TIME

The 15 Most Influential Fictional Characters of 2014

Featuring Elsa, Kim Kardashian, King Joffrey and more

Welcome to TIME’s ranking of the onscreen figures that made the biggest impact on the news and our lives this year, for better and sometimes for worse. (See last year’s list here.)

  • 15. Hello Kitty

    The Hello Kitty Con 2014 at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA on Oct. 31 2014, in Los Angeles.
    Ringo Chiu—Zuma Press/Corbis

    What does it mean to be human? It’s a question philosophers have debated for millennia—and the Internet debated this year, thanks to Hello Kitty (who turned 40 this year). According to her official bio, which went viral in August, the iconic toon is not actually a cat; she’s a human girl who lives with her family in suburban London. That revelation made waves on social media, forcing parent company Sanrio to clarify that Hello Kitty is actually an anthropomorphized animal, like Mickey Mouse.

  • 14. “The Mother,” a.k.a. Tracy McConnell

    Last Forever Part One
    Ron P. Jaffe—20th Century Fox Television

    After almost a decade of speculation, How I Met Your Mother fans were thrilled about the debut of said mother (played by Cristin Milioti). But the twist ending—that she had (spoiler alert!) died of an unnamed illness before the story of how Ted met her got told—prompted massive outrage on social media and, then, a spirited debate over what, if anything, show creators owe their fans.

  • 13. Amy Dunne

    GONE GIRL, Rosamund Pike, 2014. ph: Merrick Morton/TM & copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. All
    20th Century Fox

    As the titular Gone Girl, the movie version of Amy (played by Rosamund Pike) brought to life Gillian Flynn’s complex protagonist and launched an impassioned discussion about why dark female characters are often labeled “crazy” and “evil” while dark male characters get to be “antiheroes.”

  • 12. Mr. Poo

    In an effort to thwart public defecation—a huge problem in India, where roughly half the population doesn’t use toilets—UNICEF released a surprisingly charming public service video. Its star: Mr. Poo, an anthropomorphized piece of poop that dances around and sings about using toilets. It may sound bizarre, but it seems to be working: more than 1 million people have already pledged to, as the ad puts it, “take the poo to the loo.”

  • 11. Rust Cohle

    HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary Fukunaga
    JIm Bridges—HBO

    The True Detective lead (played by Matthew McConaughey) delivered some of the Internet’s most-quoted pearls of wisdom this year (see: “Time is a flat circle”) and his references to the work of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert W. Chambers sent obscure books, such as The King in Yellow, rocketing up Amazon’s charts.

  • 10. Thor

    Marvel

    Sure, the big-screen version (played by Chris Hemsworth) has raked in more than $1 billion at the global box office. But this year, it was Marvel’s printed comic that made waves—after it relaunched with a woman wielding the hammer. It’s not the first Thor recast; in fact, a frog once held the role. But putting a woman at the center of a comic franchise that’s not explicitly about femininity or sexual wiles sent a powerful message about the need for superhero diversity, amplified by the debut of a black Captain America.

  • 9. Annalise Keating

    VIOLA DAVIS
    Craig Sjodin—ABC

    How to Get Away With Murder‘s no-nonsense defense attorney and law professor (played by Viola Davis) kickstarted a charged debate about race and television, after a New York Times TV critic likened her—alongside Shonda Rhimes, the show’s executive producer—to “an angry black woman.” “I’m going to need to put down the internet and go dance this one out,” Rhimes tweeted in response. “Because ish is getting real.”

  • 8. Hatsune Miku

    A figure of computer-generated pop star Hatsune Miku at the venue of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in Tokyo on Oct. 9, 2012.
    Toru Hanai—Reuters

    The computer-generated Japanese musician, whose “singing” comprises many short samples of actual human voices, not only launched a debate about the nature of artistry and performance (Hatsune Miku means “first sound of the future” in Japanese), but also performed via holograph at Madison Square Garden on Lady Gaga’s tour and on The Late Show With David Letterman—all without having a body.

  • 7. Katniss Everdeen

    SS_D8-3267.dng
    Murray Close—Lionsgate

    The Hunger Games heroine (played by Jennifer Lawrence) has already secured her status as a feminist role model and a box-office powerhouse. But Katniss is more than a movie icon now: Her three-fingered salute, used in Mockingjay as a signal of rebellion against the Capitol, has become a rallying symbol among pro-democracy protesters in Thailand and Hong Kong.

  • 6. Maura Pfefferman

    501B9620.CR2
    Amazon Studios

    The transgender matriarch (played by Jeffrey Tambor) did for Amazon’s streaming service what Frank Underwood did in 2013 for Netflix: Prove that a compelling personal journey can singlehandedly shore up the fortunes of a new network. But Maura’s story, on the show Transparent, was meaningful in other ways, too: She is the first transgender person to headline a TV show, capping a landmark year for trans visibility.

  • 5. King Joffrey

    HBO

    The mad boy-king (played by Jack Gleeson) was the defining character on Game of Thrones this season, first for his sadism and then (spoiler!) for his absence. That ongoing drama cemented Thrones‘ status as HBO’s most popular show of all time—with some 18.4 million viewers on all platforms each week—and may have helped prompt the network to spin off its HBO Go service for non-cable subscribers. If only the power-mad tot were here to enjoy his reign.

  • 4. Stephen Colbert

    "The Colbert Report" Salutes The Troops
    Comedy Central

    In March, “Colbert,” the fictional conservative blowhard created by comic and talk-show host Stephen Colbert, sparked a national conversation about prejudice with a joke about the Washington Redskins’ team name and Asian stereotypes. (It spawned the #CancelColbert campaign.) But his most impressive achievement, of course, was getting his real-life counterpart hired to replace David Letterman as host of The Late Show on CBS.

  • 3. Star-Lord

    Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy..Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)..Ph: Film Frame..?Marvel 2014
    Marvel/Disney

    The self-deprecating space captain (played by Chris Pratt) didn’t just help Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy avert an intergalactic disaster. He also saved the summer box-office here on Earth, which had been sluggish until Guardians debuted with a massive $94 million in the U.S. (on its way to a $771 million global haul), and launched Pratt into superstar status. The Guardians soundtrack—modeled after a “mixtape” of oldies left to Star-Lord (real name: Peter Quill) by his mother—also reached the top of the Billboard 200.

  • 2. Kim Kardashian

    Kim Kardashian Hollywood
    Glu Games

    Real-life Kim Kardashian owes a good deal to her animated avatar—more than $200 million, to be exact. That’s how much industry analysts estimate the blockbuster mobile game Kim Kardashian Hollywood convinced users to spend on fake clothes, jewelry and more, all in an effort to climb the A-list and become best friends with a fictional version of Kim herself, who spouts lines like “You’re a natural in front of the camera. You should get a ‘momager.’”

  • 1. Elsa

    elsa-upon-a-time-disney
    Disney

    Hollywood’s reigning ice royal (played by Idina Menzel) first charmed audiences in 2013—leading Frozen to a massive $1.27 billion worldwide gross—but this year, she became a bona-fide icon. Elsa’s Oscar-winning anthem about liberation and self-acceptance, “Let It Go,” dominated the Billboard Hot 100 this spring; her debut on ABC’s Once Upon a Time (played by Georgina Haig) led to a 31 percent ratings increase; and her singing figurine just outpaced Barbie as the best-selling toy in America. Next up: a Frozen attraction at Epcot, where Elsa will greet young fans—and a likely Frozen sequel.

    Read next: Top 10 of Everything 2014

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


YOU BROKE TIME.COM!

Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team