5 Carrie Bradshaw
While Carrie Bradshaw was arguably the “lead,” the award-winning television series “Sex and the City” and the movies that followed were the work of an ensemble cast, and every female viewer related to a particular character. More than that, Carrie and her friends opened a whole new world to the average woman. Suddenly, it was OK to splurge on a $400 pair of shoes—and it was perfectly fine to pair those $400 stilettos with a T-shirt and a $7 peasant skirt. Moreover, Bradshaw and the “Sex and the City” cast celebrated female friendships and the power of women to make their own way in life – making an undeniable imprint on society in the process.
4 The Dude
No one saw it coming, not even Jeff Bridges himself. There’s just something about The Dude that’s so appealing to so many men. Maybe it’s the ease with which the character can be converted to a Halloween costume—all you need is a bathrobe and a white Russian—or maybe it’s something else. What that “something else” might be is anybody’s guess. Just ask Bridges: “Who knows? Mystery of the unknown,” he told CNN. Whatever it is, The Dude’s laid-back attitude struck a chord that society hasn’t stopped playing since The Big Lebowski debuted in 1998.
3 Elle Woods
Sure, it may have seemed like your standard chick flick, but “Legally Blonde” had a stronger message about sexual equality that many ignored. Granted, Elle Woods is a spurned lover chasing after a boy. But, she decides she can be both cute and smart. Elle sees no reason a girl has to give up being pretty and stylish just to take on a “serious” career like law, and she encourages all the girls around her to believe in themselves as well. She may not have been “real,” but she has a real impact on the way many people view women in the legal occupation and sends a real message that girls don’t have to let go of things they enjoy to pursue their professional goals.
2 Tyler Durden
“Fight Club” may not have been a box-office smash, but Tyler Durden’s influence is proving hard to beat down. Not only did the film’s release see numerous copy-cat groups emerge with fight clubs of their own (rumors that are difficult to prove, given that the infamous first rule of fight club is “you do not talk about fight club”), but Durden spawned numerous scholarly interpretations of his “philosophy.” Funny thing is, not only is Durden a fictional character, but even within the fictitious realm of the story he’s the delusion of the nameless narrator’s troubled mind.
1 Harry Potter
There may not be a person alive who hasn’t heard the name of Harry Potter, and there’s probably not many people under the age of 30 who haven’t at some point wished they were wizards like Harry. The Potter empire—including billions of dollars in box office and publishing income, merchandising and even a theme park—spans the entire globe. Universities offer Potter-themed courses, and a real-life Quidditch tournament in New York City in 2010 drew 20,000 spectators. Not bad for a teenaged orphan who lived in a closet.