Gran Torino

Gran Torino Character List

Walt Kowalski

Walt Kowalski, the film's protagonist, is an American man of Polish descent. He is a former autoworker, having installed steering columns on the Ford assembly line in Detroit, Michigan. He also fought in the Korean War as a member of the 1st Cavalry Division and has PTSD because of the more than thirteen men he killed when serving. After his wife Dorothy dies, Walt becomes increasingly isolated, drinking beer on his porch, smoking cigarettes that make him cough blood, and maintaining his house and lawn. Walt is overtly racist to the Hmong community members who have moved into his formerly white-working-class-dominated neighborhood in Highland Park. Estranged from his sons, Walt develops an unlikely affection for his Hmong neighbors, ultimately sacrificing his life so that they may live free of gang harassment. Upon his death, Walt leaves his prized possession—a 1972 Ford Gran Torino—to his neighbor, Thao.

Thao Vang Lor

Thao Vang Lor is a young American man of Hmong descent. Shy and lacking confidence, Thao is harassed by his cousin, who tries to make Thao join his gang. Thao's initiation involves attempting to steal Walt's Gran Torino. Thao develops a friendly mentor-mentee relationship with Walt while he works for Walt to make amends. With Walt's encouragement, Thao develops greater self-confidence, gets a construction job, and asks out the girl he has been interested in. After the Hmong gangsters rape Thao's sister, Sue, Thao wants to kill the gangsters with Walt's help. However, Walt locks Thao in his basement to keep him out of trouble.

Sue Vang Lor

Sue is Thao's sister. Living in the same house next door to Walt, Sue is far more confident than Thao. Sue is sexually harassed several times by gangsters, but she responds with belittling comments about their stereotypically sexist attitudes. Sue becomes the target of a Hmong gang retaliation after Walt tries to intimidate the gangsters. Upon being raped, Sue returns to her house bloodied, bruised, and in shock.

Thao and Sue's Grandmother

Thao and Sue's grandmother is a Hmong woman who lives in the same house with her daughter and grandchildren. She scowls often at Walt, to whom she shouts disparaging things in Hmong. Like Walt, she uses tobacco and spends a lot of time sitting on her porch. Toward the end of the film, she looks after Daisy when Walt leaves the dog with her.


Spider—real name Phong—is Thao and Sue's older cousin. The member of a Hmong gang, Spider and his friends drive around in a white Honda and intimidate the Vang Lors. After failing to initiate Thao into the gang, Spider allows his friends to put out a cigarette on Thao's face. When Walt retaliates, Spider and his gang hit back with a drive-by shooting of the Vang Lors' house and the abduction and rape of Sue. At the end of the film, Spider is arrested for shooting Walt.


Dorothy is Walt's deceased wife. Because the film begins with her funeral, Dorothy only appears in the film in photographs. She is a devout Catholic and, according to Walt, "the best woman in the world." Upon Dorothy's death, Father Janovich informs Walt that he promised Dorothy he would make Walt go to confession.

Father Janovich

Father Janovich is a Catholic priest in his late twenties. After persistently trying to get Walt to go to confession, Father Janovich is eventually disappointed when Walt comes to the confession box because Walt pretends to have very few things to atone for. Father Janovich does outreach in the Hmong community of Detroit, and he brings Sue and Thao to the hospital after they are attacked.

Walt's Barber

Walt's barber is an American man of Italian descent. Just as foul-mouthed and casually hostile as Walt, the barber exchanges rude and discriminatory barbs during every conversation with Walt. However, the way they address each other indicates an ironic intimacy and affection rather than contempt.

Thao's Love Interest

Thao's love interest is a young Hmong-American woman. When Walt notices her looking at Thao, Walt convinces Thao to ask her out. Thao does eventually, and Walt offers them the Gran Torino to take out on their first date.

Mr. Kennedy

Mr. Kennedy is a construction supervisor of Irish descent. An old friend of Walt's, Kennedy gives Thao a construction job as a favor to Walt. As with his barber, Walt addresses Kennedy in hostile terms, referring to him as a "drunken Irish goon."