Great Characters Wiki

Terry Malloy is the main protagonist of the 1954 film, On the Waterfront. He's a former boxer who retired after he lost a fixed fight, and has to work in the union with Michael Skelly.

Why He Rocks

  1. Marlon Brando is at the top of his game with his role as Terry, with scenes including him fight his conscience, feels depressed at the people he's close to, and struggling to move in pain and showing his determination.
  2. Despite everything he had to go through -- which included losing his father during his childhood, getting his chances of being a successful boxer sabotaged, accidently causing a murder, getting his life threatened a couple times, becoming an outcast to the people on the waterfront, and getting a beatdown that nearly killed him -- he still manages to go through it all and handled it pretty decently.
  3. Even though he spends a lot of time with the union gangsters, he still stays optimistic and has a sense of goodness in him. This is shown when he's and raising a group of pigeons, and talking kindly to a group of kids.
  4. His line "I could've been a contender", is one of the most iconic lines of cinema and pretty much sums up his entire character as an unfortunate man who had a potential career sabotaged by his brother, doesn't stand out among anyone, and is forced to work on the waterfront with a corrupt union boss and his brother who's all Terry has left.
  5. Due to his previous career as a boxer, he's shown to be an excellent fighter during his fight with Johnny Friendly. He probably would have won if Friendly didn't call his guards to beat Terry up, and even then, he's still strong enough to not only survive the beatdown, but also to stand back up and painfully walk to work, proving to the people he was strong and dependable.


  • Terry Malloy came in 23rd place in the Heroes category on AFI's 100 Heroes and Villains countdown.
  • Marlon Brando the actor who portrayed Terry, won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1954.