7 Robert Neville: Imagine surviving an apocalypse because you are the only person who is immune to a plague that changes the human genome into something feral. Now imagine watching your wife, child, and even your dog dying because of it. Try to see yourself working in the middle of an infected city trying to find a cure for your race even as the victims stalk you, knowing that they have killed everything you loved and your only mission in life must be to save them. Will Smith made me want to cry as the movie slowly revealed the depth of his pain. For me, his character represents the best our species has to offer.
8 Fox Mulder: Handsome, highly intelligent, and so engrossed in chasing aliens and conspiracy theories that he doesn’t notice how every woman around him is falling at his feet. Yeah, there was some jealousy in watching the X-Files star, but listening to how his mind worked week after week was great, and noticing that he always seemed to be watching porn made him just human enough that I could keep that jealousy in check.
9 Riddick: In some way the movies are dumb; Riddick somehow has superhuman abilities, two monster movies, bad guys who worship death as an induction into their armies, an elemental race that is clearly human, and weak plotlines. However, Riddick makes them interesting. He’s a bad guy who never kills except in self-defense or revenge. He’s not a good guy, he doesn’t join causes, but he manages to generate loyalty in others and he is a survivor.
10 Neo: Sure, the superpowers are neat. The ability to change reality both inside and out of the matrix was fun to watch. And the theme, of a chosen one finding his destiny, was nice even if it has been overused. What intrigued me about the character, though, was his personal development. He began as an isolated individual who had no concerns in life apart from money and the mysterious Morpheus. As his powers revealed themselves he found love. His abilities continued to develop even as he lost – first his vision and then the love of his life. He went back into the matrix that final time knowing he probably wouldn’t come out but absolutely certain of what he needed to do.
11 Starbuck: In the original Battlestar Galactica series, Starbuck was a simple character, a hot pilot who liked women. As a woman, the new Starbuck started off as much the same type of character. As the show progressed, though, the chip showed up on her shoulder only to be pushed off. The anger became confusion as her past was explored, and that turned into fear as her destiny became more clear. Of all the characters on the show I wound up empathizing more for the “best pilot I’ve ever seen” than anyone else. To know that she alone had survived the destruction of her entire race in a previous life must have been such an awful burden.
12 Odo: This detective from Deep Space Nine may seem like an unlikely choice, but when you imagine what could have been done with the part and how the actor carried it you realize how intriguing he made it. He is not a trickster or a criminal, he is a cop. When he realizes the nature and philosophy of his people he doesn’t join them, he remains independent and loyal to the people he knows, to the same people that on some level he despises. Odo was a complex character that I enjoyed watching from week to week as the old curmudgeon found some intriguing observation of mankind or pushed his own species to the edge of their good will.