There are very few things, outside of our faith, that have united the Rambling Ever On staff like Lost. Many of us watched it as it aired on ABC starting 15 years ago. A few of us came to it later, watching it at their own pace. All of us love it; some more than others. Lost, regardless of its real or imagined flaws always inspired a strong reaction. One of the primary reasons the show resonated so strongly with viewers, after all the dust and smoke settled, are the characters.
The mystery pulled us in. The twists and turns kept us intrigued. Yet, it was the characters who made us care. For those of us who fell in love with the Oceanic Flight 815 survivors, and all the other characters who followed, the answers were important but the characters made the show. Watching these people grow, fight, fail, and love made the entire journey worthwhile.
This is the Rambling Ever On Top Ten Characters of Lost. It was a brutal voting process. We nearly broke out into fistfights over a few of the choices. Some of us have yet to come to terms with a few of the omissions. We hope you enjoy our list and feel free to let us know what we got right and what we got wrong. (Warning: There will be spoilers.)
10. Jin-Soo Kwon
Lost is a show that is remembered mostly for its complex storylines, crazy plot twists, and disappointing finale (for some). While the plot of the show was unlike anything we had ever seen before (or since) the real strength of the show was its characters. Outside of Sawyer, no character saw a greater transformation than Jin. When we first meet Jin he is a controlling husband who is suspicious of everyone else who survived the plane crash on the island including his wife. Through the course of the show, he not only learns to speak English he also becomes a better man, a loving husband, and loyal friend. Like all the other primary characters on the island, he is a broken person with a tragic backstory. Unlike many of the others, his past is redeemed and serves as a catalyst for change in his life.
It is a testament to the greatness of this show that we had nine characters that were ranked higher than Jin. – Mike Lytle
9. Sayid Jarrah
Lost premiered three years after 9-11, and with America in two wars in the Middle East. So making one of the main heroes a former communications officer in Iraq’s Special Republican Guard was bold. And yet it paid off hugely. Sayid was unique among the unique and utterly likable. His army and war experience and acumen proved to be invaluable in countless episodes. One of the other writers for REO once said Sayid was the smartest of all the characters and that the other leaders should always listen to him when facing other forces on the island. I whole-heartedly agree. The fact he saw right through Henry Gale from the first second is the greatest proof.
And to top it off, he regularly manifested a humility that belied his intelligence and life experience. If I were on the island there is no doubt who I’d pick first if I needed someone to help me survive. Because not only would he give me the best chance to make it, he would provide excellent conversation and companionship.
Oh, and he would invariably do something mind-bogglingly cool like snap on of the Other’s neck with his legs. That was probably the greatest stand up and clap moment in a show with dozens of those type of moments. Sayid would be a Top three character on any other show. But on this one, even Top 10 is an enormous compliment. – Gowdy Cannon
8. John Locke
In a television show filled with strong personalities, John Locke stands apart. He is at once the best and worst character on the show. His early season storylines include some of the best character work ever by actor Terry O’Quinn. The first season episode “Walkabout” might have been the moment where the show really demonstrated just how incredibly mind-blowing it could be. (It is still one of the best episodes of television I have ever seen.)
Locke constantly battled his inner demons – and usually lost. He was fiercely interested in finding the truth but always so easily manipulated by the wrong people. He was insightful and wise yet at times almost embarrassingly naïve. Locke is a walking contradiction and watching him hit his highs and lows was a mesmerizing and frustrating experience for viewers. Yet, with all of that, you could never say John Locke was boring. – Phill Lytle
7. Sun-Hwa Kwon
I have seen most of the Lost seasons about five times. Sun has risen in my estimation each time. I now consider her by far the most underrated character on the island. Unlike many of the others, Sun’s former life was not plagued by some deep unresolved problems (unless some friction with her father counts) and therefore not in need of quite as much redemption as most of the other main Lost main characters. While she did have marital difficulties with Jin, she chose to stick it out with him right before almost leaving him.
No, instead her time on the island brought out the inner strength in her. Just in the first season she starts a vegetable garden and tends it all on her own, saves Shannon from an asthma attack after Jack fails miserably, assists in trying to save Boone’s life, and countless times quietly doles out logical, wise counsel.
She could and should have been the real leader of the group but no, she was relegated to the background by a couple of narcissistic attention hogs name Jack and Locke. She was a real straight shooter with upper management written all over her, that one. Oh well, at least her story arc does reveal her inner strength coming to the surface which is on full display in season 4. Not sure why she wasn’t a candidate. She would have been perfect as a replacement for Jacob. – Ben Plunkett
6. Charlie Pace
I will admit I had a soft spot for Charlie Pace from the get-go. Dominic Monaghan, the actor who plays Charlie, had previously portrayed Merry Brandybuck in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. So, you could say I was predisposed to like him.
But Charlie quickly established himself as one of the most likable characters in a show filled with complicated and conflicted people. There is no one on the show without demons in their past. No one is above subterfuge, deception, and selfishness. Charlie had his moments of weakness for sure, (his struggles with drug addiction for example) but he was able to overcome those and prove himself to be noble and true.
Charlie gave us a catchy song – “You All Everybody”, plenty of humor in what could be a very serious show, and a regular guy we could all root for.
Bonus: His early attempts to impress any beautiful woman around are hilariously awkward and juvenile. You can only love him even more for that. – Phill Lytle
5. Desmond Hume
Desmond Hume turned out to be one of the best characters on Lost. At first, though, he was just a lonely guy in the hatch, punching in numbers. His story took some crazy turns but it was his relationship with Penny and his redemption that solidified his place among the best. By all accounts, Desmond was a loser before the island. Nothing seemed to go his way. The island had other plans. In silence and solitude, Desmond forged his character. He realized what was most important.
In his backstory, it was about trying to please other people and be successful in their eyes. What he realized in the hatch, is that taking care of the people he loves is what really mattered. Desmond was also a main character in one of the best episodes: The Constant. It is perhaps my favorite episode. In all the craziness of what’s happening on the island, we see an amazing story of redemption and reconciliation. Ultimately, Desmond gave his life in service to others. His story was redeemed. Not by self-serving, but by self-sacrifice. – Brandon Atwood
4. Jack Shephard
As Mike asserts above, the competition for which character changed the most from Pilot to Finale is fierce. Sawyer and Jin are leading candidates (pun intended). As is Jack, the hero of heroes, and the character whose image the producers literally made the Alpha and Omega of Lost.
Jack fit an obvious stereotype–the control freak. Yet because Lost majored in character transformation, he was never derivative and, by the end, not predictable. He is one of the great round characters of TV history. The same man who pulled the trigger of a gun pointed at Locke over the debate about getting off the island, later admits that Locke was right. And he didn’t just say it; he died to prove it. And the way he died as a martyr–an amazing mixture of the way he could not change (he had to fix things) to the way he did (staying on the island to protect it)–was something I’ll never get over. It’s just TV, I know. But Lost pulled me headlong into caring about fictional people in a way I had never before.
From start to finish, I saw myself as Jack in this story. So I loved him making the Final 4 of our tournament. And I’ll forever be grateful for Matthew Fox in the role of a lifetime for him in bringing such a character to life. – Gowdy Cannon
3. Hugo “Hurley” Reyes
In a classic episode of Seinfeld, Jerry and Elaine are discussing the portly side character, Newman. Elaine makes the following observation “Maybe there’s more to Newman than meets the eye”. To which Jerry quickly responds “No, there’s less”. Casual fans of Lost might be tempted to view Hurley the way Jerry viewed Newman, a quirky side character and nothing more. Was his sole purpose to be the comedic foil for Sawyer’s one-liners? Was he on the show simply to be a lovable and nonthreatening teddy-bear type? Hurley was certainly beloved by fans and his fellow castaways. Jack trekking across the island just days after having his appendix removed to face-off with a group of armed mercenaries in an attempt to rescue Hurley is exhibit A. He also provided plenty of comic relief with his own jokes as well as being the recipient of most of Sawyer’s nicknames.
Hurley was so much more than that though. Possibly the most important plot point in the entire show was the mysterious numbers and what they signified. Hurley’s story arc intersected with the numbers more than any other character. Even though he wasn’t the classic hero or villain, Hugo “Hurley” Reyes still deserves to be this high on our list. – Mike Lytle
2. Ben Linus
The first time we see Ben Linus in season two he has been captured and shot with an arrow by Danielle Rousseau and claims that he is but a lowly marooned islander who recently lost his dear wife. It is only later that this master manipulator is truly exposed for what he really is: the evil leader of the mysterious “The Others.” (Which some of his interrogators pretty much knew all along.) So enters into the story he who in my mind is easily the most intriguing and complex character on Lost among the greatest villains of fictional history. Throughout the entirety of the rest of the series, he connivingly utters so many things that are eventually discovered to be lies or half-truths, so clearly exposed to be master manipulator, that it is a wonder any other character ever believed a word coming out of his mouth.
At the same time, one has to view his story arc in awe and begrudging admiration. His long, sad, terrible story reveals the many sides of a very complex person who was profoundly intelligent, strategic, industrious, mindbogglingly motivated, dangerous, a true leader of men, a man willing to endure any kind of pain for the end goal.
Finally, I do not believe that the character of Ben Linus would have truly been realized with any other casting. Michael Emerson took the role and immortalized it. – Ben Plunkett
1. James “Sawyer” Ford
There has never been another character like Sawyer. Like any other Greatest Of All Time, the superlatives are woefully insufficient. Larry Bird called Michael Jordan “God” once after a playoff game, and while I’ll avoid heresy, I will say that there are episodes of Lost where you know watching Sawyer is like watching Jordan drop 63 in the Boston Garden.
He nails one-liners with his perfect, native-Georgian accent. His conversations with Jack about Jack’s dad and about going to war with the Others are the stuff of legend. His diatribes to the other Survivors, like the one where he was the new sheriff in town, elicit a magnificent mixture of conflicting emotions. Even his facial expressions were an acting clinic, notably when trying to communicate once to Sayid that he was on his side even though he had to rough him up.
Trying to classify him with basic adjectives is a fool’s errand. He’s eons beyond good or bad or even complex or complicated. His background material is the best of anyone’s to me, highlighted by finding out the letter about Sawyer wasn’t written to him, but by him. It causes you to feel deep sympathy for him. Until he does something to blow up the plot of an entire episode with blindsiding, phenomenal malevolence.
To get to the apex of this list, you have to be a transcendent character in TV history. You have to be without equal. You have to be Sawyer. There hasn’t been anyone like him. And I doubt there ever will be. He’s not only #1 on our Lost list but to me he’s TV’s greatest of all-time. – Gowdy Cannon
That is our list. The Rambling Ever On Top Ten Characters of Lost. We hope you enjoyed it. Let us know how we did in the comment section below.