4. Rupert Pupkin ('The King of Comedy,' 1982)
For every person who makes it in showbiz, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of would-be stars who don't get past the audition room, the casting agent's office or the security guard at the studio gate. Rupert Pupkin is determined to be one of the few stand-up comics who does make it — so what if he's not that talented or funny? He's got tenacity and the will to succeed. Also, if his idol, a Johnny Carson-ish late-night TV show host, won't give him a chance, he's prepared to proceed directly to Plan B. Martin Scorsese's devastating cringe-comedy about becoming a celebrity by any means necessary seems to get more and more pertinent every year, as people continue to claw their way to their 15 minutes of fame. Robert De Niro's portrayal of Pupkin, however, would be brilliant even if we didn't live in age of constant spotlight jockeying; it's a symphony of pushiness, entitlement, aggression, humiliation, delusions, denial, and, ultimately, violence. He's a classic have-not, throwing out bad punchlines to cardboard cut-outs in his basement. Give him stardom, or give him death.