Because it’s Christmas, and you tell the truth at Christmas, Alice O’Connell is here to share the best and worst Love Actually characters, ranked.
SOMEHOW, it is now TWENTY years since Love, Actually was released. Which means I have now watched it at least 20 times, because – likely like half of humanity – it’s what I do every year. In fact, it’s one of my favourite Christmas traditions – five of my friends get together and watch it each Christmas. We recite the words off by heart, realise something new about the film, feel more heartbroken about a storyline because of something that’s happened to us over the year, get sad over cast members who’ve passed away (or had their real-life wife pass away, in Liam Neeson’s case), and find something new that has really not aged well.
So, this year, to celebrate 20 years, I’ve decided to turn into Santa and write my own naughty and nice list when it comes to Love, Actually. Here are the best and worst characters, ranked:
NUMBER ONE: The Three Little Kids Who Make the PM Sing
As David, bizarrely, goes from door-to-door in the dodgy end of Wandsworth looking for his (inappropriately) young love interest, the best door he opens is to three ridiculously sassy and adorable young girls, who look like they’re midway through some sort of princess-mermaid-Frozen (before it even existed) dance party.
With tiaras, fairy-wings, a sparkly pink feather boa and tutus, these three – very polite – little ladies coax the PM into continuing their dance party by asking him to “please sir, please!” sing carols for them. With more tactical abilities than the PM himself, they have him singing Good King Wenceslas in seconds. No wonder they don’t need parental supervision and are willy-nilly answering doors solo to strangers on the dodgy end of Wandsworth. (But no, seriously, where are the parents? Is this a Home Alone Christmas crossover?)
NUMBER TWO: The Octopus Kid (Natalie’s little brother)
Has a film character ever spent so little time on screen with so few lines – and yet made such an impact?! This scene-stealing octopus child is perfection.
Watching Natalie’s little brother (a reminder of how young Natalie is?!), dressed as an octopus (“eight is a lot of legs, David”) sandwiched between her and the PM as they try to have a D&M on the world’s shortest, strangest car ride is pure comic genius. (Although a less feel-good moment is seeing this tweet and realising that yes, 20 years have really passed since this film released).
NUMBER THREE: The PM’s Bodyguard
Yes you may have noticed that so far, this list is all extras and bit-parts, because, well, have you watched this movie?! Is anyone not deeply flawed?!?!
Anyhoo we get to know nothing about PM David’s bodyguard except for the fact that when he’s called for backup to sing carols to young kids, and he can sing the heck out of Good King Wenceslas.
NUMBER FOUR: Sam (the little boy who just lost his mum but fell in love, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster)
Sam should be a tragic little storyline in this film, having just lost his mum at Christmastime no less!! But thankfully Sam has a doting stepfather and, a crush… Sam’s love for beautiful voice of an angel Joanna, is the kind of crush we can get behind. Even if it does mean a ridiculous Christmas dash to the airport (every good Christmas film needs one, no?), which Sam’s stepdad Daniel is VERY keen to facilitate. His beaming little face is all the Christmas cheer you need.
Also, I need to add here a fact that always deeply disturbs me everytime I watch this movie. At the time of filming Thomas was 13. Keira Knightly was EIGHTEEN. There are just FIVE YEARS between them and Thomas is a small child with his first crush while Keira is getting married and kissing the best man. Mind boggling.
NUMBER FIVE: The Carolling Cue-Cards
Yes, these cards Mark uses to profess his inappropriate love (a whole subgenre of Love Actually in itself) aren’t made with the greatest of intentions, but they’re easily the most famous, iconic images of this film. They do the heavy lifting, so they deserve their own spot.
NUMBER SIX: Rufus (Rowan Atkinson)
Some people find Rufus downright frustrating and annoying, but personally I’m a big fan of this Christmas angel. Because yes, Rufus is an angel. In fact, in the original Love Actually draft he was a fully-fledged angel who intervened to help several of the main characters. In the final cut, these are more watered-down interventions, but still exist! He does his darnest to interfere and stop Harry from buying that (hideous) necklace for his PA. And, he causes a bit of a hold-up in the queue at the airport, allowing Sam a moment to duck through and profess his love.
NUMBER SEVEN: Karen (Emma Thompson – the best of the best)
Ok look, yes I’m aware that this is likely more of a sympathy vote than anything else, because Karen isn’t always the most likeable (remember when her pal Daniel – aka Liam Neeson – calls, obviously wanting a shoulder to cry on because his wife died LAST WEEK and she tells him she has to go, but first that: “no one’s ever going to shag you if you cry all the time.”!?!? But I choose to forgive her for this one, because, well, she has the shittiest Christmas.
She finds out ON CHRISTMAS EVE that her husband is having an affair (horrifically, this isn’t that uncommon – I talked to a woman who had this exact same thing happen, except she realised the lingerie her husband had bought her had actually gone to his secret lover. Ye gods). She then has to smile and fake it in front of every school mum at her kid’s school production (what the heck is wrong with this school?) – where she has a moment of relief when she thinks her brother has for once actually shown up to something for his niece and nephew. Her brother is also the goddam Prime Minister which must be a curse in itself. But then she discovers he was actually there just to snog his young catering manager in a moment that would likely be across The Daily Mail and The Sun for weeks to come. And then her cheating husband goes overseas and leaves her to look after the kids alone. Karen – although not the most empathetic of friends – deserved better than this shitshow.
NUMBER EIGHT: Laura Linney’s (Sarah) Stairwell Dance (The One Who [Almost] Hooks up with Karl)
When Sarah says she needs a moment before letting Karl into her house, as a woman who has lived alone, I for a second always wonder if she’s going to do a mad whip around her house to make her bed, hide the pile of washing on her floor and clean the bathroom sink. But then I remember it’s one of my favourite all-time moments. She just needs a second to do a goddam happy dance in the stairwell. I have lost count of the number of times my friends and I have sent this GIF to one another to explain a situation. THE JOY.
NUMBER NINE: Daniel (Sam’s stepdad, played by Liam Neeson)
Daniel also very nearly made it onto my worst list, based purely on the fact that runs into Claudia Schiffer a week or so after his wife dies and starts making moves on her. In hindsight, I realise this is actually super unfair, because, well, his wife just died and his best friend is very unsupportive and his only real support system seems to be his young stepson who is experiencing his first crush. And, I get it. It’s Claudia Schiffer. Daniel is an undeniably fantastic stepdad who should be remembered for his good moments.
NUMBER TEN:Colin Frissell (The horny dude who heads to Wisconsin, played by Kris Marshall)
Colin was actually going to be on my bad list because I find him kind of harrassy and gross. The “try my lovely nuts” that he says to the woman in the office where he delivers lunch items, or the creepy “beautiful muffin for a beautiful lady” he says to another, gives me the ick (and is très inappropriate at the workplace).
But, there’s something very loveable about Colin, which is why when I said I was doing this list Kelly said, “The Wisconsin guy is the best!”
PLUS, at one of the Love Actually screenings we had a few years back, my friend suddenly remembered a story she had meant to tell us immediately upon hearing it. Her brother had been travelling around the US and one night, found himself at a bar sitting next to someone who looked very familiar. As the penny dropped that it was none other than Colin Frissell, he confirmed it by singing, “And he’s got a biiiiiiiiig knob” Legendary.
NUMBER ONE: Jamie’s Bad Brother (played by Dan Fredenburgh)
This guy is barely in the film, but he HAS AN AFFAIR WITH HIS BROTHER’S GIRLFRIEND. Enough said – just go to prison already.
NUMBER TWO: The PM’s Mean Chief of Staff
Weirdly, this woman is hung-up on body shaming Natalie (who is what, a size 10?!?), dishing out digs like calling her, “chubby” or noting she has “sizeable arse and huge thighs”. WTF!
NUMBER THREE: The Woman Who Takes the Call that Billy Mack is Invited to Elton John’s Party
It’s inexplicable, but no one annoys me quite as much as this woman. She’s in the scene where Billy is celebrating making it to #1 on the charts. She takes a call, calls out, “Bill, it’s for you babe.” (I’m already annoyed). And hands the phone over, dramatically raising an eyebrow to the crowd as he says, “Elton?! Of course”. From there, even the way she drinks her Champagne and leans across the piano riles me up, and it’s normally at this point of the year that I realise it’s December, and I’m stressed and maybe I need to calm the heck down and stop getting annoyed by extras in Love Actually.
NUMBER FOUR: Harry (Alan Rickman – we miss you!)
HARRY. WTF. Why would you cheat on Emma Thompson?!? And with your sleazy PA?! AND ruin Joni Mitchell for your long-suffering wife? AND THEN LEAVE HER TO LOOK AFTER YOUR KIDS WHILE YOU HEAD OFF OVERSEAS. Harry admits he’s been a fool. But Harry, I see your fool and I’d like to raise that to HEARTLESS PRICK.
NUMBER FIVE: Mark (the guy with the cardboard)
It always disturbs the heck out of me that this uber-romantic, iconic moment in Love Actually is actually the work of a stalker who is trying to muscle in on his best friend’s WIFE. Who then kisses him? Ye gods.
NUMBER SIX: The Sleazy US President (Billy Bob Thornton)
Back in 2003 this guy would have been my number one villain. But in the years since, Trump has quite literally trumped Billy Bob in the sleazy despicable president stakes and I’ve been so worn down that I am no longer that shocked by his behaviour.
NUMBER SEVEN: Mia (the affair lady, played by Heike Makatsch)
Mia – who always reminds me of a sinister Cluedo game piece – is into wearing devil horns at Christmas parties, ugly gold lockets, forcing her married boss to slow dance with her and lolling around in her bizarrely all-lilac coloured bedroom. Yah, yah, she was not the married one, but she knew her boss was married with kids and still tried to seduce him in a pretty tacky, icky way.
NUMBER EIGHT: Natalie’s parents (Mr & Mrs ‘Eight is A Lot of Legs, David’)
What is wrong with all the people surrounding Natalie?
‘Plumpy’ as a nickname?! REALLY?!?
NUMBER NINE: Aurelia’s Dad (The One Who is The House Cleaner who Meets Sad Colin Firth and Wins His Heart, Although They Don’t Speak the Same Language)
Another parent who needs to get it together because, while he joins the town as they follow a stranger, who has turned up to see his daughter, this dude doesn’t focus on the fact that an Englishman on the rebound who has never had a conversation with his daughter but is there to propose. Oh no, he is too busy taunting his other daughter, to whom he says, “Shut Up Miss Dunkin Donut 2003”. What a guy.
NUMBER TEN: Karl (The Spineless Dude who Works with Laura Linney and Has ABS)
Yes, Karl is hot. In that Clark Kent glasses-wearing, with surprise abs kind of way. But, Karl also has the emotional intelligence of a shoe.
Maybe he was clueless that there was an attractive woman in his workplace who has had a crush on him since the second he arrived, but at the work Christmas party those cogs in his brain start turning and he seems to realise. So, after a slow dance, they head home to her house, where, things start getting hot. Alas, this is when Sarah’s real life comes crashing in to destroy her fantasy in the form of her high-needs brother who needs her help. She takes his calls, because it’s what she does, but Karl has no idea what is going on. And you know what he doesn’t do? He doesn’t ask what the heck is going on and if she is okay. Instead they mope around, even in the last scene we see of them back in the office, unable to communicate because Karl cannot bring himself to ask a few basic questions. You’re better off without him, Sarah!!