The Best Movie Character Introductions Ever: Part One

What makes for a truly impressive character introduction? Something that sticks with you, illuminates a character completely, and does it without spending an entire movie teasing out the details? It’s a question we’ve been talking about a lot recently, after the long and unrestrained debate we had about our scariest movie scenes article, and Kevin and I are each taking some deep-dives into what we think are the best movie character introductions we’ve ever seen, and what exactly makes them such great examples of the craft. This one has musicals and horror and Muppets in it, so obviously, this is from I, Louise, and Kevin will be sharing his (much more sensible) list on Tuesday. Now, enough of this introduction introducing introductions – let’s get to it!

  1. Rent – Tango: Maureen

Is this just an excuse for me to play the Rent soundtrack on repeat till the end of time, because no matter how problematic this movie is, it’s the one that got me into musical theatre and so I’ll secretly love it forever? Who knows. But what I will say is that this particular number – probably the best in the whole movie, for my money – still stands as one of my favourite introductory scenes across any film I’ve ever seen. Following Mark (Anthony Rapp) and Joanne (Tracie Thoms), the ex and current partners of the titular Maureen, respectively, as they navigate an awkward encounter, it’s a really neat way of giving us an in-depth look at who Maureen (Indina Menzel) actually is. From the man who hates that he loved her, to the woman trying to find a way to survive her complicated lesbian love affair, we get Maureen from all sides – as a lover, as a partner, as a cheat, as a liar, as a heartbreaker – over the course of one intensely witty, gender-bending tango. Praise be to the Scarsdale Jewish Community Centre.

2. Squire Trelawney – Muppet Treasure Island

Now, a film that needs no qualification: Muppet Treasure Island is one of the greatest films ever made and I will punch you over this, and, while there are a trove of brilliant characters to choose from, I had to go with Squire Trelawney (Fozzy Bear) and his thirty-second slice of comedic gold. From the doorman chuckling to himself at the very notion of someone even wanting to speak to the “halfwit son” of the real Trelawney, through to Fozzy Bear politely thanking the man in his finger for reminding him that he had, in fact, been to the moon twice, it’s hard to think of a scene that so succinctly and hilariously sums up a character in less than a minute.
3. John Kramer/Jigsaw – Saw

Stop reading this if you haven’t seen the first Saw movie, and go get on that, because it’s better than you think it is and I want you to experience it unsullied by spoilers. For all the faults of the series at large (and let’s be real – the franchise has far too many to be remotely defensible at this point), I still adore the first Saw movie. And a huge part of that has to do with the introduction of the series’ antagonist, John Kramer (as played by the inimitable Tobin Bell). The final moments of the first movie reveal that he has, in fact, been privy to the violent and psychologically devastating torture chamber he’s constructed for the two lead characters we’ve followed over the course of the film. With much of the movie revolving around the police search for and attempts to profile him, along with the recordings he left behind for his victims, we’ve already been given a deep-dive into his character, whether we’ve put a face to him or not. By the time he reveals himself, we’re already well-acquainted with his twisted philosophy and morality, enough so that the film can get away with having him deliver just two words before the credits roll and render him instantly one of the most memorable horror movie villains of all time.

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By Louise MacGregor

(header image via SciFiNow)

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