Whether it be their fashion, eccentricity, refusal to conform, or their unique outlook on life, there’s something about goth movie characters that draws us in. Goth girls, in particular, embody a resistance against the norms of society, providing examples that we can draw on for inspiration as the torchbearers of an alternative lifestyle.
1. Wednesday and The Addams Family
No list of goths would be complete without the dark royal family themselves, the Addams. Though daughter Wednesday Addams has attracted all the goth credit of late, every member of the Addams family deserves their place on this list.
Netflix’s Wednesday, which has held its place in the top 10 English-language TV shows for a full 20 weeks, introduced Gen-X viewers not only to the family’s deliciously morbid outlook on life (and death) but also to Wednesday Addams’ fashion. From her pinstripe blazer to Prada loafers, Wednesday’s look is always on point. She’s a veritable gothic fashion goddess.
This creepy and kooky family—though eccentric, spooky, and sometimes downright weird—captures a place in our hearts. And this is not so much a result of their eccentricity or spookiness, but rather it’s because of the things that make them so typically human: their sense of humor, romance, melodrama, and above all, their deep and powerful love for each other.
2. Lydia Deetz
Lydia Deetz, Beetlejuice's "goth girl" was the muse for many following Tim Burton’s lineup of goth characters. Though perceived as strange and eccentric, Lydia is much more sensible, worldly, and perceptive than her family members. She also possesses a sensitivity and sense of humor that make her unforgettable.
When Lydia's family moves into the home that previously belonged to the Maitland family, Lydia is the only one who can see the ghosts in the house. Throughout the course of her encounter with the afterlife, the lonely goth teenager finds a kindred spirit in the Maitlands and ultimately saves their lives.
A Unique Perspective
From Beetlejuice, we learn that sometimes people who come off as eccentric have a unique perspective or insights that can be of benefit to others. Rather than rejecting someone at face value, we should seek to understand their point of view and may ultimately end up making a new friend.
Influence on Fashion
Lydia's mid-length black hair, sharp pointy fringe, and backcombed updo became very popular in the 1990s similar to the way that Wednesday's braids and pinstripe textiles are influencing trends today. Lydia Deetz is easily one of the most iconic goths of the 1980s.
3. Eric Draven
Eric Draven is a true goth subculture icon. His role in the horror movie The Crowportrays him as the ultimate gothic anti-hero; risen from the dead on the anniversary of his and his girlfriend’s murder, Draven rampages through the night on a spree of violence to avenge the couple’s murderers.
Draven’s iconic white face, black hair, and dramatic black eye make-up, paired with an all-black leather outfit, has inspired the goth look ever since this movie’s release and continues to provide inspiration for gothic fashion aficionados today.
The Crow: Mixing Fantasy and Real-Life Goth Subculture
The film’s gothic, dark, and macabre atmosphere was set to music by The Cure for the film, adding to its iconic status.
The real-life tragedy which befell actor Brandon Lee, sadly killed in an on-set accident, only adds to horror fans' love of this fascinating character.
4. Nancy Downs
Nancy Downs is one of the four witches in the cult dark fantasy movie The Craft. A sexually precocious and ill-tempered antagonist, Nancy is cast as the movie’s clear villain.
Looking closer though, Nancy, like many other goths, is a victim of her challenging circumstances; Nancy experiences a tumultuous and abusive home life, is identified as “white trash” by her peers, and is shamed for the way she expresses her sexuality.
For Nancy, the coven represents the community, love, and protection that her family hasn’t afforded her. Her experiments with witchcraft and her witchy-gothic clothing are an attempt to gain the acceptance she had not been able to find anywhere else.
Though the easy reading of Nancy Downs’ character is that of a villain, she is really a misunderstood and maligned character whose attempts to find solace and claw back some of what has been taken from her are misconstrued as evil.
Her gothic style makes her easily identifiable as an outsider, someone that other characters distrust. However, for many, Nancy represents a woman’s struggle to gain equal footing in a society that’s pitted against her.
5. Janis Ian
Janis Ian in Mean Girls is the perfect foil to the pink, pampered, and perfect high school girls that surround her. Many of the teenage girls in this film really are mean. Judgmental, bitchy, and downright nasty, these girls will tear you apart for the slightest crime against fashion or convention. That is, apart from Janis.
Janis is the only girl in the film who is free from the tyranny of the mean-girl hierarchy and with this, is free to express her own style and opinions and develop her own character. Goth teens like Janis aren’t particularly interested in fitting in with the “picture-perfect” girls around them, and this is exactly what sets her free. In our opinion, she is the only truly likable girl in the movie.
Janis uses the fact that no one notices her to her advantage, using her role in the shadows to bring her plan to dethrone Queen Mean Girl Regina to fruition. We learn from Janis to bide our time, be ourselves, and use the resources we have to our advantage.
Maleficent is our leather-clad, horned, and winged Disney goth Queen, a modern-day Lucifer and Dark Angel maligned for her otherness.
A Very Human Character
Despite Maleficent’s intimidating outer appearance, we see a lot of humanness in her. An orphan and unlucky in love, Maleficent is haunted by inner pain; shunned by humans, she searches for an outlet for her turmoil.
Though her huge wings, corset, and horns admittedly draw the gaze more than the average goth regalia, Maleficent perfectly represents otherness in a society unwilling to embrace it.
Maleficent is an inspiring story for kids who come to understand through this film that everyone is different, not to judge others by their appearance, and to respect and admire powerful women.
7. Willow Rosenberg in Doppelgangland (Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 3, Episode 16)
Though not a movie, a list of best goth characters can’t go without a mention of Willow Rosenberg in Doppelgangland, an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayerthat contemplates an alternative reality in which Buffy hadn’t gone to Sunnydale.
In this reality, vampires have taken over and even meek Willow has become a vampire. Willow’s goth metamorphosis is transformative not only in terms of style but also in terms of personal confidence.
Goth Style As An Expression of Self
Willow the vampire with her dark make-up, leather basque, dark hair, and black lipstick is bold, self-assured, and oozes sex appeal. Goth Willow is an expression of the hidden side of Willow that we only get glimpses of in the TV series.
Dark Willow represents the gothic and dark side of her nature—a side that she usually represses. When we see it, we begin to understand the huge potential she holds inside. As she grows as a character, she learns to embrace some of these more powerful qualities and ultimately becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Our honorable mentions go to…
Lisbeth Salander, with her signature dark makeup, piercings, and tattoos, is an icon of goth subculture from the Millenium trilogy of movies, the most famous of these being “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Taking the inner pain that she harbors from an abusive childhood and adolescence, Lisbeth takes it upon herself to root out injustices in society by taking revenge on the men that she sees as abusers and tormentors of women.
Helena Bonham Carter's portrayal of the terrifying Lestrange was truly iconic and one of the most memorable roles in goth cinematic history. Her rendition in the Harry Potter movies brought goth subculture into the eyes of the mainstream media, much like Wednesday Addams is doing today.
Alan Rickman truly brought dimension to this complex character. Driven by the pain of his past, Snape hides his true character until the very last moment, living his life in the shadows but ultimately proving himself to be one of the most heroic characters of the gothic subculture.
Goth-Inspired Characters: Iconic, Representational, Inspirational
Goths represent so much—not just for other goths but for anyone who feels like an outsider. Often, goth movie characters are unlikely heroes who are fighting against injustice, misfortune, or prejudice while turning societal expectations on their heads.
Whether you personally identify as a goth or not, there is so much to be learned from these iconic characters. They teach us to stand up for ourselves, to embrace every aspect of our personalities—no matter how dark, and never to give a damn about what other people think.