The world is full of people and things that influence us on a day to day basis. In fact, some of the most influential and interesting people in the world are fictional and have never walked the Earth. But even though they aren’t real, they’ve certainly helped shape our lives and change society over the years.
This list will feature 10 of these extremely influential fictional figures that have had major impacts on society as a whole.
Popeye is a cartoon fictional character that first came about in the year 1919 and was featured in news strip cartoon shows, and still remains in newspapers today. Popeye became a huge phenomenon who was best known for his extremely large and exaggerated arms, and even went on to have his own cartoon television show. Popeye had a huge impact on society, as it is believed he is the precursor to the modern day “superhero” and their looks. The fact he used spinach to achieve his power and size led to a huge rise in sales and popularity of the vegetable. He will without a doubt go down as one of the best cartoon characters of all time.
9. Robin Hood
Robin Hood is an outlaw hero in English folk stories who specialized in archery and sword fighting. He is best known for his mantra of robbing from the rich to give to the poor. He became popular in the late-Medieval period and is still widely represented all throughout the world’s culture to this day. His mission appeals to people all over the world, as he is the embodiment of integrity and is known as a “working man’s” hero. The fact that he appeals to people on an extremely wide scale is evidence that he is one of the most influential characters of all time.
Hamlet is the protagonist in the Shakespeare play The Tragedy of Hamlet, which was written sometime between 1599 and 1602. The play is widely regarded as Shakespeare’s most popular and influential work of all time, and is also his longest play. The play itself dramatizes the revenge that Hamlet is supposed to bestow upon Claudius, his uncle, who killed Hamlet’s father to take the throne of Denmark. This character is so influential because of just how many ways the play and his character can be looked at, with new adaptations of the play’s potential deeper meaning still being discovered today. There is no way that the protagonist in likely the most famous literary work of all time wouldn’t appear on this list.
7. Uncle Sam
Uncle Sam is a common form of personification of the United States in general or the American government. This character rose to popularity during the War of 1812 and is still popular all of these years later. Uncle Sam largely represents the display of patriotic emotion for those that live in the USA. Now, some people may think he doesn’t deserve a spot on this list, but in truth, he could be even higher. This is because the United States are one of the most patriotic countries on the planet, and that is largely thanks to the influence of this character all those years ago.
Count Dracula, as he is widely known, is the title character and main antagonist of Bram Stoker’s horror novel, Dracula, which was written in 1897. Because of this novel, he is considered to be the original vampire, and led to hundreds of other adaptions of the character and other vampires in general. Despite obviously never being a real person, it is believed that a lot of the aspects of the character came from Vlad the Impaler, a 15th century Roman general. The original count Dracula is the prototypical villain, and that one single novel has spawned hundreds of other books, plays, movies, games and more.
5. Marlboro Man
The Marlboro Man is a figure that was used in various worldwide tobacco ad campaigns for Marlboro cigarettes. The campaign originated in 1954 and ran in the United States until 1999, while the campaign is still active in other countries around the world. These images in the campaign featured rugged men in a variety of different roles, which was an attempt to convince the public that if you smoked, you could be as manly as this guy. Well, it worked. The campaign had an immediate and significant effect, as sales rose 300% in the first few years of the campaign. One ironic fact is that many of the men who portrayed the “Marlboro Man” over the years actually died of smoking related diseases.
4. Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is an animated cartoon character and is the official mascot of the Walt Disney Company, making him one of the most recognizable cartoon characters of all time. He was created in 1928 and was originally supposed to be a mischievous antihero, but was later branded as an adventurous hero. He is one of the most merchandized characters of all time and you normally don’t need to look very far to find a Mickey Mouse toy, picture or item of clothing. This sheer presence of the character and the massive amount of people that know his story are why he is so influential and appears on this list.
3. Big Brother
Big Brother is a symbol or character that appears in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the leader of Oceania, a totalitarian state where the ruling party wields total power over the inhabitants. It is not said whether he is the actual physical dictator or just appears as a symbolic figurehead. In this fictional society, everyone in the community is under surveillance and reminded that “Big Brother” is watching. This character was so influential that, in modern culture, the term “Big Brother” has entered our vocabulary as a synonym for abuse of government power, normally related to mass surveillance.
2. Santa Claus
Santa Claus is an important figure with legendary origins, who, in many western cultures, is believed to bring gifts to good children on the day before Christmas. He is normally depicted a larger man with a full white beard and hair, who wears a red suit. This image of Santa Clause became popular in the US and Canada in the 19th century. Santa Claus has been so influential that he has become synonymous with Christmas and the idea of giving. In fact, he is so widely popular that you would be hard-pressed to find one person in the Western world who doesn’t know who he is, making him one of the most recognizable characters of all time.
And coming in as the most influential fictional character of all time is none other than Barbie. Barbie first debuted in 1959, and has since been the figurehead of the brand Mattel and an important part of the toy fashion industry for decades. The toy is so popular among girls that there even exists a “Barbie syndrome,” in which a person attempts to emulate the doll’s appearance, even though it is unattainable to achieve her body proportions. Whether we like it or not, and whether it is a positive influence or not, Barbie has influenced nearly every little girl for the last few decades in most Western societies.