vulture lists

Cinema’s Bluest Characters, Ranked

Photo-Illustration: Vulture, Buena Vista Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures

Blue is not a color that occurs in nature very often, except for the Floridian cold springs where blue-flavor Gatorade is harvested and bottled directly from the source, I think. The ancient Greeks didn’t have a word for blue, and it’s the last color to appear in most languages. As I learned too late in adulthood, “blue raspberry” isn’t a real thing. Butterflies and birds use reflective fragments to appear blue, but they don’t have any blue pigment. Neither do blue eyes. Not even Sonic the Hedgehog star James Marsden’s. That’s why it is such a blue-tiful rarity when a character in a movie is blue, of all things. They visually take up space, even when they’re as tiny as a bug. They’re an interruption. They typically appear in superhero movies or science fiction, and a good chunk of them are aliens. With Avatar: The Way of Water bringing the blue Pandoran race known as the Na’vi back to theaters for their first new adventure since 2009, it’s high time to see how the biggest blue characters of film stack up and where the Na’vi fit among them.

But first, some ground rules:

—This is a movie ranking. That means no TV characters like Cookie Monster, Grover, Roadrunner, Blue (as in Clues), Bloo from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, or Tobias Fünke. It also means no blue recording artists, so no Crazy Frog or Eiffel 65.

—Also, the characters have to be blue, not just wear it. That rules out the Blue Power Ranger.

—Both of the above rules apply to Bubbles the Powerpuff Girl.

—There are too many blue Pokemon in Detective Pikachu and The Pokémon Movie and they don’t talk, besides.

—The blue monster (or was it an alien?) from Monsters vs. Aliens isn’t here because I saw it once when I was too old to see it and I remember nothing.

—They can’t just be some random blue person in the background of a sci-fi movie; we’re looking mainly at key characters with speaking roles.

—Finally, we tragically learned that Eeyore is only blue in merchandise, and gray on film. Tell that to your dental hygienist in loud Eeyore scrubs.

And with that, let’s rank the blues.

38. Watto, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

This greedy little Toydarian haggler is considered one of the most offensive George Lucas creations in Phantom Menace this side of Jar-Jar on account of looking and sounding like he belongs in a Nazi children’s book. A shande.

37. Sam Eagle, Muppets

“Don’t be a Republican.”

36. Blue Fairy (Zemeckis’s Version), Pinocchio

Cynthia Erivo looks and sounds gorgeous in this monstrosity of a film, and she’s on here over the O.G. Blue Fairy because she’s an actual blue fairy, not just a white lady in a blue headband. But this movie is an abomination and her CG wings aren’t great and she has Joseph Gordon Levitt’s creepy Jiminy for a scene partner. Holding space for the upcoming Tilda Swinton take on the role in Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio. 

35. The Girl Car From Cars

So insubstantial and overshadowed by Lightning McQueen and Mater’s bromance (towmance?) that I don’t even know her name. At least they didn’t give her car eyelashes.

34. Ronan the Accuser, Guardians of the Galaxy

The best special effect in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film is how they digitally removed all charisma from Vulture Festival Honorary Degree winner Lee Pace. Besides, the franchise has two superior blue characters in it.

33. Smurfs, The Smurfs

Oh, Smurf these little guys. Smurfs and its sequel are classic entrants in the “CGI pests bother a live-action grown man” canon, alongside Alvin and the Chipmunks (Jason Lee), Hop (James Marsden), Peter Rabbit (Domhnall Gleeson), and Sonic the Hedgehog (also James Marsden). In Smurfs, a bunch of boy-Smurfs and also one (1) Katy Perry Smurf bother Neil Patrick Harris a whole lot. The late Jonathan Winters and the late Anton Yelchin voiced two of the Smurfs. They probably made a lot of money, which is nice.

32. Ian and Barley Lightfoot, Onward

The lesser Pixar movie of 2021 followed two blue elf brothers who go on a quest with their dead dad’s legs. Confusing premise aside, my beef with these guys is just how much lead character Ian looks like the TikTok Disney face filter. Why do Disney and Pixar characters all have to look like this? Who decided that those big eyes and weird noses was CG character design’s version of the Vitruvian man? I would have put Alberto from Luca on this list, if he were only a bit more blue than purple. Now there’s a good pandemic-era Pixar character!

31. Blu, Rio

In a movie about a macaw smuggled from Brazil, why is the lead parrot voiced by … Jesse Eisenberg? Who’s the exec who said, “Kids love that madcap ball of fun, Jesse Eisenberg!” We suppose it’s because it’s a voice-over role from 2011, so Tom Holland wasn’t born yet. As far as blue birds go, Eisenberg should’ve voiced a feature-length adaptation of this guy.

30. Nebula, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Sister of Gamora, daughter of Thanos, writer of Karen Gillan’s checks, Nebula is a humorless cyborg who brings a grounded presence and real gravitas to the kooky Guardians movies.

29. Flik, A Bug’s Life

Flik was saddled with the impossible task of carrying 50 times his body weight on his shoulders, by which I mean, he had to lead Pixar’s follow-up to the instant-classic Toy Story. Dave Foley clears that bar as an industrious little ant who doesn’t want to be a cog in the ant assembly line, and who uses his inventions and flea-circus friends to fight Disney’s scariest villain: Kevin Spacey.

28. Stoner Caterpillar, Alice in Wonderland

Caterpillar animation is fun animation. See the aforementioned Bug’s Life. 

27. Draags, Fantastic Planet

The original bald blue baddies made a few points about the human race. The product of a Czechoslovak-French co-production in 1973, the aliens at the center of this allegorical animated indie are the stuff of dorm-room-stoner streaming dreams.

26. Rihanna, a.k.a. Bubble the Glamopod, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Rihanna ranks so low, even though she’s the highlight of Valerian, because unlike another blue shape-shifter on the list, all of Bubble’s best moments are when she’s not blue at all.

25. Max Rebo, Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi

Like a cuter version of Hooter from Captain EO. When George Lucas rereleased the original trilogy with CGI, poor Max was nowhere to be found. Justice for Max Rebo.

24. Sisu, Raya and the Last Dragon

Awkwafina gives a charming performance as the titular Last Dragon, but there’s no good reason why this wasn’t a musical.

23. Osmosis Jones, Osmosis Jones

What a concept! Chris Rock voices a white blood cell who’s really blue who teams up with a cold pill (David Hyde Pierce, who is such a cold pill) to go inside Bill Murray to fight a virus. Like a cop movie, but teeny-tiny.

22. Dr. Manhattan, Watchmen

If we were counting the TV version of Dr. Manhattan, he’d probably place higher. As it were, Billy Crudup’s version of the smartest man alive in Zack Snyder’s 2009 Watchmen remains a compelling figure, but doesn’t compare to the heart and romance of the 2019 version.

21. Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog

Here he is. Better than Yondu, but not quite as cool as Hades. Yet another blue alien, Sonic is lovable and fun enough and not nearly as scary as he could have been.

20. Beast, X-Men: The Last Stand

As much as it breaks my heart to put Dr. Frasier Crane dabbling in furry cosplay in the middle of the pack, he’s simply the least essential of the X-Men’s many blue mutants — especially considering that the Hulk already does the whole baleful-monster-nerd thing better.

19. Na’vi, Avatar

The original horny humanoid cat people have been called out for embodying various Dancing with Wolves-adjacent stereotypes, and the way they plug their braidy bits into each other during sex feels a bit too hentai for a mainstream blockbuster. But the world building that surrounds Na’vi characters like Neytiri is imaginative and well thought-out, from their rites of passage to religion. In the years since Avatar’s debut, they’ve inspired great scientific advancements in motion capture technology and, crucially, over-committed cosplay.

18. Yondu, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Had Michael Rooker’s blue space bandit Yondu only been in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, he would have been at the bottom of the list with his cerulean co-stars. He’s a fine second-tier adversary, fleshes out Peter’s backstory, and does that cool thing with the whistle. But it was the second movie that gave him a very satisfying emotional arc to his story, a rarity for a minor character in the over-bloated MCU.

17. Abe Sapien, Hellboy

Guillermo del Toro and Doug Jones love their tortured fish boys, that’s for darn sure. Abe is voiced in the first movie by David Hyde Pierce, which makes perfect sense and also means I must place him exactly seven spots higher than the inferior Crane brother Kelsey Grammer. He has the mind of a dolphin, the aim of a marksman, and the heart of C3P0. Total fishman package.

16. Megamind, Megamind

Sometimes I look at 2010, the year of dueling lovable supervillain movies Despicable Me and Megamind, and think to myself a decade later, The wrong kid died. Maybe, if Megamind had been a tad sharper or made its central David Cross–voiced Minion cuter, we wouldn’t be stuck with the minions of today. At least a new generation of Megamind revisionists love it.

15. Blue Meanies, Yellow Submarine

Was a strain of extra-potent psilocybin mushrooms named after these trippy animated antagonists, or the other way around? The lore is inconclusive, but these Beatles movie baddies still play like some of film animation’s more radical creations. They take all kinds of forms, from a giant malevolent floating glove to masked scoundrels wearing prolapsed Mickey ears.

14. Violet Beauregarde, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Violet loses points for being slightly less iconic a brat than the tyrant Veruca Salt. Is there a ’90s alt girl band named Violet Beauregarde? We didn’t think so. Still, even if she kind of straddles the border between blue and purple (on the one hand she becomes a blueberry but on the other she’s “turning violet, Violet!”), chewing gum is no crime. Except in certain sovereign municipalities.

13. Hades, Hercules

James Woods is Hades’s blessing and curse. His sardonic vocal performance is more deliciously bitchy than Jeremy Irons’s Scar, but the actor’s reputation gives this character an imprimatur of ick. If only he had a proper Disney villain song.

12. Dog, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

You may think Mad Max’s furry companion isn’t blue. You are wrong. He’s an Australian Blue Heeler, which means he’s totally blue in the AKC sense of the word (see also: Russian Blue cats, Blue Tick Hounds). This dog known only as “Dog” is proof that sometimes, the very thing a sequel needs is a sweet animal sidekick to pump up the emotional stakes. Would George Miller have ever directed Babe: Pig in the City if he hadn’t first worked with Dog? We posit “no.” A very good boy.

11. Mystique, X-Men

Mystique is a shape-shifter, which is arguably the coolest mutant superpower. Her blueness is central to her identity, as it is for the other X-Men on this list. While those other characters don’t have the option of assimilation, what makes Mystique so intriguing is the way she relates to her mutant status as someone who can pass outside of it. In this dissertation, I will …

10. Paul Giamatti in Big Fat Liar 

We don’t have stars anymore. Not like Frankie Muniz and Amanda Bynes. We don’t have good studio comedies anymore. Not like Big Fat Liar. The scene where they dye Paul Giamatti’s swimming-pool water to turn him blue? That was history.

9. Bluebirds, Miscellaneous Disney

Where would Disney princesses be without bluebirds? They wouldn’t be able to dress themselves. They wouldn’t get their chores done. They’d have no one to harmonize with from their isolated forests and towers. From Snow White to Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty, bluebirds were (say it with me) the blueprint. Although the less said about “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” the better. Sorry, Mr. Bluebird.

8. Diva Plavalaguna, The Fifth Element

Legendary. The Diva Plavalaguna invented vocals. When movies call themselves “space operas” and they don’t feature this type of space opera, I call the Better Business Bureau.

7. Sadness, Inside Out

Nothing gets me in my feelings more than children’s media where the message is “It’s okay to be sad sometimes.” Sadness, with her asymmetrical bob and big chunky knit and overall blueness, is the perfect embodiment of that, and her arc makes Inside Out cathartic and clever in equal measure. Plus, she’s just so cute and blobby. We can’t wait for all of the Gen-Z The Office stans to put two and two together and find out that Phyllis Smith did her voice.

6. Sulley, Monsters, Inc. 

There’s a reason all those Disney+ commercials that aired during the Oscars ended with the shot of Boo hugging Sulley. John Goodman played Sulley like the world’s best imaginary friend, and Pixar may as well have patented Digital Fur Technology for this warm, lovable guy. Mike Wazowski usually steals all his thunder, but Sulley holds his own in the meme space.

5. Nightcrawler, X2

Look! It’s everyone’s favorite action star, triple threat Alan Cumming! Nightcrawler is somehow an irascible scamp and a shy, pious sweetie at the same time, an impossible balance to pull off, prehensile tail or no. When so much of the action in superhero comic-book adaptations can suffer from looking muddled and boring onscreen, Nightcrawler’s acrobatic powers are immensely fun to watch in X2. An immigrant, a circus freak, and a conflicted man of God, Nightcrawler is so many things at once and it all somehow works.

4. Stitch, Lilo & Stitch

One of the last classic hand-drawn Disney characters and co-lead of one of the only good Disney Animation Studios movies of the aughts. His strange, lovable design was a precursor to everything from Toothless to Baby Yoda, and his garbled little voice made him many under-30-somethings’ First Celebrity Impression. If you were a kid in the golden age of Stitch merch, this guy was everywhere, but honey he earned it.

3. Dory, Finding Nemo

This forgetful blue tang fish voiced by Ellen DeGeneres is one of Pixar’s most beloved creations, enough so that she spawned (fish pun?) a successful sequel over a decade after Finding Nemo. Ellen DeGeneres plays her as the perfect bubbly counterpart to Albert Brooks’s beleaguered clownfish, and it’s always so refreshing and rare when a female character in a children’s movie gets to be the idiosyncratic comedic relief and not just a big lollipop-head L.O.L. Doll person. If Dory were a DreamWorks character, they would’ve given her fish titties.

2. Gonzo, The Muppets Movie 

Gonzo is a romantic in a cast of romantics, a weirdo in a cast of weirdos. Gonzo’s a striver and a dreamer, not as cringey as Fozzie, not as out-there as Animal. He and Camilla were really the first to say “love is love,” and they have a healthier relationship than Kermit and Miss Piggy if we really want to get into it. He dances like nobody’s watching and dresses like everyone’s blind. He maximizes the zany potential of the Muppets as a concept, stuffing himself into cannons and getting thrown into walls. Like all of the best characters on this list, his blueness signifies his otherness, a theme that’s explored to mixed results in Muppets From Space and better results in the Muppet Babies revival.

1. Genie, Aladdin

The Genie sums up everything that works about Aladdin as an animated classic: funny, jazzy, colorful, a touch irreverent, ultimately earnest. It’s not often that you see such synergy between a voice actor’s performance and the expressiveness of the animation; Williams’s vocal flexibility paired with creative, shape-shifting animation makes Genie larger than life and set a gold standard. Watch the reel animator Eric Goldberg made to convince Williams to take on the role, by animating Genie to a recording of Williams’s stand-up. He opened a Pandora’s box of A-list celebrities voicing animated characters for the spectacle of it; this was one of the rare instances it worked. Best blue character, and it’s not even close.

Cinema’s Bluest Characters, Ranked