‘I Believe You Have My Stapler’ – Top Five Reluctant Heroes

To complement tomorrow’s release of THE HOBBIT on Blu-ray and DVD, we thought we would wander through the vast film archives here at THN Manor, in search of some cautious souls who, kindred to the beloved Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), have been thrust into the face of adversity. It is often these struggling characters who we relate to more than the archetypal flawless hero, so join us as we settle in under our metaphorical duvet of warm nostalgia.


Peter (Ken Foree) – Dawn of the Dead (1978)

When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.’

George A. Romero’s follow up to the cult hit, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), sees the zombie epidemic on the rise. It focuses in on a new set of survivors led by Roger (Scott H. Reiniger) and Peter, two SWAT team members who help their fellow strugglers set up a makeshift fort in a shopping mall.

Peter (aka Kenan Rockmore’s dad) expertly dispatches both the living and the dead in order to protect the group’s new home, but seriously contemplates blowing his own brains out as the horde close in. In fact, in the original script, he pulled the trigger. It was only during production it was decided Foree’s troubled hero would fight on after his inner struggle. The version of DOTD that did prevail still ends with deliciously bittersweet ambiguity, and is arguably the greatest zombie film ever made, thanks in no small measure to Romero and his morbidly fascinating protagonist.

Snake Plissken

Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) – Escape From New York/L.A. (1981/1996)

‘I don’t give a f*ck about your war… or your president.’

Kurt Russell has portrayed some of the world’s most admired and amusing characters over the years, but Plisskin takes the [insert delicious snack food here]. Set in the future (1997!), human civilisation has imploded – as we all knew it would – to the point where New York has been turned into a maximum security prison. When the US President’s (Donald Pleasance) plane crashes in Manhattan, Snake, a convicted bank robber, is offered his freedom in exchange for his retrieval of the bumbling buffoon, as well as a secret cassette tape. Seeing no better alternative, he stoically accepts.

Snake is an atypical eighties action hero in many ways, but his sexy eyepatch, sardonic witticisms and general apathy have earned him the adoration of millions. He was so awe-inducing, that most people (including myself) lapped up his return in ESCAPE FROM L.A. too, despite it essentially being the exact same film.

Tom Welles

Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) – 8MM (1999)

‘I’ll never get tired of hurting you, Eddie!’

Not many careers have hit as many dizzying highs and head-scratching lows as that of The Rage Cage. 8MM is an underrated addition to his canon that sees him take on the form of a private investigator, who finds himself out of his depth when a woman pays him to investigate the origins of a snuff film she finds.

Welles slowly falls apart and away from his family throughout his journey, but despite his severe hatred of the case and the effects it is having on him, his stubbornness and morality will not allow him to stop. Culminating in a genuinely terrifying scene where he confronts the “star” of the film, Welles’ macabre misadventure is unlike any other you’re likely to see.

Milton Waddams
Milton Waddams (Stephen Root) – Office Space (1999)

The ratio of people to cake is too big.’

The strange and wonderful Milton is the only character here to not be the main protagonist in his respective film; a quality which is mirrored in his seemingly meek and fearful demeanour. Mike Judge created the office lackey for a series of short films he created, before writing him into the critically acclaimed comedy, which satirises the typical office work environment.

Milton continually receives abuse from his superiors before gradually becoming enraged and putting pay to his oppressors in the most unlikely and spectacular of ways. He leaves an indelible mark on our hearts as he succeeds in achieving what many of us will only ever fantasize about doing; revolting against those elitist parasites.

Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) – Winter’s Bone (2010)

Kill me I guess.’

Before Hollywood came knocking, Jennifer Lawrence shone in this grim drama about a teenage girl who goes in search of her despised deadbeat father, when the house she lives in is marked for repossession as part of his bond. With her mother and young siblings depending on her, she begins to question the locals and even her own family, but is met with a wall of silence. This is when she must take matters into her own hands.

Despite struggling to live on the breadline and having the added burden of a stigmatised family name to defend, Ree shows courage, determination and composure in what is a truly harrowing tale.

Honourable Mentions: John McClane (Bruce Willis) – DIE HARD TRILOGY, Shaun (Simon Pegg) – SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) – THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.   

THE HOBBIT is released on Blu-ray and DVD across the UK Monday 8th April.

Source: IMDB

Martin has been a film buff (or geek, if you prefer) for as long as he can remember. However, he lives and longs for storytelling of all kinds, and writes across numerous mediums to feed his insatiable appetite. He lives in north-west London, and his favourite films are, possibly: PAN'S LABYRINTH, THEY LIVE, PSYCHO, HIGH FIDELITY, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, STAND BY ME, SIDEWAYS and OFFICE SPACE.


  1. bfg666

    April 10, 2013 at 6:36 am

    How could you possibly have failed to include Sam Lowry from Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece Brazil?

  2. Martin Daniel McDonagh

    April 13, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Embarrassingly, I haven’t even seen it (don’t tell anyone), though I have read about it. In my defence though, I have seen most of Gilliam’s canon. I think Jeliza-Rose from his disturbingly engrossing drama TIDELAND would have been a solid addition too.

    Thank you for the feedback. It is much appreciated… I’m off to watch BRAZIL!

  3. bfg666

    April 14, 2013 at 3:20 am

    Gilliam has been one of my gods since the days of Monty Python’s Holy Grail and most of his movies are among my all-time favourites. Of course, Tideland is high on the list, largely because of Jodelle Ferland’s precocious talent. It’s a shame we don’t see more of her, really.

    It’s safe to say that many of Gilliam’s lead characters fall into the category of the reluctant hero, most notably Parry (Robin Williams) from The Fisher King and Cole (Bruce Willis) from 12 Monkeys, the template of them all being of course the aforementioned Sam Lowry.

    By the way, his next movie (The Zero Theorem, set to release this december) seems to have a lot in common, thematically speaking, with both Brazil and Doug Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Yummy! Check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Zero_Theorem

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