It takes a certain kind of character to represent the Great State of Texas. Sometimes, Texans are powerful and proud, like J. R. Ewing. At other times, Texans are kind and hopeful, like J. R.’s brother Bobby Ewing. The truth is, Texas is a land of many unique characters. More often than not, it’s a character’s greatness that makes him Texan. From the silver screen to the flat screen, here are the 15 Best Texas film and TV characters.
15. Old Yeller & Travis, Old Yeller
Old Yeller is probably the reason that we still think of dog as man’s best friend. This mastador (mastiff/labrador mix) was about as Texan as it gets. Old Yeller fought hard for his family, stuck by his best friend’s side and was a vigilant guardian. When Travis has to put down his best friend rather than watch him grow feral with rabies, he becomes a hero, too. It takes a lot to do the right thing, but that’s what Texans try to do best.
14. Bobby Ewing, Dallas
From the get-go, Patrick Duffy’s Bobby Ewing was always the idealistic boy scout to J.R.’s mischievous philanderer. On TV’s Dallas, Bobby spent decades fighting (sometimes fist-fighting) against his brother’s underhanded schemes. Bobby Ewing makes the list because his kindness and determination make him the ideal Texas gentleman.
13. Leatherface, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Leatherface is the kind of Texan that you don’t want to invite to dinner, unless you don’t mind becoming the main course. He’s a brutal cannibal who is extremely loyal to his inbred family. Follow the backstory and you’ll find that the killer’s family is eerily close-knit because the depression took most everything from them and they decided to create their own new, insanely twisted world. The loyalty and perseverance is decidedly Texan; the wacky serial-killing hijinx, not so much.
12. Reba Nell Hart, Reba
Reba is the mama bear that sticks up for her children and raises them right. She’s got rapid-fire wit and a temper that’s hotter than South Texas in the middle of summer. Reba’s story is set in Houston, where the traffic alone could drive a woman insane. Somehow, Reba manages to keep it together to define the modern, hard-working Texan single-mother.
SEE ALSO: 10 Favorite Clips From Reba
11. Sonya Cross, The Bridge
FX’s The Bridge brought us one of the most interesting female characters in TV history. Of course she’s a Texan. Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) is a detective with Asperger’s Syndrome. Her blunt social interactions and tenacious professional tendencies are uniquely Texan. She’s never afraid to say what’s on her mind, and she gets up every time she’s knocked down. In any other state, she’d probably be stuck at a desk job, but Texans reward a woman with an independent spirit and the drive to take down border town bad guys.
10. Jonathan “Mox” Moxon, Varsity Blues
In Varsity Blues, James Van Der Beek somehow manages to turn the quarterback character into the underdog. Mox fights for his own destiny and for the health and well-being of his friends. He might not be what most people consider the ideal athlete–he calls his own plays and turns the team against the town’s beloved coach–but his ability to see the problems around him and attempt to fix them, despite the sacrifices involved, makes him an ideal Texan.
9. Rustin “Rust” Cohle, True Detective
Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal of Rust Cohle is one for the record books. The main story in True Detective takes place in Louisiana, but make no mistake, Rust is pure Texan. Before he was busting up serial-killers with Woody Harrelson’s Martin Hart, he was undercover in a bike gang in Texas hunting down drug dealers. Rust is philosophical, he takes what he wants and he’s sort of bad news. He’s also intelligent and capable of great things. We all know that Texan. There are a few in every town.
8. Bonnie & Clyde, Bonnie & Clyde
Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker have become synonymous with the notion of romantic rebellion. The movie, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, shows that it doesn’t take much to turn a couple of bored North Texans into a pair of bona fide criminals. Bonnie and Clyde went to the extreme, but the commentary about the inescapable isolation of small communities is as true then as it is now. And ain’t it like a Texan get rich or die trying?
7. Ethan Edwards, The Searchers
Arguably the best of John Wayne’s Westerns, The Searchers has The Duke’s Ethan Edwards shooting his way through Texas to rescue his kidnapped niece. Edwards is determined and ruthless, two characteristics that have catapulted many a Texas hero to legend.
6. Hud Bannon, Hud
Paul Newman’s Hud Bannon is a character at odds with everybody, including himself. He’s the “man with the barbed wire soul.” Like a lot of the people on this list, you probably know a man like Hud. He’s self-centered, emotionally troubled, and prone to pick a fight. He was broody before broody was cool. Hud was supposed to be a disliked anti-hero, but instead became a misunderstood rake. He’s human, and he’s Texan.
5. Jett Rink, Giant
Rock Hudson’s Bick might have come out as the hero of Giant, but it’s James Dean’s performance as Jett Rink that stands out. Jett is a ranch hand who works his way up from nothing to become rich and powerful. Still, he’s never truly happy. Giant, with its themes of racial tension and power struggles, is just as relative now as it was then. Jett’s story if a cautionary tale of what happens when a myopic goal overtakes a life. Both Bick and Jett are Texan, but Jett is the one whose angst could fill Palo Duro Canyon.
4. Cordell Walker, Walker, Texas Ranger
Chuck Norris’ Cordell Walker is the 90’s equivalent of the western hero. In fact, he still follows the strict moral code of rangers past. Of course, Walker likes to mix in a little roundhouse kick every know and then. Walker is wise, humorous, and chivalrous. A clear alternative to the antihero, Walker and company are involved in their community and constantly strive to make Dallas a better place to live. Walker’s constant struggle to do good makes him a fine Texan.
3. J.R. Ewing, Dallas
J.R. Ewing, brought to vigorous life by Larry Hagman, is the pure embodiment of the ruthless Texas tycoon. He’s charming, dangerous, and will turn on you faster than a copperhead. J.R.’s womanizing shenanigans and oily dealings introduced the entire world to what it meant to be a Texan at the top of your game. J.R. Ewing is the kind of Texan that all men want to be like and that all women wanted to be with. And on Dallas, most of them were.
2. Hank Hill, King of the Hill
God dangit, folks, Hank Hill is the finest modern Texan on this list. Created by Mike Judge, Hank Hill is a dying breed of Texan man. He embodies all of the traditional ideals of a Texan: he’s a provider, he’s a loving husband, he dances the two-step, he likes country music. The fun in watching Hank’s life is that he constantly finds himself defending his ideals against an ever-changing world. Hank is the guy who gets pleasure from a job well-done and whose ideal day consists of drinking beer next to an expertly constructed fence. Hank is wise and caring, loyal and often headstrong. He’s just the kind of Texan you want living next door.
1. Augustus “Gus” McCrae, Lonesome Dove
Gus is the quintessential cowboy. His eyesight is killer and he can take down cattle-thieves with a revolver and ladies with a smile. As he ages, his chief interests are getting drunk, spending quality time with the women, and playing cards. He’s a dedicated widower and loyal friend, and he’s an adventurer to the end. Gus is the best Texan character in film and television history, because he combines the friendly and carefree nature of the Texan gentleman with the determination and restless spirit of the Texan cowboy.