Hollywood produced a lot of movie icons since the early years of films!
Our grandparents could never forget the names Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Gene Kelly, Vincent Price, Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Jean Harlow, Cary Grant, Bette Davis, John Wayne, Mickey Rooney, Marilyn Monroe and many others.
And then during the final years of the golden age of films (50s – 60s), Hollywood introduced us to a new set of brilliant actors like Clint Eastwood, James Dean, Julie Andrews, Marlon Brando, Dick Van Dyke, Doris Day, Jerry Lewis, Elvis Presley, Steve McQueen, Warren Beaty, Paul Newman, Rock Hudson, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, William Shatner, Sandra Lee and dozens more.
But the true mark of being a Hollywood Movie Icon is actually making an imprint on a certain character that he or she has portrayed. Usually it’s the character that takes its shape or identity from the actor who portrayed it.
The portrayal of a character is so intensely popular or stupendous that we associate everything about it with the actor. And even after a long time, we still pattern our image of that character to the actor who has portrayed it. Both the role and the actor becomes iconic at the same time.
This phenomenon usually happens on series films or movies with sequels or many parts, but not necessarily.
If we take a look at the last five decades, you’ll see some really outstanding examples of new Hollywood Movie Icons and there are only a few of them around today.
Here are rainCHECK’s Top 15 new Hollywood Movie Icons of the Past 50 Years:
Harrison Ford – Indiana Jones (Indian Jones Series)
Let’s start with Harrison Ford. Born on July 13, 1942, Ford attained international fame for his role as Han Solo in the 1977 George Lucas Film Star Wars which spawned two more sequels. Han Solo is already an Iconic character during the 70s and 80s but the role that really got stuck with Ford is Indiana Jones in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark. The movie spawned three more films in the series with the latest being “The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull” filmed in 2008.
In the 90s, Ford got assigned another Iconic character in the person of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – but still it was Indiana Jones that made all the difference in his career.
Johnny Depp – Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribean Series)
Johnny Depp was born on June 9, 1963. He became a heartthrob in the late 80s after joining the television series 21 Jump Street. Depp has made a lot of films in the 90s starting with the Tim Burton masterpiece Edward Scissorhands, but it was playing the role of Jack Sparrow in the 2003 Pirates of the Caribean movie that made him one of the most endeared Hollywood Icon of the new millennium. Pirates of the Caribean spawned three more parts. Its fifth installment “Dead Men Tell no Tales” is scheduled to come out this year.
Aside from playing Jack Sparrow and Edward Scissorhands, Depp is also attached to four more iconic characters – Willy Wonka (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Ichabod Crane (Sleepy Hollow), Tonto (The Lone Ranger) and The Mad Hatter (Alice In Wonderland Series).
Christopher Reeve – Clark Kent (Superman Series)
Nothing could ever replace Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent or Superman. All the new Supermen like Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill were chosen for the part because they have something in common with Reeve.
Reeve was born on September 25, 1952 and died on October 10, 2004, nine years after he became quadriplegic because of an equestrian accident. Reeve became the Iconic Superman in 1978 – he then starred in three more sequels for the DC Superhero character. The last part may be the biggest movie flop ever but that can never take away Reeve from Superman.
Arnold Swarzenegger – Terminator – T-800/T-850 (Terminator Series)
Born on July 30, 1947, Arnold Swarzenegger won the Mr. Universe Title at the age of 20.
Known as one of the greatest body builder of all time, former California Governor Arnold got his first break in showbiz playing the role of Conan The Barbarian in 1982 and Conan The Destroyer in 1984. But the character that really got stuck with Arnold is his portrayal of the Terminator in 1984! One of the most successful action, sci-fi franchise, “The Terminator” has a total of 5 parts with him appearing in all of them.
He became one of the most prominent Iconic action movie actors in the world with a popularity that spanned for three decades with films like Commando, Predator, Total Recall, True Lies, Last Action Hero, and many others. And he’s still making action movies up to this date.
Bruce Willis – John McClane (Die Hard Series)
Bruse Willis is Detective John McClane in the action-packed franchise of Die Hard!
Born on March 19, 1955, Bruce didn’t set out to be an action star. He was more into drama and comedy during his early years in Hollywood getting the lead in the TV series Moonlighting opposite Cybill Shepherd.
His biggest break as an actor was starring in the 1988 Die Hard film together with the late Alan Rickman (Harry Potter/Alice In Wonderland). Die Hard has a total of five parts with the latest filmed in 2013 together with Jai Courtney.
Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter (Harry Potter Series)
Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter and Harry Potter is Daniel Radcliffe!
The British-born actor didn’t really started out at Hogwarts, he was, at 10, already acting at BBCs David Copperfield and then made his movie debut in the film “The Tailor of Panama” but it was his portrayal of the role of Harry Potter in the 2001 film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” that really made him who he is today.
Born on July 23, 1989, Radcliffe is still the young wizard we knew 16 years ago!
Keanu Reeves – Neo (Matrix Series)
Born on September 2, 1964, this Canadian actor made his Hollywood film debut in “River’s Edge” way back in 1986. Prior to going to Los Angeles, he was already doing theaters back home since the age of nine.
His biggest break however was starring in the 1989 comedy film “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” which captured an even more successful sequel in 1991 called “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.”
His Hollywood career took a wild roller coaster ride in the 90s with films like Point Break, Dracula, Speed, Devil’s Advocate, Johnny Mnemonic, Chain Reaction, and many others. The turning point however was the pre-millennium sci-fi movie MATRIX where he portrayed the role of Neo – and the rest, as they say, is a three-part history that will forever stick to Hollywood’s cinematic archives!
He’s still making ‘roller coaster’ films to date, most notable are Street Kings, 47 Ronin, Man of Tai Chi and John Wick. But NEO was his biggest still!
Robert Downey Jr. – Tony Stark (Iron Man Series)
He was an 80s star who’s career blossomed three decades after!
Robert Downey Jr. prior to wearing the Iron Man suit in 2008, was associated later in the 80s with one of the BratPacks. These group of actors ruled the 80s with lots of successful teen-oriented coming-of-age films like “The Breakfast Club”, “St. Elmo’s Fire”, “Pretty In Pink”, “Mannequin” and many others. The Bratpacks are mainly composed of Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy.
Later addition were Matt Dillon, Matthew Broderick, Sean Penn, Mary Stewart Masterson, John Cusack, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen, James Spader, Jon Cryer, Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, Jami Gertz, Mare Winningham, Kiefer Sutherland, and of course Robert Downey, Jr.
Robert Downey, Jr. appeared in the Bratpack categorized films “Weird Science (1985)”, “The Pick-Up Artist (1997)”, “Less Than Zero (1987)” and “Johnny Be Good (1988).”
Downey won a Best Actor Award for the 1992 film “Chaplin” and then disappeared for many years after going to state prison on drug charges. After his release, he joined the 2000 hit TV series “Ally Mcbeal” which earned him a Golden Globe award but put him back to prison again on another drug charge.
He was released again and immediately wen to work starring in the films “Zodiac” (2007) and “Tropic Thunder” (2008) before getting the role of Tony Stark in the 2008 Marvel film “Iron Man”. And he’s been wearing the Iron suit since then!
One thing’s for sure, Robert Downey, Jr. is indeed one of the greatest actor that Hollywood has produced in the past 50 years. He’s now 51 years old (April 4, 1965).
Wesley Snipes – Blade (Blade Series)
Speaking of iconic actors getting into trouble with the authorities, martial arts expert Wesley Snipes became one of the most successful action star of the 90s alongside other action heroes Arnold Swarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Steven Seagal, Antonio Banderas, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Jacky Chan, Nicholas Cage, Chuck Norris, Pierce Brosnan, Mel Gibson, Dolph Lundgren, Chow Yun-Fat, and many others.
His films include Passenger 57, Demolition Man, Money Train, US Marshals and of course, the BLADE series!
Born on July 31, 1962, Snipes established himself as the day-walking vampire BLADE before going to prison in 2010 for Tax Evasion charges.
Bruce Campbell – Ash (Evil Dead Series)
Born on June 22, 1958, Bruce Campbell attained international iconic status after doing the role of Ash Williams in the 1981 film The Evil Dead and its sequels Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992). He also appeared in the 2013 remake of the Evil Dead and starred in the TV Series “Ash Vs. The Evil Dead”.
Bruce will forever be the chain saw swinging Evil Dead hero Ash for as long as we live!
Linda Blair – Regan MacNeil (The Exorcist)
Speaking of Evil Dead, nothing scares the hell out of me than Linda Blair who played the possessed Regan MacNeil in the 1973 film “The Exorcist” where she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress at age of 14.
She may not have established a successful acting career after “The Exorcist” but she became the stuff of nightmares of kids and adults for so many years and her portrayal of the role of Regan has been the benchmark for all the other horror films that came out and will come out in the future.
Blair is now 57 (January 22, 1959).
Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson – Ghostbusters (Ghostbusters Series)
The 2016 “all-female cast” remake of the “Ghostbusters” further strengthened the fact that nothing could ever replace the original!
Bill Murray (Peter Venkman), Dan Aykroyd (Ray Stantz), Harold Raimis (Egon Spangler) and Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore) will forever be called the Ghostbusters. The film was released in June 1984 and its equally successful sequel in 1989.
They were the iconic comedy stars of the 80s.
In 1986, a television cartoon version of the movie was released called “The Real Ghostbusters” and another spin-off animated television series in 1997 called “Extreme Ghostbusters”. All patterned to the original 1984 film and its iconic characters.
Runners-up on this list are Sigourney Weaver as Ripley (Aliens Series), Sylvester Stallone as Rambo or Rocky (depends on your type of film), Matt Damon as Jason Bourne (Bourne Series), and a few more other iconic Hollywood characters that has lesser impact on the international arena.
Who do you think will be the GREAT HOLLYWOOD ICONS of the NEXT 50 years?
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