A better success for Top Gun: Maverick lies in how much Maverick’s character learned from his mistakes and grew over his decades of experiences. He’s the protagonist of the film, so there’s a certain expectation to see some form of character growth, some arc of emotional or personal development and change.
The crux of most storytelling is change for good or ill on the part of the main character, but it doesn’t happen in every story. Ranker has compiled a list of films in which the lead has no character growth. From cowboys to social media moguls, these films prove that not all good films need characters that grow. Sometimes the point of a story is a realistic one, and in the real world, people don’t always change.
Note: Ranker lists are live and continue to accrue votes, hence some rankings may change in the future.
Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network
The Social Network is a dramatized dive into the true story of Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook. Based on the nonfiction book The Accidental Billionairesthe film gave audiences an opportunity to understand the lawsuit against Zuckerberg from the Winklevoss twins.
The impression the audience receives of Zuckerberg in the movie is that of a stand-offish and cold character. It’s difficult to surmise whether this take is accurate, as it is still a work of fiction despite being based on truth. All the same, this depiction remains unchanged at the end of the movie. So much of the film revolves around the lawsuit that allowing any change would create a larger problem in how the audience has come to comprehend Zuckerberg.
The Man With No Name in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
It would be difficult when on the topic of no character growth to not include a classic Western. In this case, it is Sergio Leone’s masterpice The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.
Whether the audience calls Clint Eastwood’s character Blondie or the Man With No Name, he has one motivation: to take care of himself first. Yes, he saves Tuco and develops a get-rich-quick scheme (among other things), but at the end of the film, that original motivation doesn’t waver. It also doesn’t need to. The character is a lone cowboy with no backstory. He’s cut and dried, and the audience has no means of gleaning more information about him other than what they see.
Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street
Based upon a true story, The Wolf of Wall Street is as much an insightful glimpse into the world of capitalism and fraud as it is the mindset of greed.
What’s different about this film is that Jordan Belfort begins with change at the start of this movie. It’s just not positive. Belfort gets a taste of life with more money and more wealth, then he begins on a downward spiral of illegal and illicit activities. Rather than there being a moral to the story, Belfort comes out with no regrets for any decision he made, despite the damage and pain those decisions caused. He does not want to grow because his life gave him everything he desired.
Ben Gates in National Treasure
According to Ranker, NationalTreasure is one of the best Nicolas Cage movies. It’s a fact made more interesting when discussing how Ben Gates, the thief of the Declaration of Independence, is an example of a character who does not grow in his escapades from him.
It’s not that Ben Gates doesn’t have passion or the capacity to learn more as a character. He’s an intelligent man with a fervent love of history, but that’s all he offers. Throughout the film, as he defies all odds by breaking into the National Archives and evading Sean Bean’s character, Ben Gates remains the same. He doesn’t learn any particular lesson, and the only things that bring him any excitement on his journey are all history-based elements and factoids.
James Bond in From Russia With Love
It’s not uncommon for action heroes to lack in general character arcs or growth. They are often merely blunt instruments whose purpose is to complete dangerous tasks. James Bond is the paradigm of this trope, and Ranker pinpoints the Sean Connery 007 film From Russia With Love specifically in this case.
James Bond has been played by seven actors to date, including the non-EON productions. Sean Connery was the first, and perhaps the reason Ranker identified his second installment of him. Connery was every bit the suave, cool spy fans have made a point of watching all these years, but as he was the first, it set the tone. Bond is no different from the first film to the second. Despite the number of villains and romantic interests he encounters, he remains dutifully unchanged.
Bryan Mills in Taken
The moment Liam Neeson made his memorable speech in Taken, the audience knew they were in for an action-packed thriller. That certainly proved to be the case as CIA analyst Bryan Mills committed several crimes throughout the movie in an attempt to get his daughter back home and safe.
In all fairness, the movie’s plot doesn’t require the need for a character to grow emotionally or personally. Bryan Mills is on a manhunt. He wants his daughter from her back and he’s going to get her by any means necessary. If the idea of internal growth is added in addition to the main plot line, then the story becomes watered down. The movie had a clear focus, and that focus just wasn’t on developing a complex character.
John Wick in John Wick
Keanu Reeves has played his fair share of memorable characters but recently John Wick has been at the forefront of that list. To be fair, a story of a man bent on revenge for the murder of his dog was always sure to be a hit with audiences.
John Wick certainly changed, but his change occurred before the story begins, when he chose to put his career of being a hitman to the wayside for love. Unfortunately, all the growth goes down the drain with the events of the first film. From that point on, there’s no reason for John to grow because it would defeat the entire purpose of his revenge story from him.
The Dude in The Big Lebowski
what did The Big Lebowski bring your audience? A cult classic, an urge to bowl, a thirst for white Russians. It’s a movie where nothing really happens, and that’s why it’s not surprising that Ranker listed the lead character, known as the Dude, as someone with no notable character change.
The Dude does have a mission: to replace his rug, which was soiled by gangsters. And who can blame him? The rug really tied the room together. Even with that goal in mind, the character doesn’t fundamentally change who he is one inch. It’s unusual because there are interesting elements at play in the movie, such as a case of mistaken identity, and even murder, that would allow some growth. Ultimately, it seems the Dude’s chill and somewhat zen mindset is strong enough to not let these factors affect him in any way.
Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
John Hughes created several essential teen movies of the 1980s, all of them popular in their own right. At first, it’s easy to wonder why as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a simplistic story. It revolves around a teenager playing hooky from school and running around Chicago. in your favour, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off have many reasons for holding up with audiences today.
Even with its popularity, fan votes on Ranker have noticed how Ferris is a prime example of a character with no real growth. His character of him is very much a live-in-the-moment type of person, with little thought for the repercussions his actions of him can have on anyone else. Any accountability or growth that Ferris might have earned is rendered null and void by his ultimately getting away with everything he does.
Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump features a lovable main character, played by Tom Hanks, on a journey in which just about anything goes. He becomes a football star, meets the President of the United States, and is a decorated Vietnam soldier. The only thing that doesn’t happen to Forrest is any inkling of true character growth.
Forrest is the same character from the start of the film as a young boy to the end as a grown man. His challenges him, whether physical or emotional, do not fundamentally change him in any shape or form. Ordinarily, this could be considered a problem for a character in terms of good writing, but not for Forrest. His character of him does not need to grow or change. Forrest has a complete understanding of who he is, and so does the audience. In contrast, the other characters in the film, who satellite Forrest, grow and change a great deal, influenced over the years by his steadfast good nature and love of him.
Next: The 15 Best Quotes From Forrest Gump
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