Which of John Goodman’s characters across his career would you be most amenable to being trapped in a bunker with at the end of the word: A definitive ranking

| Amelia Foster & Luis Lopez |

10 Cloverfield Lane plays at the Trylon Cinema from Friday, July 5th, through Sunday, July 7th. Visit trylon.org for tickets and more information.

If everyone has answered the desert island question as part of a misguided workplace seminar or first date gone wrong, then this John Goodman scenario can be your new barometer for whether they get a second date or you’ll be working from home from now on. Why John Goodman? Because we know almost nothing about him beyond his on-screen personas despite his omnipresence across four decades of film history.

John Goodman as the most eligible bachelor of Virgil, Texas, Louis Fyne, in True Stories

Louis Fyne sells himself convincingly in his TV personal ad: “I’m 6’3″ and maintain a very consistent panda bear shape.” He spends much of True Stories looking for love with all the wrong women, so I’d gladly abscond with Louis Fyne for some one-on-one bunker time. Dim the lights, cue the sad songs, and lie on the floor with Louis ‘til the end of days.

John Goodman as the most trusted drug dealer Harling Mays in Flight

Relief personified. A guardian angel with whom you can’t set plans with more than a day in advance probably. He has a ponytail but it is he who would climb a trellis or more aptly jump into an unknown future with a friend if he knew there was a need. If survival is your ultimate goal then this could be the person to make sure you both make it if not to a successful end, then at least to a distant future where you both are ready to leave the bunker and see if the hope you’ve kept alive with your friendship has rebirthed new civilizations (or if very powerful aliens are somehow still patrolling for survivors and they eradicate you both).

John Goodman shows that he can swing that thing as Fred Flintsone in The Flintstones 

Mini-Ranking of cartoons from my youth that have received a live-action adaptation and how often they come to mind for me.




           Fred Flintstone


John Goodman as Delbert McClintock, exterminator extraordinaire, in Arachnophobia

Delbert McClintock is a man who speaks his mind, gets straight to the point, and is liberal in his application of pesticides. This trigger-happy, loose-lipped, salt-of-the-earth personality could go either way during an extended stay underground, depending on your feelings about arachnids. For a cleaner bunker experience, choose exterminator Delbert.

John Goodman is a cop named Jonesy Jones in Fallen

Sometimes the beginning is already the end. The light of a star that’s already dead. Rainfall is soaked by everything around you and He is everpresent in the bunker. Someone who has confronted an ultimate evil will not stop speaking about how if there is a hot then there must be a cold. All talk of how cold is simply the absence of heat is unwelcome and blasphemous.

John Goodman as a sweaty specimen of the common man, Charlie Meadons AKA Karl “Madman” Mundt in Barton Fink

If you’d like to end it all sooner than later, you might do well choosing Charlie Meadows, insurance salesman, also known as Karl “Madman” Mundt, as your bunker buddy. Mundt boasts excellent marksmanship and an appealing offer to “show you the life of the mind.” I can imagine Mundt emerging from the bunker into a position of power in a dystopian new world. If you play your cards right, he might need an assistant.

John Goodman finds the darker depths of his music man as Roland Turner in Inside Llewyn Davis

Roland should be close to the worst option because he’s such a downer, but he’s so close to death that it’s not too bad knowing you won’t even have to endure a second dinner with him. Of course that then leaves a giant heroin-riddled body stuck in the bunker with us. What do you do with a dead body in a bunker? That leads to another question: Just what is in this bunker? They dissolve someone in acid in 10 Cloverfield Lane but it seems unfair to get that great bunker without that specific character so what kind of bunker would you be in with Roland Turner? A cold-war bunker probably. There’s a good chance it’s decently stocked and you’ll find some sardine tins being guarded by an Eisenhower portrait. But this cold war bunker won’t have acid so we’ll have to deal with Roland Turner’s decaying body in some underused corner of the bunker. Not the worst outcome.

John Goodman as humorless prepper commando Howard Stambler, in 10 Cloverfield Lane

Pros: has a bunker ready to go, well outfitted. Cons: creep, murderous intent. From a practical standpoint, Howard Stambler has the wherewithal to outlast most in a bunker scenario. Whether you’re going to last alongside him is another question altogether.

John Goodman knows all the angles as ruthless loan shark Little Frank in The Gambler

Provisions are running low. Conversations have been polite albeit always limited to the immediate. Now we see ourselves as we really are, but the world above is a blur. A memory of a friend turned acquaintance who confessed they carried with them a stone in their pocket everywhere they went to keep them grounded; its smooth surface slicking off their thumbprint creating their own circadian rhythm. Down here, day and night have the same timbre. An invitation, a victim to a reckoning, disasters exist in more than just the craters of a lost world’s catastrophes.

John Goodman as fleabag convict babysitter in Gale Snoats in Raising Arizona

Gale Snoats, former cellie of H. I. McDunnough, is a character that contains multitudes. He’s a warmhearted buffoon with a complete lack of common sense and a healthy dose of misogyny. Even though his tunneling skills might come in handy in a bunker situation, it probably wouldn’t take long for me to throttle him if the two of us were stuck underground.

John Goodman’s Mighty Mack McTeer dons the fedora in Blues Brothers 2000

The harmonica has to be the instrument that has the highest loss of enjoyment between someone gleefully blowing into and the person being trapped listening to their music. Tambourine a close second. Some people grew up with Mighty Mack McTeer the way others grew up with Air Bud. Air Bud may be more mysterious than John Goodman. It may be unfair to compare a man to a dog but in every memory I have of the Blues Brothers characters, they’re always full of energy, hopping and tap-dancing around trying to inhabit some form of misguided American optimism. Let there be no creation in a bunker. Let it be the end of all things. 

John Goodman as Big Dan the Klansman in O Brother Where Art Thou

Of all the Goodmans we’ve met so far, Daniel “Big Dan” Teague might have the worst possible combination: he’s a KKK member and he’s a Bible salesman. If that weren’t enough, he also has a sadistic streak when it comes to helpless toads. I don’t expect he’d do well in confined spaces, so I’d steer clear of this potential bunker-mate.

John Goodman comes to the aid of his best friend as Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski

I inherently distrust anyone with a flat-top. And another thing to consider for the end of the world: Are you keeping track of the days that have passed? What’s the difference really if it’s March or July when you’re in a bunker. 2039 or 2037? Walter would keep track of the days and then would give you weekly reminders on the Sabbath. He also seems like the type to greet you with the day’s date once he finds out you’re wanting to lose track of time and let it slip into the void. Plus, I guarantee Walter makes you learn to cut his hair into a flat-top. 

Edited by Olga Tchepikova-Treon

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One Comment

  1. I’d like to nominate the mustache-wearing ninja-defeating John Goodman of Speed Racer.

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