The core of any great story is the main character. The hero. What makes a classic is those that support our heroes. This can be achieved with moral, mental, or physical protection. Just as in life, nobody can do it alone. Whatever the achievement, large or small, everybody needs a person that supports them, particularly in these times. These are my Top 10 Supporting Characters. I have excluded literal sidekicks. Sorry Batman fans, no Robin showing up.
10. ‘Mercedes’ (“Pan’s Labyrinth”):
Director Guillermo Del Toro made his cinematic masterpiece with “Pan’s Labyrinth”, a fairy tale for adults. The story of a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is a mixture of tragedy and hope. Ofelia is thrust into an awful situation when her widowed mother marries the tyrannical fascist Spanish general Final (Sergi Lopez). He will stop at nothing to brutally kill anyone that is part of the WWII era resistance. Ofelia’s mother does not necessarily agree with the evil man but has married him because she is pregnant again and being with the powerful military man at the time can protect her children. Ofelia also finds out that she is a lost child of a king in an underground fantasy world full of unique creatures. While the titular ‘Pan’ character guides the girl through eerily strange fantasy sequences, it is the housemaid Mercedes (Maribel Verdu) that is the essential piece in protecting the innocent kid. Mercedes also has a brother in the resistance that she is leaking information to, putting her own life at risk. She will stop at nothing to protect Ofelia, even if it could cost her own life. The lullaby Mercedes sings to Ofelia, ‘Hum-hum-hum-hum-hum-hum-huuum.”, when all hope seems lost is nothing short of beautiful.
9. ‘Clarence’ (“It’s a Wonderful Life”):
No matter how bad things get, your life is just as valuable as every other person in the world. Taking your own life is never worth it, especially when you are the kind individual that is George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). Having lost everything other than his family, the businessman is at the end of his rope. Fortunately the gospel angel Clarence shows up just in time to remind George how important he has been to so many people in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Clarence shows up to highlight how suicide would be a dire mistake. George Bailey has meant so much to this small town, including saving a young girl from being accidentally killed by a drunk pharmacist, spending every penny to help his neighbors during the Great Depression, and somehow getting the woman of his dreams that was way out of his league. Sometimes we all must be reminded that we don’t suck. Fortunately for George Bailey, Clarence ‘Got his Wings’.
8. ‘A.J. MacInerney’ (“The American President”):
There is a difference between people in power who help society as opposed to wannabe dictators. Our current leader comes to mind. The biggest key is being surrounded by people who can tell you when you are being an idiot. Andrew Shephard (Michael Douglas) is a morally good man in “The American President”. But the job of being the leader of the free world ain’t easy. You need people to guide you in every stage of life. What better than your best friend. Martin Sheen is A.J., White House Chief of Staff second and moral compass first. The two men have wisdom and they can also battle each other when it is needed. Some leaders simply cannot take advice unless it’s praise (don’t get me started with Trump again). I’m uncomfortable with a leader that doesn’t have their own version of an A.J. in their life.
7. ‘Cosmo Brown’ (“Singin’ in the Rain”):
Everyday we should hope to wake up with a smile on our faces. Obviously that does not always happen. The greatest musical of all-time “Singin’ in the Rain” is the perfect example of pure delight that warms your heart. Gene Kelly runs the show, but his best friend Cosmo (Donald O’Conner) is the epitome of happiness. Cosmo is always there in support of his giant movie star best friend in both business as well as the minefield that is love. There is never a dull moment with Cosmo, particularly during his gut-bustingly hilarious ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ sequence when he puts his body through the cleaners. Anytime you feel depressed waking up, put on ‘Good Morning’ and Cosmo will have you smiling within a few minutes.
6. ‘Abu’ (“Aladdin”):
The street rat that is “Aladdin” had himself a fantastic cast of supporting characters throughout his adventures. A beautiful princess, completely insane blue genie, and a magic carpet with a mind of its own. But there was one sidekick that was there from the beginning, a quirky little monkey named Abu. Similar to the phrase ‘A dog is man’s best friend’, Abu is Aladdin’s homie no matter what. He helps with stealing food on the street to being skeptical of his owner’s falling for a rich princess and going after some mystical lamp. Sometimes Aladdin makes decisions that have the monkey shaking his head. But in the end, what can ya do. Abu will always be there for his pops.
5. ‘Samwise Gamgee’ (“The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy):
With all of the epic action in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, everything came down to two tiny hobbits throwing a tiny gold ring into a volcano. The hero ultimately was the little guy in Frodo (Elijah Wood) by taking on the burden of carrying the evil ring. But as we know, there is no chance he gets even close to saving Middle Earth without his best friend Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin). At the end of the first installment all of the powerful warriors and even a wizard can’t get it done so the two little guys take off and get the job done. Talk about a best friend that puts all other besties to shame. I mean Sam takes down a giant spider and battles through a castle full of orcs to save his friend, and they still have to climb a mountain on fire. Hey, guys with powers, where the hell were you?
4. ‘Oda Mae Brown’ (“Ghost”):
Let’s be real. Getting murdered sucks. Particularly when you don’t know why. That is just what happens to Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) as he is walking home late with his girlfriend on the streets of New York in “Ghost”. For reason’s not clear at first, Sam does not go into the afterlife, becoming a spirit with unfinished business. Still trying to figure out this new reality, the dead man stumbles upon Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg). Oda Mae is a B.S. psychic that preys on stupid people who believe that she speaks to the dead. All of the sudden Sam comes along and out of nowhere, yep, she can actually communicate with the dead. Understandably freaked out at the beginning, Oda Mae develops a relationship with Sam and reluctantly helps the ghost discover the plot behind his murder and tries to right the wrongs before he moves on. It doesn’t get much better when a companion that is a sleaze artist is willing to give up a four million dollar check to help you get to heaven.
3. ‘Wooderson’ (“Dazed and Confused”):
I don’t need to say it because we all know it, but I’m gonna say it anyways; “ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT.” Director Linklater’s breakout ode to youth culture in the 70’s “Dazed and Confused” was loaded with 90’s stars and helped launch several major careers. Just look up the cast list on iMDB and you will constantly be saying ‘oh yeah, that person’. The best to come out was the man, the myth, the legend, Matthew McCounaghey. It’s the last day of school in a Texas town in the summer of 1976. Crazy teenagers are ready to party. Joining them along the journey of going wild is Wooderson, a former student who never really grew up. The bloodshot-eyed deadbeat is a legend for the crew of teenagers. Wooderson does not mean anything negative, he simply just wants the party to never stop. He is one of those people that are so awesome, but of course in small doses. McCounaghey’s iconic line came from this but he also had so many other fabulous one-liners. Two examples; “YOU KNOW WHAT MAKES HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS SO GREAT? I GET OLDER AND THEY STAY THE SAME AGE.” Second; “YOU GOT ANY WEED?… WELL IT SURE WOULD BE A LOT COOLER IF YOU DID”. Wooderson is like if Snoop Dogg were a real person. A friend we all could use.
2. ‘Chewbacca’ (The “Star Wars” Saga):
Plenty of iconic characters in the “Star Wars” saga. No point in naming them all because you’ve probably played with the toys at some point. While by no means my favorite individual character in the series (Yoda is my boy!), the greatest side-kick ever is easily Chewbacca. For over 50 years actor Peter Mayhew has embodied the most reliable best friend one could ask for. The mercenary Han Solo (Harrison Ford) found his perfect partner in the Wookie speaking in growls that somehow everyone can understand. Think about it. Chewie has gone through every generation of “Star Wars” lore and the crossbow wielding hairy beast is still going strong. Even after his BFF Han bites the dust Chewbacca will never let the opposition beat him. When you attack the resistance, be afraid the moment you hear “GRUUUUUUUUGH”.
1. ‘Sean’ (“Good Will Hunting”):
I do not trust those that are perfectly good. I like flaws as well as want to learn from others flaws. In “Good Will Hunting”Matt Damon is a genius. The kid can do things mentally that most could not even fathom. Unfortunately he’s an orphan living in South Boston poverty with the chips stacked against him. A brilliant MIT professor stumbles upon his talents and opens up a world of possibilities. The professor is a metaphorical grade school student when it comes to attempting to achieve basic human happiness with the young man. Enter Sean (Robin Williams), a wise psychiatrist with several degrees who also grew up in the same poor circumstances. Will (Matt Damon) has gone through multiple therapists, court ordered, and instantly sees through their crap. A flaw of geniuses who can’t listen to criticism. Sean is not the mental equivalent of Will in the classroom, but he is equal culturally. Williams won a well deserved Oscar here, highlighted by a beautiful monologue next to a lake with Sean explaining to Will that he is still ‘Just a Kid’. As a stubborn person myself, finding and listening to the wisdom of genuinely kind older people is irreplaceable. That is what Sean is.