26. Daniel Plainview
Played By: Daniel Day-Lewis
Movie: There Will Be Blood (2007)
Paul Thomas Anderson is a fearless filmmaker, an auteur so assured that he devised an epic, 158-minute character study around a reprehensible monster of a man. Through PTA's masterful storytelling and Daniel Day-Lewis' gargantuan performance, There Will Be Blood's Daniel Plainview elicits uneasy sympathy from viewers, until, scene after scene, he reminds us why he's ultimately unworthy of our most tender emotions.
Plainview operates with only one thing on his mind: the almighty dollar. It's the reason why the cold-hearted oilman's "bastard in a basket" son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), is unable to fully connect with him, and why self-appointed preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) can't use his God-fearing ideologies to sway Daniel toward his unseemly religious beliefs.
As There Will Be Blood's protagonist, Plainview is the film's beating heart, and, as a result, Anderson's loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel Oil! pulsates with darkness. By the time that infamous "I drink your milkshake!" line arrives during the film's violent climax, and that bowling pin in Daniel's hand splits gets put to use, his standing as a cruel, one-track-minded, emotional deviant has already long been established. The final murder is nothing more than a horrific punchline. —MB