I do think there are some winners on the list, but i think the order is all ffed up. Granted, I am much more of a bibliophile than cinemaphile, but I see an opportunity here. I delineate strongly between films (those which are truly artistic in nature or effect) and movies (those which are there for entertainment purposes). There are a few who walk back and forth between the two, but most tend to fall one way or another for me by the end (a movie with artistic aspirations, or the other way around).
The point is, regardless of how you frame a piece of cinema, it can be populated with incredible characters (Norman Bates), or mediocre characters played by fantastic actors (Obi Wan Kenobi a la Alec Guinness). Genres are really not important here - the power of the character as they come to life through the film (and the actor) is what is key. Does the character you are nominating for your top 10 really live in your mind past your memories of the details of the film? That is my criteria for "greatness".
What I propose is this: scope the list linked above, think about your movie going career, then fill your top 10 into the poll. I wonder if any characters will come up in common (ranking will be a separate issue) amongst those who participate? Remember, cinema has been around a long time, so there is a big body of work to play with, but. At the same time however, the question really only applies to movies you have seen, so if you are not a big "old" movie buff, then you may find yourself nominating Jesse Richmond from "Dude, Where's my Car?" (and yes, i did have to IMDB that) over, say Professor Julius Kelp in the original "The Nutty Professor" (I think the roles are comparable in dramatic impact, neither will be on my list).
Lastly, link this around, and back up your picks in comments. I will have some future posts following up on this if it manages to get some input from the internetting public out there.
Top 10 movie characters of cinematic history (entries should be Character Name, Film Name):
EDIT: I was collecting in a poll for people's input ease, with intentions of reposting them all later when it came to rating things. If you wanan discuss now though, post them in a comment off the poll. Tx to chellez for de idear.