Power-ranking the 10 best fictional Miamians
Say what you will about Miami, but we’re full of characters. This is where people come when they’re running away from somewhere else, which means everybody’s got a story. And that’s not lost on Hollywood.
So while the best fictional characters from Boston or Chicago are affable, funny guys, in Miami we’ve got drug lords and spies, serial killers and hitmen-turned-movie producers, and... um, Ace Ventura. Here are the 10 best:
10. Luther Lavay
Any Given Sunday
Sure, we could have gone with the obvious: Willie Beamen or coach Tony D’Amato. But, let’s not forget that they, like some other athletes we won’t mention, bailed on Miami after the season. Luther, however, was the guy who called Beamen out for being cocky, partied harder than anyone on the team, and oh, CHAINSAWED AN ENTIRE SUV IN HALF. That’s the kind of insanity that really represents our city. And he wasn’t really much of an acting stretch for Lawrence Taylor either.
9. Chili Palmer
Get Shorty, Be Cool
While this list is chock full of South Florida sleazeballs, Chili Palmer managed to go from one sleazy profession (loan shark) to what is possibly the only profession MORE shameful (movie producer) to the absolute bottom of the barrel (record company executive). In Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty (and its movie adaptation starring John Travolta) Chili smoothly parlays a job collecting debts from a B-list movie producer into getting a movie made about his life, all while tricking various mobsters into killing each other or getting arrested -- which is about as street smart as you can get. Oh, and then he does it all again to save a record company in the sequel Be Cool.
8. Ace Ventura
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
It’s sad, really, that this guy has done more for the Dolphins in the past 30 years than anyone named Shula or Marino. First, he rescued the team’s mascot Snowflake. Then he kept Dan Marino from getting kidnapped (and if that would've happened, there'd be no Anthony’s Coal Fired, so yeah, good work Ace!). Finally, he indirectly taught generations of future holders the importance of keeping the laces out. Oh, and he caught a bullet in his teeth, but that laces out thing is way more important.
7. Sam Lombardo
Worst guidance counselor in history? Possibly. Although he did manage to guide two high school girls through a plot to extort $8.5 million from one of their parents (who he was sleeping with), then guide himself right into a celebratory threesome with said girls, played by Neve Campbell and Denise Richards. And while in real life a guy in his 30s having a three-way with a couple of high schoolers might be frowned upon (if by "frowned upon" you mean "put in jail"), somehow in a movie it makes you a hero to every 13-year-old who stayed up late to watch it on Showtime.
6. Tommy Vercetti
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
You know what would suck? FINALLY getting out of prison only to have your mob buddies up North immediately set you up to get capped during a drug deal. So, instead of waking up at noon and going to the beach like most Miamians, now you have to steal cars and take over the Vice City drug trade to get back at them, all of which culminates in a giant Scarface-esque shootout at your mansion on Starfish Island. But hey, at least you’ve got the voice of Ray Liotta!
5. Michael Westen
Being a former Army Ranger who can jump out of a helicopter into the middle of the ocean and survive, make a bomb out of glove compartment chemicals, and take on a elite super-group of military and corporate leaders makes you pretty tough. But you know what makes you even tougher? Living in an upstairs apartment in Miami with no A/C and living off nothing but yogurt. Bonus points: he’s a native Miamian who, technically, isn’t even allowed to leave the city. Get all the tattoos you want, that’s “305 Till I Die”.
4. Blanche Devereaux
The Golden Girls
To be a 40-something (ok, 50-something, but don’t tell her that) lady in the company of the guys on this list, you’ve gotta be doing something right. Or sleeping with them. Or both. In an era when it still wasn’t totally acceptable for a woman to “date” around, Blanche did it after 50 and with no shame. Rue McClanahan’s character set the stage for every promiscuous character who came after, and taught a generation it was OK for a woman to have sex like a man. So that cougar you hooked up with in Islamorada during spring break ’05? Thank Blanche for that.
3. Dexter Morgan
Being a serial killer in Florida is kind of like being tech start-up in Silicon Valley: you’ve really gotta do something special to set yourself apart. When you can moonlight as a coroner, get all the cops on your side, and only kill people who really, REALLY deserve it, well, you've just made yourself the Google of homicidal maniacs. Throw in the fact that Dexter managed to raise a family (sort of) and hold down a job while slicing and dicing his way through South Florida, plus teach us all how to effectively clean up a murder scene, and you see why this well-rounded murderer comes in at #3.
2. Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs
Nobody defined Miami style in the 1980s like Crockett and Tubbs: pastel shirts with white suits, loafers with no socks, and dark, dark glasses. When these guys from Metro-Dade’s Organized Crime Bureau weren’t busy posing as cocaine importers, or porn magnates, or pimps, they were driving around Miami in a freaking TESTAROSSA. Plus, they made “In The Air Tonight” cool. Bonus points: these guys were actually IN Miami when they did it, as you might remember from these famous scenes.
1. Tony Montana
While every single guy in Miami thinks he does a perfect impression of Tony, nobody’s topping him as the best fictional Miamian in history. Yes, he might have the worst fake Cuban accent ever, but when you watch your best friend get chainsawed alive and still refuse to give up the product, shoot your old boss, take his wife, then double-cross a vicious Colombian drug lord because you won’t kill a kid, it’s easy to overlook. Oh, and taking on an entire Colombian hit squad from your balcony with a grenade launcher? It doesn’t even matter if you lose, because the world is clearly already yours.
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Matt Meltzer is the Miami Editor for Thrillist and was crushed when he moved to Miami and learned that Blanche Devereaux wasn't real. Follow him @mmeltrez.