The 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years: Daniel Radcliffe on Harry Potter...and Eric Cartman

1105_coverEntertainment Weekly turns 20 years old this year. We don’t look a day over 10, do we? (The answer is yes, you snarky little whippersnapper!) We’ve had the pleasure of taking you behind the scenes of the most important and most entertaining stories pop culture has given us over the past two decades. Twin Peaks, The X-Files, The Simpsons, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, Titanic, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Spider-Man, Lost, Mad Men — all of these stories, and so many others, have given us iconic characters who feel as real and important to us as our own friends and family. So we decided to celebrate our milestone birthday with a double-sized issue devoted the 100 greatest characters of the past 20 years. You’ll find it on newsstands now.

We’re not giving away who took the top spot on our list (you’re welcome, spoiler-phobes), but we will tell you that No. 2 went to Harry Potter. Daniel Radcliffe, the talented young man who plays the movie version of Harry (yes, he is indeed a man now), talked to us about playing the big-screen wizard, as well as some of the other characters he loves. Among them: “Bart Simpson. The Simpsons in general is huge for me,” he says. “Oh, and Cartman from South Park, as well. I think of him as an anti-hero for the 21st Century. Everything he does is completely morally reprehensible, but for some reason you back him all the time!” Radcliffe is also a big fan of  certain comic book super-hero: “I was always unbelievably jealous of Tobey Maguire playing Spider-Man. I do think Spidey is the coolest of the superheroes.”

As for Harry Potter, Radcliffe has nothing but deep respect for the character that launched his career. He loved JK Rowling’s novels even before getting the part and believes that the legacy of the Harry Potter phenomenon is “a new generation of incredibly literary nerds, of which I am one! I think it’s a really wonderful thing.” Radcliffe is currently finishing work on the final movie(s) in the franchise, the two-part adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, though he wonders if the enduring power of Harry Potter means someone will eventually bring the character back to the screen in a new incarnation. “The books will be around for decades to come which makes me wonder if in 30 years time, we will be seeing remakes of all these movies,” Radliffe says. ”I have a very dark suspicion that that will happen, although I don’t particularly want it to!”

For more on the 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years — including Robert Downey Jr. on Iron Man‘s Tony Stark, Joss Whedon discussing the elements that make up Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an interview with Homer Simpson, and lots, lots more — pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands now.

The 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years: Roseanne Barr says what she thinks the Conner clan would be up to in 2010

Comments (244 total) Add your comment
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  • Peter

    Wait, Spiderman and Iron Man are on the list? That’s crap. We’re talking the characters, right?

    • Johnification

      The Downey Stark can be considered a new, iconic creation.

    • Johnification

      Actually, I correct myself: I think this has many +20 characters on it (like Homer), but they’re also characters that have been important in the last two decades.

    • David

      As with all EW lists there don’t seem to be any rules or criteria for inclusion because clearly Iron Man, Spiderman, and The Joker were all created well before 1990. Even Homer Simpson first appeared more than 20 years ago.

      • shanebendrell

        The list is not characters created within the last 20 years, it’s characters played in televison and movies within the last 20 years. Stop tryin to nit pick and gripe every last thing people.

      • Suzy

        Hey geunius, they were all redone after 1990. I bet that the joker in the most recent Batman movie is different than the one originally written.

  • Moe

    CARTMAN is the MAN!

    Also add in Stewie from Family Guy!

  • craig

    wasn’t this done by you guys already?

  • JD

    No surprise that Mr. Locke ended up on the cover. An all-time classic.

  • nodnarb

    I probably won’t get a chance to buy this issue (uh, it’s Memorial Day weekend so I’ll probably be mainlining Margaritas for the next 3 days) so can someone just tell me who they put as number one?

    • john

      Sarah Palin

      • nodnarb

        It’s characters, not caricatures. :)

      • Izzie’s Mom

        @nodnarb, Good One.

      • shanebendrell

        @nodnarb, hahahahaha

    • dnabgeek


  • kevin

    Interesting there’s no Carrie Bradshaw on the cover…she has to be on the list, and it probably would’ve helped sell magazines since the movie’s out this weekend.

    • naynay


    • Gena

      I LOVE Sex and The City, but Carrie Bradshaw is one of the most shallow, petulant and spoiled brat characters in television history.

      The other 3 girls were great characters who played off eachother really well. Their only problem was their bitchy friend who had nothing to do in her life but obsess over men. She is an awful character that I hate to see emulated by anyone, considering the fact that her self worth is wrapped up in what she wears and who she is dating at the time. Sick.

  • Holden

    Buffy is #3….awesome choice. And Kevin – Carrie’s on the inside fold out.

    • KariKari

      Buffy made #3!!! Sweeeet!

      • Vitoria

        I just read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and I really eeyojnd it. I loved the character of Lisbeth Salander because she was very intriguing and you never knew what she was going to do next. It was a great mystery page-turner and a perfect summer read!

    • Open Country

      Buffy was the worst movie every made in the history of movie making

      • alex

        the movie sucked, but they’re not picking buffy based on kirstie swanson (or is it kristie?) – clearly they’re going for the sarah michelle gellar buffy, seeing as how she is on the cover and all.

  • Ty

    Meryl Streep for devil wears prada….Did no one read the book the movie was awful.

    • Jess

      I read the book, but I still liked Meryl Streep.

    • Celia

      Meryl Streep was amazing in that film.

    • anonymous

      Huh? I thought the book was awful. The movie was light fluff that was awesome due to Meryl Streep.

    • JC

      I just finished reading the book. Meryl Streep definitely made Miranda Priestly more human. They are basically two completely different things that happen to have similar characters.

  • Raine Gendron

    Oh come on, 100 best characters and no Doctor Who? I know the Doctor was created in 1963, but the successful relaunch of Doctor Who in 2005 should have garnered a mention. Played by eleven different actors over the decades, The Doctor is truly a character that transcends most other science fiction inventions.

    • Gerald

      Well, Homer Simpson first debuted more than 20 years ago, so I guess Doctor Who should be eligible.

    • Jay Morin

      Notable Dr Who companions that could have been on the list.
      o Rose Tyler
      o Captain Jack Harkness

    • CJ

      My family has subscribed to Entertainment Weekly for some ten years now; we like the articles and generally respect the opinions of EW’s writers, but this article was disappointing at best.

      Some of the best characters of the last two decades were overlooked in favor of crude, two-dimensional characters such as Borat, Catherine Tramell, and Edward Cullen. Buffy Summers was likeable for three season before she descended into self-pity and cheap angst; almost any of the other Buffy or Angel characters would have been better choices. Rachel Green was great but Monica was better. Firefly’s Malcolm Reynolds and The West Wing’s Jed Bartlet deserved spots in the top five and yet neither even made the list.

      And what about Alexandra Cabot, Casey Novak, Chloe Sullivan, Susan Ivanova, Rose Tyler, even Elle Woods? Perhaps not the best characters of the last twenty years, but they all had more character than Tramell. If Stephen Colbert can make the list, then what about the cast of Top Gear? The revived Star Trek TOS cast is every kind of dynamic. Doctor Who’s new doctors have all been brilliant. There are great characters in every Law & Order.

      A handful of the characters in the line up deserved to be there, but the rest were poor and unsophisticated choices.

  • dee

    I can’t believe Edward Cullen is on the list. Really, EW? Really??? Edward is a great character? Shame on you.

    • dee

      I am SO glad I canceled my subscription to your magazine.

      • rigmarole

        Ha ha, that’s why I canceled, too. I knew there’d be someone from Twilight on this list. Pathetic, truly.

      • shanebendrell

        yet you guys still find time to get on the website, read they’re blogs and comment. Get a life, you aren’t fooling anyone!

      • Jeff

        @shanebendrell. It should be “their”. Just saying.

    • Jess

      Wait, Edward is on the list??? That almost invalidates the whole thing. lol Didn’t realize cardboard, one-dimensional characters were all that great, EW.

      • K

        This is EW. Of course Edward is on the list.

      • Jess

        I know, I know. Should’ve known.

      • Josh

        There goes getting this issue, lol. Seriously? Edward Cullen. I can’t see how you can have Buffy on the list, probably highlighting everything she means to female empowerment and then have Edward Cullen on the list, a one dimensional character who represents a females desire to want to be saved and loved by an undead man.

        Wow EW, how much is Summit paying you exactly?

    • j

      Yeah Edward Cullen should not be on a list of “greatest” characters. He has no personality! I guess he can be considered a prominent pop culture figure, but a “great character”? Not so much.

      • Molly

        Yeah but the reason they put him on the list because almost everyone in the world knows who he is and most people have seen the movies. So yeah.

    • Celia

      You must be joking. I was praying they would not include any of the pathetic characters from twilight. My anticipation for this issue just dwindled. But whatever, there are 99 others I have to look forward to.

    • AT

      I don’t mind that character being on it (and I hate Twilight), but Sue Sylvester(18), Stepen Colbert(30), Tracy Jordan(55), Mary K. Gallagher from SNL(70), and Hancok(91) and Truman show(94)… this list is terrible. Maybe Sue is on it, but ahead of Pulp Fiction duo, Sarah Connor, and Jack Bauer? Can’t we get some American Dad, Anton Sugar(sp?) or even Patrick Bateman on there too?

      • AT

        I was kinda surprised they didn’t throw a True Blood character on there too. But seriously, how is Sydney Bristow, Ron Burgandy, and Harold and Kumar ahead of Jack Bauer?

  • Chris

    My favorite character would be Dwight Shrute from The Office.

    • Celia

      I LOVE Dwight. He better be on the list. Also Michael Scott. The Office is full of great characters, so is Harry Potter. The whole top 20 could be filled with characters from those two series.

      • Liz Lemon

        The list only has David Brent from the UK Office. None of the characters from the US Office made it on the list. Shame, Shame.

      • James

        Well without David Brent, there’d be no Michael Scott. So it makes sense that the UK version is the one that got the nod.

  • anon

    every character from friends should be there! All so different yet awesome! (although Joey got tiring in the end)

    • Terri

      Besides a haircut, what was Rachel Green famous for exactly? Many other characters were much more memorable and lasting.

      • lol

        She was famous for ten years of great comedy, did you even watch Friends?

        Jennifer Aniston has great comedic talent

      • AJ

        Yes, and what a Academy Award-inspiring career she’s had since!

        She lucked out on “Friends” and that’s about it.

      • sam

        no actually she’s known for crying and whimpering to the media about brad and sleeping with the next co-star that she came across.

    • Celia

      Joey and Phoebe were the best on Friends.

      • lol

        They were all good,, no denying that but Jennifer has had the best career in comedy after Friends

  • GB

    I was amazed to find Monk not in the list at all. And why was Sue from Glee #19. She was just created about a year ago and all ready she is in the top 20? And finally Jack Bauer should not be 44 he should be #24… duh. What is up EW?

    • anomaly

      i agree, the greatest characters of the past 20 years shouldn’t have someone created less than 2 years ago. especially not up so high just because the show’s popular now.

    • Andy

      WTF?? No Monk? That is the only person I believe should be #1(as much as I love Homer). Tony Shaloub was absolutely amazing as Monk.

    • Karlh

      After study a few of the blogs in your website now, and I enjoy your own mhoted of running a blog. I saved this to my personal bookmark website itemizing and can end up being looking at once again quickly. Please check out my web page because properly as well as tell me what you believe.

  • nile

    edward scissorhands
    (johnny depp),simpsons,buffy,harry potter (daniel radcliffe),hannibal,forrest gump
    ,tyler durden (fight club),lord of the ring,notebook are all ok.they very iconic characters.but edward cullen is on a must be kidding.heath ledger’ joker really really better then edward cullen but just some teenage girls get happy edward cullen on a list.bravo.

  • Emma

    I’m so happy Edward Cullen is on the list. He should have been in the top 10 and on the cover of the mag. EW is just player hating.

    • Mary

      Really? EW is player hating Edward Cullen by not having him on the cover? He graced the cover too much this year, so I’m glad he was excluded from it. Too bad he wasn’t completely excluded from the list.

    • michelle

      Edward cullen what joke people need to stop raising that pin head above the greats. Anyways I like some of the other characters here

      • tara

        Everyone needs to stop hating on Edward Cullen seriously You all know you like the books and the movie.. I’m 33 years old don’t think hes cute at all but I’m so drawn to him in his character.. And no I’m a stubborn Italian I don’t like to be ruled at all… I wear the pants in my marriage lol… So please stop acting…

      • morons

        @Tara: You’re 33 and yet you talk like a 13 year old idiot. No, I dont like the books, at all. I use them to light my fire, because thats the only way to deal with this trash.

      • anonymous

        I think sometimes people make up descriptive information so that they don’t have to admit they actually fit the target demographic exactly. I’m not saying this happens all the time, but “tara’s” description of herself is kind of odd.

      • Erika

        @Emma, seriously? Have you actually ever paid attention to the acting or the character that is Edward Cullen? They both suck. He definitely should have been left off the list completely. @Tara, no I do not like the books or movies. The movies have some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen and the books seem like they were written by a desperate lonely woman while she was drunk.
        That being said, if Edward Cullen is higher up than Forest Gump, the whole list is completely untrustworthy.

    • James

      Um, really? I don’t mind “newer” characters being on the list. But there is nothing about Edward Cullen that warrants him being on there, let alone at a respectable mid-level number like 53 or whatever he is. It ruined the whole list.

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