Looking for charming, but ultimately stoic characters.
November 2, 2010 7:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of charming but ultimately stoic and otherwise unflappable characters in print or film.

Characters who will respond to incredibly dire circumstances with a subtle look of confusion, or perhaps a muttered "hmm, interesting." Stoic to the point of frustrating others or ultimately negatively impacting their own life is fine, but preferably a charismatic and sympathetic character!

If you can cite specific books or films, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
posted by blahtsk to Human Relations (58 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
It's been a while since I've read the books, but surely this is Jeeves.
posted by niles at 7:53 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Buster Keaton in any of his famous films. The General is a great place to start.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:57 PM on November 2, 2010

Nick and Nora Charles come to mind.

Also, Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder (all but the first season). Not 100% sympathetic, but he has his moments.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 7:59 PM on November 2, 2010

Mr. Spock, the Vulcan.
posted by effluvia at 8:06 PM on November 2, 2010

Major Motoko Kusanagi in the Ghost in the Shell movies and animated series.
posted by limeonaire at 8:07 PM on November 2, 2010

posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:10 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Detective Philip Marlowe from the Raymond Chandler novels? Not sure if charming is the word to describe him but certainly stoic and unflappable. And maybe Doc Martin from the TV series of the same name.

Oh and when you said unflappable I also thought of Colonel Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds. He's obviously not a sympathetic character, but I'd say charming and stoic is a good way to describe him.
posted by Spamfactor at 8:13 PM on November 2, 2010

Sounds like Rick Blaine, Humphrey Bogart's character in Casablanca.
posted by twirlypen at 8:14 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tech Sgt. Chen in Galaxy Quest? Does "sort of stoned" count?
posted by The otter lady at 8:16 PM on November 2, 2010

Sounds like Data.
posted by Siena at 8:27 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh and Ed Crane in The Man Who Wasn't There.
posted by Siena at 8:46 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Admirable Crichton, the play more so than the movie. Not as taciturn as you're probably after, but stoic to the point of placing honour and 'the right thing' over his natural talents.
posted by Pinback at 8:48 PM on November 2, 2010

Tom Baker's Doctor Who.
posted by usonian at 8:51 PM on November 2, 2010

Dr. Who, specifically David Tennant. I can't remember any exact episodes, but I can totally picture him saying something like "well, that's going to ruin my evening." "why?" "oh, we're going to explode" and then prancing off to go find a flashlight or something.
posted by shesaysgo at 9:04 PM on November 2, 2010

Can't believe I'm the first to say: Atticus Finch.
posted by hermitosis at 9:10 PM on November 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

George Smiley.
posted by ecurtz at 9:16 PM on November 2, 2010

Tehol, in Steven Erickson's Midnight Tides-many other characters in this Malazan Book of the Fallen.
posted by purenitrous at 9:20 PM on November 2, 2010

Someone mentioned Philip Marlowe--I would add many classic detectives--Hercule Poirot; Lord Peter Wimsey (more charming than stoic, but mostly unflappable) and his butler/sidekick Bunter; Roderick Alleyn; and, of course, Sherlock Holmes, who fits almost all your criteria to a T.
posted by tully_monster at 9:22 PM on November 2, 2010

Macon Leary of The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler and later the film where he was played by William Hurt.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:31 PM on November 2, 2010

Meursault of The Stranger.
posted by Siena at 9:34 PM on November 2, 2010

Only because I just watched this, I thought of the lead character Asada Ryuutaro from the manga/drama Iryu Team Medical Dragon...he's always getting into these ridiculously tense situations on the operating table (what, we have to do a liver transplant and a heart transplant at the same time!?) and just sort of stays calm (except for here and there when he needs to get his righteous rage on to make other people chill or get a clue). Not sure if he qualifies as "charming" so much as "held in high regard" (his ability to sway others to his side merely through his manifest integrity is a consistent theme), but he's damn stoic and unflappable.

In other Japanese media, Beat Takeshi plays characters like this sometimes; I'm thinking of his roles in Hana-Bi, Sonatine and Brother for example.
posted by dubitable at 9:35 PM on November 2, 2010

I totally adore Sir John Gielgud as Hobson in Arthur on this score.
posted by scody at 9:35 PM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Miss Marple!
posted by lollusc at 10:25 PM on November 2, 2010

Also, (some incarnations of) Dr Who
posted by lollusc at 10:25 PM on November 2, 2010

Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand's character) in Fargo!
posted by smirkette at 10:42 PM on November 2, 2010

Li Kao in Bridge of Birds.
posted by No-sword at 11:00 PM on November 2, 2010

Wong Fei Hung from the Once Upon a Time in China series of kung fu movies.
posted by ambulatorybird at 11:07 PM on November 2, 2010

I'm not sure if this is exactly what you're after, but "stoic to the point of frustrating others or ultimately negatively impacting their own life" immediately made me think of Alice in this scene from Last of the Mohicans.
posted by peep at 11:23 PM on November 2, 2010

Oz from the Buffy franchise.
posted by pineappleheart at 12:06 AM on November 3, 2010

Clive Owen's character in The Hire (the short-film BMW ad series from 2001-2002) fits this description. He is a calm, unflappable driver for hire who has to
  • get a war photographer safely out of dangerous territory (Powder Keg by Alejandro González Iñárritu)
  • drive a bitchy Madonna to a red-carpet event (Star by Guy Ritchie)
  • spy on creepy old Mickey Rourke's sad girlfriend (The Follow by Wong Kar Wai)
  • find a kidnapping victim (Hostage by John Woo)
  • protect a holy child from pursuers while transporting him to a Buddhist safehouse (Chosen by Ang Lee)
  • take James Brown to Las Vegas so he can renegotiate his deal with the devil (Beat the Devil by Tony Scott)
  • transport a man carrying a mysterious briefcase--while under helicopter attack (Ticker by Joe Carnahan)
  • help a diamond thief get away from his pursuers (Ambush by John Frankenheimer)
Yes, they are ads for BMW, but they are darned entertaining, and Clive Owen is awesome in them.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:39 AM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure if the charm factor is high enough for you, but the bicyclist in The Triplets of Belleville is stoic to the extreme and he is surely easy to sympathize with. You gotta love that guy.
posted by reren at 1:42 AM on November 3, 2010

I instantly thought of Zoe from Firefly.

Mal: *picking Zoe up after being ambushed and shot* Well, you were right, this was a bad idea.

Zoe: *inspecting her body armor* Thank you for saying so, sir.
posted by gc at 2:47 AM on November 3, 2010

Farmer Hoggett from the "Babe" films.
posted by jbickers at 4:11 AM on November 3, 2010

Cary Grant in films like Charade, North by Northwest, and To Catch a Thief.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:58 AM on November 3, 2010

Terry Pratchett's Nanny Ogg.
posted by evilmomlady at 5:01 AM on November 3, 2010

Adding to the list of detectives, I would cite Sam Spade, both the character in the book and the movie with Humphrey Bogart. Although there are some differences, both are stoic and unflappable.
posted by dortmunder at 5:41 AM on November 3, 2010

Owen Meany. Bugs Bunny & Tweety Bird. Shane (lots of characters in westerns). Dumbledore.
posted by mneekadon at 6:35 AM on November 3, 2010

Dexter Morgan and Temperance Brennan (Bones) come to mind.
posted by motsque at 6:46 AM on November 3, 2010

Toru from Haruki Murakami's novel, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
posted by greenfelttip at 6:51 AM on November 3, 2010

Lan in the wheel of time series by robert jordan
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 6:54 AM on November 3, 2010

More comically: Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. Hepburn reacts nonchalantly to silly situations that bewilder Cary Grant's tightly wound character.
posted by jander03 at 7:05 AM on November 3, 2010

Along the lines of classic detectives already mentioned, John Shaft from the original Shaft film is very much a stoic but charming character. His indifference causes problems with women, the police, and the black nationalist movement, but he still manages to be charming and well-liked. Part of what made the modern remake terrible was Samuel L Jackson's transformation of the character into a hotheaded man on a mission.

For unflappable without being stoic, Poppy from Happy-Go-Lucky generally responds to dire situations with laughter. A lot of the film focuses on contrasting her unflappable attitude with the attitude of others.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:18 AM on November 3, 2010

Kermit is pretty unflappable considering his cow orkers.
posted by bonehead at 8:51 AM on November 3, 2010

Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility. YMMV on the "charismatic" part, but he's definitely a sympathetic character.
posted by zoetrope at 9:04 AM on November 3, 2010

Flora from Cold Comfort Farm sort of comes to mind.
posted by ifjuly at 9:31 AM on November 3, 2010

I suspect some people may be missing the stoic part in their answers... Nanny Ogg, definitely not stoic. Granny Weatherwax, absolutely. Bugs Bunny stoic? heh.

On film, perhaps John Drake from the Danger Man series, who can easily be considered the prototype for James Bond.
posted by edgeways at 9:41 AM on November 3, 2010

Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name (aka Blondie) in Sergio Leone's spaghetti western trilogy.

Not exactly an understated, muttering character, but definitely charismatic: the unshakeable Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, as played by Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now.
posted by Mendl at 11:39 AM on November 3, 2010

Oh, my gosh, how did I forget to mention Gromit?
posted by zoetrope at 12:33 PM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

John Gielgud as the butler Hobson in Arthur.
Hilariously unflappable.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 2:23 PM on November 3, 2010

George Sanders as Scott ffoliott [sic] in Foreign Correspondent.
posted by Iridic at 2:54 PM on November 3, 2010

And, as yet another butler (clearly a theme!), Peacock in the 1966 film The Wrong Box.
posted by oohisay at 4:55 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, hive mind. You guys are amazing!
posted by blahtsk at 6:10 PM on November 3, 2010

Holly Golightly from Breakfast At Tiffany's

Also, Mame Dennis in Auntie Mame.

(my two favorite characters of all time *sigh*)
posted by jbenben at 9:05 PM on November 3, 2010

Wait! Holly Golightly wasn't necessarily very stoic. Mame Dennis still qualifies, though.

In keeping with the stoic request...

Pussy Galore in GoldFinger

Mrs. Emma Peel of The Avengers

and... Sherlock Holmes!
posted by jbenben at 9:11 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bugs Bunny almost never loses his cool. His histrionics are all in service of defeating his adversaries. "I suppose, you know -- this means war."

Thought of another one in the same vein -- Ford Prefect from Hitchhiker's Guide.
posted by mneekadon at 7:42 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I see some issues with the stoic thing here. Mame Dennis, stoic? Unflappable, certainly, but hardly stoic.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:13 AM on November 4, 2010

Ford Prefect from Hitchhiker's Guide.

I must beg to differ here. There are a number of times during the series where Ford Prefect is pretty much the opposite of stoic, in fact he basically loses it. I think that, of all the people in the Hitchhiker's series, the only ones you could reasonably call stoic would be Trillian, and maybe Deep Thought. Oh, and maybe Slartibartfast, although he's kind of just a weirdo. But I think Trillian is certainly both charming and unflappable.
posted by dubitable at 6:26 PM on November 4, 2010

Captain Carrot from Discworld?

(Yeesh, I wish I knew real literature too).
posted by eytanb at 1:54 PM on November 8, 2010

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