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Iconic Characters From Steven Spielberg Movies Ranked

Steven Spielberg is, of course, one of the most notable film directors of all time. With over 30 feature films under his belt and more to come, Spielberg has won Best Director at the Academy Awards twice. Though only his personal masterpiece "Schindler's List" is his only Best Picture win, Spielberg has created enough legendary films that he's studied by film students and the movie going masses alike. His ability to combine blockbuster action with compelling characters at a film's core is what makes him so great at what he does.

Within those iconic films are tons of memorable and iconic characters. There are so many amazing characters that didn't make it onto this list, like Christian Bale's young Jim from "Empire of the Sun," or any of the characters from "Munich" or "Amistad," that didn't manage to make this limited list. Here are the most iconic characters from Steven Spielberg movies, ranked. 

14. Roy Neary from Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Richard Dreyfuss stars as the lead character Roy Neary in Spielberg's 1977 sci-fi drama "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." The everyman electrician becomes ensconced in an alien obsession after his son's toys being operating on their own. He soon has his own close encounter with an alien UFO. Spielberg is not just great at sci-fi, he's also incredible at crafting just how ordinary people would react to these kinds of otherworldly scenarios.

Spielberg, who also wrote the screenplay, made Neary a complex figure. On the one hand, he's a normal guy who experiences a thrilling discovery and who (spoiler alert!) jumps at the chance to fly off with space aliens at the end of the film. But on the other hand, he's a father who abandons his kids and family to fly off with space aliens at the end of the film. A family presumably who has to survive without him and never see him again. How one views Roy Neary's actions is something that can change as one grows older or has kids of their own. And that contradiction is what keeps Roy at the bottom of this list.

13. Agatha from Minority Report

Spielberg's 2002 sci-fi film "Minority Report" is loosely based on a short story of the same name by science fiction master Philip K. Dick. It stars Tom Cruise as John Anderton, the leading officer of the 2054 Washington D.C.'s relatively new "Pre-Crime" unit that uses clairvoyant humans ("Precogs") to predict who will commit murders. When the Precogs predict that Anderton will murder a man he's never met, Anderton heads out on the run, leading to an intriguing sci-fi film noir whodunnit thriller.

Samantha Morton plays Agatha, one of the three Precogs that the department uses to predict the future. For most of the film, she's just kind of a robot, floating in a pool and churning out predictions. But Agatha's predictions often differ from those of the other two Precogs, and her visions are cycled away into a "minority report." In order to clear his name, Anderton kidnaps Agatha so that he can prove to the powers-that-be that the Pre-Crime system, the system he implemented, is faulty. Agatha doesn't get a ton of screen time, but she's definitely one of Spielberg's most interesting characters. There's an incredible sequence in the movie where Agatha is leading Anderton away from his potential captors and using her precognitive abilities to lead Anderton through the city on a nerve wracking chase. Morton's acting and Agatha's interesting premise make the character extremely engrossing.

12. Frank Abagnale Jr. from Catch Me If You Can

The true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. is pretty astonishing, if it can be believed. In his 1980 autobiography, Abagnale claimed that by the age of 15 he was forging checks, impersonating others, and stealing his way through various scenarios. Though today, much of his claims have been either debunked or cast in doubt, Abagnale was indeed arrested many times for theft, forgery, and fraud, and is a convicted felon. But despite the veracity of Abagnale's claims, Spielberg managed to turn him and his story into a wholly charming and loveable character in 2002's "Catch Me if You Can."

The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale Jr. and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent Carl Hanratty who struggles to track Frank down for years. Hanks is, of course, completely hilarious as the frazzled Hanratty, sporting an exaggerated New England accent for the film. But Frank Abagnale Jr. is one of Spielberg's most memorable characters because of DiCaprio's totally engaging and charming acting work. The audience falls for every scam just like the characters in the film because he's just so dang charming. He blends into every character that Frank puts on, seamlessly luring the viewer into his schemes as well, and we can't help root for him.

11. Ellie Statler from Jurassic Park

1993's "Jurassic Park" ushered in a new wave of special effects for the film industry, combining practical puppetry with CGI that miraculously still looks good to this day. If you've been living under a rock, the movie tells the story of a possibly mad scientist who brings dinosaurs back to life to create an amusement park for humans to encounter the extinct beasts — only to have the first test run result in escaped dinos and mass deaths. But while Spielberg's take, based on Michael Chrichton's novel of the same name, has some pretty amazing dinosaurs, it would be nowhere without characters that the audience can root for, or generally like.

Enter Dr. Ellie Statler, played by Laura Dern, paleobotanist and one half of a team with Sa, Neil's Dr. Alan Grant. The two are partners in life and work, and Elli's equal status in the world of "Jurassic Park" is something that all too few sci-fi adventures have. Her bravery in times of danger, her empathy for the dinosaurs, and extreme intelligence make her one of Spielberg's best. And let's not forget her best line, after Ian Malcom is lamenting on the history of dinosaurs and man: "Dinosaurs eat man ... woman inherits the Earth."

10. Rufio from Hook

The 1991 Peter Pan sequel "Hook" wasn't Spielberg's best reviewed film, but audiences loved it, and it has been a beloved classic for millennials. The film stars the late, great Robin Williams as Peter Banning, a middle-aged lawyer who discovers that, when he was a child, he was actually Peter Pan. When his kids are kidnapped by Captain Hook (an incomparably hammy Dustin Hoffman), he returns to his roots as the boy who refused to grow up and goes back to Neverland.

Williams is juxtaposed by the new leader of the Lost Boys, the red-punk haired Rufio. The teen, played by Dante Basco, is rude, disobedient, and a lot of fun — just about perfect for a Lost Boy. He travels around Neverland on a skateboard, wears a fringed vest, and carries Pan's golden sword like he owns the place. And let's not forget the chant: "Rufi-O! Rufi-O! Ru! Fi! OOOOOOOOOOO!" the Lost Boys scream when he arrives, and when he faces off against Hook. The tragedy of Rufio is that he never gets to grow up like Peter, though Rufio does express that he wishes he'd had a dad just like Peter before he dies. Bangerang.

9. Quint from Jaws

Any great blockbuster has at least one renegade character bucking the status quo, doing things differently, and causing a bit of chaos. For Spielberg's 1975 thriller "Jaws," that character is Quint, the professional shark hunter who introduces himself by scratching his nails across a chalkboard. Joining the crew of the Orca to hunt down the great white shark terrorizing the town of Amity Island, Quint's tactics are much different from that of oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider).

Played by Robert Shaw, Quint is abrasive, impulsive, and has no time to make friends. But Quint's attitude stems directly from his own trauma. In one of the most memorable scene from the film, Quint relays the story of how The Indianapolis, his vessel during World War II, went down after being struck by a Japanese torpedo. He and the surviving 100 other men were picked off one by one by thousands of sharks until only 300 or so remained. It's a chilling speech that Shaw actually helped write himself.

8. Celie Harris from The Color Purple

In the mid-80s, Spielberg took a break from action-packed blockbusters and took a stab at adapting Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple," from a script by Menno Meyjes. The story follows Celie Harris, a young African-American woman in the rural south in the early 1900s. Celie is abused by her father, sold off to another abuser, and has to live through racism, incest, poverty, violence, and sexism until she transforms to find her own self worth through intense hardships.

When Spielberg made "The Color Purple," Whoopi Goldberg was a rising stand-up comic, but her performance as Celie earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 1986 Academy Awards. In his 1985 review, critic Roger Ebert wrote that Goldberg's portrayal of Celie was, "one of the most amazing debut performances in movie history ... Goldberg has a fearsomely difficult job to do, enlisting our sympathy for a woman who is rarely allowed to speak, to dream, to interact with the lives around her." Celie's strength through adversity, and her powerful story, make for a definite iconic character.

7. Oskar Schindler from Schindler's List

Oskar Schindler was a real man who, as an industrial factory owner during WWII, saved over 1,000 Polish Jews from death by "hiring" them to work in his factories. He was the subject of the novel "Schindler's Ark" by Australian novelist Thomas Keneally, which Spielberg turned into "Schindler's List" in 1993. The character is a bit morally complicated — after all he is technically a member of the Nazi party, and is still socially interacting with Nazis. But his moral center is evident the harder he works to get more and more people onto his list, a dangerous effort emphasized by his regrets that he didn't do nearly enough.

Played by Liam Neeson, Oskar Schindler is a charming guy who plays up his buffoonery in order to lead the Nazi authorities off of his tracks. The film is traumatic, and horrific, but nevertheless important. And Neeson's portrayal of a conflicted man on a mission is one of Spielberg's greatest.

6. Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan

In "Saving Private Ryan," another of Spielberg's World War II epics, Tom Hanks stars as U.S. Army Captain John H. Miller, who searching for the elusive Private James Ryan (Matt Damon). Ryan is the only surviving brother of a set of four, Captain Miller's job is to find him and send him home so that the family retains at least one surviving member. The film is loosely based on the true story of the Niland brothers, and its standout opening scene of the D-Day invasions of the beaches at Normandy were jarringly realistic and a masterwork in war filmmaking.

Hanks plays Captain Miller without the bombastic grandstanding of other soldier portrayals. Indeed, it's Hanks' everyman qualities that make Miller more relatable. He is, after all, just a high school English teacher, he says, and he and his fellow soldiers are just normal guys thrown into extraordinary circumstances. His final message to Ryan, "Earn this," is a powerful statement anyone can take to heart when remembering the sacrifices of others.

5. Marion Ravenwood from the Indiana Jones franchise

Marion Ravenwood of the "Indiana Jones" franchise may occasionally be a damsel in distress, but she's always a damsel that fights back. In 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark," she drinks a man three times her size under the table. She throws a punch as well as any other in the film, she fires guns, and never relies on Indy to save her. Marion returned in 2008's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," once again as Indy's old paramour, and was one of the better parts of the film.

Played by Karen Allen, Marion Ravenwood definitely became a feminist icon for many young women. But as Allen told Bustle, she spent a long time running from the role. "I spent a few years trying to shake Marion off of me. I played that role, and now I'd like to play something completely different." She added that, years later, "I feel extremely fond of not only of the character but also of the experience. And I feel very grateful that I had the opportunity to be in that film and play that character because it's really stood the test of time ... people are still talking about ['Raiders'] and still wanting to see it. Even now I feel very identified with the film and the role."

4. Chief Martin Brody from Jaws

Robert Shaw's Quint is the mysterious and abrasive shark hunter, Richard Dreyfuss' Matt Hooper is the scientific ocean expert, but Brody is a calm, everyman thrown into a crazy situation. The new police chief of Amity Island, Chief Brody is a fish out of water, as it were. The new guy in town, he closes the beaches during the high tourist season much to the chagrin of the summer beachgoers. But Chief Brody knows what's up; there's a giant shark in the waters and it's killing folks.

Roy Scheider's portrayal of Chief Brody was definitely enduring and made us totally feel for a guy who was just trying to save lives and ended up being abused for it. But when that giant shark first popped out of the water and Brody said, "I think we're going to need a bigger boat," we couldn't help but feel his fear, and hope they'd all survive.

3. Ian Malcolm from the Jurassic Park franchise

While Sam Neil's Dr. Alan Grant is a heroic leader of the first Jurassic Park film, and Dr. Ellie Statler is the feminist foil, the third member of "Jurassic Park" main gang is the weirdo, Dr. Ian Malcolm, the mathematician with expertise in chaos theory. When Malcolm first realizes that John Hammond's park is devoted to real life dinosaurs, his monologue at the dinner table expertly details humanities foils. The lack of humility before nature being displayed here staggers me," Malcolm begins, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

Expertly played by Jeff Goldblum, Ian Malcolm is funny, smart, charming, and most importantly, right about every warning that he put forth in "Jurassic Park." The character returned for the second movie in the franchise and again for 2018's "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," where he testified before court that the world should let the dinosaurs die to right the wrongs that Hammond created. Goldbloom's dry humor, his direct approach to the character and yes, his major sex appeal made Ian Malcolm completely iconic in the Jurassic world.

2. E.T. from E.T. the Extraterrestrial

The little alien lost on Earth is the runner up in Spielberg's most iconic characters. The 1982 film "E.T. the Extraterrestrial" told the story of a squashy little alien botanist whose space ship landed on Earth to check out the greenery. Humans approached, resulting in the ship's quick departure, leaving behind E.T. Henry Thomas plays Elliott, a young boy whose life is shaken up by his parents' divorce. When he finds E.T., the two become the best of friends. They teach each other, they start feeling each other's feelings, and become connected in a way that Elliott was missing in his life.

"E.T." wasn't just a fun sci-fi adventure, it was a total tear jerker and an emotional rollercoaster. E.T. is cute, curious, and loveable, and became a friend Elliott wanted to fight for — even when he didn't feel like fighting for himself.

1. Indiana Jones from the Indiana Jones franchise

Of course, the archaeologist played by Harrison Ford is Spielberg's most iconic character. Introduced in 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Indy is a leather jacket clad-adventurer who's transition from swashbuckling action hero to button up wearing professor was as seamless as his leather whip slash. Indy returned in 1984's  prequel "Temple of Doom." We then met his father in 1989 sequel "The Last Crusade." Indy, as portrayed by Ford, returned after almost two decades in 2008's "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." A fifth Indiana Jones movie is set to premiere in the summer of 2022.

Handsome, charming, and smart, it's easy to see why the women of the Indiana Jones franchise almost always fall for Indy. Created by George Lucas but directed by Spielberg, Indy became a well-known action hero with a dry wit and determined attitude — and stands as the best in Spielberg's filmography.