As someone who has always been just as much into fictional worlds as the real one, I've had some hardcore crushes on nonexistent humans over the years. From Daniel Striped Tiger to Howard Roark to Weetzie Bat, they've taken many forms and ranged from 'friend crush' to 'person I'd like to fuck on top of a kitchen counter.'
Whenever Xanga was a big thing in the early 2000s, I used to fill out surveys with feverish determination at 2 AM, eager to prove my coolness to a handful of readers.
WHICH FILMS HAVE INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST?
ARE YOU TAKING ANY PRESCRIPTION PILLS?
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TOLD YOUR ASPIRATIONS ARE UNREALISTIC?
It was a stupid waste of time, but fun and hilarious to look back on after a few years when some of the youtful idiocy had subsided. Examining the trajectory of on-screen crushes is similarly delightful and feels like a worthy way to spend my Sunday morning.
After much delibration, here is my response (in no particular order) to the fictional Xanga prompt to name ten of the sexiest cinematic characters of all-time. For the most part, I tried to choose based on the actual character and not the actor, but sometimes the actor's screen presence was undeniable and I felt it was necessary to consider it in the decision-making process.
1. Margot Tenenbaum (Gwenyth Paltrow) from "The Royal Tenenbaums" by Wes Anderson
This one is pretty cliché, but of course I love Margot Tenenbaum. How I see her is how I want other people to see me. She's cool and smart, but a complete enigma. How did she lose part of her finger? Why did she start smoking at age 12? She'll never tell us and we'll be left wondering forever.
Her style is also iconic - very art school trust fund kid who wants to be edgy but can't quite step away from luxury goods and preppy classics. Tenenbaum has made me see the importance of picking one item and making it the cornerstone of your entire style philosophy. A beat-up leather jacket is my version of her Fendi fur coat.
2. Cop 663 (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) from "Chunking Express" by Wong Kar-wai
I probably watched this movie 15 times during my sophomore year of college. It was the only year I had a single dorm room and I took full advantage of it by renting dvds at the Pelletier Library and refusing to emerge from my cave in Walker Annex on days when I didn't have class. It was a great time in my life and if I could relive it, I certainly would.
It's unusual for me to have a crush on a cop, but 663 is the sensitive, lonely soul I find most intriguing and it helps that Tony Leung is a massive talent/babe. When I first saw this movie, I had just gotten back from winter break and discovered that the dude I broke up with was seeing someone new. It unexpectedly shattered me and I found myself alone in my room, talking to boxes of cereal like 663 talked to his dishtowels and bars of soap.
3. Alma (Bibi Andersson) from "Persona" by Ingmar Bergman
I took a film class in college on Ingmar Bergman and Woody Allen. Some of the films were viewed independently, but most were screened in a small theater and we were required to watch them together in the evening as a class. My professor was an older Jewish guy who took things very seriously and expected copious note-taking during every viewing.
I remember watching "Persona" and being incredibly turned on by the scene where Alma tells Elizabeth about her sexual experience at the beach. I felt weird about watching this scene with a class full of dudes and a male professor. There's no way they didn't all have boners and I am confident about this because I looked around and noticed that not a single person was taking notes; everyone was transfixed by what was happening on-screen.
4. Josh (Paul Rudd) from "Clueless" by Amy Heckerling
When I surveyed my friends about their fictional crushes, several of them said "Paul Rudd in anything" and I wholeheartedly concur. The last time I watched "Clueless" was when I taught a freshman lecture class on psychology and teen cinema in grad school. I forget what the class was called, but I know that we watched "Scream" and a lot of John Hughes movies.
I was worried that on rewatch, Josh wasn't going to be as cute and likeable as I thought he was as a teenager, but I was wrong. Sure, he's super patronizing to Cher, but she's also a total bitch to him. He insults her for her superficiality and she makes fun of his interest in the news and his (enviable) flannel collection.
I know this isn't a fresh observation, but Paul Rudd is a vampire, right? Why hasn't anyone interviewed him extensively about his skin care regimen? The dude is almost 50 and still looks like he's in his early 30s. HOW.
5. Viago (Taika Waititi) from "What We Do in the Shadows" by Jamine Clement and Taika Waititi
My husband and I watched this movie two times in one day when it first came out and couldn't stop laughing. I never really got into "Flight of the Concords," but this movie makes me think I probably should, especially since I have a low-key obsession with Taika Waititi (especially with the salt and pepper hair, omg).
Of all the vampires, he's definitely the mother hen of the group and the one with the kindest heart. He's cultured and fashionable (those scarves!), into cleanliness (he at least tries to keep the couch free from blood stains), and has been in love with the same woman for hundreds of years. I would let him turn me.
6. The unnamed woman (Scarlett Johansson) from "Under the Skin" by Jonathan Glazer
During my fourth year in New York City, I dated this weird guy who used to run everywhere. I've been a runner my entire life, but I've never once thought, "Oh, I'm meeting someone for dinner in another borough? I'll just run there!" We had a date to see "Under the Skin" at BAM, but he was late because he ran there from the Upper East Side. He arrived sweaty and shirtless and I was disgusted but also amused? Idk. My standards were really low at this point in my life.
The movie was sold out, so we took at cab to Nighthawk in Williamsburg. The movie was sold out there, too. We then took the subway to a theater in Mahattan ... I can't remember which one, but I think it was a chain theater like AMC. We arrived just in time and at this point, I was definitely annoyed with him. He almost made us miss the start of the film because he was frantically searching for water but didn't want to pay for it (he was one of those rich, trust-fund kids but cheap as fuck).
I found the movie insanely beautiful and was transfixed for the entire 108 minute runtime. After it ended, I was so elated that I wasn't even mad at him anymore. But then he started talking ... and I knew I had to break up with him soon. He hated the movie - didn't understand it at all - and was totally obnoxious about it. This was the final straw and I ended things shortly after.
Scarlett Johansson is absolute magic in this movie. I think she's completely underrated as an actress; she's totally versatile and able to handle any role thrown at her.
7. Julio (Gael García Bernal) from "Y Tu Mamá También" by Alfonso Cuarón
I watched this movie in high school with a friend I had a huge crush on at the time. We hung out together for probably 3-4 years throughout high school and college, but nothing ever really happened. We made out in his powder blue Saab while listening to Sleater-Kinney and slept together once in his bed (both fully clothed ... I may have even been wearing shoes).
I really wanted him to make a move during the movie because it was so erotic and free-spirited, but it didn't happen. I think we were actually sitting on opposite sides of my living room - him on the couch, me on the chair - so it would have been logistically tough.
Anyway, it didn't really matter much because by the time the movie was over and the dude in question had left, I wasn't thinking about him at all. I had Gael García Bernal on the brain.
To be fair, I can't recall many specifics about Julio. I think he was kind of obnoxious, sexually clumsy, and indistinguishable from Tenoch (Diego Luna) aside from some class differences, but this is the movie where I fell in love with García Bernal, so I feel it deserves to be included.
8. Abbie (Greta Gerwig) from "20th Century Women" by Mike Mills
If I had been more open with my sexuality in high school, I think Abbie is the kind of chick I would have dated. She's brashly honest, vulnerable, feminist, and listens to the best music. Her t-shirt collection is enviable and she's kind to Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). I was kind of disappointed by the way she treated Julie (Elle Fanning), but it's been awhile since I've seen this, so I can't say for certian if it's a dealbreaker.
There's something really special about Greta Gerwig and I tremendously enjoy watching her in pretty much anything, even the early Joe Swanberg films that are slightly embarrassing.
Several critics noted that "20th Century Women" is too twee and emotionally manipulative, but I have such a soft spot for Mike Mills. He has a knack for elevating potentially shmaltzy elements into something more meaningful and interesting.
9. Everyone in "Magic Mike XXL" by Gregory Jacobs
If you thought I was going to put together a list like this without including the cast of "Magic Mike XXL" then you don't know anything about me. I don't think there's a single character in this movie that I wouldn't have sex with.
Fran Hoepfner wrote an excellent piece in Bright Wall/Dark Room about this movie and I suggest you go read it right now. She says,
"It is very easy to argue that Magic Mike XXL is a dumb movie, (Many movies are dumb!), but there are ideas, Big Ideas, presented in Magic Mike XXL that are not dumb. In fact, it’s one of the most progressive movies to come out this year. This isn’t a movie that panders to women; it’s a movie that worships women. Women aren’t talked down to. Women are respected. Hell, everyone is respected! It’s a movie about objectification that is also about respect and kindness."
I agree with her completely.
10. Malcolm (Shameik Moore) in "Dope" by Rick Famuyiwa
I feel kind of weird about this choice since I'm pretty sure Shameik Moore was like 20 years old when this movie was made, but the final spot on this list was either going to him or Timothée Chalamet ("Call Me By Your Name"), so it was going to be questionable either way.
I saw "Dope" on a flight back from a San Francisco work trip and liked it a lot (despite some problematic treatment of female characters). I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back, it seems like the critical opinion was pretty negative and I'm not exactly sure why. It ran a little long at 115 minutes and the ending was a letdown, but I thought it was fresh and funny.
Malcom is the kind of character I would have been obsessed with in high school. He's nerdy, attractive, committed to a particular style, and knowledgeable about films, books, and movies. I haven't seen Moore in anything since, but I hope he's still acting. It looks like he's in "Bright Futures," Kenya Barris's new comedy. NBC just ordered a pilot episode, so I'm not sure if the series will get picked up but 🤞🏻.
Whenever I surveyed my friends and family about their ultimate fictional crushes, I got some great responses. My mom said the only man she's ever had a legitimate crush on is Sully from "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman." When I asked why, this is what she said:
"That hair and bod! He wasn't very tall, but I can live with that. He would also bring meat that he killed for Dr. Quinn."
My cousin Anita (who is around my mom's age) chose R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) in "The Thing" by John Carpenter and Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen) in “Eastern Promises” by David Cronenberg. I haven't seen the latter film and when we talked about it, she said,
"Wait till you see "Eastern Promises." He has a crazy knife fight scene in the nude. Junk swinging in the wind. It’s insane. Lol."
I clearly need to see "Eastern Promises" immediately.
Those are hideous tattoos, but I can't deny that he has a rockin' bod.
Meg gave some questionable answers (Logan Huntzberger!), but her best were the entire cast of "The West Wing" and Ben from "Parks and Recreation." She said she likes to think of her boyfriend Mike as "the Ben to my Leslie" but that "he’s really the Ron and I’m probably the Ann."
Two different friends (Terry and Brielle) said Jack Donaghy from "30 Rock." When asked why, they both agreed on three reasons:
- His super corporate exterior yet super softie insides
- His sexual prowess 😂😂😂
- His adorable relationship with Liz Lemon
I now feel like I totally missed something with Jack Donaghy because I liked him but never thought about him in an even remotely sexual way.
Other noteworthy choices:
- Terry (Terry Crews), Jake (Andy Samberg), and Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
- Trent (Alvaro J. Gonzalez) in "Daria"
- Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and M'Baku (Winston Duke) in "Black Panther"
- Patrick (Heath Ledger) in "10 Things I Hate About You"
- Ben (Scott Speedman) in "Felicity"
Who's on your list? Should I make a separate one for TV characters alone? I feel kind of weird about having a list with zero mention of Matt Saracen 💕.