There have been quite a few films and television series that include transgender characters. While the majority of them are comedies, some are serious and help to promote the acceptance of people who are at various stages of the transformation process. As the world is changing, and more people are deciding to make their decisions public and have the required treatments to change their genders, we’re seeing a greater representation in Hollywood. Some of the actors playing these roles have won Academy Awards, Oscars and other honors for their performances.
Here are the top 20 fictional transgender characters we’ve come across in movies and television:
1. Sophia Burset
Sophia is the top ranked fictional transgender character, coming in with the largest number of votes. She appears in “Orange is the New Black” television series. Laverne Cox plays the part of Sophia, a prison inmate who is transgender and has a difficult time making a connection with her young son. The actress who plays this part is known for her strong and open support of the LGBT community in their struggle to gain equal rights. This series gives the world a fair representation of the struggles that many transgender men and women have with loved ones and in relationships. Not everyone can accept that fact that the person they knew is no longer the same sex. It can be confusing for children and adults who do not fully understand what the transgender person has gone through their lives as they make the decision to go with the gender that they identify with the most.
2. Buffalo Bill
This isn’t a character that you can really say has much appeal, but Ted Levine certainly brought the villainous character to life in the 1991 movie “The Silence of the Lambs.” Buffalo Bill is a transgender male who kidnaps larger women and holds them in his cellar. He makes them rub lotion on their skin so it will be smooth and supple. When he thinks that they are well conditioned, he kills and skins them so he can wear their skins as a suit. The intention of the movie is not to purposely cast shade on transgender people through the character. He is a sick person as well as being a serial killer, who just happens to be transgender. The character in the film does a good job at playing his original birth role as a male, but we see in a few scenes that he truly identifies as a female. It is assumed by many viewers that perhaps his own inner turmoil is what causes him to kill innocent women so he can literally know what it is like to live in their skin. The film won five Academy Awards along with Best Picture.
John Cameron Mitchell is the actor who plays Hedwig, in the film “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Hedwig is a character who is a transgender punk rocker. She is on the wrong end of every relationship that she has had and each of her lovers has done her wrong. The actor received a Golden Globe nomination for his work in the film. Let’s also not forget that Taye Diggs also did a great job playing this character on Broadway.
4. Bree Osbourne
Coming in at the number four greatest transgender fictional character on our list is Bree Osborn. She is played by Felicity Huffman in the movie “Transamerica.” The character has not yet completed the transformation process and she is attempting to make a reconnection with her son whom she has not seen in many years. This is a common story that happens with transgender people in real life. It may help to shed some light on the issue for people who don’t understand what is going on with people who transition. The actress won a Golden Globe award for her performance and was also nominated for an Oscar.
5. Maura Pfefferman
The great Jeffrey Tambor is the actor who plays Mort Pfefferman. The character is 70 years old when he decides to inform his grown children that he is in the process of undergoing a gender change. He informs them that his new identity will be Maura in the Amazon series “Transparent.” Tambor has already received multiple awards for his performance and we expect him to get even more as the show continues to air.
Dil is a character from “The Crying Game.” The 1992 film features actor Jaye Davidson playing the part of Dil, who is transgender. Dil is the love interest of Fergus, an IRA soldier. Davidson received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in the film. This film was among the first to include a transgender character that made a positive impact on audiences in the consideration of the fact that they are just people who are a part of the human race, and have the same needs as people who do not belong to this group. It looks at the person from a humanistic point of view.
7. Cindy McCauliff
Our seventh greatest fictional transgender character is Cindy McCauliff. You may remember her from the television series “Ally McBeal.” Cindy was played by actress Lisa Edelstein. The character transitioned from a male in the show. “Ally McBeal” was the recipient of numerous Golden Globe awards throughout its run time. Edelstein is still active on television starring in The Girlfriends Guide to Divorce.
*8. Lili Elbe (Real person)
“The Danish Girl” is a 2015 biographical drama film, starring actor Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe. She was one of the pioneers in moving ahead with gender reassignment surgery. It happened duringthe 1930s in Copenhagen. Elbe’s wife attempted to remain supportive throughout the process, but the marriage went through extreme difficulties when Gerda Wegener realized that Lili was not the person that she married.
Lili Elbe is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Fictional Transgender PeopleIn the 2015 biographical drama, The Danish Girl, Eddie Redmayne plays Lili Elbe, one of the first known women to receive gender reassignment surgery in Copenhagen in the 1930s. Elbe’s wife, Gerda Wegener, is supportive at first, but their marriage becomes strained when she realizes that Elbe is no longer the person she married. The film was an adaptation of the David Ebershoff novel “The Danish Girl,” released in 2000. The film went on for a prestigious recognition at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
9. Roberta Muldoon
Roberta Muldoon is a character from “The World According to Garp.” You may remember this 1992 Robin Williams comedy. John Lithgow is the actor who portrayed Roberta who was an ex-football player who transitioned to a woman. John received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting actor in his brilliant performance. Personally we think he should have won.
10. Rayon (based on real person)
Jared Leto did a spectacular job in his portrayal of the character Rayon from the 2013 movie “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” This was the touching side story of a transgender woman with HIV. She assists Ron Woodruff in his business which includes the sale of smuggled drugs that help to alleviate the symptoms that she experiences with the disease. It is no wonder that Leto won an Academy Award for his performance in the category of Best Supporting Actor. In a side note, Leto maintained the character throughout the entire filming of the movie. The film makes a statement that everyone needs to hear. There are real people in the world who are suffering and they are in need of help. It only takes one decent person to make a difference for them.
Brittany Daniel is the actress who plays the character Carmen in the television series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Carmen transitioned from a man to a woman in the series, and she is the character who caught Mac’s eye. She is an integral part of the series that received an Emmy nomination in 2013. It’s just too bad we’re very unlikely to see another season of the show given the whole Dennis Reynolds thing.
The twelfth greatest fictional transgender character of all time is Ray from “About Ray,” a 2015 film. Elle Fanning is the talented actress who portrays a teenager who was born a girl. He realizes that his real identity is a male, so he begins the transition process. Unfortunately the film wasn’t particularly well known but Elle Fanning delivered a very solid performance which resonated with the LBGTQ community.
13. Patrick “Kitten” Braden
Cillian Murphy is the actor who portrays the character Patrick “Kitten” Braden in the 2005 movie “Breakfast on Pluto.” This is a moving story about a transgender woman who was brought into the world under challenging circumstances. Her mother abandoned her when she was just a baby. The part earned Murphy a Golden Globe nomination for his amazing performance.
Patrick “Kitten” Brade is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Fictional Transgender People In the 2005 film Breakfast on Pluto, Cillian Murphy plays Patrick “Kitten” Braden, a transgender woman who was abandoned by her mother as an infant. Murphy was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his performance.
14. Montana Moorehead
Cathy Moriarty is the actress who played the role of Montana Morehead in the 1991 movie “Soapdish.” Montana was a soap opera actress in the film and her identity was later in the movie disclosed to be a transsexual who was born a male. Of all the characters on this list, Morehead is far and away the biggest “joke.” The character is strictly for comedy but at the same time it was nice to see an instance of this in the early 90s.
15. Leon Shermer
Number fifteen of our top twenty fictional transgender characters is Leon Shermer. The character of Leon is from the movie “Dog Day Afternoon” from 1975. Al Pacino stars as Sonny Wortzik, a man who is desperate to obtain funding so his wife can have gender reassignment surgery. The role of Leon Shermer (Pacino’s wife) is played by Chris Sarandon. Wortzik robs a bank to get the money. The film received six Oscar nominations.
16. Luis Molina
William Hurt is the actor who plays the part of Luis Molina. Luis is a transgender gay man who was convicted of having sexual relations with a young boy, and is serving a sentence for the crime. Luis is a character in the movie “Kiss of the Spider Woman” from 1985. The film itself received four Oscar nominations while Hurt received an Academy Award in the category of Best Actor. It’s said that the character broke serious ground in transgenders being portrayed on film.
The seventeenth greatest fictional transgender character is Zahara. The movie “Bad Education” from 2004, is a unique film in that it features a short film within a traditional length movie. The character Zahara is a gay actor who plays the part of a transsexual drag queen in the short inset. Gael Garcia Bernal is the actor who plays the role of Zahara. Bernal received critical acclaim for this role.
Modupe Adeyeye plays the role of Blessing Chambers in the television series “Hollywood Oaks.” She first appeared on the series in 2014. She was first known to viewers as Tyson Delaney, prior to her gender reassignment. She is a glass collector who also works at a strip club. Joe Tracini plays the role of Dennis Savage who comes to visit her with frequency. Blessing’s carrying on with Dennis nearly gets her fired. The character was not revealed as being a transgender woman until three months into her appearance on the series. This is a timely series that shows Dennis developing an attraction to her. They become close, but there is trouble in the relationship because Dennis has some serious trust issues.
19. Maxine Conway
Socratis Otto is the actor who plays the role of Maxine Conway, who was formerly known as Max on the show “Wentworth.” The character has a recurring sole in the series and is the bodyguard for Bea Smith, played by Danielle Cormack. We get a good look into the life of this character on the show and follow her as she develops breast cancer and requires very specialized treatment. The character still looks very male in spite of the fact that she has gone through gender reassignment surgery. After her surgery, Maxine’s boyfriend rejected her. In her devastation, she last out by stabbing him. This is what landed her in Wentworth prison.
20. Hayley Anne Cropper
Hayley Anne Cropper is the twentieth greatest fictional transgender character, just making our top twenty list. This is an interesting character who has also been known as Hayley Patterson and Harold Patterson. She is from “Coronation Street,” a British ITV soap opera. The actress who plays the part of Hayley is Julie Hesmondalgh. Hayley first appeared on the series in the very first broadcast on January 26, 1998. She has the distinction of being the first recurring character of transgender status to start with a show and become an integral character throughout its run time. Fans of the series remember her best for her marriage in the series to Roy Cropper, played by actor David Neilson. Hesmondhalgh left the show in late 2013. The execs killed the character off by having her commit suicide because of a diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. The actress received several awards for her portrayal of the character.