Paul Thomas Anderson is one of those film-makers that get people excited every time they release something new. Anderson's latest project is the Netflix short film Anima which he made in collaboration with Thom Yorke. The excitement over Anima reminds us that Anderson is one of the most interesting artists working in the film industry today.
Since starting his feature film career in 1996, Anderson has made eight films, each very different and compelling in their own way. One of the best aspects of Anderson's movies is the rich and complex characters he creates. Thanks to Anderson's impressive writing skills and the fine actors he attracts, these characters will be remembered forever. Here are the most memorable characters from Paul Thomas Anderson's films.
10 Dean Trumbell (Punch-Drunk Love)
Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the actors Anderson has worked with most frequently. The pair made five films together before Hoffman's tragic death in 2014. While the characters that they made together are all memorable in their own way, Dean Trumbell from Punch-Drunk Love is something special.
In a small role, Hoffman plays a low-level criminal who runs a seedy phone service and blackmails the customers. Hoffman is hilarious in a role that displays his terrifying rage in one moment, only to reveal that Trumbell is a man whose bark is bigger than his bite.
9 Cyril (Phantom Thread)
Phantom Thread is Anderson's latest feature film and one of the most unique movie romances of all time. Much of the film is focused on the tumultuous relationship between dress designer Reynolds Woodcock and his muse, Alma. But Lesley Manville nearly steals the whole show as Reynolds' sister, Cyril.
While Reynolds is a brilliant artist, it's quite clear that he relies on Cyril to do everything for him. She is the one who runs things and she does so loyally. However, we also slowly see that she views Reynolds as a spoiled child and is one of the few people who isn't afraid to put him in his place. Without ever raising her voice, Cyril is totally intimidating.
8 Lancaster Dodd (The Master)
The Master is sadly the final film that Anderson would make with his friend Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is also the best performance Hoffman has given in one of Anderson's films. Lancaster Dodd is a character who is said to be loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Dodd is the leader of a movement called "The Cause."
Dodd at times appears to be a sensitive and caring leader with obvious intelligence and charisma. However, he is also prone to fits of rage when his teachings are questioned in any way. As his movement begins to unravel, the man behind the curtain is revealed and it is as if he was making it all up as he went along.
7 Reynolds Woodcock (Phantom Thread)
Daniel Day-Lewis has said that he has retired from acting after making Phantom Thread. If true, then this is quite a magnificent role to end a career on. As Reynolds Woodcock, Day-Lewis is able to display that intensity he is so well-known for. Reynolds is a perfectionist and will not stand for any disruptions to his very particular routine.
Day-Lewis also gets to have some great comedic fun with the character as he is so whiny and entitled it becomes hilarious. The cranky way he addresses people and deals with the slightest inconvenience is like watching a grown child. Day-Lewis plays it all with a straight face, making him even funnier.
6 Freddie Quell (The Master)
As fascinating as Lancaster Dodd is as a character in The Master, Freddie Quell is the even more compelling part of that film. Played by Joaquin Phoenix in one of his most amazing performances, Freddie is a disturbed man who is slowly brought into Dodd's inner circle and becomes one of his most loyal followers.
Freddie is a man severely affected by his time serving in World War II and as a result, he can sometimes act out violently. There is a certain tension whenever Freddie is on screen, as you do not know what he'll do next. Phoenix disappears into the role and is fascinating to watch.
5 Barry Egan (Punch-Drunk Love)
Adam Sandler is regularly panned for his acting and film roles, but even his harshest critics were shocked by his performance in Punch-Drunk Love. Sandler and Anderson proved to be an unlikely and wonderful pair for this amazing and unusual love story.
Sandler plays Barry Egan, a self-conscious and timid person who acts out violently when frustrated. His life begins to turn around when he starts a sweet romance with a woman. The role is sort of like Anderson's version of a typical Sandler role. Barry is a sometimes childish man who has bursts of anger. Sandler is reserved, hilarious and even frightening at times in his best performance to date.
4 Roller Girl (Boogie Nights)
Boogie Nights is one of Anderson's biggest ensembles and therefore it has a lot of memorable characters in the cast. While it is hard to narrow it down, one of the real standouts is Roller Girl, played by Heather Graham. Roller Girl is a member of the dysfunctional "family" of people in the 1970s porn industry.
Roller Girl gets her name for never removing her trademark rollerskates, but her character goes far beyond that gimmick. We see her struggling with her life at school, her search for a mother figure and her downward spiral in the often dark line of work.
3 Frank T.J. Mackey (Magnolia)
Tom Cruise is one of the biggest movie stars of all time, but even he agreed to take a supporting role in a Paul Thomas Anderson film. Still, while Frank T.J. Mackey might not be the main character of Magnolia, Cruise certainly steals the show in this multi-story drama.
Mackey is a vulgar and wild motivational speaker who teaches men how to pick up women, though his methods are often quite obscene. Cruise is obviously having a great time with the role and is so entertaining in the big seminar scenes. But he's just as good in the very emotional and heartbreaking scenes as well.
2 Dirk Diggler (Boogie Nights)
Apart from having one of the best names in the history of movies, Dirk Diggler is also a great character. Played by a young Mark Wahlberg, a young man named Eddie Adams is brought into the wild porn industry during its golden age. He proves to be a natural and as he becomes the biggest star in the business, he adopts the name, Dirk Diggler.
The journey that Dirk goes on over the course of the film is fascinating and Wahlberg handles the arc wonderfully. Starting off as a young man trying to belong somewhere, Dirk finds a family, finds fame and gradually watches it slip away. He's funny, sad, frustrating and lovable. And that reveal in the last scene is unforgettable.
1 Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood)
Daniel Plainview will go down as one of the best characters in the history of film. The first collaboration between Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis is a modern masterpiece which was the perfect display of both their immense talents. Plainview is a determined and strong-willed oil man seeking out his fortune.
There is never any doubt that Plainview will be a financially successful man, but it's just a matter of how far he'll go. He is a chilling and cold man who commands the viewers' attention whenever he's on the screen. The performance and character are impossible to forget.