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Nope's Main Characters Ranked Worst To First

"Nope" is a thought-provoking sci-fi horror-comedy film from acclaimed writer-director Jordan Peele. It is the third film Peele has directed, after his critically-lauded debut "Get Out" in 2017 and its follow-up, the ambitious "Us" from 2019.

The cast of "Nope" includes Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Steven Yeun. The story follows two siblings -– the stoic OJ (Kaluuya) and free-spirited Em (Palmer) — who inherit a horse ranch in the middle of the Californian desert from their father Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) after he dies from a freak accident involving an object falling out of the sky. The horses are trained to appear in movies, but after their father's death, OJ and Em can't find work and are quickly running out of money. Meanwhile, it appears their horses are being stalked and abducted by an alien UFO, which gives Em the idea to take a picture of it to sell and save the ranch. Things get complicated by an over-enthusiastic Western theme park owner (Yeun), who tries to use the alien for his own purposes, others seeking the alien footage for themselves, and the malicious alien entity itself.

What really helps sell the movie are its interesting and complicated characters, with various conflicting motivations, interpersonal drama, and compelling backstories. This is especially true given how they help illuminate the various themes, ideas, and social commentary Peele presents in the film. With that in mind, here are the best –- and worst -– characters in "Nope."

11. Park's kids

One of the most harrowing horror sequences in "Nope" occurs when small grey-style aliens (think "The X-Files" or "South Park") stalk OJ in his barn one night. Of course, this is before the full plot twist has been revealed (that the flying saucer is actually an animal in and of itself, and there are no humanoid aliens in the film at all), so both OJ and the audience are on edge during this tense sequence.

However, at the end of the scene it is revealed that this was a prank from the children of Ricky "Jupe" Park (Steven Yeun), with all of them dressed up in silly alien costumes. It's also not entirely unjustified, as Em had stolen back horses they previously sold to Park's Western theme park.

While the sequence was very tense before the reveal, the costumes look pretty cheesy when focused on or properly lit. Furthermore, the kids have so little screentime between the prank and their death at the Western live show when the UFO eats them that it's hard to get much of a sense of them other than some rambunctiousness. Still, they are generally not much more than annoying, which puts them at the bottom of the list.

10. Ryder Muybridge

Towards the end of "Nope," when the protagonists are about to finally film the living alien saucer, a mysterious motorcycle rider with a camera shows up to mess everything up. The character is named Ryder Muybridge, played by actor Devon Graye, and is mainly memorable for how cool and mysterious he looks dressed in all black save for a Daft Punk-esque reflective chrome helmet.

In a certain sense, he's sort of like the Boba Fett of "Nope" in that he has a memorable introduction late in the movie but doesn't really do too much with his limited screentime before dying ignobly. In "Nope," Muybridge is a video "journalist" who works for TMZ and is chasing after footage of the alien as well. He is then killed pretty much immediately after he's introduced — even though OJ tries to save him — because the reporter is more interested in getting the shot above everything else, including his own safety.

Still, it is pretty funny that Muybridge has a deep, imposing voice but lets out a high-pitched yelp once the alien throws him off his electronic motorcycle in one of the more overtly comedic scenes in the film.

9. Angel Torres

Angel Torres, played by actor Brandon Perea, is essentially the third lead of the film "Nope" after OJ and Em. While the actor does a good job in playing what amounts to the film's comic relief, the character is unfortunately mostly grating and underwritten. Which is a shame and ultimately why he's so low on our list.

Let's start with the most egregious aspects of Angel's character. First off, he is introduced as a Fry's Electronics employee who's initially very rude to OJ and Em when they first arrive to buy surveillance equipment. He then gets really creepy and too forward about his relationship issues while on site to set up the equipment. However, the worst aspect of Angel might be the fact that he is way too intrusive, especially when it's revealed he's been spying on the Haywoods through the electronic equipment he installed for them. Furthermore, he's also way too clingy when he pushes to be part of the siblings' UFO filming plan.

Having said all that, he's not at the bottom of the list because, at the very least, he does indeed help the protagonists by letting them crash at his studio apartment when their home becomes too dangerous. He also risks his life at the end of the film to finally get the alien footage, so that's worth something.

8. Otis Haywood Sr.

Otis Haywood Sr. — the father of OJ and Em -– is the original owner of the Haywood horse ranch that his children take over after his death. Otis Sr. is played with the easy gravitas of classic character actor Keith David.  Unfortunately, the character doesn't get a lot of screen time in the film –- which is the main reason he's not higher on the list –- but David does his best with the limited time nonetheless. We eventually learn that the speech Em gives in her introduction about being related to the Black horse rider in arguably the first motion picture (which was also shown prominently in the first trailer) was actually written by Otis Sr., which Em obviously later memorized.

Furthermore, his death scene is one of the most memorable moments in the film. It begins with his dialogue with OJ about the future of the ranch when objects start falling randomly from the sky, bombarding the ground like bullets. Eventually, Otis Sr. is hit in the head with a quarter, killing him. 

However, Em also reveals that Otis Sr. was a bit sexist and wouldn't allow her to train the horses, instead focusing on mentoring OJ. This fact, coupled with his limited screen time (pretty much only in the opening and very brief flashbacks), is why he's placed relatively low on our list. Still, he remains a memorable character.

7. Antlers Holst

Michael Wincott is a prolific character actor who has played many memorable roles in films like "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" and "Strange Days," although he is probably best recognized as the villain Top Dollar in 1994's "The Crow." In "Nope" he plays the intense and arrogant Antlers Mount, a world-famous cinematographer who is eventually recruited to help OJ and Em capture the alien UFO on film after it is revealed that one of its powers is knocking out digital electronics like an extraterrestrial EMP.

Mount is introduced on OJ's first shoot alone with Em, which goes badly after one of their horses kicks the main actress. Later in the film, Em calls up Mount after finding his number on a call sheet. While initially dismissive, he's won over by to opportunity to film "the one perfect shot." He shows up to film the alien with his equipment and gets an amazing shot of the UFO, which he thinks isn't good enough due to the lighting. However, his pursuit of a better shot ultimately leads to his gruesome death. Mount's character drives home themes about the corrosion of ambition and possibly even veiled racism within the film industry due to Mount not wanting to get people of color credit (including Angel, who is Latino). This makes him an interesting character at the very least, if not necessarily an admirable one.

Beyond that, Wincott's chilling rendition of Sheb Wooley's novelty song "Flying Purple People Eater" is one of the most memorable moments in a film full of memorable moments.

6. Mary Jo Elliott

By far one of the most compelling sequences of the film "Nope" involves the rampage that occurs on the set of the cheesy early-2000s sitcom "Gordy's Home," which is a fake show in the fictional universe. In the snippets we see throughout the film, starting with the opening scene, a chimpanzee playing the part of Gordy on the aforementioned sitcom goes crazy and starts killing off the cast and crew in a violent and bloody rampage. There are two survivors of the attack -– Ricky "Jupe" Park (played in the flashback scenes by Jacob Kim, then later by Steven Yeun) and Mary Jo Elliott (Sophia Coto) the two child actors on the show.

When Mary Jo Elliott makes her appearance again towards the end of the film, we see that her face is ripped up and scarred from Gordy's attack. She was invited by her former co-star, Ricky, to witness his live show with the alien. Unfortunately, she's one of the victims who is taken up and chowed down by the living UFO. She might be the most tragic character in the film.

This whole subplot seems to be a reiteration of the film's metaphor about humanity trying (and failing) to control nature, which extends to the exploitation of animals in Hollywood that leads to tragedy. It also ties into the other themes of the films as well, such as the dangers that Hollywood places on actors and children. The compelling areas that Mary Jo Elliott help "Nope" explore -– and her memorable appearances -– help push her towards the top half of our list.

5. Gordy

Expanding on the horrors Mary Jo Elliott experienced on the set of "Gordy's Home" during the bloody rampage is the chimpanzee star who played Gordy himself. In the film, it is stated that the rampaging chimpanzee was one of three used to play the titular Gordy. However, in "Nope" there are no actual chimpanzees on set, and he was instead an entirely CGI creation played by a motion-captured Terry Notary.

Furthermore, the way Peele uses sound design to sell the intense violence of the attack, which was almost entirely off-screen, is top-notch filmmaking. In fact, the only real blood we see is on Gordy's face and hand after the violence, as we don't actually see him bite Mary Jo Elliott or kill the other cast and crew members — we just hear the noises and screams. That is until Gordy is tragically –- if understandably -– shot and killed by authorities.

Gordy is so high on our list because of how much emotion the CGI artists and Notary manage to imbue in the chimpanzee. The character displays anger, confusion, and even softness. Beyond that, Gordy plays a pivotal role in the interconnected themes of "Nope," such as animal cruelty, attempts at controlling nature, and the exploitative nature of Hollywood.

4. The Alien (Jean Jacket)

The alien design at the center of Jordan Peele's "Nope" is one of the more fascinating and creative concepts presented for an alien in a sci-fi film. While the alien's initial appearance is that of a classic '50s B-movie shiny silver flying saucer, it turns out that there's much more than meets the eye.

It turns out that the alien is actually a living, organic being in the shape of a flying saucer With no aliens piloting it whatsoever. The protagonists even dub the carnivorous alien "Jean Jacket," after a legendarily stubborn horse. Even more unique, instead of being made of some sort of metal, Jean Jacket is instead made to look like it is made out of silvery fabric. 

This could be based on the Roswell, New Mexico conspiracy theory, which states that the government covered up an alien ship crash during the Roswell Incident by saying it was just a weather balloon. Peele seems to have taken that idea and expanded upon it, with the film positing that an alien did crash on Earth but, due to its fabric skin, was mistaken for a weather balloon. Later, out of anger, Jean Jacket expands like an ethereal flower, showing its true monstrous –- but beautiful -– form.

The scenes involving the alien Jean Jacket are also genuinely scary and tense, with Peele making direct references and loving homages to a lot of Steven Spielberg classics like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Jaws," and "Jurassic Park." For these reasons and more, Jean Jacket makes it to the top half of this list.

3. OJ Haywood

Otis Haywood Jr. — aka OJ — is arguably the main protagonist of "Nope" and certainly a co-lead with his sister Em. OJ is played by David Kaluuya, who also starred in the director's debut feature film "Get Out." What's great about Kaluuya's performance as OJ is that it is completely different from his previous foray into horror. With OJ, Kaluuya imbues the character with a strong stillness, coupled with palpable social awkwardness, which makes him a believable and three-dimensional human character.

OJ is also incredibly perceptive and intelligent. He's the first to realize that the alien saucer is a living creature and even comes up with the plan to defeat it at the end. OJ also shows that he is brave, risking his life and his plan to save a random TMZ reporter who gets caught up in everything, as well as protecting his sister. However, OJ is at his most entertaining when he wisely says "nope" in the face of overtly dangerous situations to great deadpan comedic effect.

The only reason OJ isn't ranked higher on the list (despite being in the top three) is that due to his strong convictions and quiet integrity, he simply isn't as exciting as the top two. However, he remains a great character regardless!

2. Ricky 'Jupe' Park

Ricky "Jupe" Park, portrayed by Steven Yeun, is a fascinating and tragic character. Park's story in "Nope" starts a young child actor on the sitcom "Gordy's Home" when a chimpanzee playing the eponymous Gordy attacks, kills, and maims multiple members of the cast and crew one fateful day. However, not only is Park unharmed, but the chimpanzee is trained to give him a fist bump, which the rampaging ape does instead of hurting Park. This gives Park the false sense that he could manipulate and exploit nature to his will, which convinces him to lure the carnivorous alien for a live show. Sadly, this leads to tragedy, as the alien kills him, his family, Mary Jo Elliott, and the audience in attendance.

Park is probably the clearest encapsulation of the exploitative nature of trying to coerce animals and nature to perform for human entertainment and consumption. Whether it's television shows, movies, or live shows, this eventually leads to disaster in "Nope." First, it's the rampaging chimpanzee in "Gordy's Home," then it's the devastation resulting from Park's attempt to make the alien do his bidding.

However, besides Park's thematic importance to the film, he is also an interesting and complex character, thanks to a layered performance from Yeun. For instance, despite his overt exploitation of animals — including sacrificing horses to the alien — Park is still shown in a relatively positive light as someone who is struggling with both overcoming his trauma from the past and his need to somehow stay in the spotlight.

1. Em Haywood

When we're first introduced to Emerald "Em" Haywood — played exuberantly by Keke Palmer — she is ostensibly helping her brother OJ out with corralling the horses from their ranch for a commercial shoot, but mostly uses the opportunity to narcissistically self-promote herself. This causes an already wide rift between them to widen. The two siblings remain at odds until they discover their ranch is the home of a dangerous living flying saucer. Em then gets the idea to buy equipment and try to take a picture of the alien to sell and pay for the ranch, which has hit hard times since their father died.

The reason Em gets the top spot on this list is mainly due to Palmer's enthusiastic and vibrant performance, which contrasts well with Kaluuya's stoic take on OJ. She's fun, funny, and livens up every scene she's in. Furthermore, Em also has the most character development and growth throughout the film. She goes from being a selfish slacker to someone who risks her life for her family's legacy, ultimately making her the most dynamic character in the film.

On top of that, the "Akira" homage of her motorcycle slide during the climax is just awesome.