What would a good action or drama film be if it didn’t feature an antihero? Probably a lot less interesting. Antiheroes are the characters that give us something to think about. We see the worst in human nature, but they also show us that there are reasons why they do the naughty things that they do. The reasons are usually complicated, and the backstories give us hope that a dedicated prequel could be on the horizon. Without a few hints about an interesting past, antiheroes are little more than villains we come to despise, but amazingly, a well crafted antihero character can make us connect with them on some deeper psychological or empathetic level and we may even find ourselves rooting for them. Here are 20 such antiheroes that we wanted to see find some measure of success, and cheered on.
Han Solo is the most popular antihero that we all came to love and respect. He was played by actor Harrison Ford in the “Star Wars franchise films. Solo is a smuggler who is wanted throughout the galaxy for the shady deals that he cut and for a variety of indiscretions. He seems to always have a good excuse for his failings, but Jabba the Hut isn’t having any of it. When he meets up with Luke and Leia, they are in desperate need of his help, but the real reason that he consents to assist them is for the prospect of material gain. He main concern is for gaining wealth, until the time when he falls in love with the princess. We see a genuine conflict in the self-serving Solo and throughout the life journey of the character, we form a bond as he more often than not, defeats his demons and does the right thing.
Captain Jack Sparrow
The second most popular antihero is Jack Sparrow, the captain of the Black Pearl from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise films. He is much like Han Solo, but good old Jack is a little further out there. Johnny Depp brings the character to life as a flippant do well who is as likely to cut a crooked deal and crawfish as he is to do the right thing. Sparrow is a character that is hilarious at times and he seems to always make the best out of a bad situation. He’s not a romantic character, but there is a certain charm and sex appeal associated with the seafaring swashbuckler. He’s an antihero that we all cheer on because the world needs to have Jack Sparrow in it to keep it interesting.
Deadpool is the Marvel Comics character who is brought to life in grand style by actor Ryan Reynolds. He’s got a truly warped sense of humor and faces the world with a snide remark. The character represents the movie by the same name. He’s a true example of an antihero. Once a handsome young man with a future ahead of him, Deadpool is terribly disfigured and through a horrific science experiment, made into an immortal that is difficult if not impossible to kill. We really get the mentally unstable dude because anyone would be pissed if their live was altered by a disfigurement that makes it a requirement to cover your face with a mask. We seem to be okay with the fact that he’s bent on revenge and his acts of violence don’t seem to be out of line. In fact, we’re rooting for him to pay his enemies back. We do see the softer side of him on occasion and he’s a character who is easy to relate to.
“The Dude” Jeffrey Lebowski
Anyone who has seen the 1998 film “The Big Lebowski” couldn’t help but remember how well Jeff Bridges brought the character to life. Lebowski was the typical slovenly dude that would rather smoke a joint then drive his car into a dumpster than get a job. His typical wardrobe was more like pajamas as he bagged around the neighborhood in a pair of sandals and loose fitting sweats. He’s not the kind of guy you’d want to bring home to your parents because of his laid back and lethargic view of the world. The uninspired character gets into some interesting situations and for some reason, we find ourselves pulling for him to get a clue and actually do something useful in this world. We see a hint of personal values and caring about others, but it never really surfaces to our satisfaction. Somehow, we believe he has a divine spark hidden somewhere within his aloof exterior, to get up and do something…anything would be nice. His quotes are one of the best parts of the film.
Brad Pitt portrayed the character Tyler Durden, among the others in the movie “Fight Club” from 1996. He’s the antihero that we initially have a little trouble understanding . This character serves as both central protagonist and antagonist in the film that was disturbing on many levels. We connect with Tyler and feel for him in a powerful way. his story is something that moves viewers deeply
Any “Pulp Fiction” fan will readily recognize the name of the character so brilliantly played by actor Samuel L. Jackson. Jules is the antihero that kills people without a second thought, and quotes scripture from the Bible frequently. He’s known for doing this and although he murders people without seemingly caring that he’s ending a life, there is a certain coolness and humanness about him that viewers can’t help but find some redeeming qualities in the character. We see a faint light shining through the darkness in the highly analytical Jules who is clearly an intelligent man with common sense.
Eric Draven is the character who served as the main protagonist for the film, “The Crow.” Martial arts actor Brandon Lee played the character who was formerly a rock guitar player in Hangman’s Joy, who enjoyed a hit song called “It Can’t Rain All the Time.” This popular antihero presented a disturbing figure of torment and viewers were hoping for him to get a break and actually see a little sunshine in his life. Now, even more than earlier, the character is beloved as the actor lost his life on the set of the film.
Professor Severus Snape
Severus Snape, of the “Harry Potter” franchise was played by the lat Alan Rickman. He was a professor at the Hogwarts School of Magic, and it was widely believed that he had sinister motives throughout the long series of films. We loved him in a suspicious way until the backstory of the character was finally revealed at the end. His story was a tragic tale of love unfulfilled and watching after the son of the woman he loved, without disclosing his secrets until just before his death. The antihero didn’t really do much to create trust with those around him, but it’s understandable when we learn about just how conflicted the character had been through his life.
The Bride is our first female antihero to make the top 20 list. She was played by actress Uma Thurman and made her first appearance in “Kill Bill: Volume 1.” She also went by the names Beatrix Kiddo with the code name of the Black Mamba and Arlene Machiavelli, which suitably describes the character. She is the protagonist of the two part movie that we both loved and hated.
Leon is another antihero that we found ourselves rooting for in the film, “Leon: The Professional.” He’s a hitman for the mob who lives just down the hall from young Mathilda who is just 12 years old. His neighbor’s father is abusive and also involved in the trafficking of drugs. Her mother gives the girl no greater care than her father does. Leon who is played by actor Jean Reno has a soft side for the girl who is unfortunately growing up under less than favorable circumstances. Leon is a bad guy with a good heart and we can’t help but to root for him to find a better way to live.
Man with No Name
Clint Eastwood is the actor who portrayed the character known as the Man with No Name in the spaghetti westerns “A Fistful of Dollars” in 1964, “A Few Dollars More,” and again in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” We recognize hi by the dirty tan cowboy boots, the brown hat and the signature poncho he wears in each installment. He’s shown in most scenes with a cigar in his mouth. He doesn’t talk much in any of the films but when he does, it’s a real treat. He’s the main protagonist of the films and we later learn that his name is Joe, but the name isn’t used much to create a bit of mystery that is intriguing. We want to know a lot more about him than the films are willing to show.
The Joker is the twisted and tortured antihero that is played by the late actor Heath Ledger in the film “The Dark Knight.” He’s Batman’s archenemy and he does some really terrible things. The character has a bit of humor about him and the pain of his unfortunate childhood haunts him throughout his days, inciting a sickness that is unleashed on those around him with disturbing consequences. We see his conflict and mental struggles in one of the darkest portrayals of the character yet.
V is another title character that we root for, although he’s not what you could call a good guy. The Guy Fawkes mask and long hair make for a frightful figure when you add the dark clothing. The antihero is morally ambiguous and it’s difficult to tell if the freedom fighter who is also a vigilante and anarchist is totally off his rocker or a hero. We’re perpetually uncertain about what’s lurking deep inside the character. He made his appearance after the comic world, in the movie “V for Vendetta.”
Jack Nicholson gave a brilliant performance in the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” as the main protagonist of the film, Randle Patrick McMurphy. The film was an adaptation fro the novel. He earned an Academy Award for his exceptional performance. Mac or RP is an antihero that you grow to love, but not necessarily trust. He’s one that we were all pulling for and the character has made such an impression on the world that anyone who’s seen the film is immediately stirred upon hearing the very name.
Travis Bickle is another one of those characters who is the protagonist of the film, but we form an almost unhealthy bond with him. Robert De Niro played the part of the antihero in the film “Taxi Driver” from 1976. This was an unforgettable performance that inspired the character to go down in the annals of history as one of the most iconic characters in the history of film. Bickle is a character who is filled with angst and conflicts. It seems that the more tortured the characters are, the more we root for them to find some type of peace, or at least a reckoning. The assassination attempt scene is perhaps one of the most riveting parts of the film and De Niro is sporting a really different look for the occasion. He does wear a mo-hawk well.
The McManus Brothers
The McManus Brothers from the popular hit film “Boondock” Saints,” are a pair of highly educated brothers from Ireland that we instantly fall in love with. Their hearts are in the right places, but the acts that they commit are atrocious in some form. The two are fluent in multiple languages, yet choose to earn their living working in a meat slaughter house. They live in perhaps the worst possible dump of an apartment. They are both highly religious boys who only want to do the right things. Fiercely dedicated to the cause of ridding the world of evil, they embark on a journey that leads them into the seamiest sector of American business. The brothers are almost comical as they learn the ins and outs of becoming professional hit-men, but they only do away with the more vile characters found within the criminal mob gangs of the city. As their story hits the newspapers, they are embraced as heroes who are doing their part to clean up the city and make it a safer place for residents to live. After each killing, coins are placed on the eyes of the death as a symbolic wish that they make it to a good place on the other side, and they pray after each hit is completed. They are befriended by a detective who supports their crime spree and protects them from prosecution. Brilliant performances by three antiheroes are found in this film by Sean Patrick Flannery, Norman Reedus and Willem Dafoe.
The infamous antihero Vito Corleone is a fictional movie character from the Francis Ford Coppola “The Godfather” franchise. The fist actor to play the character in “The Godfather” was veteran actor Marlon Brando. In the second installation of the film, Robert De Niro played the character as a younger man. The blockbuster films skyrocketed De Niro’s career to unbelievable heights. Vito Corleone has been listed as the number one greatest character in all of film history. The character served as the cornerstone for the films that impressed the American public with the grizzly reality of the violence and corruption within the mob family. Corleone was an antihero that you wanted to succeed simply by the virtue of who he was, both good and bad.
S.D. Bob “Snake” Plissken is the antihero and fictional character from the popular “Escape” films. Kurt Russell is the actor who portrayed the character in the John Carpenter films. Snake is an impressive figure of a man and he’s hard as nails. His frightening scowl portrays the former special forces operator, hardened by years of seeing action and instigating heroic missions He was a hero during World War III, but upon his return, turned to the criminal side of life. He is apprehended by the United States Police Force and then coerced into extracting top secret materials for them. An unwilling participant, Snake does what he has to do. He’s the grudging sort and not in the position that he wants to occupy in life. We find ourselves rooting for him to accomplish his mission and to find a way to get the king sized chip off his shoulder so we can see who the man really is deep down inside. We sense the conflict within him but his shell is very hard.
One of our all-time antiheroes is Harry Calahan from the ‘Dirty Harry” film franchise. The character wouldn’t be the same without movie veteran Clint Eastwood in the role. We see the fictional character as the lead in “Dirty Harry,” “Magnum Force,” “The Enforcer,” “Sudden Impact,” and ‘The Dead Pool.” Each film was as popular as the one before and highly anticipated by fans. He was a guy that we loved regardless of how unorthodox his methods. Harry Callahan got the nickname Dirty Harry because he frankly didn’t give a damn about how he caught the bad guys. Protocol wasn’t a word within his mental dictionary, nor did he care to add it. He was exciting and devil may care in his approach to the job of being a police officer. He regularly crossed both ethical and professional boundaries as though they didn’t exist because he had his own brand of dishing out justice. His most popular catch phrase is “Do you feel lucky punk?”
The character Antonio Raimundo Montana, aka, Tony Montana is the fictional character who was protagonist of the movie “Scarface” from 1983. This was a big one for actor Al Pacino who played the part of the character. Tony made such an impact on the world that he has become the popular character in the video game “Scarace: The World Is Yours,” as well as a cultural icon in this country. This character meets the criteria of antihero in aces. He’s a troubled guy who has gotten in with a rough crowd and he earns his living by committing crimes that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. He has a strong protective instinct towards his sister, but he doesn’t gather all his facts before killing her new husband right in front of her. Tony thinks he can fix it by taking her with him and allowing her to cool off after the tragic incident, after all, he was only trying to protect her right? The incident is the signal that the film is about to come to a blood and horrifying end. His sister Gina is inconsolable and ends up shooting her own brother for killing her husband. He’s the kind of guy that is always out to do the right thing in a left-handed kind of fashion, but he’s a big time bungler. Tony tries, but he just doesn’t ever seem to get things right.