Eccentrics in Cinema

by AlexHall

Created 12/27/12

Edit List

Eccentrics are an important part of cinema, and life. They're the type of people who make life and movies interesting. But what I was noticing in many of the films I watched in the collection is many of the characters in these films are those who stray from your typical human being and go miles past the line of normalcy. Maybe in a good way, but more than usually in a more foreign and always interesting way.

Also, leave a comment below if you felt I missed anything of if you know of any other Criterion films that fit this theme.

  • Robert Crumb has always been to me one of the most interesting people ever documented. He is quite a strange individual. His obsession with untraditional women, sex, comic books, incest, and many other things are just tip of the iceberg when it comes to his personality. He has many things that just set him apart from the human race, and he understands and embraces this. What's even more interesting about this film is that his two brothers are even more eccentric then he is!

  • The character of Ben in this film is a rather complex character. He is charismatic and funny, but also a sociopathic killer. Benoît Poelvoorde gives an excellent performance giving this guy very human qualities minus the soul.

  • Like Benoît Poelvoorde in Man Bites Dog, David Thewlis plays a very, very dark person with a whole lot fun and charisma to his personality. The performance just seems so authentic that it's almost painful to watch. Johnny is a very conflicting character because he does some questionable things, but in the end you're rooting and liking him to an extent at least.

  • Spalding Gray is one of the most neurotic and unique of all people.

  • A platter or buffet if you will of eccentric people in Austin, Texas. From the guy walking down the street telling conspiracy theories, a women repeating "You should never traumatize a woman sexually, I should know. I'm a medical doctor." over and over, to the woman with the Madonna pap smear you'll meet a lot of familiar types but learn an awful lot about the psyche of the strange.

  • A quote from this film suits this entire list better than anything I could possibly ever written. "Too strange to live, too rare to die."

  • A perfect example of an environment changing the very being of a person to their core. You see a completely normal man (or so we can assume) turn to a very disturbed individual. Which raises the question are these people on this list a product of their respected environments or are we just born this way so to speak?

  • "Mabel is not crazy, she's unusual. She's not crazy, so don't say she's crazy."

  • Both Harold & Maude are some of the most notoriously rememberable and interesting characters in American film.

  • Andre Gregory is one of the more subtle eccentrics on the list. The reason I felt he deserved a spot is I've just never seen a guy like him in a movie before. His mild mannered attitude, mixed with his awkward physique, and incredibly insightful intellect just makes him a joy to watch. He's really playing a variation of himself here, and I would just love to meet him in real life.


  • By fran_kie
    April 11, 2013
    07:05 AM

    Good list. I think there could be two lists easily, one for eccentric directors (it might be too long) and one for specifically eccentric characters. I've lately begun focusing on Luchino Visconti and he's one for the director list. Character-wise I recently watched The Vanishing. Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu is an interesting example of when eccentric goes bad.
  • By QuQCDegueulasse
    April 11, 2013
    07:43 AM

    well, if you're a New Yorker, this may just be your lucky opportunity to meet Andre Gregory, as Film Forum is showing a new documentary on him with him and his wife in person! Hope this is helpful, here's the link
  • By oz-rob
    April 11, 2013
    09:38 PM

    Hazel Motes the eccentric hell and salvation obsessed preacher for his Church without Christ in WISE BLOOD 1979. is certainly well beyond the line of normality..... Another character that comes to mind is Gully Jimson who like many in his profession of painter, artist have an eccentric streak and lifestyle. THE HORSES MOUTH,1958.
  • By Justin Moore
    April 18, 2013
    05:21 PM

    "Too strange to live, to rare to die." You got yourself a grammar error there, but this is a great list! I hope to see you add more to it in the future.
    • By AlexHall
      April 18, 2013
      05:53 PM

      I didn't notice that but I'll fix that immediately. Much appreciated!
  • By Asger Behncke Jacobsen
    April 18, 2013
    05:27 PM

    I would definitely mention Grey Gardens from 1975 by David and Albert Mayles. A wonderful film!
  • By Casey Jacobs
    April 18, 2013
    05:40 PM

    Ed Wood?
  • By C. Jerry Kutner
    April 18, 2013
    05:52 PM

    Stan Brakhage.
  • By Imposter_Gamera
    April 19, 2013
    03:44 AM

    Pretty sure the line for Dr. Gonzo is "Too weird to live, and too rare to die." I watch this movie at least once a month, so I'm pretty sure that's the line. Other than that, great list!
  • By Joanna Hall
    April 19, 2013
    08:16 AM

    WOW! This is great, Alex.
  • By Eric Levy
    April 20, 2013
    02:05 PM

    Wonderful list Alex. And congratulations on getting it on the Criterion Home Page (an honor I currently share). I would suggest Les Blank's BURDEN OF DREAMS as an appropriate addition. Werner Herzog is nothing if not eccentric.
  • By futurestar
    April 21, 2013
    03:09 PM

    I love this list. knowing every film on it helps. I suggest Onibaba, Kuroneko, House, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and/or Vampyr as possible additions but nothing wrong with the ones gathered here and their purpose. 100% fact - Forbidden Planet was an A listed production from Warner Brothers and made to usurp the mass of B grade terror films from the early 1950 - 1960's to another whom wrote here. It was so fine in ideas and production value lots of it was borrowed liberally in the TV series - Star Trek (and even some used on Star Wars). I concur It would be nice to see it as Criterion release though it would not fit this list. to all the Carnival of Souls stalwarts - it is a perfect fit and nestles nicely here.
  • By Conor R.
    May 12, 2013
    09:54 PM

    Atta boy Alex!
  • By Brock Pace
    May 20, 2013
    10:02 AM

    HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING should be on there. Denis Bagley is easily one of the strangest characters I have come across in cinema.
  • By Lee Anderson
    May 29, 2013
    07:34 PM

    Max Fischer from RUSHMORE.
  • By Barbara R.
    May 30, 2013
    01:17 AM

    Memento. Brilliant film and each time you see it you become more aware of the killing machine that the main character is becoming.
  • By Barbara R.
    May 30, 2013
    01:20 AM

    Fitzcaraldo by Werner Herzog. Klaus Kinski is larger and stranger than life. Aguirre Wrath of God nay be even more disturbing.
  • By Brandon Germann
    December 19, 2013
    11:37 PM

  • By Peter_Wilson
    January 20, 2014
    06:40 PM

    Great list you've got yourself here. I'd like you to participate in my list Your Favorite Criterion Edition, which is a compilation of members single favorite edition along with there comment of the film.
  • By Barry Moore
    June 05, 2014
    06:55 PM

    Marion Eaton as Mrs.Gert Hammond in the 1975 hardcore underground horror parody 'Thundercrack!' (directed by Curt McDowell to a George Kuchar screenplay) offers one of cinema's great eccentric performances in conveying one of cinema's greatest eccentric characters. Definitely not for all tastes, this strange and memorable film, not yet available in uncut form on DVD, is brimming with eccentricity from both sides of the camera.
  • By MDHendrickson
    August 08, 2014
    09:27 AM

    Anything from Fellini? His films are a circus full of eccentric characters.