When pondering my entry for the Top Five contest, my mind swelled with heavy thought. Not of who I would consider to grace the list, that part I knew immediately. Instead, I found myself deep in nostalgia, amazed at the varied reasons why each character was there. In fact, the reasons for each selection are as different as the characters themselves. With that being said, if you happen to be honoring this article by reading it, I ask you not to pass judgement on the quality of my choices, but instead look towards my motivations for making them. In doing so, I would all but guarantee that you will assemble a top five as befitting to you as this is to me.
5. R2-D2, Star Wars
The characters of the original Star Wars all operated with unwavering bravery in the face of incredible odds (with the possible exception of C-3PO, and even he had his moments of glory). However, I would challenge anyone to find a character within the Star Wars universe, and indeed across all of the Sci-Fi genre, with a bravery-in-the-face-of-adversity ratio as high as that of R2-D2. He's small, relatively immobile, has little offensive capability, and cannot communicate without the help of 3PO or the X-Wing's on board software. Yet in spite of all of this, he never shies away from the action, ever. He gets beaten up and broken down in literally every movie. Every one! A blast from a TIE fighter in episode four, crash landing and being swallowed alive by a swamp monster in five, and getting his systems fried at the blast door in six. No other character gets stomped on as frequently as R2, but he never throws in the towel. He is the epitome of fearlessness. Even at four years old, watching the original series for the first time, I can remember how impressed I was at his tenacity. I remember the first time I realized that if it hadn't been for R2, the main characters would've never made it out of the trash compacter room, and then in episode five wouldn't have escaped cloud city if he hadn't fixed the hyper drive. Such a small guy yet so tough, and so vitally important to his entire space family. You may write his behavior off as simple programming, that he does all this because that's how he was designed. To that I pose the following question: When 3PO tells R2 to "let the Wookie win" after Chewbacca freaks out during the space chess game, do you honestly think R2 was the least bit scared? I don't, and it's because of his unwavering bravery that he graces my top 5.
4. Agent Smith, The Matrix
From Sci-Fi's bravest, we now move on to Sci-Fi's baddest. Among all the horrible, terrible, gruesome people to be labelled bad guy in the genre, few are as thought provoking as Smith, and it is that provocation that puts him in my top five. Since most of his power is only present within the matrix (the only time he escapes he's basically a normal human), one could argue that he is simultaneously one the most and least powerful villains in all of storytelling. He is a god, but only within the computer program he calls home. The intrigue of Agent Smith goes even deeper when you think about the story and philosophy of The Matrix. It is revealed during the trilogy that Smith is the matrix's response to Neo, a way for the system to keep itself balanced. And when Neo meets the Architect, he discovers that there were five other "The Ones" before him, meaning that their were also five other versions of Smith. This is where it gets interesting. The previous five versions of Neo all chose to restart Zion and end themselves. In doing so, their versions of Smith would have also been terminated, because as we learned at the trilogies climax, (SPOILER) when one dies so does the other. Which means that because Neo chose to return to the Matrix and save Trinity, he allowed Smith to live and grow so powerful that it threatened the Matrix itself. The matrix's fail safes were it's own demise. It is a classic, albeit complex example of the theory that those who attempt to achieve complete control wind up losing control completely, and none of it would've been possible without Agent Smith.
3. Motoko Kusanagi, Ghost in the Shell
For the 3rd entry, we will be staying within the computer sci-fi sub genre with my favorite anime, Ghost in the Shell. While Smith and The Matrix made their entry because they provoked thought, Kusanagi and GITS make their entry because they provoke beauty. Now please do not be mistaken, Kusanagi did not make my list because of attractiveness. She may have had I written this article 15 years ago, but now I speak of a different kind of beauty. There are many factors that go into deciding what anime I like the best, the quality of the animation being among them. And there is no anime I have seen that had the dedication to beautiful animation that GITS did. Every movie and episode is stunning. The colors, the details, the movements, everything! From the very first time I saw Major Kusanagi, wearing vivid bright purple with her hair blowing in the wind the way actual real world hair would, I knew this anime was going to be a winner. Others just seemed inferior by comparison. Little did I know that the story was going to be just as beautiful and detailed as the animation. Kusanagi's story is by far the most stunning part of her. A young girl paralyzed after a horrible accident, has her entire being downloaded into a prosthetic body, and winds up becoming the greatest cyber hacker the world had ever seen. So good in fact, that she (SPOILER) is able to survive being shot in the head by downloading her entire conscience onto the internet and live amongst the data until her body is restored. Is that not beautiful? That's freakin' beautiful.
2. Wolverine, Marvel Comics
I do find it odd that as a comic book nerd, writing an entry for a comic book themed contest, I only have one entry that is an actual comic book character. That being said, Wolverine is definitely the most deserving of a spot on my list for one reason and one alone. He's totally badass. Whenever a discussion of "who is the most powerful comic book character" is started, everyone will have a different answer for a different reason. However, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't agree that Wolverine should at least be part of the conversation (yes, I know he just died in the comics, lets move on). I believe most people would include him because of our own vulnerabilities. Everyone at some point in their lives has to struggle with a physical or mental ailment, so when we read of a character who has the power to survive anything, only one thought comes to mind. Badass. Everything about Wolverine is awesome. Being alive since before the civil war? Awesome. Was present at and survived the bombing of Nagasaki? Awesome! Had indestructible metal alloy surgically grafted to his entire skeletal structure, including a set of razor sharp claws? AWESOME! Even his recent demise, (SPOILER) being smothered in a bath of liquid adamatium while successfully saving a group of kidnap victims and stopping the mad man that created him, is so badass that it boggles the mind. It is a simple reason for including someone on the list but a great reason nonetheless. In my humble opinion, Wolverine is the most awesome character to have ever been created. He needs no other reason make my top five. He's that badass.
1. Winston Smith, 1984
While Wolverine's inclusion on the list was for a very simple reason, my last entry has reasons which are far more complex. I will try to sum it up this way, Winston Smith's plight was deeply and inexplicably emotional. I had to read 1984 for high school english, and I despised required reading. 1984 was the lone exception. I very rarely become emotionally engaged when I read, so for 1984 to almost bring me to tears was a very novel experience for me. I can think of very few instances, and certainly not another while I was in high school, when I had an emotional attachment to a fictional character. I wanted him to win more then anything in the world. I wanted to see him tear Big Brother down and live happily ever after with Julia. So (SPOILER) when he was trapped in the room with a big rat strapped to his face, and in a sign of ultimate defeat cried out to have them do it to Julia instead, I found myself having to put down the book and recover from what I had just read for the very first time. For a character to bring out that kind of emotion in the reader is a sign of something truly special, and therefore, Winston Smith is the only one worthy of the top spot on my list.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did pondering it. These characters are symbols of that which I find important, bravery, thought, beauty, emotion, and just being awesome (Wolverine!!). Find whats important to you, and your top five will be as obvious to you as mine was to me.