Film is a powerful medium. Movies have been known to inspire any number of things, from summer travel plans to a secluded night in. This week we're honing our lens on a select few onscreen characters. Taking cues from beloved moments in film history, these artful and iconic movie baby names are immortally paired with some of the best roles ever to grace the silver screen. From Bette Davis to Tom Cruise, French new wave to an '80s teen sensation, we've curated a rundown of celebrated monikers that span every genre in Tinseltown—and beyond. Since my own Texan parents saw fit to bequeath me with a traditional English name upon hearing it for the first time via a Burt Reynold's movie (true story), I feel uniquely qualified to endorse cinema as a valid source for naming conventions. Every name tells a story. The following are hand-plucked from a short list of favorites.
In John Hughes's 1986 high school classic Pretty in Pink, the role of the affluent and sensitive playboy, Blane, is memorably brought to life by a young Andrew McCarthy. Due to the ubiquity of the film, the Scottish and Irish surname is indelibly imbued with an air of unaffected cool.
The literal definition of a maverick is a trailblazer, one who is unorthodox in their approach. That's why the moniker made a fitting callsign for Tom Cruise's iconic, elite naval fighter pilot role in Top Gun. Ranking among our favorite patriotic films of all time, the '80s flick is rife with inspiration in the naming department. We're also loving Kelly McGillis as tough babe in residence, Charlie.
Pay homage to Bruce Willis's nuanced and layered performance as everyone's favorite terrorist-avenging cop, John McClane, of the Die Hard franchise. We love the Scottish surname as a hip, gender-neutral first name. The Gaelic root of the name means devotion to Saint John, the patron saint of loyalty and friendship. Yippee-ki-yay.
The love interest in 1997's Good Will Hunting, Skylar, is played by the impossibly adorable Minnie Driver. A brilliant organic chemistry major at M.I.T, she's among the most intelligent and charming Ivy League co-eds to ever grace the silver screen. The English variation of the Dutch surname Schuyler means eternal life or strength.
As a mermaid in 1984's romantic comedy from Ron Howard and Brian Glazer, Splash, Daryl Hannah chooses her own human name. She makes her selection on the fly in Manhattan after walking past a road sign on Madison Avenue. The traditional English surname was trending as a given name soon after the film's release. We're voting for a comeback.
Another role immortalized by Tom Cruise, Days of Thunder's Cole Trickle also felt the need for speed. Of English descent, the name's original meaning is thought to have meant coal-black or charcoal. Post–'90s renaissance, it carries a bit of a celebrated hot-shot history.
As the most famous and crush-worthy archeology professor in the world, Harrison Ford's Dr. Henry Walton is best known by the name Indiana Jones. In 1989's The Last Crusade, we learn from his father (Sean Connery) that the nickname Indiana was actually borrowed from the family dog. That's not a deterrent in our book. We're forever swooning over Indy.
Best known in the U.S. simply as The Professional, the 1994 film from Luc Besson about a hit man who reluctantly takes an orphaned 12-year-old girl (Natalie Portman) under his wing, stars Jean Reno as Léon. The French name, which means lion, is as fierce and inspired as the celluloid classic from which it hails.
Among the most lovable characters in cinema history, Tom Hank's Forrest Gump stole hearts. The origin of the moniker quite literally means dweller or worker in the forest. In our minds, it's forever associated with award-winning film and its hero.
In the epic historical drama Gladiator, Russell Crowe plays loyal Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius, betrayed by the son of the emperor who loved him, well, better than his own son. After being reduced to slavery, Maximus fights as a gladiator, eventually coming into battle with the undefeated Tigris of Gaul. When he spares the life of his fellow gladiator in battle, his mercy, and relentless skill make him more popular than the ruthless emperor himself. It's among our favorite hero arc's in cinema history, and we're all for borrowing the name of such an esteemed figure.
Played by Peter Sellers, Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau of Blake Edward's Pink Panther films is one of the most ingenious comedic performances ever. The traditional French form of Jacob is sophisticated and charming. The charming part certainly fits Clouseau.
Played by Audrey Tautou, the title character of 2001's Amélie is the ultimate dreamer. A fantastical romp, the imaginative film made the French name widely popular after its release. The movie is rife with name inspiration galore. Other characters include Nino, Amandine, Lucien… You see our point.
1962's romantic French drama Jules and Jim is essentially about two men who fall for the same woman. It is Jules who first wins her hand. We won't spoil the rest. The name means youthful in French. We're enamored with it as a given name for either sex.
There's more than one famous Margo in the realm of film. While Margot Tenenbaum will forever reign supreme as an on-screen muse, it's Betty Davis as aging broadway star, Margo Channing, in the 1950 gem All About Eve that gets our number one vote. The film garnered 14 Academy Award nominations upon its release. Rightly so, Davis is a legend.
Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in 1979's Alien is without contest one of the greatest on-screen heroines of the century. Pay homage to her killer survival skills and gravitas by stealing the name from one of the most genre-bending and sophisticated horror films ever conceived.
What is your favorite movie character of all time? Sound off on your top film picks in the comments.