How Are Movie Characters Established?

It can be tricky to create a movie character that stands the test of time. Despite this, many talented filmmakers have managed to achieve it. Several elements combine to establish an iconic figure.


This is arguably the most critical aspect of creating a believable and engaging character. It is up to the actor to use their body language and facial expressions to make the performance memorable. Their tone of voice is also crucial. This is because many of the most iconic characters in motion picture history are remembered for saying particular lines. Good examples include:

“May the Force be with you” Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars (1977)

“There’s no place like home” Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

“I’m the king of the world” Jack, Titanic (1997)


Before the actor has a chance to clearly establish their character, the viewer will make assumptions on them based on what they are wearing. It is the job of the costume designer to purchase and order tights, shirts, trousers, hats, shoes, and any other items that will be worn by the actors. This job is so important that Best Costume Design has its own award at the Oscars.

The Script

The actions and dialogue of the character are other factors. These will be written in the script. A good writer can foreshadow the character so that the audience already knows how to feel about them before they appear on the screen.


The tone of music that plays when a character is seen on screen will communicate how the viewer should feel about them. For instance, a foreboding soundtrack establishes them as a villain. While movies are seen as a visual medium, the score plays a vital role.