The following list is composed of male characters in literature that have been brought to the screen by some of the greatest actors of all time. While this list represents a group of wildly different men — good guys and bad guys, heroes and antiheroes — all of these compelling characters address complicated issues regarding masculinity while taking on the delicate task of transferring a character from the page to celluloid.
Here’s a list of some of the best portrayals of male book characters in film (we’re hoping to follow up with a list of ladies shortly).
1. Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon
Humphrey Bogart was the natural choice to play private detective and noir hero Sam Spade of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Spade is a chain-smoking, stoic loner who gets sucked in to an increasingly complicated mystery revolving around a deceitful femme fatale and a mysterious falcon statue. Hammet worked as a private detective himself and said of the character in the introduction to the 1934 edition of the novel: “Spade has no original. He is a dream man in the sense that he is what most of the private detectives I worked with would like to have been, and, in their cockier moments, thought they approached.” Bogart’s inimitable charm lent the role the appropriate confidence without making Spade come off like an egomaniac. John Huston’s 1941 film version of The Maltese Falcon is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time and is thought to be one of if not the first major film noir.