Through all mediums of entertainment – music, movies, books, and so forth – we get attached to the truly great, fleshed-out characters who just jump off the page or screen and stick with us for one reason or another.

We love characters like Han Solo or Spider-Man, but obviously, we realize that people like that could never exist in the real world. But there are some famous, beloved fictional characters who have walked among us throughout history.

After all, writers and artists have to find their inspiration somewhere, right? It turns out that a lot of that inspiration comes from the people they read about or meet somewhere along the line in their lives. Here are some of our favorite fictional characters who you may not have realized were based on living, breathing beings.

13Ebenezer Scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge

The cantankerous penny pincher was based on an 18th-century miser named John Elwes, a London politician who refused to spend any of his inheritance and basically choosing to live in squalor.

12Severus Snape

Severus Snape

Harry Potter’s least favorite Hogwarts teacher was based on a real life professor of JK Rowling’s named John Nettleship, who taught chemistry – hence Snape being the potions master.

11Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry Callahan was inspired by real-life San Francisco detective Dave Toschi, who gained fame working on the Zodiac killer case.

10James Bond

James Bond

James Bond is thought to be based on several people, including Bond author Ian Fleming and, amazingly, actor Christopher Lee, who was a spy during World War II.

9Krusty the Clown

Krusty the Clown

Krusty, the iconic clown from The Simpsons, is based on an old Portland, Oregon kids show host named Rusty Nails who creator Matt Groening grew up watching as a child.

8Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes

No one can say for sure who Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based Sherlock on, but all indications are that it was primarily a forensic scientist named Joseph Bell, who had a knack for the deduction.



The swashbuckling Mexican hero, thought to be one of the first “superheroes” in literature, was based on a real-life bandit named Joaquin Murrieta, who became a vigilante after his family was killed.

6Dorian Gray


The titular character in Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece was based on a one-time lover of Wilde’s name John Gray, who had a falling out with Wilde after discovering he’d inspired the novel.

5Pete “Maverick” Mitchell


Tom Cruise’s famously rebellious fighter pilot from was based on a real-life Top Gun instructor named Randall “Duke” Cunningham.



The intrepid young reporter and adventurer in the long-running comic books was based on Palle Huld, who at age 15 circled the world in 44 days and wrote a book about his experiences.

3Travis Bickle


Robert De Niro’s famous character from Taxi Driver was inspired by a man named Arthur Bremer, who gained notoriety for shooting Alabama governor George Wallace in 1972.

2Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski


The hero of the cult favorite film The Big Lebowski, The Dude was based on a former anti-Vietnam activist named Jeff Dowd, who reportedly really does love White Russians.



Hey, who said that only humans could inspire famous characters? Moby Dick was based on an albino sperm whale called Mocha-Dick, who lived in the waters off the coast of Chile.