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Leone "Léon" Montana
Played by: Jean RenoA mysterious assassin living alone. He ends up 'adopting' his young next-door neighbor after her family is murdered.
- Ambiguous Disorder: It's strongly implied León is on the autism spectrum. He has odd, fractured speech patterns, phenomenal skill in one specific area (killing people), astounding social ineptitude (to the point he's barely able to hold a conversation with anyone) as well as some child-like traits (he doesn't curse, for instance).
- Anti-Hero: He's a decent enough guy. But he still makes a living by killing people.
- Badass and Child Duo: He's the badass of said duo between him and Mathilda.
- Badass Longcoat: Covering an even more badass rig for his pistols, silencer, spare magazines, grenades and bolt cutters.
- Badass Mustache: León has a goatee-stache combo that suits his rugged outlook.
- Book Dumb: He can't even read before he takes in Mathilda.
- Briefcase Blaster: Carries a briefcase around which contains his twin pistols. In the one scene he teaches Mathilda how to shoot a rifle, he carries it inside a briefcase.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: You might think this milk-drinking Man Child with the social skills of a brick wouldn't be a very effective hitman. You'd be literally dead wrong.
- Celibate Hero: Has not had a girlfriend since his last one died in the old country.
- Companion Cube: His plant, who he calls his best friend. He actually cares enough about it, that he makes sure Mathilda takes it with her while Stansfield's forces are raiding their apartment building.
- Consummate Professional: Proficient with everything from his bare hands to explosives, doesn't drink alcohol, doesn't leave witnesses or evidence, lives off the grid, doesn't form emotional attachments and, aside from occasional trips to the cinema and tending to his plant, seems to have no life at all outside of professional killing.
- Cool Shades: Some badass circle shades.
- Dark is Not Evil: León's clad in black and tends to move in the darkness, but he's not a bad guy.
- Deadly Euphemism: He doesn't kill people. He "cleans".
- Determinator: León is absolutely implacable when he gets his mind on something. Even in the end, he gets shot several times and nearly blown up, but manages to escape SWAT by sheer determination. If it weren't for Stansfield, he would have come out unscathed.
- Divergent Character Evolution: León came to be when Luc Besson noticed Jean Reno's character in La Femme Nikita, Victor the Cleaner (also a Consummate Professional implacable hitman), was kind of wasted as a One-Scene Wonder, so decided to make a movie centered around a Expy of him, played by the same actor. But along the project León and Victor ended up diverging, so while they're both extremely skilled hitmen, Victor is a lot more mature and cold while León is more child-like and humane. Besson describes León as "Victor's more humane and principled American cousin".
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Léon's death scene counts — especially since he takes Stansfield with him."This is... from Mathilda..." (BANG!)
- Genius Bruiser: His expertise at killing people isn't just due excellent marksmanship, he's also a brilliant tactician able to outwit trained officers of the law in a gunfight.
- Guns Akimbo: Not usually, but in the final battle he goes to the shoot-out with twin pistols.
- Hitman with a Heart: He is reluctant at first, but eventually warms to and becomes a protector of Mathilda.
- Iconic Outfit: His get-up while doing his "cleaning" (black trenchcoat, round beanie, round shades) is very iconic to the character. Markedly, it's in every cover ever made for the movie.
- Idiot Savant: No social skills and he doesn't even know how to read, but you won't find a man more apt at mowing down enemies with extreme prejudice. A lot of the movie centers on contrasting his ineptitude with normal life to his aptness at his hitman job.
- Loners Are Freaks: Before meeting Mathilda.
- Love Redeems: His paternal love for Mathilda opens a pathway to his redemption.
- Married to the Job: León has no personal life outside of his hits.
- Mook Horror Show: Every action scene will have at least one moment where see the perspective of the horrified Mooks as León dispatches them with terrifying accuracy.
- Noble Demon: He's a professional assassin but he never takes jobs that involve killing women or children. He also takes in Mathilda when her family's being murdered by corrupt cops and treats her with more love and kindness than her real father ever did.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: León is supposed to be from Italy but he still speaks with Jean Reno's thick French accent.
- No Social Skills: León has absolutely zero social skills. He isn't even able to talk basic small-talk with a hotel conscierge.
- Offscreen Teleportation: As a general rule of thumb in the movie: If you don't see León, he's probably right behind you.
- One-Man Army: He wreaks havoc on a whole gang just to deliver a message to their chief, or on a whole SWAT team to protect Mathilda.
- Papa Wolf: He becomes a Parental Substitute to Mathilda, taking her in after the death of her family, mentoring her in assassination and protecting her from Stansfield. He starts assassinating the men who killed her family, and in the final showdown with Stansfield's cops, he goes One-Man Army to ensure she survives. He even spends his last seconds of life ensuring that the man who killed her family and went after her, dies alongside him.
- Professional Killer: He makes his living by taking assassination jobs from a local mafioso. Leon actually doesn't seem to have a life outside his work, only seeing the occasional movie in between taking jobs and training.
- Retirony: As he ensures Mathilda escapes from the cops trying to kill them, he promises her that he'll meet up with her and they'll move somewhere together and put down roots. Minutes later, just when it looks like he'll escape, he's killed by Stansfield shooting him in the back. He at least uses his last moments to ensure Stansfield goes down with him.
- Stealth Expert: His method of killing people relies on maneuvering around them like a shadow. One of Stansfield's men lampshades this commenting "This guy is like a ghost".
- Taking You with Me: As Stansfield looks down at the mortally wounded Leon, smirking, Leon hands him something... it turns out to be a grenade pin.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Gotta have his milk.
- Sick and Wrong: How León reacts to Mathilda's advances.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl/Would Not Hurt A Child: His rule in accepting targets, "No women, no kids."
Played by: Natalie PortmanAn intelligent and tough young girl who becomes Léon's protégée following the death of her family.
- Abusive Parents: She's first seen sporting a bruise she got from her father, who regularly hits her. Her stepmother doesn't treat her right either.
- Bare Your Midriff: Most of her outfits bare her midriff.
- Bodyguard Crush: Mathilda has one of these for Léon.
- Broken Bird: An orphan with an abusive childhood whose family was wiped out. She's not in a very good place mentally.
- Children Are Innocent: Mathilda curses a lot, smokes and has a disturbingly sexual mind for someone as young as she is, but despite all this outward appearance, she is just a innocent kid, specially when compared to Leéon and Stansfield.
- Coming-of-Age Story: On top of all her problems, she's also entering puberty. The movie's as much about Mathilda finding her own place in the world as is about León.
- Creepy Child: She's a nice girl, but León's admittedly disturbed when she starts to play russian roulette.
- Cynicism Catalyst: Mathilda doesn't give a damn about the rest of her family — but the bastards who killed her little brother must die.
- Fille Fatale: She tries seducing León several times. León is deeply disturbed.
- Foil: Mathilda contrasts León in that she's a very adult-like child while León is a very child-like adult, and while Mathilda has the thirst for violence despite never having killed anyone, León is a lot more deadset against violence (despite being a hitman, meaning violence is his dayjob).
- Hot For Teacher: Develops a crush on Leon.
- Knight Templar Big Sister: She couldn't care less about the deaths of her parents and older sister, but she's determined to become an assassin to avenge her four-year-old brother, the only member of her family she loved.
- Leitmotif: The soundtrack has a tune called "A Ballad for Mathilda", which is quite gentle and sweet, signifying Mathilda's innocence, but with some darker beats towards the end to hint the darkness in her soul.
- Little Miss Badass: She's very handy with a handgun for a girl, and she demonstrates some excellent on-her-feet thinking.
- Morality Pet: For León. She manages to awaken the goodness in him during their time together.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: She's only sad about her four-year-old brother's death, not about the deaths of her abusive father, stepmother and half-sister. She expresses a desire to become a professional assassin to avenge him, fires a gun wildly out of a window to convince Leon to teach her how to kill, expresses a desire to use real bullets during a mock assassination session, and at one point freaks out the manager of an apartment she and Leon are staying at by lying that Leon's her lover instead of her father.
- Wise Beyond Her Years: Mathilda's surprisingly philosophical at times.
Played by: Gary OldmanA corrupt DEA agent on drugs who slaughters Mathilda's family.
- Ax-Crazy: Stansfield is a dangerously unstable individual. He treats murdering an entire family like a fun game, shoots at an old woman for not going back into her apartment, seems to take immense pleasure in the thought of murdering a twelve-year-old girl, and unnerves his lackeys by waving guns around them without any care for their safety. The drugs he uses have clearly taken a toll on his sanity.
- Big Bad: He murdered Mathilda's family at the start of the film and seeking revenge on him is what drove her to join Leon.
- Cowboy Cop: A rare villainous example.
- Creepy Monotone: Stansfield's voice zig-zags between a calm monotone and screaming fury. Both are equally creepy.
- Dirty Cop: They don't make 'em much dirtier than this. Is involved in drug running (and apparently likes to sample the product) and will kill just about anyone who gets in his way.
- Evil Is Hammy: Stansfield is very over-the-top and very evil.
- Faux Affably Evil: He can act charming at times, such as when talking with Mathilda or her father, but through it all it's clear he's a psychopathic maniac who's a second away from violently murdering anyone who makes him mad. At one point, after murdering Mathilda's stepmother and half-sister, he talks casually with Mathilda's horrified father, gushing about his music tastes.
- Foil: To Leon, who's his opposite in nearly every way. Leon's a Consummate Professional while Stansfield is Ax-Crazy and has a Hair-Trigger Temper. Leon tries to act cold and aloof while being a much better person than he lets on, Stansfield can appear charming but is really a raging maniac. Leon is Straight Edge Evil who doesn't use drink, smoke or using foul-language, while Stansfield is a drug addict who swears all the time. Both men exhibit almost child-like qualities, but while Leon treats a potted plant like his best friend and takes child-like joy in musical movies, Stansfield idea of fun and games is hunting down and murdering a family for fun.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Reacts to an old woman asking him what he's doing by shooting at her. This is pretty much par for the course for Stansfield.
- Hand Cannon: Packs a snubnose .44 Magnum.
- Jerkass: His own men could hardly stand working alongside him.
- Lack of Empathy: If he had any he wouldn't be able to live with what he does.
- Large Ham: Oldman delivers a wonderfully over-the-top performance, to the point where some people consider him to stray into Narm territory at points.
- Laughably Evil: While he's a ruthless and psychotic corrupt cop who is not above murdering children, it's hard to not laugh at some (if not all) of his deranged outburst.
- Leeroy Jenkins: As a contrast to León's meticulous stealthiness, Stansfield just charges in guns blazing during the massacre at Mathilda's house, much to the displeasure of Only Sane Man Malky.
- Light is Not Good: Wears light clothes and is the worst person in the film.
- Perma-Stubble: He has one. Matches his evil look.
- Rabid Cop: One of the worst in Western cinema. Makes Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant look like Corporal Carrot.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Even the last thing he ever says is, "Shit".
- The Sociopath: He's a low-functioning kind despite, somehow, being a DEA agent. He has a Hair-Trigger Temper, poor impulse control, can appear superficially charming but can't maintain it, and shows no concern or empathy for human life whatsoever.
- Sophisticated as Hell: While discussing the beauty of Beethoven, he has a "creative" way of discussing the composer's shortcomings.Stansfield: So powerful... But after his openings, to be honest, he does tend to get a little fucking boring.
- Villainous Breakdown: As Leon proves himself harder and harder to kill, Stansfield gets more and more unhinged, to the point where he demands on of his lackeys to bring EEVVVERRYYYYONNNEEEE!!! to kill them.
- Wicked Cultured: He is a fan of both Mozart and Beethoven, especially Beethoven. Brahms too.
- Would Hurt a Child: Very nearly kills Mathilda - and implies that he'll enjoy doing it - before being stopped at the last minute by news of the death of one of his subordinates.
Played by: Peter AppelStansfield right hand man and Dragon.
- The Dragon: To Stansfield.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Yells at Willie Blood (one of the cops in Stansfield's unit) after he kills Mathilda's brother.
- Famous Last Words: "Easy man, I'm a cop."
- Only Sane Man: Serves as this to Stansfield's unit, keeping a cool head after the raid on Mathilda's family and yelling at Benny after the latter almost shot him (Malky) and Stansfield.
- Sacrificial Lion: The first of Stansfield's unit to die.
Played by: Danny AielloA mafioso who provides Leon with his work.
- Affably Evil: He's always polite to Leon, acting as an almost paternal figure to him. After Leon's death, he honors his request to bequeath all his money to Mathilda, and gets her to try to go back to a normal life rather than be a cleaner like Leon.
- Catch Phrase: "Nobody knocks off old Tony", which doubles as a Badass Boast.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He's briefly seen celebrating a birthday party with what's presumed to be his wife and children.
- Even Evil Has Standards: He's outraged at the idea of hiring a twelve-year-old girl to act as a killer.
- The Handler: Effectively what he is with León. Tony gives him his targets, the info on said targets, his equipment, and takes care of his payment.
- The Mafia: Tony's a member of the Italian mob and assigns Leon his contract killings.
- Noble Demon: He appears to share León's "no women, no kids" creed (and may in fact have originated it), and is in general a pretty decent guy, criminal business aside.
- Parental Substitute: As he takes care of León in every way and serves as an older voice of guidance, his relationship with him has echoes of this. The international cut reveals he's been taking care of León since he was 19.
- Villainous Friendship: Leon's a Professional Killer and Tony's a mafioso, but he seems to be the only actual friend Leon has outside of work. He gives Leon almost paternal advice, looks out for his well-being, holds on to his money for him, and genuinely mourns him following his death. He even honors Leon's request to leave all his money to Mathilda.