotionally mature man that Patrick has ever met. It's that same strength that allows Richie to step away from Patrick who, however handsome, can't give him what he needs. —L.P.

23. Kim Jong Un (Randall Park), The Interview

With a fictional despot at its center, The Interview might have flown under the radar. Instead, screenwriter Dan Sterling — who collaborated on the story with Evan Goldberg and star Seth Rogen — opted to make the film about an assassination attempt against North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Un, played here by the hilarious Randall Park. The basic plot was enough to anger North Korea, a spokesperson for whom called The Interview an act of war, but after seeing the film, the bigger revelation is how complicated the character of Kim Jong Un is. The Interview exposes him as a real human being, which might be a big no-no for North Koreans but ultimately makes him a more sympathetic (though seriously flawed) character. His fannish devotion to Dave Skylark (James Franco) — colored with barely repressed homoeroticism — is enough to win over the bumbling interviewer at first. When Dave finally learns the truth about Kim Jong Un, he feels betrayed because his new friend is nothing like the image he puts forth. That may be an unspeakable offense to North Korea, but it's undeniably humanizing. —L.P.
Columbia Pictures

With a fictional despot at its center, The Interview might have flown under the radar. Instead, screenwriter Dan Sterling — who collaborated on the story with Evan Goldberg and star Seth Rogen — opted to make the film about an assassination attempt against North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Un, played here by the hilarious Randall Park. The basic plot was enough to anger North Korea, a spokesperson for whom called The Interview an act of war, but after seeing the film, the bigger revelation is how complicated the character of Kim Jong Un is. The Interview exposes him as a real human being, which might be a big no-no for North Koreans but ultimately makes him a more sympathetic (though seriously flawed) character. His fannish devotion to Dave Skylark (James Franco) — colored with barely repressed homoeroticism — is enough to win over the bumbling interviewer at first. When Dave finally learns the truth about Kim Jong Un, he feels betrayed because his new friend is nothing like the image he puts forth. That may be an unspeakable offense to North Korea, but it's undeniably humanizing. —L.P.

24. Artemisia (Eva Green), 300: Rise of an Empire

To watch this half-hearted sequel to sword-sandals-and-homoerotica hit 300 is to wish it were actually about the supposed villain and not the incredibly dull hero Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and his band of interchangeably brawny fellow Greeks. Why spend so much of your time on what amounts to a very expensive P90X ad when you have Artemisia, the Persian naval commander played by a ferocious Eva Green, who slouches, smoldering, on her sea throne in a fabulous array of battle couture outfits and turns a parlay with Themistocles into a crazy sex-fight? Green is the fearless goth queen Hollywood doesn’t deserve, and there’s never been more proof than this year, in which she tore up two forgettable Frank Miller sequels (she was also a standout in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), showing up in the center of these hyper-macho movie worlds and making them her own. —A.W.
Warner Bros. Pictures

To watch this half-hearted sequel to sword-sandals-and-homoerotica hit 300 is to wish it were actually about the supposed villain and not the incredibly dull hero Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and his band of interchangeably brawny fellow Greeks. Why spend so much of your time on what amounts to a very expensive P90X ad when you have Artemisia, the Persian naval commander played by a ferocious Eva Green, who slouches, smoldering, on her sea throne in a fabulous array of battle couture outfits and turns a parlay with Themistocles into a crazy sex-fight? Green is the fearless goth queen Hollywood doesn’t deserve, and there’s never been more proof than this year, in which she tore up two forgettable Frank Miller sequels (she was also a standout in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), showing up in the center of these hyper-macho movie worlds and making them her own. —A.W.

25. Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash), You're the Worst

Boy meets girl. Boy sleeps with girl. Boy and girl discover that they're both misanthropic commitmentphobes. Neither certified cad Jimmy (Chris Geere) or Gretchen emerges unscathed from You're the Worst's exceptional first season: They're both pretty terrible at times. But their anti-romance love story is a thrill to watch, because — like so many miserable people — they fall for each other in spite of themselves. We've seen characters like Jimmy before, though creator Stephen Falk perfected the dick manchild trope here, but Gretchen is unlike any female sitcom lead who came before her. She is relentlessly self-destructive and sometimes impossible to be around. You find yourself drawn to her the same way Jimmy is: against your better judgment. —L.P.
FX

Boy meets girl. Boy sleeps with girl. Boy and girl discover that they're both misanthropic commitmentphobes. Neither certified cad Jimmy (Chris Geere) or Gretchen emerges unscathed from You're the Worst's exceptional first season: They're both pretty terrible at times. But their anti-romance love story is a thrill to watch, because — like so many miserable people — they fall for each other in spite of themselves. We've seen characters like Jimmy before, though creator Stephen Falk perfected the dick manchild trope here, but Gretchen is unlike any female sitcom lead who came before her. She is relentlessly self-destructive and sometimes impossible to be around. You find yourself drawn to her the same way Jimmy is: against your better judgment. —L.P.

26. Jamie Marks (Noah Silver), Jamie Marks Is Dead

As the titular character in Jamie Marks Is Dead, Noah Silver spends much of the film nearly naked and wet. That's the way Jamie Marks died, and it's the way he's fated to spend his time as a ghost, clinging to Adam McCormick (Cameron Monaghan). This isn't a horror film: Jamie's afterlife is treated with sensitivity and honesty. He's a bullied outcast who just happens to be dead. His friendship with Adam makes for compelling viewing: There is obvious gay subtext to their relationship, but whether Jamie's attraction is reciprocated (or even fully realized) is left ambiguous. Rarely are teenage characters, living or otherwise, granted this much complexity. —L.P.
Verisimilitude

As the titular character in Jamie Marks Is Dead, Noah Silver spends much of the film nearly naked and wet. That's the way Jamie Marks died, and it's the way he's fated to spend his time as a ghost, clinging to Adam McCormick (Cameron Monaghan). This isn't a horror film: Jamie's afterlife is treated with sensitivity and honesty. He's a bullied outcast who just happens to be dead. His friendship with Adam makes for compelling viewing: There is obvious gay subtext to their relationship, but whether Jamie's attraction is reciprocated (or even fully realized) is left ambiguous. Rarely are teenage characters, living or otherwise, granted this much complexity. —L.P.

27. Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), Gone Girl

"I'm the cunt you married," Amy snaps at her husband Nick (Ben Affleck). "The only time you liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone this cunt might like. I'm not a quitter, I'm that cunt. I killed for you. Who else can say that? You think you'd be happy with a nice Midwestern girl? No way, baby. I'm it." On the surface, Amy is a somewhat two-dimensional villain, a woman who frames her husband for her murder out of revenge. But Amy is also a magnetic character, and the more Gone Girl turns you off of her two-timing asshole husband, the more you find yourself rooting for a woman who slits the throat of her controlling ex-boyfriend Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) mid-coitus. Gone Girl is a flawed film: To fully appreciate Amy, you have to inject your own method to her madness. While it's clearer in the book, what Amy's strong words reflect is that she's a monster because the men around her made her a monster. Her bad behavior is her rejection of the pedestal on which she's placed, and if innocent men get cut down by her righteous anger, that's a sacrifice she's willing to make. At least, that's one way of reading it. Gone Girl may be content to label Amy an "evil bitch," but there's no way she's letting herself be pigeonholed. —L.P.
20th Century Fox

"I'm the cunt you married," Amy snaps at her husband Nick (Ben Affleck). "The only time you liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone this cunt might like. I'm not a quitter, I'm that cunt. I killed for you. Who else can say that? You think you'd be happy with a nice Midwestern girl? No way, baby. I'm it." On the surface, Amy is a somewhat two-dimensional villain, a woman who frames her husband for her murder out of revenge. But Amy is also a magnetic character, and the more Gone Girl turns you off of her two-timing asshole husband, the more you find yourself rooting for a woman who slits the throat of her controlling ex-boyfriend Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) mid-coitus. Gone Girl is a flawed film: To fully appreciate Amy, you have to inject your own method to her madness. While it's clearer in the book, what Amy's strong words reflect is that she's a monster because the men around her made her a monster. Her bad behavior is her rejection of the pedestal on which she's placed, and if innocent men get cut down by her righteous anger, that's a sacrifice she's willing to make. At least, that's one way of reading it. Gone Girl may be content to label Amy an "evil bitch," but there's no way she's letting herself be pigeonholed. —L.P.

28. Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), Penny Dreadful

Unlike most of Penny Dreadful's characters, Vanessa Ives is an original creation, and that meant viewers spent much of Season 1 trying to figure her out. As it turned out, that was harder than anyone had anticipated. As played by the incomparable Eva Green, the only actor to appear twice on this list, Vanessa demonstrated vague powers of perception while battling demonic possession. It's a testament to Green's considerable skills that no matter how incredible the story became, she always made Vanessa feel real, an imperfect but ultimately sympathetic woman who merely found herself caught up in a world of monsters and mayhem. Whether praying for forgiveness or speaking in tongues, Vanessa commands attention. —L.P.
Showtime

Unlike most of Penny Dreadful's characters, Vanessa Ives is an original creation, and that meant viewers spent much of Season 1 trying to figure her out. As it turned out, that was harder than anyone had anticipated. As played by the incomparable Eva Green, the only actor to appear twice on this list, Vanessa demonstrated vague powers of perception while battling demonic possession. It's a testament to Green's considerable skills that no matter how incredible the story became, she always made Vanessa feel real, an imperfect but ultimately sympathetic woman who merely found herself caught up in a world of monsters and mayhem. Whether praying for forgiveness or speaking in tongues, Vanessa commands attention. —L.P.

29. Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain), A Most Violent Year

More motivated than her husband Abel (Oscar Isaac) — and, as the daughter of a gangster, far more aware of the realities of business — Anna could have easily been a Lady Macbeth figure. But A Most Violent Year is subtler than that. Even when she does go behind her husband's back, Anna is not conniving so much as pragmatic. If she bends the rules, something Abel can't bring himself to do, it's because she has a clearer understanding of what it takes to survive. Jessica Chastain is predictably layered in the role, infusing Anna with a subtle fierceness that permeates everything she does but only emerges in full force when she's backed against a wall. It's a performance that merits repeat viewings, and it fits perfectly in a film where the violence is largely between the lines. —L.P.
A24

More motivated than her husband Abel (Oscar Isaac) — and, as the daughter of a gangster, far more aware of the realities of business — Anna could have easily been a Lady Macbeth figure. But A Most Violent Year is subtler than that. Even when she does go behind her husband's back, Anna is not conniving so much as pragmatic. If she bends the rules, something Abel can't bring himself to do, it's because she has a clearer understanding of what it takes to survive. Jessica Chastain is predictably layered in the role, infusing Anna with a subtle fierceness that permeates everything she does but only emerges in full force when she's backed against a wall. It's a performance that merits repeat viewings, and it fits perfectly in a film where the violence is largely between the lines. —L.P.

30. Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), Transparent

What makes Maura, né Mort, so unforgettable is the vulnerability and dignity with which Jeffrey Tambor infuses her late-in-life transition to being a woman. Maura is aware it won’t all be easy and that there’s no way of predicting how her self-concerned adult children (who have plenty of their own dramas) will take her news, but is finally ready to make the change and to weather any turmoil that will come with it. Then again, knowing you’re in for some pain doesn’t mean you don’t feel it, and there’s something achingly poignant in the way Maura registers the myriad slights, misunderstandings, and outright rejections she receives. Maura’s no saint, and her years of identity crisis had their affect on her kids and her wife, but that’s part of who she is, and Transparent is, more than anything, a celebration of the messiness and connections of family. —A.W.
Amazon

What makes Maura, né Mort, so unforgettable is the vulnerability and dignity with which Jeffrey Tambor infuses her late-in-life transition to being a woman. Maura is aware it won’t all be easy and that there’s no way of predicting how her self-concerned adult children (who have plenty of their own dramas) will take her news, but is finally ready to make the change and to weather any turmoil that will come with it. Then again, knowing you’re in for some pain doesn’t mean you don’t feel it, and there’s something achingly poignant in the way Maura registers the myriad slights, misunderstandings, and outright rejections she receives. Maura’s no saint, and her years of identity crisis had their affect on her kids and her wife, but that’s part of who she is, and Transparent is, more than anything, a celebration of the messiness and connections of family. —A.W.

31. Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), The Equalizer

Let’s take a moment to appreciate how wacky Denzel Washington’s big 2014 action movie character is. He’s an utterly dad-like guy, a widower who lives alone and works at what’s basically Home Depot. He helps his fellow employees out with a little life coaching, and when he can’t sleep, he chats with his friendly local underage hooker at the all-night diner. Also, he’s a brutal killing machine whose violent abilities are apparently enhanced by his mild OCD, and while he’s good with a gun, he prefers to slaughter people using convenient household implements like a corkscrew or a power drill. He’s amusingly mild-mannered and cheery for a murdery version of MacGyver. —A.W.
Columbia Pictures

Let’s take a moment to appreciate how wacky Denzel Washington’s big 2014 action movie character is. He’s an utterly dad-like guy, a widower who lives alone and works at what’s basically Home Depot. He helps his fellow employees out with a little life coaching, and when he can’t sleep, he chats with his friendly local underage hooker at the all-night diner. Also, he’s a brutal killing machine whose violent abilities are apparently enhanced by his mild OCD, and while he’s good with a gun, he prefers to slaughter people using convenient household implements like a corkscrew or a power drill. He’s amusingly mild-mannered and cheery for a murdery version of MacGyver. —A.W.

32. The Girl (Sheila Vand), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

To paraphrase Glinda, is the Girl a good vampire or a bad vampire? For the most part, the enigmatic figure at the center of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night kills the "right" people — that is, men who deserve it. At one point, she warns a young boy that if he doesn't behave himself as a grown-up, she'll murder him too. On some level, the Girl is providing a service. But, of course, things are more complicated than that, and vampire justice may not exactly be just. The beauty of A Girl Walks Home is that it's pure fantasy: The vampire represents the righteous anger of suppressed women everywhere. She fights against men who exploit women's bodies and treat them as property — and she looks cool as hell doing it because she's a fucking vampire. She's Amy Dunne with an even clearer vision. And, let's face it, better taste. —L.P.
SpectreVision

To paraphrase Glinda, is the Girl a good vampire or a bad vampire? For the most part, the enigmatic figure at the center of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night kills the "right" people — that is, men who deserve it. At one point, she warns a young boy that if he doesn't behave himself as a grown-up, she'll murder him too. On some level, the Girl is providing a service. But, of course, things are more complicated than that, and vampire justice may not exactly be just. The beauty of A Girl Walks Home is that it's pure fantasy: The vampire represents the righteous anger of suppressed women everywhere. She fights against men who exploit women's bodies and treat them as property — and she looks cool as hell doing it because she's a fucking vampire. She's Amy Dunne with an even clearer vision. And, let's face it, better taste. —L.P.

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