The 6 Best Movie Character Names Of 2013 So Far

expendables 2 610 The 6 Best Movie Character Names Of 2013 So Far

What’s in a movie character name? In some cases, it can be quite a lot. It’s a common practice for writers to assign character names that are allusions to previous works of film or literature, signalling some kind of connection between their work and the work they aspire to be like, and all in all being generally pretentious and pedantic. I can get into this if it’s done well and serves a respectable purpose. The character names I enjoy the most, though, are the ones that are more than anything a pleasant combination of sounds, with the actual sense of the name playing a secondary role of importance.

It’s kind of like song lyrics that make absolutely no logical sense but fit with the music so well that we cheerfully sing the hell out of them anyway, and they make some sort of emotional and musical sense to us; they please the ear. In the case of movies, very often the most interesting function of names assigned to various characters is the insight they provide into the screenwriter’s (or whoever invents a given name to a character) psyche and intentions. One of my favorite examples in recent years is the name of the Jason Statham character in the Expendables movies: Lee Christmas. Paired with the other names in the movie—Barney Ross, Yin Yang, Toll Road, Hale Caesar—you pretty much know exactly the type of movie you’re in for.

Here are 6 character names just from 2013 so far that are pretty much perfect for the movies they’re featured in.

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6) Cypher Raige

After Earth2 The 6 Best Movie Character Names Of 2013 So Far

There were plenty of weird little details in M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth, from the “futuristic” accents to the fact that action movie star Will Smith is bound to a seat for pretty much the entire film to everything Jaden Smith says and does. But for all the aspects that didn’t work for me (some people dug it—power to them), two things did: the whole premise of this kid essentially losing his father and having to support himself and overcome his fears, and then the name of the family—Raige.

On one level the names are awkward, possibly even ridiculous. And that’s not even considering the famous Star Wars progressive logic stating that fear leads to anger and anger to hate, and these characters who are supposed to be overcoming fear carry with them a surname that sounds like rage. I’m sure there’s a way to satisfactorily rationalize that. But it’s the name Kitai that Jaden Smith is assigned, and Will Smith’s repeated use of the name in addressing his son and the accent he says it with, that almost sums up the movie. It’s an interesting premise, and probably works on paper, but something about the way it looks and sounds just feels slightly off. Like, more than it was probably intended to. The name Cypher Raige seems cooler, maybe because it reminds me of the dude from The Matrix, maybe because it sounds like he should be a pro wrestler.

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5) Burt Wonderstone

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone The 6 Best Movie Character Names Of 2013 So Far

I can’t help but think The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is one of those comedies that will be received more positively in the years to come, the way many absurdly comic movies tend to be. It’s not a film that works best on its comedic set pieces the way movies like The Hangover are designed to do. It does have these but they aren’t nearly as enjoyable as just the oddly funny details scattered throughout, and the simple pleasure in seeing Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi acting silly.

This begins with the introductions we receive to these childhood friends, from the opening where they’re revealed as Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton, two of the most wonderfully contrived magic duo names. The stereotypes and stupidity combined with the straightness both Carell and Buscemi employ here result in an absurd collision of forces that I couldn’t help but relish. The biggest surprise in their relationship comes when we see them as kids, and the two child actors who play them are absolutely perfect in tone and demeanour, a rare thing from kids in comedy (the benchmark for this category is probably Modern Family. Oy). All I knew about this movie going in was that it was Steve Carell playing a magician named Burt Wonderstone and I was sold. The contributions of Buscemi and Jim Carrey were icing.

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4) Alien

Spring Breakers1 The 6 Best Movie Character Names Of 2013 So Far

He’s been one of the most memorable characters in any movie this year, and so it seems appropriate that he would have a single, unforgettable, idiosyncratic name to go with him. It serves him well in a number of ways in terms of story and the overarching themes of the movie. Alien could describe the fact that he’s seemingly the only white gangster in this predominantly black Floridian crime underworld. It could refer to his role as the character who steals away these girls to a world they’ve never been exposed to before. It could emphasize the notion that this escape that is supposed to be spring break is another world entirely, alien even to the popularized images of what people picture when they think of spring break.

It could be an allusion to the idea that the James Franco character is playing the role of the tempter, the Satanic figure trying to lure relatively innocent figures into the hellish world he inhabits. It could also just refer to the fact that we’ve never seen Franco behave on film quite like this ever before, in what has to be his single best performance. He really seems like a completely different person here, more than any other film I’ve seen him in. But it might simply boil down to the fact that this is a weird movie, he’s a weird dude, and the name is suitably weird. Either way, it’s awesome.

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3) Trevor Slattery

041012 ben kingsley iron man 3 The 6 Best Movie Character Names Of 2013 So Far

Are Iron Man 3 spoilers fair game yet at this point? If you don’t think so, and you want to preserve your unspoiled first viewing of the movie, do skip this page. Because the big reveal of Shane Black’s take on the Iron Man story is a doozy, an outrage to many comic fans familiar with The Mandarin character and a pleasant surprise to folks like me who were unfamiliar with the source material for the character and frankly found it to be potentially problematic and borderline offensive. Learning that he’s a Brit merely playing the role of The Mandarin, literally an actor by the name of Trevor Slattery, suddenly makes this all ok.

They probably could not have picked a better name for a mild mannered British actor aside from literally naming him Ben Kingsley or perhaps Wesley Snipes (because as 30 Rock brilliantly pointed out, if you didn’t know the actor, would you think the name Wesley Snipes sounds more like a ripped black guy or a small, white British man?). It’s cool in itself that The Mandarin was turned into this figure who was actually playing off of people’s irrational and racist fears rather than the embodiment of that ignorance, and giving his portrayer the name Trevor Slattery drove that point home. Cheers to you, Mr. Black.

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2) Stacker Pentecost

Pacific Rim 3 The 6 Best Movie Character Names Of 2013 So Far

Yes, the man who announced the apocalyptic cancellation memo in Pacific Rim has to possess one of the most epic-sounding and ridiculous names in one of the most epic and ridiculous movies of the year. Stacker Pentecost could easily be listed alongside Barney Ross and Lee Christmas in The Expendables without seeming the slightest bit out of place. It somehow gives him an air of authority, almost a religious aura, mixed with a dose or two of badassery.

Idris Elba doesn’t exactly need a big, tough name to give him any more gravitas than he can muster on his own, but Stacker Pentecost is enough of a departure from Stringer Bell to give off a slightly more monumental impression while maintain all the intensity and focus. But ultimately, like the rest of Pacific Rim, as much as I like it, I’m not sure I get why it’s there.

I mean, I enjoy it, it’s fairly awesome, but compared to other people, I wasn’t over the moon for it. I kept wanting it to mean something or to have some greater effect to make up for the stiff acting and general excess. I may not have been nostalgic enough, or may have just missed the point entirely, and was too busy thinking about how I want to have a son named Stacker Pentecost except not because that would be irresponsible and a weird reference to a movie I didn’t even like much.

Maybe someone else could explain to me what the hell it means, if anything, because I have no bloody clue.

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1) Neckbone

mud mcconaughey The 6 Best Movie Character Names Of 2013 So Far

Of all the character names I’ve come across this year so far, the most odd-sounding of all has to be the one found in Jeff Nichols’ Mud. And it’s not even the title character’s name (which is literally Mud), that fits the texture of the movie in the most perfect way, nor gives a sense of place and culture and childhood identity quite like the sidekick of Ellis, the protagonist.

Ellis’s friend’s name is Neckbone. It’s another one of those elements of a film you just can’t explain, but it feels so well suited to the material in the strangest way. It has the sound of a nickname like Hayseed or Bronco but is even more backwoods sounding and less sensical. And it’s never explained, which again, is the right choice. It’s actually a movie full of good names, from Neckbone, to McConaughey’s Mud, to Reese Witherspoon’s character and object of Mud’s affection named Juniper, which like The Great Gatsby’s Daisy serves to illuminate her objectification by our hero.

Rarely do we get to see writers, and I assume it comes down almost exclusively to the screenwriters when we concern ourselves with character names, that play with language throughout their scripts the way that many allow themselves to play with names. Writers who are most celebrated for the poetry and playfulness of their dialogue, I’m thinking of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers here, tend to almost uniformly come up with perfect-sounding names for their characters. I suspect this is a result of having keen ears for sounds that fit together in a way that suits the tone you’re trying to set for your movie. Movies that feel like they’ve established a distinct and pervasive tone throughout usually also feature names that advance this general feeling. It’s one of the more difficult aspects of movies to qualify, but on some level at least, it’s impossible not to appreciate.

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  • Mr. J

    or franco could just been named alien because of the metallic theeth.