Some have brains, others have brawn. Some are chosen, others are coerced. Some willingly put themselves in harm’s way, others find themselves swept up in events beyond their control.
Across galaxies, dimensions, and timelines, they all face one impossibly desperate situation after another—and somehow always come out on top, often with a few memorable one-liners.
And they all end up as heroes in the end. Here are some of the greatest sci-fi heroes you need to know about from sci-fi movies and sci-fi TV series.
10. Thomas Anderson (Neo)
Where is he from? The Matrix
He found out that his reality was a simulation. Clearly, the next logical step was for Thomas Anderson to download the ability to do kung-fu straight into his brain.
Running on walls, saving humanity, wearing long leather coats and sunglasses—there isn’t a single thing that Neo can’t pull off, and he does most of it in cool-looking slow motion.
He may not express emotion or have inflection in his voice, but he can fly around and stop bullets so the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar lets him hang around.
9. Marty McFly
Where is he from? Back to the Future
He’s a suburban teenager who’s best friends with an eccentric middle-aged scientist, and that scientist has shady business connections to Libyan terrorist organizations.
But Marty McFly keeps his cool in almost every situation—whether he’s being blasted back to 1955 in a DeLorean time machine or fendng off the sexual advances of a younger version of his own mother. Just don’t call him a chicken or he loses it.
8. Snake Plissken
Where is he from? Escape from New York
If you thought he was dead, you were wrong. And if you thought he’d be taller, you were wrong. He’s a one-eyed WW3 veteran turned criminal with an axe to grind with the government.
He’s Snake Plissken! And Snake Plissken gets trapped in one raw deal after another with dystopian-future governments.
They’re apparently short on resources though, because when the world’s future is at stake, he’s the only person they can turn to. He gets the job done, but don’t expect him to like it.
7. Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds
Where is he from? Firefly
He’s always fairly pissed off and never has time or patience for your nonsense. But when push comes to shove, if Mal is your captain, then you can count on him to have your back.
Malcolm Reynolds is shrewd, cunning, and resourceful. He’s no paragon of righteousness, but he’s exactly what he needs to be in order to ensure the survival of his ship, his crew, and himself.
6. Mulder and Scully
Where are they from? The X-Files
They’re an inseparable investigative duo in a working relationship that unsettlingly ping-pongs between familial and romantic.
Mulder needs Scully to keep him grounded and to lend him some credibility. Scully needs Mulder to just keep on being Mulder, because in the twisted universe of The X-Files, he always manages to somehow be proven right.
5. “Mad” Max Rockatansky
Where is he from? Mad Max
His past is tragic, his future is bleak, and his present is a desperate struggle for survival. He’s Mad Max: lone warrior of the wasteland, reluctant hero, and apocalyptic muscle car enthusiast.
Mad Max is only out for himself, but he always saves the day in the end. You don’t know where he’s been or where he’s going—he probably doesn’t even know. But he’ll keep on moving as long as he has enough “guzzoline” in the tank.
4. Ellen Ripley
Where is she from? Alien
Ellen Ripley keeps getting caught in near-inescapable situations involving one of the most frightening extraterrestrials in science fiction history… and always makes it out alive.
Don’t doubt her tenacity, because the last thing you’ll see is her (and her cat) making a close getaway while your skull gets pierced by an alien tongue—a tongue that’s actually a set of jaws with teeth extending from a larger set of jaws with teeth.
Your last thought will be: “I should have listened to that cat lady.”
3. Jean-Luc Picard
Where is he from? Star Trek
He plays the Ressikan flute. He has been assimilated into the Borg, and he’s made it back in one piece. He remained level-headed when provoked by the omnipotent extra-dimensional trickster “Q.”
In the words of Stewie Griffin: “Picard has it all over Kirk. He’s poised and measured. And doesn’t wear a cheap rug. He accepts even baldness with a quiet cool that says, ‘I am in command.'”
When push comes to shove in the Star Trek universe, there’s no one else you would rather have in charge. Jean-Luc Picard will out-think any situation before he out-guns it. But never doubt his willingness—and ability—to do both.
2. Sarah Connor
Where is she from? The Terminator
Sarah Connor was a care-free teenager waitressing at Big Jeff’s family resturant. But when she met a future soldier from a robot laser war, her life took a strange turn.
A series of events eventually led to her becoming an unhinged, heavily-armed escaped mental patient on the run from a shape-shifting mimetic poly-alloy. And the robot assassin once sent to kill her became the protector of her obnoxious son—and the future savior of humanity.
Together, the trio almost saves humanity… but because of a bunch of confusing time-traveling nonsense, they don’t? So what follows is a series of disappointing and unnecessary movies. At this point, I have no idea what’s going on with this franchise.
There’s only one thing I do know for sure: no matter what’s going on in the Terminator movies, stay out of Sarah Connor’s way!
1. Han Solo
Where is he from? Star Wars
He’s a spice-smuggling swashbuckler from Corellia. When he’s not on the run from Imperial forces, he’s trying to evade space slug criminal warlords, the galaxy’s most deadly bounty hunters, and his own better nature.
Han Solo has helped save the galaxy multiple times and is never at a loss for a snarky quip. You can always count on Han Solo to help you out of a jam—just never tell him the odds.