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The 10 Best Heroes From John Carpenter Films, Ranked By Likability

Considering the fact that Michael Myers of Halloween is still stalking the big screen over four decades after he first appeared, it is obvious that John Carpenter has a knack for creating terrifying villains. However, the heroes of his films have often been just as memorable as the foes that they fought onscreen.

Whether they were in alien horrors like The Thingor action epics like Escape From New York, Carpenter’s characters are a highlight of his amazing filmography. Even though his heroes have universally been great, some are much more likable than others.


10 John Trent – In The Mouth Of Madness (1994)

John Carpenter In The Mouth Of Madness Horror Movie

John Carpenter went in a different direction in the 1990s, after dominating the 1980s with a series of fantastic hits. In the Mouth of Madness follows an insurance investigator who looks into claims that an author’s horror novels had driven its readers mad. Traveling to a small town, the man soon learns that he himself is living a novel nightmare.

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John Trent, played by Sam Neill, isn’t necessarily a hero in the traditional sense. While Carpenter had his fair share of action characters, Trent is a hero by being forced into a horrific situation. As a character though, Trent is somewhat pompous and arrogant in the face of very serious claims. Like a lot of classic horror setups, the story of In the Mouth of Madness is essentially one big comeuppance for its main character.

9 Dr. Loomis – Halloween (1978)

It is difficult to overstate the importance of Halloween, and it is still considered one of the best slasher films of all time. Over decade after killing his older sister, Michael Myers escapes from custody and returns to the sleepy town of Haddonfield Illinois to continue his Halloween night massacre.

Though the film centers mostly on the innocent teen babysitter Laurie Strode, Dr. Loomis anchors the movie as a memorable side character. Loomis served as Myers’ personal doctor for years, and he thinks he knows the man’s mind inside and out. While he is determined to stop the killer, his methods are somewhat suspect and he makes it a personal crusade. His intentions may be good, but he showed he was willing to walk over others to achieve his goal.

8 Jack Crow – Vampires (1998)

Jack Crow looks on from Vampires

Though mostly known as a horror film director, Vampires showed that Carpenter could blend elements of both action and horror together. The film follows a group of vampire hunters that are dispatched by the Vatican to recover an important relic before it falls into the hands of vampires.

Jack Crow is a typical Carpenter action hero, and is a gruff, no-nonsense operator. Played by James Woods, Crow seems at times to be just as off-the-rails as the vampires that he hunts down. This inaccessibility though, also makes him somewhat unlikable as he goes about his business with very little personality. Crow wants to beat his enemies, but he gives the audience very little reasons to like him as a person.

7 Snake Plissken – Escape From New York (1981)

Snake Plissken in Escape from New York.

After scaring the pants off of the world in the late 1970s, John Carpenter then delivered one of the best action films of the 1980s with Escape from New York. After the U.S. President crash lands in a demilitarized New York City, ex-con Snake Plissken is sent in to rescue him.

From the outset, Snake lets the military men know exactly what he thinks of them and their president. His foul mouthed refusal to submit to authority scores him major points in the likability scale, even if he is a standoffish man. While cool under pressure, Plissken is also a loner and offers viewers very little of his personality to decide whether they like him or not.

6 Nada – They Live (1988)

They Live (1988) by John Carpenter

Political commentary is nothing new in John Carpenter films, but They Live delivered a heaping helping of it. After wandering into Los Angeles, a homeless drifter finds himself in the middle of an alien conspiracy that is revealed through a pair of special sunglasses.

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The film They Live is a fun action and Sci-Fi romp with an interesting alien concept, and it has a lot to say about the U.S. during the Reagan administration. Its hero, Nada, is an intentionally blank character that really comes to life when given a chance. The audience comes to like Nada slowly over the course of the movie, and by the end, he has become a full fledged and relatable hero.

5 Stevie Wayne – The Fog (1980)

Adrienne Barbeau in The Fog 80

Like a lot of Carpenter’s films, The Fog is an ensemble piece that gives viewers a lot of characters to latch onto. One hundred years after a ship mysteriously sank off the coast of a sleepy town, a dense fog rolls in that contains the ghosts of the drowned sailors who are out for revenge.

Scream queen Adrienne Barbeau embodies the role of Stevie Wayne, a local radio host who splits her time as a single mom with her time on the air. While there are several heroes in the film, Stevie is the one with the most life, and the most to lose as the fog separates her from her son. Wayne is fun and relatable, and she pines for a normal life that is being interrupted by the slow moving horror of the film.

4 R.J. MacReady – The Thing (1982)

After revolutionizing horror in Halloween, Carpenter did it again in his claustrophobic fright fest The Thing. Set on a remote Antarctic research base, a group of scientists are besieged by an alien menace that takes the form of whoever it has assimilated.

Acting as the audience’s introduction to the story, helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady is a fish-out-of-water amongst his scientific contemporaries. His no-nonsense approach helps to cut through the paranoia, even if his methods are somewhat barbaric. MacReady is a likable character because he steps up to do what needs to be done, even as unspeakable horror unfolds all around him.

3 Jenny Hayden – Starman (1984)

Carpenter’s films aren’t particularly emotionally complex, but his cult classic Sci-Fi film Starman proved that he was capable of delivering a heartfelt story. When an alien being takes the form of her dead husband, a woman decides to drive the alien across the country to his departure point in Arizona.

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Jenny’s journey is two-fold. First is the action driven plot of getting Starman across the country and away from the government agents. However, her real journey takes place on the inside and is her coming to grips with the loss of her husband. Jenny’s likability comes from her relatability, and how the audience can relate to her difficulties in dealing with grief.

2 Jack Burton – Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

The best John Carpenter films often have a sly sense of humor, and blend elements of several genres together. Big Trouble in Little China follows a rugged truck driver named Jack Burton who accidentally finds himself in the middle of a supernatural war beneath the streets of Chinatown.

Burton is one of the strangest Carpenter heroes, and his over-the-top personality is as goofy as it is likable. Obviously over his head, Burton tries to maintain his status as an action beef-cake, but quickly finds that he is outmatched. Kurt Russel’s brilliant performance breathes life into the character, and makes him likable in a silly way, without having Burton come off as cocky or arrogant.

1 Laurie Strode – Halloween (1978)

Halloween has taken its place as a part of popular culture for a lot of reasons. Not only is the film extremely well made, but the blank faced villainy of Michael Myers has inspired generations of knife wielding baddies in movies. However, the film would not have worked as well if there also wasn’t an extremely likable protagonist to give it a fine balance.

Laurie Strode is a typical American teenager, though her friends are partiers, she’s somewhat square and does the right thing. Even when besieged by an unstoppable murderer, she protects the kids that are left in her charge, and she fights back valiantly against Myers. Audiences can see themselves in her position, and they sympathize with her plight, unlike a lot of other slasher movie fodder.

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