Lots of the most popular and loved characters that people know about come from imaginary worlds created in films and fantasy books. These fictional people that live in made-up places have become a huge part of pop culture. In this article, we’ll check out 20 famous pretend people from movies and literature that have stuck in everyone’s minds over the years.
Famous Fictional Characters from Film and Fantasy Books
1. Harry Potter
I’m sure you’ve heard of Harry Potter, the young wizard from the mega-popular books and movies. Harry Potter was created by writer J.K. Rowling in her series of fantasy novels that started coming out in the late 1990s. He’s an orphan being raised by his mean aunt and uncle when he finds out on his 11th birthday that he’s not just an ordinary kid – he’s actually a magical wizard!
Harry gets whisked away to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he learns spells and potions and how to use his powers. He also becomes best friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and together they get tangled up in all kinds of adventures. Harry has to take on the powerful evil wizard Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry’s parents when he was a baby. He’s the “Chosen One” who can help defeat Voldemort for good.
Through it all, Harry shows bravery and loyalty to his friends, even when things seem hopeless. People totally fell in love with the Harry Potter stories, and Harry himself became a symbol of good triumphing over evil.
Batman is one of the most well-known superheroes of all time. He was created way back in 1939 by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger for DC comics. Bruce Wayne is a wealthy businessman who lives in the dark city of Gotham. When Bruce was just a kid, he saw his parents get murdered right in front of him by a criminal, which inspired him to fight crime when he grew up.
Bruce doesn’t have any actual superpowers – instead, he uses his money to get all kinds of cool gadgets and vehicles, plus he’s trained himself to be an amazing fighter. When he puts on the cape and mask and becomes Batman, he looks super scary to catch criminals off guard. Batman is often shown as a dark, serious hero who works alone at night, driven by his commitment to justice.
The character became a megastar through movies, TV shows, and comics. Fans love Batman’s human vulnerabilities underneath his shadowy, tough image as a vigilante.
In the 1960s, Spider-Man swung onto the scene in the pages of Marvel comics. He was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. Spider-Man is actually just a regular high school student named Peter Parker who gets bitten by a radioactive spider, which gives him amazing powers. He gains the strength and agility of a spider, allowing him to climb up walls and heights. He also develops something called a “spider sense” that warns him of nearby danger.
Using his smarts and new abilities, Peter creates a costume and gadgets to become the wisecracking superhero Spider-Man! He can swing from webs and fight off bad guys, but he’s still just a nerdy, awkward teenager under the mask as he tries to get through school. Peter has to juggle normal life and superhero duties, which makes his adventures way more relatable. People love Spider-Man’s humor and the fact that he sometimes makes mistakes but always tries his best to do what’s right.
Based on the Norse god of thunder, Thor became a Marvel comic book hero in the 1960s. He was created by Stan Lee and others. As an Asgardian god, Thor has lots of cool powers – he’s super strong, almost invincible, and can control lightning and fly by throwing his hammer and hanging on! After his dad Odin punishes Thor for being too arrogant and sends him to Earth, Thor has to protect the planet from danger.
When combined with normal human characters in fantastical comic book tales, Thor’s ancient mythological origins made for a really unique mix. In recent years, actor Chris Hemsworth has played Thor in the hugely successful Marvel movies, making him one of the most popular heroes around today, known for his charming swagger.
5. The Hulk
The Hulk is a character created for Marvel comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in the 1960s. He’s actually a regular scientist named Bruce Banner who accidentally gets zapped with radiation from an experiment-gone-wrong. This causes Bruce to transform into a massive, raging green monster called the Hulk whenever his pulse gets raised from anger or excitement.
It’s a real Jekyll-and-Hyde situation! When Bruce turns into the Hulk, he gains incredible strength and power but loses control of his mind. The Hulk can’t be reasoned with and usually ends up smashing everything in his path! People feel bad for Bruce but find the Hulk to be a thrilling and scary presence.
The character first became a household name from the classic 1970s TV show starring Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk and Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner. More recently, actor Mark Ruffalo has played him in the Avengers movies.
6. The Doctor
Doctor Who is a popular British TV show that’s been on since the 1960s. The main character is simply called the Doctor. He’s an alien from the planet Gallifrey who travels through time and space in a ship disguised as a blue police box. It’s called the TARDIS. The Doctor tries to use wisdom and cleverness to stop evil and help people in need across the universe.
He’s super old but has the ability to “regenerate” into a new body and slightly different personality when he gets mortally wounded. This allowed the show to have many different actors play the Doctor over the years. With his goofy charm, memorable companions, and iconic sci-fi adventures against aliens and monsters, the Doctor became a beloved pop culture icon in the U.K. and beyond.
7. Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous fictional detectives. He was created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 1800s. Holmes uses his awesome observation skills and logical reasoning to solve perplexing mysteries that leave the police totally clueless. He’s a master of deduction and science who sees tiny details others miss and figures out the truth behind criminal cases.
Sherlock Holmes tends to be depicted wearing a hat and cape while smoking a pipe. He approaches crime scenes in a cold, calculating way like a scientist, which was unique for detectives in fiction at the time. His sidekick Dr. Watson joins him on investigations and tells the stories. Holmes inspired every genius crime-solving character that came after him!
8. James Bond
James Bond is the world’s most famous fictional spy and one of the longest running film franchises. He was created by British author Ian Fleming in the 1950s. Suave, handsome secret agent 007 works for MI6, the British intelligence agency. He’s given a “license to kill” in the line of duty and uses tons of nifty gadgets and tech while going on global missions.
Bond is shown to be great at everything – skilled in combat and science, but also charming, clever, and attractive to women. He battles flamboyant supervillains, travels to exotic locations, and always saves the day in action-packed stories that mix casino games, gunfights, car chases, and romance. Of course he’s best known today from the hugely successful James Bond movies starring cool actors like Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.
Superman is considered the first big superhero in pop culture. He was created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian artist Joe Shuster way back in 1938. Originally from the planet Krypton, Superman is sent to Earth as a baby before Krypton is destroyed. On Earth, he absorbs the radiation from our yellow sun which gives him incredible super-strength, speed, flight, laser vision, and other awesome powers.
Adopted by a nice couple, he grows up looking like a normal guy named Clark Kent, hiding his powers until he’s ready. As Superman, he fights for “truth, justice, and the American way” with his colorful costume and cape, setting an example for other heroic icons that came after him. Played by Christopher Reeve in the classic films, Superman remains one of the most inspirational good guy characters invented in comics.
10. Iron Man
Iron Man is the high-tech superhero identity of Tony Stark, an arrogant genius inventor. He was created for Marvel comics in the 1960s by Stan Lee and others. Stark is a billionaire businessman and engineer who designs a powerful suit of armor that gives him super abilities. This allows him to become Iron Man. The comics show him constantly upgrading his armor with new weapons and abilities.
Robert Downey Jr.’s performance made Iron Man a charismatic fan-favorite in recent Marvel movies. Stark’s outgoing personality and flaws make him more complex than a typical hero. And his spectacular flying metal suits loaded with lasers and gadgets really appeal to readers’ imaginations!
11. The Joker
The Joker is the most famous villain that battles Batman in DC comics. He first appeared in 1940, created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson. With his bizarre appearance – green hair, white skin, big red lips twisted in a creepy smile – the Joker represents a killer clown, playing deadly pranks and causing chaos for fun.
While he looks goofy, the Joker is completely psychotic and unpredictable, making him really scary. We never even know his real name or backstory. The Joker just wants to create mayhem and destruction to rival Batman. He brilliantly portrayed by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight movie. The Joker has no powers, but his insanity makes him endlessly entertaining and dangerous.
12. Captain America
Marvel introduced Captain America in 1941, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, right when World War 2 started. Wimpy Steve Rogers volunteers for an experimental program to become a super soldier and help the Allies. After getting injected with a special serum, he transforms into the tall, muscular Captain America! His strength, speed, and stamina are all enhanced to the peak of human ability.
Armed with his nearly indestructible shield, Captain America fought Nazis and became a symbol of courage and freedom. The comics depicted him as an ideal patriotic hero. In the movies today, actor Chris Evans plays Captain America as a morally upright man struggling to adapt to the complex modern world after being frozen in ice since WWII.
13. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange is a powerful magician who battles mystical forces, created for Marvel comics in the 1960s by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. He was originally a super arrogant surgeon named Stephen Strange who damages his hands in an accident. Desperate to heal so he can operate again, Strange journeys to the Far East where he encounters magic and alternate dimensions, and becomes a sorcerer.
As Doctor Strange, he uses spells, trinkets, and trips to otherworldly realms to fight demons and evil sorcerers. With his flowing cape and hypnotic energy powers, Doctor Strange brought a psychedelic style to Marvel comics and opened the door to parallel universes. Played by actor Benedict Cumberbatch in recent movies, he dazzles fans by bending time and warping reality itself!
Wolverine is one of Marvel’s most rugged heroes. He first appeared in the 1970s, created by Len Wein, Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr. Born as Logan, Wolverine is a mutant with animal senses, awesome reflexes, and the ability to heal rapidly from almost any wound. He also has razor-sharp claws that extend from his hands, making him a fierce fighter.
Despite his superhuman traits, Wolverine is depicted as flawed and vulnerable too. He has a mysterious, tragic past and a temper that makes him lash out. But he develops a sense of justice beneath his tough exterior. Actor Hugh Jackman perfectly captured Wolverine’s brooding intensity mixed with raw emotion in the X-Men movies. Fans are drawn to Wolverine’s savage, aggressive nature balanced with honor.
Ant-Man is a more lighthearted Marvel hero who was one of Stan Lee’s early creations in the 1960s, along with Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber. Brilliant scientist Hank Pym invents a substance that lets him shrink down to insect size yet stay as strong as a full grown person. He uses a special helmet to communicate with and control ants, allowing him to ride them around and have them help on missions.
With his tiny size and army of loyal ants, Pym becomes the superhero Ant-Man! Later, other characters used his shrinking technology too. The ability to alter size while going on miniaturized adventures added a really unique twist to the superhero formula. In the movies, Paul Rudd brought a goofy, funny charm to this often overlooked hero.
16. Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel is a name used by different superheroes in Marvel comics history. The current version people know best is Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot whose DNA gets fused with an alien’s genes, giving her superhuman might. As Captain Marvel, Danvers can fly faster than a jet, blast cosmic energy from her hands, and withstand huge impacts.
Originally introduced back in the 1970s, Danvers only rose to fame recently. Fans celebrate her representation of a strong, independent woman finally starring in her own movies. Played by Oscar-winner Brie Larson, Captain Marvel combines cosmic sci-fi spectacle with a powerful message of believing in yourself.
Deadpool is one of Marvel’s most unconventional heroes, created by artist Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza in the early 1990s. Wade Wilson is a skilled, disfigured mercenary who undergoes torture-like experiments seeking a cure for his cancer. The procedures leave him mentally unstable but able to heal rapidly from any injury, making him very hard to kill.
Taking on the mask and identity of Deadpool, he heads out on violent missions while constantly cracking inappropriate jokes and making pop culture references that break the fourth wall. Actor Ryan Reynolds perfectly captured Deadpool’s crazed, irreverent, R-rated personality in hit recent films loaded with over-the-top action and dark humor. He parodies and subverts standard heroic tropes.
18. The Fantastic Four
Marvel’s first superhero team, the Fantastic Four, was dreamed up by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961, revolutionizing comic book storytelling. Scientist Reed Richards, his friend Ben Grimm, and siblings Sue and Johnny Storm go on a spaceflight bombarded by cosmic rays that give them powers. Reed can stretch his body like elastic. Sue turns invisible and makes force fields. Johnny controls fire. And Ben becomes a rock monster called The Thing.
As the Fantastic Four, these four characters use teamwork and unique abilities to fight evil and explore strange new worlds and dimensions. Their stories blend sci-fi adventures with engaging relationships and drama between the teammates. This new soap opera element made viewers feel closer to the characters. The Fantastic Four still stands as an influential classic today.
19. The Flash
The Flash is the DC hero who possesses unbelievable speed. The original Flash, Jay Garrick, was created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert in 1940. A decade later, the now more famous Barry Allen version debuted. Usually a police scientist, Allen gets lightning superpowers that let him move and think extremely fast. He becomes a red blur tapping into an energy source called the Speed Force.
With his iconic red costume sporting a lightning bolt, the Flash zips around at supersonic speeds to stop wrongdoers in Central City. He can even time travel or cross into parallel universes if he runs fast enough. Various incarnations of the Flash have surfaced, but his power to defy time and space remains constant. To many fans, he’s the coolest and most thrilling speedster ever.
20. Captain Jack Sparrow
Captain Jack Sparrow is the eccentric but lovable pirate protagonist of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, played brilliantly by Johnny Depp. Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio created him for Disney’s first Pirates film in 2003. Captain Jack outwardly seems like a bumbling, drunken fool, but he’s actually smart and cunning beneath the act.
With his flamboyant appearance and swaggering manner, witty wordplay, and unpredictable behavior, Jack Sparrow became an instant fan favorite, subverting old pirate stereotypes. He thinks quickly on his feet to creatively escape danger without fighting. The original Pirates movie and Depp’s iconic, over-the-top performance launched a billion dollar franchise and cemented Captain Jack Sparrow as a lovably wacky pop culture icon.
Well, those are 20 of the most legendary imaginary people from the realms of film, literature, and comics! Fictional characters like Harry Potter, Batman, James Bond, and Iron Man totally immerse and inspire us. They feel real because of great storytelling and acting. Their adventures are unforgettable. Even though movies and books continue evolving, these icons endure because their stories speak to universal hopes and fears. They’ll probably still be talked about for generations to come!