It’s never easy to choose just one favorite character from among the many we meet in our travels through fictional worlds. Even when we narrow the scope to just one year of television, movies, and more, defining what makes for a favorite or “best” character seems like a herculean task. And though we say this every year, this year, we truly were spoiled for choice when it came to nerdy offerings that graced our screens. From fantastical realms to multiverse shenanigans to spectacular season twos, spinoffs, and original stories, we received a veritable buffet of characters to love (or to love hating) in 2023. And so, despite the difficulty, the Nerdist team has set out to narrow down the greatest of them all. Here are Nerdist‘s picks for the best characters of 2023.
Monkey D. Luffy From Netflix’s Live-Action One Piece
Selected by Rotem Rusak
I went into the live-action One Piece series as cold as possible for a franchise that’s been around for so long. And though I had no prior love or loyalty to the series, Iñaki Godoy’s Luffy immediately had me signing on to become a Straw Hat Pirate. How could anyone resist when Luffy just wants you to treasure your dreams and be the best you that you can be?
Having now watched some of the anime, I can confidently assess that Iñaki Godoy’s rendition captures all the hallmarks of the original Luffy: his unbounded joy, his intent enthusiasm, his determined love of his crew, and his sometimes overly excited tendencies. But above and beyond that, Godoy injects Luffy with a tremendous heart and warmth that is all his own, which deepens, rounds out, and evolves the character, taking him to new heights and pulling us all along for the ride.
With Iñaki Godoy’s Luffy as captain, it makes total sense that everyone he meets falls in love with him and decides to follow him to the ends of the earth, fans included. And that makes live-action One Piece‘s Monkey D. Luffy one of our best characters of 2023.
Egwene al’Vere From The Wheel of Time
Selected by Amy Ratcliffe
We had to wait a couple of years, but The Wheel of Time season two finally happened. The adaptation of Robert Jordan’s books of the same name leveled up in a number of ways from season one, including character development. Egwene al’Vere was one of the MVPs, standing out as one of the best characters not just in The Wheel of Time, but in all the television I watched this year. Performed by Madeleine Madden, Egwene found herself pulled out of the White Tower in the worst way possible: betrayed by a member of the Black Ajah and given to the Seanchan to take as damane. Collared and enslaved by the Seanchan, Egwene faced horrors unknown to most Aes Sedai. The Seanchan controlled Egwene’s ability to use the One Power and used her as a weapon. They broke her.
But Egwene, powerful in every way that matters, fought back. She made a difficult choice, one that will impact her for years to come. But she made it. No one decided her fate for her. In season two, Egwene rose above pain. She showed her mettle and protected her friends. It was a moving, terrible, important step on her journey.
M3GAN From M3GAN
Selected by Eric Diaz
True horror icons come two, maybe three for decade. In 2023, it came in the form of a killer robot doll with a judgmental glare—and who has no time for your crap—going by the name of M3GAN. From the moment we saw M3GAN’s pre-murderbot rampage dance in the trailer for her big-screen debut, she was poised for star status. When Gerard Johnstone’s film was finally released in January of 2023, she earned that status. Screenwriter Akela Cooper created a true icon in M3GAN, and not one of us will ever hear the song “Titanium” the same way again. M3GAN is definitely one of 2023’s best characters.
Marie Moreau From Gen V
Selected by Tai Gooden
A world full of superheroes seeped in debauchery, lies, and murder leads to a lot of blood. For Gen V’s Marie Moreau (played by the brilliant Jaz Sinclair), the constant spilling of this bodily fluid works to the advantage of her ever-expanding hemokinetic powers. Marie’s enthralling and tumultuous journey throughout season one spans from an orphan grieving her parents’ accidental demise to a self-assured young woman who confronts internal and external shaming and bravely redefines what it means to be a hero.
As she further steps into her personal power, her abilities expand and allow her to rewrite her destiny. Marie Moreau has heart, but she won’t completely sacrifice herself for the sake of others. She’s broken and resilient, passionate and terrified, and socially awkward yet keenly aware of her place and space within society on multiple levels as a Black woman. Watching her conjure blood from the soaked grassy quad and shoot it like daggers was perhaps the most empowering moment in this universe so far. She’s a true gem in a mine of new TV characters.
Roderick Usher From The Fall of the House of Usher
Selected by Mikey Walsh
The full depth of Bruce Greenwood’s incredible performance on The Fall of the House of Usher couldn’t be totally appreciated until it was over. Long before his final moments, we knew the pharmaceutical CEO was responsible for a massacre of untold millions. Roderick Usher’s body count had few equals in history. Worse, he amassed his empire by sacrificing his kids’ future to a supernatural entity. And yet, even knowing all of that, Greenwood made Roderick compelling by making it hard to fully hate him. Hadn’t Roderick started out with good intentions? Didn’t he want to end suffering rather than inflict more? And wasn’t his punishment more than anyone deserved? Didn’t his mistakes and remorse make his story a tragedy because he was a flawed person rather than a real monster?
No. His final confession wasn’t about the murders he’d committed or the deal he’d accepted. It was about the greatest lie he’d told. He’d always known exactly what Ligodone was and what it would do to the world. It was only then we knew the truth—he really was the Devil, and he had tricked us into thinking he’s not. That’s why Roderick Usher is among 2023’s best new characters.
Caine From John Wick: Chapter 4
Selected by Kyle Anderson
The John Wick series has always offered action movie fans a cadre of wild underworld characters and hardened assassins to go up against our favorite gun-fu fighter. John Wick: Chapter 4 is easily the best of the bunch in this field, and while offering a number of cool new characters, none were as great as Caine, played by Donnie Yen. The sightless assassin with a sword in his walking stick and a pocket full of sound grenades gives John his toughest battle yet, and the fact that Caine is a reluctant combatant, an anti-villain trapped in a tough spot, endears us to him all the more. And yes, he kicks the most amount of butt; it’s Donnie Yen! Why wouldn’t he?!
O.B. From Loki Season 2
Selected by Mikey Walsh
This year proved it doesn’t matter which multiverse you find yourself watching, Ke Huy Quan is an absolute joy in all of them. The recent Everything Everywhere All at Once Oscar-winner joined Loki in season two and promptly stole all of his scenes. (No small feat considering his costars.) His brilliant, way-too-literal, wonderfully straightforward O.B. was a constant source of both humor and information. What really made Ouroboros one of 2023’s best new characters, though, was the way Quan was able to also convey the inherent sadness of the O.B.’s life, even if the engineer himself wasn’t fully aware of his plight. That gave the TVA employee a depth that easily could have been lost with a lesser performance. We wanted to hang out and listen to Ouroboros while also giving him a big hug. Just like we’d love to do with Ke Huy Quan himself in every universe everywhere.