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The Most Iconic Movie Character Entrances Of This Century

There's no shortage of unforgettable, iconic characters throughout pop culture, and throughout the history of cinema, figures like Darth Vader, Vito Corleone, Ellen Ripley, and Rocky Balboa — among many others — stand out as some of the most memorable characters to ever grace the big screen. Thanks to great writing and direction, characters can fully come to life over the course of just an hour or two during a great movie, revealing their emotional cores, their prime motivations, and their humanity to the audience in a pretty short period of time. Unlike a television series, where characters get seasons and years to flourish, film characters need to make a big impression fast, which is where a great entrance comes in handy.

Throughout the 21st century, there have been a handful of great character introductions which tell you everything essential about the fictional person within just a few minutes, exposing their goals and personality quickly, efficiently, and effectively and then allowing the character to evolve even more throughout the film. From Miranda Priestly to MCU stars to Colonel Hans Landa, here are the most iconic movie character entrances of this century.

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada

Based on Lauren Weisberger's novel of the same name — which is said to be a veiled portrait of real-life Vogue editor Anna Wintour — the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada immediately positions aspiring journalist Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), who is wholly uninterested in personal appearance and fashion, in stark contrast to the highly groomed, impeccable women who work at the famed, New York-based (fictional) magazine Runway. However, when Andy gets the chance to interview for a job at the publication, she goes anyway. In an unexpected twist, she gets to interview with the top editor, the infamous Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), who is returning to the office momentarily.

As Andy stands in the middle of the Runway offices, stranded and confused, the entire office descends into panicked chaos as Miranda's impending arrival looms. As Runway staffers don high heels, apply lipstick, and make sure Miranda's desk looks perfect, the woman in question emerges from a town car, designer shoes, copy of Runway – and, of course, Prada bag — on full display as even non-Runway employees in the building's lobby scatter in fear. As she arrives on Runway's floor, the elevator doors open to reveal Streep's silver-haired, imperious Miranda Priestly removing her sunglasses. Between Streep's icy performance and the reaction from her employees, viewers instantly recognize Miranda: a tough and intimidating boss who rules with an iron fist.

Jennifer Lopez as Ramona, Hustlers

In the 2019 film Hustlers, helmed by Lorene Scafaria and based on real-life events detailed in the New York magazine piece "The Hustlers at Scores," audiences first meet Dorothy (Constance Wu), who moonlights as "Destiny" at a strip club, Moves, as she tries to support both herself and her grandmother in New York City. At first, Destiny is unmoored and barely makes any money at Moves, but before long, her savior arrives, in the form of Jennifer Lopez's Ramona.

One fateful night, Destiny watches in awe as Ramona, one of the club's biggest stars, is introduced, and what follows is one of the best character introductions in recent memory. Clad in a sequined captain's hat and a matching slinky outfit, Lopez wows in this particular scene, performing a salacious — and technically incredibly difficult — dance for her adoring fans, who toss their cash at her without hesitation. As Ramona strides off the stage, clutching her money to her chest, she tosses an inappropriate (but absolutely perfect) comment Destiny's way as the younger dancer watches Ramona go. If that wasn't a perfect enough opening scene for you, the immediate cut to Ramona smoking a cigarette on a New York City rooftop in just her costume and an enormous fur coat is a breathtaking transition.

Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds

As Quentin Tarantino's 2009 piece of revisionist World War II history, Inglourious Basterds, begins its story in the countryside of Nazi-occupied France, dairy farmer Pierre LaPadite (Denis Ménochet) is surprised by an unannounced visit from a high-ranking Third Reich official. As he tells his daughters to give them space, LaPadite welcomes Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) into his home... and Landa's charming manner and effusive praise for LaPadite's farm are definitely disarming right from the start.

When Landa and LaPadite sit down at the table — smoking pipes and enjoying some of LaPadite's milk, which Landa declares is divine — Landa asks if they could possibly converse in English, throwing the first curveball of the conversation. Landa interrogates LaPadite, only to discover that the farmer is hiding a French Jewish family underneath his floorboards. While the conversation continues, Landa only gets more and more sinister, adopting his eerily cheerful grin as his soldiers rain gunfire through the floorboards. Even when the Dreyfus daughter, Shoshanna (Mélanie Laurent), escapes with her life, Landa's weirdly good mood tells the audience exactly who he is — a man who's not just sadistic, but takes true joy in committing truly evil acts. Waltz ultimately won an Oscar for the role, and even without the rest of the movie, the opening scene likely secured that statue.

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

When Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl hit theaters in 2003, it probably seemed like a pretty silly idea... but when all was said and done, Disney ended up laughing all the way to the bank. The movie, which was led by Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush, told the story of a group of undead pirates chasing an amulet that can free them from eternal torment. It proved to be a seriously enjoyable romp, even earning an Academy Award nod for Depp for his role as the eternally drunk, salacious Captain Jack Sparrow.

With that in mind, it's no surprise that Jack Sparrow, who went on to become one of the most unforgettable characters in recent cinematic history, has one of the most epic — and hilarious – introductory scenes around. As the film's score swells, the camera zooms in on Jack, riding atop the mast of a ship, hair blowing in the breeze... all of which is perfectly undercut when he jumps down, and you realize his tiny ship is actually sinking. As Jack desperately tries to bail himself out to no avail — and sweeps his hat off to honor the skeletons of two hanged pirates — he arrives in the harbor just in time for his ship to sink fully underwater, leaping off the mast and onto the dock with utter swagger.

Rachel McAdams as Regina George, Mean Girls

In the edgy 2004 high school comedy Mean Girls, which investigates the cunning and often cruel social hierarchies of teenage girls, just one girl rules North Shore High School with an iron fist: queen bee Regina George, played perfectly by Rachel McAdams. As the Tina Fey-written film begins, viewers follow formerly homeschooled transfer student Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) as she tries to navigate high school life. Luckily, she gets help from new friends Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damien (Daniel Franzese), who explain the social structure in perfect detail.

Eventually, Janis gets to the top of the high school food pyramid, telling Cady about The Plastics, made up of gossipy Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and dimwitted Karen (Amanda Seyfried) – but she saves the best for last. "Evil takes a human form in Regina George," Janis tells Cady, saying Regina is so much more than your average backstabbing popular girl. When she wonders how one even "begins to explain Regina George," classmates take over. From there, the film features direct to camera confessionals from North Shore's cabal of adoring Regina fans, with high schoolers sharing rumors about Regina, like that her blonde hair is insured for $10,000 or that she does car commercials in Japan. Regina is certainly an epic character, and the way she's introduced in Mean Girls gives you an immediate idea of the power this seemingly sweet teenage girl holds over her peers.

Heath Ledger as The Joker, The Dark Knight

A handful of talented actors have portrayed famed Batman villain The Joker, but audiences are unlikely to forget the late Heath Ledger's turn in the role in Christopher Nolan's 2008 film, The Dark Knight. In the middle film of Nolan's Batman trilogy, Ledger, who passed away months before the film's release at 28 years old, embodied the cackling, insidious villain to perfection. While the role ultimately won Ledger a posthumous Academy Award the following year – his entrance is a true highlight of his performance.

The movie opens with panning shots of a dramatic bank heist, as heavily armed men in clown masks prepare to invade the bank while discussing the mysterious boss, "the Joker," who's financing their mission. Shot with exacting precision and IMAX cameras by Nolan, the heist is tense enough, especially as the men begin to turn on one another to take home a higher percentage of the haul... and apparently, on the orders of their mysterious leader. However, the biggest twist is yet to come: the Joker is among them, and he brutally dispatches the last few men, including one via a sneaky trick involving a school bus. As the injured bank manager lays on the floor, screaming at the Joker about what he believes, the super-villain finally removes his mask, giving us the first glimpse at his grotesque face and uttering the iconic line, "I believe that whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you... stranger."

Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver, Kill Bill: Volume 1

Clearly, Quentin Tarantino has an eye for epic entrances, and his instincts are perfectly on display in 2003's Kill Bill: Volume 1, his take on the revenge genre. As audiences follow the journey of former assassin The Bride (Uma Thurman), who travels the globe to exact vengeance on her fellow assassins who left her for dead years earlier, we're introduced to her entire former crew, including Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), who goes by the codename California Mountain Snake.

Elle and The Bride, whose codename was Black Mamba, have always been at odds, and as The Bride lays in a coma in the aftermath of the murder attempt, Elle heads to the hospital to finish the job. Donning her signature eye patch, Elle arrives in a trench coat before changing into a comically over-the-top nurse's office, all of which is set to a whistled version of "Twisted Nerve." As she prepares to inject poison into The Bride's IV, Bill (David Carradine) ends up calling, but not before Elle delivers a scathing monologue to the unconscious Bride about her hatred for the former warrior. Though the Bride and Elle hate one another, they share a desire for revenge, and after her dramatic introduction, Elle leaves the audience with no doubts about her intentions.

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, Guardians of the Galaxy

The films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are known for their wry sense of humor and quirky leading characters, qualities which both sum up James Gunn's 2014 effort Guardians of the Galaxy. Creating a film from largely forgotten Marvel characters, the movie tells the story of a scrappy band of outcasts and criminals — Peter "Star Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and living tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) — who inadvertently end up defending one of the universe's Infinity Stones from the insidious Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

Audiences first meet Peter as a young child on Earth, but the real introduction, as well as Pratt's entrance, has an added benefit: it also introduces Peter's Walkman, which houses a mix that his late mother made for him. With "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone blaring through his headphones, Peter lip-syncs his way through a seemingly abandoned swamp on the planet Morag to find what he's after. It gives Marvel fans the perfect encapsulation of his character: a goofball with a heart of gold equipped with formidable fighting skills and cutting-edge technology to help him along the way.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Considering that the entire conflict of Edgar Wright's 2010 action comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. The World centers around Scott Pilgrim's (Michael Cera) quest to "get the girl," it stands to reason that she would have a pretty amazing introduction. At first, Scott is happy with his life in Toronto, trying to make it with his band Sex Bob-omb and happily dating high school student Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), but after one night at a party, everything suddenly changes.

As a sea of partygoers parts, Scott spots the beautiful, mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) from across the room as she stands alone, sipping her drink. Scott approaches Ramona after crushing a (plastic) cup with his bare hands — an instant response to her beauty. But he doesn't know anything about Ramona and begs people for information on her. After everyone sings her praises, both Scott and the audience are in love with Ramona, perfectly setting up the rest of the movie.

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Thor: Ragnarok

After two standalone Thor films featuring MCU star Chris Hemsworth, which ranged from middling to downright despised, the franchise got a much-needed breath of fresh air in 2017 with Thor: Ragnarok, helmed by wry, clever director (and future Academy Award winner) Taika Waititi. Thanks to Waititi's unique sensibilities and eccentric sense of humor, Thor: Ragnarok rejuvenated the story of Thor, and part of that was due to a supporting character who would ultimately become indispensable to the overall storyline of the MCU: Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson.

After crash landing on the mysterious planet of Sakaar, Thor finds himself kidnapped by strange creatures... until a new ship lands and its captain, Valkyrie, emerges and announces that Thor is her bounty. However, Valkyrie is apparently in no state to battle anyone, and as she walks down from her ship, she's so intoxicated that she simply falls off. The trader ends up subduing and capturing Thor after all, but her wobbly introduction is definitely unforgettable.

Michael B. Jordan as Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, Black Panther

Ryan Coogler's 2018 MCU film Black Panther has one of the best heroes in the cinematic universe in Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa, but he also had the benefit of facing off against one of the MCU's most dynamic villains. After audiences are introduced to the reclusive and technologically brilliant country of Wakanda, which Boseman's King T'Challa rules, they also meet a mysterious man, Erik "Killmonger" Stevens (Michael B. Jordan).

While inspecting African artifacts at a London museum, Killmonger taunts one of the curators, telling her that she's wrong about the origin of many of the objects, and before long, his plan falls into place. As the curator falls to the ground, poisoned, Killmonger's crew arrives to rob the place and secure as much Wakandan vibranium as possible. Before he leaves, Killmonger grabs an African tribal face mask just for fun, cementing him as an impulsive yet brilliant villain that nobody will forget.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

There's no question that Daniel Day-Lewis is a once in a lifetime performer, and when he makes a movie, people pay attention. In 2007, Day-Lewis wowed crowds once again with There Will Be Blood, directed by frequent collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson and loosely based on Upton Sinclair's seminal novel Oil!. The actor portrayed Daniel Plainview, a man who turns from silver mining to the oil trade and becomes unexpectedly ruthless in his quest for absolute power and financial gain.

The opening scene finds Plainview in 1898 working as a prospector trying to mine silver in New Mexico, but in the process, he badly injures his leg. After saving a small piece of silver, he manages to make his way to town, where he receives a certificate for his silver that eventually allows him to launch his own small oil company. Daniel Plainview's journey is plenty long, but immediately, audiences know that he'll do just about anything to keep his position or move ahead in life.

Tom Holland as Peter Parker, Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War, released in 2016 and directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, features pretty much every major Marvel superhero, including a new iteration of Spider-Man, played by young British standout Tom Holland. Holland's initial scenes as Peter Parker are great in their own right, but it isn't until the film's big battle set piece that he truly proves his worth.

After Iron Man himself, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), recruits the clearly gifted Peter Parker from New York to join him in the fight against Captain America (Chris Evans), Parker is clearly ready, donning the high-tech suit gifted to him by Stark. As the battle in the airport hangar begins, Captain America's trademark shield suddenly flies out of his hands; moments later, we see it was ensnared in one of Spider-Man's signature webs, and Holland's Parker takes the time to pose with the shield, landing in a perfect superhero stance. Even Stark praises him, telling him, "Nice job, kid," and setting Holland's take on Spider-Man off on the right track.