I love ISTJs. ISTJs are cornerstones of society. They make up about 13% of the population and without them, things wouldn’t run very smoothly. ISTJs are loyal, detail-oriented, and appreciate security. Like all SJs, they tend to be quite traditional and like other TJ types, they have a rational bent. People of this no-nonsense type does not naturally gravitate toward leadership positions but, like INTJs, they make fine leaders when circumstances require them to fill those shoes.
Here are ten of my favorite ISTJ characters in books and film. (I reference cognitive functions in this post. You can learn more about them here.)
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1. Dana Scully, The X-Files
Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it.
Every Mulder (INTP) needs a Scully–someone to keep them grounded and to thoughtfully challenge some of the more radical winds of whimsy that seem to carry off intuitive types so frequently. What makes Mulder and Scully’s partnership so compelling though isn’t just the balance she provides but her robust sense of wry humor, a hallmark of the ISTJ’s inferior Ne function.
2. George Knightley, Emma
If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.
If you think about it, there are a lot of similarities between Mulder and Scully’s dynamic and Emma and Mr. Knightley’s dynamic. In this case, Emma (ENFJ) is the intuitive who requires a regular dose of common sense. Emma is constantly scheming but sometimes her schemes don’t work as well in reality as they do in her head. Thankfully, Mr. Knightley is always there to pull her back down to earth.
3. Benjamin Gates, National Treasure
If there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.
Ben Gates is a bit of an anomaly among ISTJs and an excellent example of what happens when that inferior Ne takes the reigns. Like all ISTJs, Ben deeply values the history and traditions that America was founded on. When those values are threatened, he unstereotypically breaks all the rules to honor that history by making sure it isn’t stolen or used for profit by unscrupulous characters. When that rare ISTJ goes off the reservation in pursuit of a higher purpose, it’s a lot of fun to watch.
4. Marilla Cuthbert, Anne of Green Gables
Good behavior in the first place is more important than theatrical apologies afterwards.
Marilla Cuthbert is a stereotypical ISTJ in almost every way imaginable. She’s tough-minded, logical to a fault, and not too keen to reveal her emotions. When Anne (INFP) comes along instead of the boy she was hoping for, Marilla, in all her practicality, announces that Anne must go. But the ISTJ’s tertiary Fi is a sneaky little function and it doesn’t take long before Marilla falls head over heels for the redheaded orphan with a penchant for trouble. It turns out Marilla has a soft heart hiding under that terse exterior after all.
5. Adrian Monk, Monk
Be careful! There’s a lot of gravity out there!
ISTJs are very detail-oriented. When you add OCD into the mix, that trait can be taken to an extreme. Former detective Adrian Monk, consultant to the SFPD, was a fully functioning (albeit finicky) human being before his wife Trudy died and left him emotionally debilitated. (There’s that Fi rearing its head again!) Now, he’s scared of, well, everything. But hey, it’s a jungle out there.10 Amazing #ISTJ Characters in Books + FilmClick To Tweet
6. Illya Kuryakin, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
I was briefed on your criminal background. Your balls are on a very long leash, held by a very short man.
Illya Kuryakin wears many hats: international spy, skilled Vespa rider, fashion guru. He’s the perfect contrast to Napoleon’s cavalier ESTP ways. Illya is sensible, always prepared, and quite firm in his opinions about how things should be done. He also adds a healthy dose of that wry ISTJ humor to the film and his dynamic with Gaby is just as compelling as his constant one-upmanship with Napoleon.
7. Walter Fane, The Painted Veil
I knew when I married you that you were selfish and spoiled, but I loved you.
The Painted Veil is one of my favorite film adaptations of all time. Walter is a bookish bacteriologist and his wife, Kitty (ESFP), is his total opposite. Kitty liked games, entertainment, and cheating on her boring stodge of a husband. In retaliation for her infidelity, Walter packs up and takes his wife along to the Chinese interior to study the cholera epidemic sweeping the area. I love how this story shows the quiet, intellectual, socially awkward side of the ISTJ while also exploring the intense anger that can brim over when that tertiary Fi is wounded by betrayal.
8. Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit
I would take each and every one of these dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills. For when I called upon them, they answered. Loyalty, honor, a willing heart–I can ask no more than that.
As I mentioned in the introduction to this list, ISTJs don’t usually gravitate toward leadership roles. However, they certainly don’t lack leadership skills and they have a strong sense of duty, which may inspire them to step up if there is no one else to do the job. Thorin is an excellent example of an ISTJ leader forged from trying circumstances. Once a prince, when his grandfather is killed and his father disappears, Thorin steps into the role of King Under the Mountain. Like many ISTJs, Thorin can be stubborn and driven more by reclaiming past glory than progressing towards a better future, but he’s an inspiring leader and ends his life on an honorable note–something all ISTJs aspire to do.
9. Jane Hammond, Jane Got a Gun
If them bullets don’t kill you, and this storm you somehow brought upon us don’t kill you, goes without saying…I will kill you.
Jane Hammond is one tough woman. After her husband disappears and is presumed dead during the Civil War, Jane finds herself alone and pregnant. Eventually, she decides to move west, but an unscrupulous crime lord kidnaps her daughter and enslaves Jane, forcing her to work as a prostitute. One of the crime lord’s employees rescues and subsequently marries Jane, but when he returns home one day riddled with bullets, Jane knows she’s going to have to fight to protect herself and her family. And she does, with a fierce tenacity that more than equals that of any man.
10. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games
At some point, you have to stop running around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.
Katniss Everdeen epitomizes the loyalty of ISTJs. She’s willing to sacrifice her own life to save her sister and risks her neck again and again to aid Peeta (there’s that ISTJ/ENFJ pairing again) in the arena. She’s also pragmatic. While she’s loyal to the people she loves, she’s not above killing other innocent kids if they are a threat to her or Peeta’s lives. Katniss is another great example of the reluctant ISTJ leader–far more reluctant than Thorin because she was never groomed for the position. Nevertheless, she fills it brilliantly.
ISTJs are one of my very favorite types and I had such a hard time narrowing down this list to just ten of them. Here are a few awesome ISTJs that didn’t quite make the cut: Bathsheba Everdene (Far from the Madding Crowd), Spock (Star Trek reboot movies), Abbie Mills (Sleepy Hollow), Susan Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia), Temperance Brennan (Bones), John Thornton (North and South), Christopher Tietjens (Parade’s End), and Elliot Stabler (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit).
See my favorite characters of other types: