Heroes — And Villains — To The Rescue

Thank you, Hannibal Lecter. Really.

And thank you, to be sure, Atticus Finch.

Amid the daily dispatches from Iraq and North Korea, the sobering updates on SARS and AIDS and bureaucratic business as usual in Washington, it was a welcome respite from real news to read the American Film Institute’s list of all time, favorite villains and heroes. The AFI dubbed the Anthony Hopkins-playing cannibal-psychiatrist from “Silence of the Lambs” as top villain and the Gregory Peck-playing defense attorney from “To Kill A Mockingbird” as foremost hero.

Lecter and Finch are solid choices, but where there are lists and judgments, there are differences of opinion, controversy and some flat-out weird juxtapositions. That’s, frankly, the fun of it.

For example, as derelict a mother as Joan Crawford was, does the portrayal of her in “Mommie Dearest” (#41) deserve to be on a par with “A Nightmare On Elm Street’s” Freddy Krueger (#40)? Is there any way career opportunist Eve Harrington of “All About Eve” (#23) is more villainous than the Martians from “War of the Worlds” (#27), Count Dracula in “Dracula” (#33), Frank Booth in “Blue Velvet (#36) or Auric Goldfinger in “Goldfinger” (#49)?

Heroically speaking, it’s worth pondering that Arthur Chipping of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (#41), Father Edward Flanagan of “Boys Town” (#42), Moses in “The Ten Commandments” (#43) and Karen Silkwood of “Silkwood” (#47) finished behind Lassie of “Lassie Come Home” (#39). Further grist for the musing mill is Rocky Balboa of “Rocky” (#7) topping the likes of Oskar Schindler of “Schindler’s List” (#13), Robin Hood in “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (#18) and Mahatma Gandhi of “Gandhi” (#21).

So thanks again, AFI, for the reel world’s respite from real news.

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