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10 Best Luca Characters Ranked By Likability

Director Enrico Casarosa's "Luca" is a charming coming-of-age story set on the Italian Riviera. Inspired by 2D animation masterpieces like Miyazaki's "Spirited Away," the family-friendly 2021 film boasts intricate, stunning colors and artwork. Such elements infuse a refreshingly simple tale with the same incredible heart as past Pixar gems like "Toy Story."

Like Ariel before him, the surface beckons young sea monster Luca, who dreams of something more than a quiet life of herding goatfish. When he meets fellow sea monster Alberto, who enjoys living mostly out of the water, a friendship sparks — and Luca's wanderlust grows. After Luca's parents threaten terrible punishment for breaching the surface, the boys flee to the nearby human town of Portorosso, where they meet spunky Giulia. The three join forces to compete in an annual triathlon, with Giulia out to prove herself, and Luca and Alberto hoping to use the prize money to buy a Vespa and travel the world. Trouble is, this town also harbors great prejudice against sea monsters, and to hide their fishy forms from people who might harpoon them on sight, the boys must avoid water: simple in theory — not so much in practice.

Whether you interpret this sweet narrative as a heartfelt "coming out" story or one focused on a formative summer of friendship, "Luca" boasts compelling, relatable characters. Here's a list of the movie's best, ranked from least to most likable.

10. Ercole Visconti

Ercole (voiced by Saverio Raimondo) barrels into the story on his shiny red Vespa. Contrary to other Pixar villains of the past with tragic backstories evoking the audience's sympathies (like, say, Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear from "Toy Story 3"), this rotten sixteen-year-old narcissist possesses no real depth — and virtually no redeeming qualities. The entitled Ercole expects to win the Portorosso Cup for the sixth consecutive year, and though his age (and therefore his actual eligibility to race) repeatedly comes into question, most of the townsfolk — nonplussed adults and kid victims alike — refuse to challenge him on the matter. In addition to being cruel with his words, from insulting the "fishy" way Alberto and Luca smell to the nasty comments he makes about Giulia being forced to withdraw from last summer's race because she couldn't stop vomiting, he's more than willing to bully others. Punching Alberto in the stomach while his cronies Ciccio and Guido hold the other boy down, Ercole uses violence to ensure he gets what he wants.

Basically, Ercole Visconti is a pompous jerk with one mountain-sized inferiority complex, and all that self-obsession and outward confidence seems to come from a place of deep-seated insecurity. With little care for anyone but himself, the trio's triathlon opponent isn't exactly a likable character, but he is an engaging teenaged villain  ... and like any worthwhile movie villain, great fun to hate.

9. Ugo Paguro

Luca's Uncle Ugo, notably voiced by comic rapscallion Sacha Baron Cohen, dwells in the deepest and darkest depths of the ocean. When Luca's angry mother, Daniela, and his more uncertain father, Lorenzo, decide to send him away for the season, both to punish him for his disobedience and to keep him from danger (and untempted by the allure of the surface), Ugo pays them a visit to talk about life in the Deep.

After his own near-death experience with the land monsters who live above, Uncle Ugo prefers the bitter cold, eerie silence, and inky black of his home to the hustle, bustle, and exposure of lighter, shallower waters. While the sea monster speaks of his lifestyle choice with fondness, Luca shivers at the thought of spending any time in a place with no warmth, no light, and little sign of life. It's possible floating alone in the dark for so long, with only his own words to keep himself company, and living off of bits of whale carcass that conveniently just sink into his mouth, has spurred a bit of madness in Ugo, but viewers can appreciate his preference and desire for a life far removed from the chaos of the world.

A little peculiar and off-putting, and incredibly oblivious to his nephew's discomfort at the idea of such significant solitude, Ugo is another fun to watch, compelling character — which makes that post-credits scene particularly welcomed.

8. Machiavelli

Machiavelli, Massimo's grumpy, growly cat companion, is immediately suspicious of Luca and Alberto, recognizing them as sea monsters long before any of Portorosso's human residents. For a good chunk of screen time, he's not happy about having the boys at the Marcovaldo dinner table or letting them accompany him and Massimo out on the boat. In fact, he attacks poor Luca!

As a cat, he already has keen senses. Notably, though, as fan theories posit, Machiavelli is also the name of "a philosopher who is quoted as saying ... "Everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know who you are," adding another layer to this kitty's uncanny level of awareness, along with more character depth. Throw in the fact that he's essentially the "Luca" version of Ron Swanson from "Parks and Recreation" and you have the recipe for a fan-favorite side character who can charm simply with his glare.

Like Swanson, Machiavelli is often begrudging and prone to anger, but he's also capable of learning acceptance. On occasion, we even glimpse the fondness he harbors for the people around him (which we enjoy more of in Pixar's sequel short, "Ciao Alberto.") Still, don't discount his initial hostility toward the sea monster leads or the fact that he actively assaults — and manages to wound — Luca. This aggressive prejudice, while curbed by the end of the narrative, knocks him down a few pegs.

7. Daniela Paguro

Maya Rudolph voices a mother who just wants to protect her son. Trouble is, Daniela is overbearing, and her ways of protecting him are both mothering and... well ... smothering. After just one — albeit, by her standards, gigantic — act of disobedience and rebellion, she's ready to cart her young off to the Deep. And to a kid like Luca, who's just formed his friendship with Alberto and is beginning to understand who he is as a person, the very idea is comparable to torturous solitary confinement.

It's easy to see that Daniela's drastic, terror-fueled decisions and angry reactions are prompted by motherly love and a desire to shelter her son from the dangers of the world, but they ultimately lead to her stifling Luca and preventing him from coming into his own, and for much of the narrative, she stands in the way of his growth. In addition, while she and Lorenzo desperate search for their runaway son, her tunnel focus leads the pair to terrorize the young humans of Portorosso, leaving the children soaking wet, shivering, and wary of the adult newcomers.

Thankfully, Daniela learns to let go of her own fears by the end of the story. Not only does she make peace with Luca's desire to live his own life, she allows him to take a train to Genova to go to "human school" with Giulia. Though sometimes shrill and reactive, Daniela's worry and affection for her son, and her occasional warmth, make up for it.

6. Lorenzo Paguro

Quieter and calmer than wife Daniela, you might think of Lorenzo Paguro (voiced by Jim Gaffigan) as, essentially, "the less involved parent." That's not to say this fully-grown sea monster doesn't care for his son, but contrasting his thoughtful, hands-off attitude to Daniela's active and worry-filled approach to childrearing, it sometimes feels like he's just along for the ride.

Daniela is the clear head of the house, and throughout the narrative, Lorenzo defers to her in all matters of parenthood — even when he has reservations about her rash decisions. This is most apparent during the scene in which Luca meets Uncle Ugo, as Lorenzo voices his reluctance regarding their chosen mode of discipline and questions whether sending their kid to the depths of the Deep is really the right call. Notably, he doesn't spend much time arguing against the idea, and when Luca inevitably runs away to avoid such punishment, Lorenzo continues to follow Daniela's lead, helping her traumatize hordes of human children by dousing them in water.

The easygoing Lorenzo, who comes across as a gentle father of few words, is less reactive and prone to anger than his partner. He still frets over Luca's wellbeing, but he's almost immediately willing to reevaluate their current methods of parenting. Ultimately, it's this more relaxed nature, a soft but fatherly concern, that makes him so endearing — as well as his passion for raising prize-winning crabs.

5. Grandma Paguro

Though often described as Grandma Paguro, this self-assured free-spirit is actually Daniela's mother, and filmmaker Enrico Casarosa has even taken to Twitter to say he's always imagined her last name to be Libera — after his own grandmother. Wise and observant, Grandma doesn't get much screen time, but fortunately, it doesn't take long to recognize her fun-loving attitude and sly appreciation for her grandson's wanderlust. 

Aware of (and perhaps also relating to) his differences, she does her part to secretly encourage Luca's rebellion, exhibiting distinct satisfaction when he breaks away from his stifled upbringing to embrace his more adventurous side. Sure, she might be higher up on this list if she'd actually talked to Luca about the world beyond their little corner of the sea rather than just quietly indulging him, but she still played an important part.

Luca's grandma is the most supportive person in this family unit. Best of all, she has intriguing stories about the surface — like how she once beat a human man at cards. And the fact that she spends most of her weekends hanging out in Portorosso, among the human folk? Priceless.

All in all, Grandma Paguro/Libera is a joy to behold, and a big reason why "Luca" is one of the best animated films of 2021.

4. Massimo Marcovaldo

Strong, hulking, and full of grunts, Giulia's father (voiced by Marco Barricelli) intimidates most of the people around him — and the boys are no exception. When they first meet this gruff fisherman, who wields knives with expert-level skill, chops the heads off dead fish carcasses, and actively hunts for sea monsters to impale with one of his many harpoons, the boys are understandably horrified. That horror only deepens when Massimo spins a tale about a sea monster devouring his missing limb — before revealing that he "came into the world" with one arm and showcasing his sense of humor.

Underneath that steely exterior, there's great tenderness. In fact, he even becomes something of a father figure to Alberto, a relationship explored further in the "Ciao Alberto" short. Massimo also represents inclusivity, a reminder that a character's disability doesn't have to define him; it's just part of who he is.

Massimo's love for his children — biological and honorary — defines the character. Ultimately, even with Machiavelli perched on his shoulder and glaring out at the world around them, Massimo is a big softie who just wants to see these kids succeed — one who's willing to help them in any way he can, and who's filled with pride when he sees them overcome their own obstacles. That, in a nutshell, is what makes him such a likable "Luca" character.

3. Alberto Scorfano

Fellow sea monster Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer) spends most of his time on land. In fact, when Luca meets him, he appears human, dressed in his diving suit and scrounging for discarded treasures on the seafloor. At first, Luca finds himself intimidated. In no time, however, he is captivated by Alberto's enticing life of freedom and independence, and the two dream of traveling the world together on a Vespa.

With a rich imagination and veneer of overconfidence, this playful troublemaker charms both Luca and the audience, even — perhaps especially — when it becomes clear that he's not as tough or knowledgeable as he presents himself, like when he tells an enraptured Luca how he sleeps underneath the fish (aka the stars) every night, or the revelation of why he lives in this tower all alone (his dad left him behind). His easygoing but reckless attitude helps balance out Luca's initial uncertainty, but a fear of abandonment begins to fracture their bond. Thankfully, Alberto manages to overcome his own insecurities, even helping secure Luca a train ticket to "human school," proving he's coming into his own, too.

Alberto is a charismatic, witty, and empathetic character (and one of the film's most likable); the father-and-son-like relationship that grows between him and the burly, lovable Massimo is one of the most endearing aspects of the film.

2. Giulia Marcovaldo

Daughter to Massimo and human friend to Luca and Alberto, the fiercely spunky Giulia (voiced by Emma Berman) knows who she is and what she wants. As a kid who only spends summers in Portorosso, she struggles with her own imposter syndrome, which includes a painful memory of last year's triathlon, where she was forced to quit because she couldn't stop throwing up. When she first meets the two sea monsters (disguised as humans), she's training for this year's race of biking, swimming, and pasta-eating, so the trio's decision to enter the contest as a team — so the boys can buy a Vespa and a determined Giulia can prove herself — seems only natural.

Giulia does exhibit some initial fear and prejudice against the boys upon learning who they really are, but notably, even when the revelation is fresh, she's more concerned for Luca's wellbeing than anything else, encouraging him to leave town for his own good. It also doesn't take long for her to pivot into a fiery ally, one unafraid of bullies like Ercole and willing to risk injury to protect her friends from harm after the rain exposes them as sea monsters (in a town full of people who hunt sea monsters).

This unabashed love of learning, coupled with a supportive nature and steely resolve, makes Giulia one of the most likable "Luca" fish in the sea.

1. Luca Paguro

Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) might just be a better version of Disney's Ariel than The Little Mermaid herself. This young sea monster yearns to go to the surface not because he thinks he loves a human he's never actually spoken to, but because he's a curious soul with a hunger for adventure. Having learned, via his overprotective parents, to be fearful of the world above, Luca finds himself in constant awe over all his new experiences, excited to have two new friends to help him figure out who he is as he comes of age.

Bright and endearing (if also a wee bit bumbling), Luca forms easy bonds with the people around him — from Grandma Paguro (who quietly encourages his wanderlust) to Alberto (who helps break him out of his shell) to Giulia (who shares his love of learning). A relatable people-pleaser, Luca initially abides his parents' rules despite that desire to explore the world, and plans to stay by Alberto's side despite his interest in going to "human school" with Giulia to learn about stars, solar systems, and galaxies. Although he briefly succumbs to his fear of exposure, betraying a newly-revealed Alberto in an effort to hide his own truth, he redeems himself by defending his friend while in sea monster form. We'd all be lucky to have such a friend.