X

Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

The 50 Most Important Heroes of All Time, Ranked

See where you favorite epic adventurer landed on our list!

Jessica Roy
frodo-the-lord-of-the-rings-the-fellowship-of-the-ringe9c06a.jpg
1 of 50 Warner Brothers Pictures

50. Frodo Baggins

Hobbits are plain, quiet folk with no need for adventures. But even the least adventurous among us can go on to do great things.

2 of 50 Paramount Television

49. MacGyver

Anyone who can restart a man's heart using a candlestick, a microphone cable and a rubber mat certainly qualifies as an important hero. MacGyver taught an entire generation to think outside the box when it comes to improvising.

3 of 50 Gramercy Pictures

48. The Dude

In The Big Lebowski, the Coen Brothers created a slacker hero for a new age. But that's just, like, our opinion, man.

4 of 50 Gramercy Pictures

47. Marge Gunderson, Fargo

Small towns need protecting too. Polite yet shrewd, Marge Gunderson is the only person on this list -- and possibly in movie history -- to save the day while also rocking a baby belly.

5 of 50 Warner Bros. Pictures

46. V, V For Vendetta

Though he seems a humble Vaudeville veteran, V's veneer of vanity is that of a vacant "vox populi," and he valiantly vanquishes the vicious and virulent.

Plus, he talks good.

6 of 50 Corbis

45. Captain Planet

So many heroes care only about humans, but Captain Planet wants to protect Earth and everything that lives on it. He also cares about educating young people through fabulous jewelry. Very important heroic qualities all around.

7 of 50 Corbis

44. Shaft

Who's the cat who won't cop out ... and who also broke racial barriers when it came to TV heroes? Shaft! (Plus, that iconic theme song won a Grammy and an Oscar.) Shaft's his name, Shaft's his game, and "one of the most important heroes of all time" is his claim to fame.

8 of 50 Splash News/Corbis

43. Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime saved the Autobots and humanity on more than a few occasions. Optimus & Co. have also inspired many toy engineers: Those transforming cars are quite a challenge to design.

9 of 50 Paramount Pictures

42. Lassie

Lassie was such a significant hero that members of the American public actually believed that border collies were born understanding commands about saving little boys from wells. While smart, the breed does not speak native English, but Lassie still gets a treat and a belly rub for her hard work.

10 of 50 Twentieth Century Fox Pictures/Corbis

Zorro

Don Diego de la Vega's secret identity -- the Spanish word for "fox" -- was a masked hero who protected the indigenous people of California while humiliating his enemies. And looking great while doing it.

11 of 50 Corbis

40. George Bailey, It's A Wonderful Life

He's the humble guy who proves that life can be pretty great, even if all your acts of heroism take place in your hometown. Plus, he's the only man who can make your dad cry during the holidays!

12 of 50 Netflix

39. Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones is a lot more mature than the movie superheroes we're used to. She deals with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as she handles bad guys. Doubly heroic.

13 of 50 Starz

38. Ash, the Evil Dead franchise

Empire Magazine voted him the No. 1 horror hero of all time, and we're inclined to agree. Most guys would retire from heroics after losing an arm, but the stump just makes Ash more badass, and more ready to rock that hand-chainsaw.

14 of 50 CBS

37. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Saving the day is particularly important when that day is Christmas.

15 of 50 20th Century Fox

36. Storm, the X-Men franchise

Being a woman of color in a male-dominated industry is tough, whether it's science, engineering, or being an X-Man. (Hey, how come the lady mutants aren't called X-Women?) Controlling the weather is an unusual power, but Storm always works it to her advantage.

16 of 50 Walt Disney Pictures

35. Mulan

Breaking gender stereotypes to save your father ... and all of China? We're into it.

17 of 50 Corbis

34. Robin Hood

As a guy who took from the rich to save the poor, and who spurned the idea of a ruling class, Robin Hood could easily take credit as history's first avowed socialist.

18 of 50 Buena Vista Pictures / Photofest

33. Jack Skellington, The Nightmare Before Christmas

True heroes can acknowledge when they've done something wrong. Admitting you swerved out of your lane to co-opt Christmas takes guts -- which is asking a lot from someone made out of bones.

19 of 50 Universal Pictures

32. General Maximus Decimus Meridius, Gladiator

Going from a general to a gladiatorial slave can't be easy, especially when the new emperor killed your old boss and had your whole family murdered. Maximus works his way back up in the world the old fashioned way: with hand-to-hand combat skills.

20 of 50 Warner Bros. Pictures

31. Hermione Granger, the Harry Potter franchise

Sure, the books were named after Harry Potter, but anyone who read them knows Hermione was the real star. She proved there was no problem that couldn't be solved with a trip to the library.

21 of 50 Corbis

30. Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Another literary hero who made it big on the silver screen, Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch exposed racism in a small Southern town and did his best to save an innocent man's life.

22 of 50 Corbis

29. John McClane, Die Hard

Live free or die at John McClane's hands. Yippee-ki-yay, everyone.

23 of 50 Toei Animation

28. Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon led the baddest girl gang in the galaxy, and made us all take a closer look whenever we encountered an unusual-looking brooch. And that costume transformation scene? Iconic.

24 of 50 Paramount Pictures

27. The Terminator

When the Internet achieves singularity and attempts to wipe out humanity, it's good to know there's a chance a muscular robot will suddenly develop empathy. And maybe even become the governor of California!

25 of 50 Warner Bros. Pictures

26. King Arthur

In real life, King Arthur led the British to victory against the invading Saxons. In legend, he popularized round tables and had the help of a powerful wizard. Either way, awesome hero.

26 of 50 Corbis

25. Rocky Balboa, the Rocky franchise

Yo! The Rocky movies transcended the sports genre to become enduring classics about the value of hard work, and punching the daylights out of your enemies.

27 of 50 BBC America

Doctor Who

Two hearts, infinite lives (or at least as many as the BBC will renew him for). He lives in a phone booth and wields a screwdriver, and his name is a running grammar joke. All very important heroic qualities as far as we're concerned.

28 of 50 20th Century Fox

23. Wesley, The Princess Bride

As you wish! You can become a bad guy -- specifically, the Dread Pirate Roberts -- and still return to get the girl and save the day.

29 of 50 Corbis

22. Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider franchise

Raiding tombs is not usually considered a particular heroic activity. But given Lara Croft's ability to scale mountains, speak multiple languages, survive plane crashes, and knock out enemies, we'll let that minor infraction slide.

30 of 50 Nickelodeon

21. Aang, Avatar: The Last Airbender

We don't blame Aang for flipping out and going into Avatar State for a hundred years. Being the Avatar is no easy gig. Eventually, he rose to the challenge and helped defeat the warring Fire Nation in spectacular fashion.

31 of 50 Splash News

20. The Rock

We couldn't decide which of The Rock's leading roles was the most important, heroically, so we're just including him on this list for who he is as a human being.

32 of 50 HBO

19. Daenerys Targaryen, Game of Thrones

Khaleesi has overcome losing her parents, being sold into marriage by her brother, moving to another continent, facing an unimpressed khalasar, losing her husband to a witch's curse, and discovering her wedding presents were actually dragon eggs... and that was just in Season 1. Keep doing what queens do, Mother of Dragons!

33 of 50 Paramount Pictures

Captain Kirk

James Tiberius Kirk was the only Starfleet student who beat the Kobayashi Maru with innovative thinking. As one of the fleet's youngest starship captains, Kirk navigated the universe and dealt with alien species with diplomacy, heroism, and, occasionally, desert karate fights.

34 of 50 HBO

17. Omar Little, The Wire

If you come at the king, you best not miss. Esquire named Omar the best character on The Wire, and they aren't wrong. It was the first time in TV history than an out gay man was also a shotgun-wielding badass. Is he a thief? Yeah. But then again, as he put it so well, "I robs drug dealers."

35 of 50 Walt Disney Pictures

16. Captain America

If punching Hitler in the face isn't an important act of heroism, we don't know what is.

36 of 50 20th Century Fox

15. William Wallace, Braveheart

Every man dies. Not every man truly lives. Except for William Wallace. Obviously.

37 of 50 Corbis

14. Xena, Warrior Princess

Ayiyiyiyiiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyii! Xena proved that men don't have the market cornered on saving the day in sword-and-sandals epics.

38 of 50 Columbia Pictures

13. Spider-Man

With great power comes great responsibility. Peter Parker lives up to his signature adage as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

39 of 50 Fox

12. Jack Bauer, 24

Terrorists can't hide from him. Government goons can't stop him. A heroin addiction can't slow him down. And most incredibly of all, L.A. traffic can't interfere with Jack Bauer reaching his destination.

40 of 50 Miramax Films

11. Beatrix Kiddo, Kill Bill

The Bride went on a kung fu rampage for the ages after her squad turned on her.

41 of 50 Warner Bros. Pictures

10. Batman

Batman was always the gritty, noir alternative to goody-two-shoes Superman. Bruce Wayne paved the way for the many playboy-philanthropists-turned-superheroes who came after him (cough, Iron Man). And he taught us all that you can save the day and take out your enemies without ever using a gun.

42 of 50 Paramount Pictures/Photofest

9. Indiana Jones

Not many anthropology Ph.D.s wind up being action heroes. Indy never met a sociocultural mystery adventure he didn't like -- though he encountered plenty of snakes and Nazis he wasn't fond of.

43 of 50 DC Comics

8. Wonder Woman

Most women in comic books end up dating the (male) superhero and protagonist. Wonder Woman was her own lady, and a kickass one to boot.

44 of 50 Corbis

7. James Bond

The tuxedos. The glamorous locales. The Bond Girls. The shaken (not stirred!) martinis. That scene where Daniel Craig came out of the ocean in a teeny-tiny bathing suit. Really, what's not to love about Britain's greatest export?

45 of 50 Lucasfilm

6. Han Solo

It's hard to make a vest and shag haircut look cool. Unless you're the raddest space rogue in a galaxy far, far away.

46 of 50 Corbis

5. Superman

All the way back in 1938, Action Comics No. 1 launched Clark Kent (aka Kal-El) as the original superhero.

47 of 50 Corbis

4. Bruce Lee

Calling Bruce Lee an icon is frankly underselling him. He brought martial arts artistry to America and fundamentally transformed the way Asians were portrayed on TV and in movies. When he died suddenly at 32, Steve McQueen and Chuck Norris were among his pallbearers.

48 of 50 Lionsgate

3. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games

The girl on fire inspired countless other dystopian YA series and four blockbuster movies. As the Mockingjay, Katniss proved you don't need to be a grown man to lead a revolution.

49 of 50 Corbis

2. Sherlock Holmes

Try to remember a time before you could consult a tiny computer in your pocket for all of life's questions. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes used smarts, deduction and forensic science to solve crimes a century before CSI was a thing. His limitless knowledge made him the Edwardian equivalent of a superhero, and he's been inspiring crime solvers ever since.

50 of 50 20th Century Fox

1. Ellen Ripley, Alien

Back in 1979, when Alien hit theaters, 2001: A Space Odyssey and the first Star Wars were really the only sci-fi movies out there. Ripley was the first female hero to helm a space epic. Sigourney Weaver made it possible for women to be seen as action stars -- and for that, we rank her No. 1 on our list of the most important heroes of all time.