All the Fictional Characters Who Helped Us Survive 2023

All the Fictional Characters Who Helped Us Survive 2023

It’s been a year of ups and downs, so in 2023 we’re particularly grateful for one source of reliable joy: sci-fi, horror, and fantasy entertainment. Here are the fictional characters—be they live-action, animation, made of plastic, or from galaxies far, far away—that helped guide us through.

Weird Barbie, Barbie

Screenshot: Warner Bros.

Her unevenly chopped hair, magic marker make-up, off-kilter poses, “basement” aroma, and mismatched fashion would be enough to set Kate McKinnon’s Weird Barbie apart from the other dolls in Barbie’s plastic utopia. But her differences—and her worldly experiences as a Barbie who’s been played with too hard, and therefore truly been to the edge—make her a valuable part of the community, and it’s no surprise she proves a sage source of knowledge and advice when the film’s perfectly pink reality begins to crumble. Viva Weird!


Image: Universal

Horror’s pantheon of monsters got a stylish addition this year thanks to this little lady, an eerily lifelike robot doll powered by a scary-smart AI. She sings, she dances, she’ll slice you into ribbons if you make her mad. M3GAN’s unique tone–a blend of near-future dread and campy terror—needed a villain that perfectly walked the line… and boy, was our bestie perfect.

Donatello, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Leo, Mikey, Raph, and our guy Donnie

Donatello has always been the TMNT’s resident geek—he’s been doing machines since the earliest days, after all. But the latest, and most modern iteration of the character in Mutant Mayhem really drills down into what imagining a nerdy Donnie in 2023 should look like, and damn right he’s a little green weeb obsessed with Attack on Titan and Jujustu Kaisen. It’s such a fun riff on the character, and feels true to him being the youngster Mutant Mayhem really wanted to show in its heroes while also acknowledging the legacy Donnie has had across so many different iterations of the Turtles. We raise a survey corps salute to our favorite Ninja Turtle.

Suletta Mercury, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury

Screenshot: Crunchyroll

Oh Suletta, you really went through it in season two of Witch From Mercury, didn’t you? The show’s pivot to a more typical and darker Gundam story really saw Suletta put through an absolute wringer this year, and the fact that she still came out of it mostly in one piece and with the happy ending she craved— getting to live her life in peace, free of Gundams, alongside her mother and her wife—feels like nothing less than a miracle considering how many flags the show raised along the way. Thank god that she did though, because Suletta Mercury deserves the world.

Chucky, Chucky

Image: Syfy

We’ve loved Chucky since 1988’s Child’s Play, but he leveled up into inspirational territory this year thanks to a surprising season three storyline on his hit Syfy/USA horror series. Despite all the black magic coursing through his plastic veins, Chucky realizes he’s aging—an incomprehensible idea for someone who’s been bulletproof for decades. It stirs anger, of course, but also deep fears about his own mortality. He’s never looked freakier… or been more relatable.

Karlach Cliffgate, Baldur’s Gate 3

Screenshot: Larian Studios

Baldur’s Gate 3 is filled with characters the internet has fallen madly in love with, perhaps so filled that it’s almost unfair to pick a singular member of its cast as a standout. And yet it speaks to how great Karlach is that in spite of this she remains the go-to choice to represent everything BG3 is. Her no-fucks attitude to the weirdest shit you’ve ever seen, her passion and joy, her innocence, and ultimately the tragedy of her circumstances and how she reconciles that bubbly personality with years of trauma and pent-up fury at a world that did her dirty makes for one of the game’s most compelling character arcs. And that’s even before you get to the fact that she’s a massive, burning-hot tiefling who swings a sword around and just wrecks shop in combat, saving the behinds of many a squishy party member. Paired with Samantha Béart’s incredible performance, there is not a BG3 player in the world that doesn’t want Karlach to be their best friend in the Forgotten Realms.

Charlie Cale, Poker Face

Image: Peacock

If we’re being honest, put Natasha Lyonne in anything and she’s likely to win us over. Her dry humor, raspy voice, and impeccable confidence almost always create a memorable character. But in the hands of murder mystery guru Rian Johnson on Poker Face, Charlie becomes something more. She’s on the run, so she’s always cautious and looking over her shoulder. And yet, because she has the power to tell if a person is lying or not, she finds that she has to do good. Has to get to the bottom of the case. Has to help people. Even if, at the end of the day, it’s at her very peril. That balance of terror and selflessness is oddly inspiring.

Cal Ketsis, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Screenshot: James Whitbrook, EA/Respawn

Cal was already a fascinating character in Jedi: Fallen Order, one whose journey you yearned to see in spite of the grim inevitability of his quest to potentially restore a future Jedi Order being doomed to fail. In Survivor we get to meet an older, wiser, more headstrong Cal who’s been both hardened and emboldened by his fight against the Empire, and yet still craves a sense of inner peace he can feel slipping away with every tragedy, every little betrayal that comes along with his noble goal of standing against Imperial tyranny. Survivor puts him through a ringer that has you rooting for Cal to find that peace every step of the way, and sees Cameron Monaghan turn in a career-defining performance that makes him one of Star Wars’ brightest current stars—regardless of whether he shows up in a movie or TV show some day. Plus, he’s very fun to play dress up with.

Teddy Kumar, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Image: Lucasfilm

On the surface, Teddy is just a new Short Round: a small-time criminal who befriends a like-minded adult and becomes their sidekick. But after two Indiana Jones movies without someone playing that role, the youthful energy and humor was a much-needed delight. We see Teddy drive, fly, fight, swim, kill bad guys, rob rich assholes—it’s all great. If anything, Dial of Destiny could’ve used more Teddy, just as we could always all use more Short Round.

Shin Hati, Ahsoka

Image: Lucasfilm

Anytime there’s a new Star Wars show or movie, you hope for one or two characters that speak to you. And instantly, when she appeared on Star Wars: Ahsoka, Shin Hati spoke to us. Yes of course, she’s a little evil badass who can wield both the Force and a lightsaber with ease, but she does it in a very unique way. She’s ice-cold. She’s focused. She’s the personification of persistence and patience, which almost seems like a Jedi trait. That, in addition to all the mystery that surrounds her past, just made her endlessly fascinating and fun to watch.

Jarnathan, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves


Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves | Escape from Prison Clip ft. Chris Pine | Paramount Movies

Yes, yes, the main cast of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves are all enjoyable and do good work with what’s given. But we all know the true star of the show is the Aarakocra Chancellor Jarnathan. He may not be in the movie for very long, but he’s a delight to have while he’s there. It isn’t just because he suffers so much in the name of comedy or that his name’s just fun to say; the fact that he’s a largely practical effect can’t help but make him endearing alongside the film’s other characters who are equally practical. And yeah… his name is fun to say. Jarnathan!!!

Tracker, John Wick 4

Image: Lionsgate

Shamier Anderson’s Tracker basically functions as John Wick 4’s third protagonist. Where Keanu Reeves’ John and Donnie Yen’s Caine have been fully integrated into the assassin world for years, Tracker’s trying to get deeper into it. Anderson gives him such presence throughout the film, and so much charm, that it’s easy to root for him when he starts going after other assassins trying to scoop his deal out from under him. If we’re expanding the franchise, can he get a spinoff?

Xenk, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Screenshot: Paramount Pictures

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves features a party of scoundrels and well-meaning people, but they’re all ultimately kind of dumb. It’s the cast that makes them all fun, and this is especially true with Regé-Jean Page’s paladin Xenk. His screen time is short, but he slots into the party easily right away, and his deadpan nature is just inherently funny when next to everyone else’s larger personalities. He’s hot, he’s hyper-competent, and he’s too good for the idiots who need him—aka the perfect paladin.

Cast of The Venture Bros.: Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart

Screenshot: Warner Bros.

Losing a show and its characters sucks, particularly when that loss comes out of nowhere. So it feels like a blessing that Venture Bros.: Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart exists and allows for some sense of closure for a world of weirdos and idiots we’ve spent 20 years knowing. It still sucks that we won’t get more, but at least the series got to go out on its own terms. Go Team Venture!

Levi, Scavengers Reign

Image: Max

Most everyone in Scavengers Reign is having the worst day of their lives at all times. The only one who isn’t is Levi, Azi’s helpful robot assistant who takes to the planet much more easily than the human survivors. Through their eyes, the ecosystem is more fascinating than it is frightening, and watching them gradually become more in tune with the world delivers some of the show’s most satisfying moments.

Lumalee, The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Screenshot: Universal Pictures

Adorable, but oh so bleak: the little blue nihilistic star in The Super Mario Bros. Movie was a scene-stealer. Its cheery but dark disposition is all of us in 2023. More of Lumalee in the next movie, please!

Bella Baxter, Poor Things

Image: Searchlight

Watching Bella Baxter take in the world in Poor Things was magical. She reminds us to let our freak flags fly and question everything. As Bella, Emma Stone created a career-defining character with innocence, earnest curiosity, and a tinge of madness.

Ember, Elemental

Image: Disney/Pixar

Seeing a first-generation, child-of-immigrants experience represented in Ember was so special—it’s a rare choice for a main character. Ember’s journey of keeping true to her roots while also forging her own path was beautifully handled in Pixar’s latest. And the rom-com aspect was too real—her meet-cute with Wade who’s from a different culture was such a good way to see how different worlds can come together.