It is a common belief that to be a hero you must essentially be selfless, virtuous, and committed to doing good. Well, not every protagonist has that belief structure. In the case of the following ten people, we see black and white blend into shades of grey. These are people who march to the beat of their own drums and who are driven by their own motivations, whether they be revenge, financial gain, personal enlightenment, or just to live life by their own terms. These ten prove that just because you’re the main character, it doesn’t mean you have to be the squeaky clean good guys.
10) Snake Plissken from Escape From New York and Escape From L.A.
He was once heralded as a hero, but as the world changed, he stayed the same. Now he’s an outlaw and an anarchist. But in a world gone mad he’s the only sane man around. He’s also the man you turn to when you need to get a dirty job done… specifically, the jobs that have you going into the mouth of hell to retrieve a precious item, whether it be an elected official or a doomsday device. Snake will bust his way through crime lords, surgical mutants, and terrorist leaders to accomplish the mission. The downside to teaming with Snake is that the survival rate is not particularly high. Anyone who helps him or fights the fight with him usually ends up dead in a ditch by the time everything is said and done. Despite that fact, it’s better to stay on Snake’s good side, or he’ll make you hurt for it.
9) Danny Ocean from Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen
Danny Ocean is the idea man, the man with the plan, the thieving chairman of the board. When it comes to organizing major heists, no one crosses this Ocean. The thing that separates Danny Ocean from your garden variety petty thief is that Danny and his entourage have a code. Even in a den of thieves there is still honor, and that honor should always be respected. They never steal from people unless they deserve it or unless they won’t miss the money. Of course if they do miss it, they won’t be able to do anything about it. That’s because Danny and his crew are always ten steps ahead of the everyone. He also has no problem making you hurt in your wallet if you decide to screw one of his friends over. Rest assured, once he hurts you back, you won’t even be able to send any hired muscle after him. More than likely, they like him better than they like you.
8) Jay and Silent Bob from The New Jersey Chronicles
One is a foul-mouthed stoner with bad pronounciation, the other is the quiet type who will randomly show signs of insight, and they’re both drug dealers. They are on a quest of achieving absolutely nothing. They live a life of contentment by simply hanging out in front of the block of stores in Leonardo, New Jersey. Even when they’re on clandestine missions to save all of existence, Jay’s motivations are totally sexual in nature. Most of time you’ll catch him gloating about his conquests or the women he intends to conquer. Naturally, it is debatable whether these conquests are true. Silent Bob, on the other hand, is a bit more rational in his ways. He is definitely the brains of the two. He has the smarts to take Hollywood for hundreds of thousands of dollars for likeness rights, and on a smaller scale help you come to terms with a failing relationship. Together, these two reign over the streets of the Jersey suburbs and their sovereignty has gone unchallenged.
7) Sweeney Todd from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
He is the most sympathetic serial killer to grace the broadway stage and the silver screen. He never forgives and never forgets. Why should he? After all, how would you feel if you were sent to Australia on a trumped up charge while a lecherous judge ravages your blushing bride and adopts your daughter? I don’t know about you, but I’d be a bit bitter towards the world. Upon his return to London, Sweeney ponders and Sweeney plans a elegant scheme for revenge against the judge and his subordinate Beadle Bamford. All the while he relieves his disdain for humanity by slitting the throats of any unfortunate customer who comes into his shop. When Sweeney returns from his prison, he is hollow and all he has is revenge. The only solace he can find is that of his razors. His chase-silver razors would be the tools of his satisfaction. Satisfaction that would come when those silver razors dripped blood-red rubies.
6) V from V For Vendetta
It’s an important fact that one country’s hero is another country’s terrorist. This is a fact that has always been with us for centuries. In America, our founding fathers were once deemed as terrorists by the British. As it was observed in the musical Wicked, the argument is only settled depending on who is willing to fight harder for their views to be dominant. That is exactly what V does. Bearing the image of Guy Fawkes, V rocks the foundations of a fascist regime and ignites a revolution which liberates a nation from the grips of fear. His motivations are definitely questionable, considering that the people who represent the government he sets out to topple are the same people who destroyed him in the Larkhill Research Facility. Through Evie Hammond, V is able to regain his humanity and realize that after the fifth of November there will be a new world beyond him and his vendetta, and that the people must want it badly enough.
5) Leonard Shelby from Memento
If you were able to forget that you murdered someone for your peace of mind, does that mean it didn’t happen? That’s how it is for Leonard Shelby. After attempting to save his wife from being raped and murdered, Leonard sustains a serious head injury. As a result, he no longer has any short term memory. Leonard embarks on a mission to find and kill the men who murdered his wife. The thing is, how do you live your life afterwards? How do you know that you accomplished your goals when you’ll never remember it? For all Leonard knows, he already caught the guy. For all he knows, the man he is now searching for is another in a long line of people he thinks did it. Leonard uses habit and routine, along with notes, tattoos, and photographs to aid him in his search, but can he even trust his own handwriting? Has Leonard become as horrible as the men he is hunting?
4) Everett, Pete, and Delmar from O Brother Where Art Thou?
Sure, gettin’ yerself baptized put you square with the Almighty, but the state of Mississippi is a little less sympathetic. Especially if you’re like Ulysses Everett McGill, Pete, and Delmar O’Donnell, a hapless trio of convicts who make a miraculous escape from the chain gang and embark on an odyssey to find a cache of loot from an armored car robbery. Everett is a bit of a habitual liar and an insufferable know-it-all. Pete is very rough around the edges and occasionally aggressive when the mood hits him. Then there’s Delmar, who is an all around good-natured guy who tends to be a bit oblivious to the magnitude of things that happen around him. Their journey finds them in a car chase with George “Babyface” Nelson, crashing a Klan Rally, and even becoming recording stars without them even knowing it. Through all these troubles, they will find their salvation, just not the kind they seek.
3) Raoul Duke (aka Hunter S. Thompson) from Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
Raoul Duke is one of the many working aliases of the famed gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Accompanied by his Samoan attorney, Raoul embarks on a savage journey to Las Vegas to find the heart of the American Dream. All the while they are stoned, ripped, and twisted from the contents in their big, black suitcase. Thompson was a roaming freelance journalist who was caught up in the waves of change that rocked the late 1960’s. He observed how there was a beautiful counterculture of people who protested the injustices of the establishment and how they fought it in no mean, military sense. Now, in the foul year of our lord nineteen-hundred and seventy-one, Thompson is one of the many who lament the demise of that high and beautiful wave while pulling a series of savage burns on the hotels, the locals, and the police, between hits of acid, ether, and adrenochrome.
2) Porter from Payback
Porter’s not doing this to make the world a better place; Porter is doing this because there are some people who need to be killed, and killed real bad. You work hard in the trenches for your retirement, and all you get is betrayed by your woman and your partner, and they leave you for dead. There’s nothing good or noble in what Porter does, but it can’t be denied that it’s totally justified. After all, the people he kills aren’t exactly a savory lot. They have no honor, no ethics, and no sense of fairness. They practically beg for Porter to call down the thunder, and that is some angry thunder. Porter punishes the lot of them with a cold, steely demeanor, and he never flinches from blowing someone away.
1) Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean
There are rogues, and then there’s the rogue that the term “rogue” was created for, and that rogue is Captain Jack Sparrow! It cannot be denied that throughout the trilogy, Sparrow’s motivations are entirely his own. It just so happens to be dumb luck that his goals are aligned with others’. He has a sublime gift for manipulation and has a knack for changing allies more often than he changes his girlfriends. He’s always unpredictable, and his methods are practically indecipherable to others. The only thing you can count on is that Jack will always come out on top (unless rum is invloved). Though Jack is, by all means, a scoundrel and a blackguard, he still respects The Pirate Code, and he has been known to use the parameters of the code to his advantage. Looks may be deceiving, but it can’t be denied that he is the best bloody pirate to sail the seven seas.
Honorable Mention: Mr. Orange from Reservoir Dogs
How far are you willing to go to do the right thing? The undercover officer, known only as Mr. Orange, may have gone a bit farther than he should have when he infiltrated Joe Cabot’s organization. Ultimately, when all hell breaks loose, Mr. Orange finds his loyalties shifting to the edge when he impulsively kills a civilian and develops a friendship with Mr. White. After everything falls apart and Orange accomplishes his mission, he ends up paying the ultimate price for betrayal.
No William Foster from Falling Down? How disappointing
Your failure to include The Man With No Name from the Sergio Leone western series starring Clint Eastwood undermines your entire list.
I totally agree with you John. I was surprised that he didn’t make it on here. He is what I picture when someone mentions “anti-hero.”
oh man, totally agree with John. One of the best Anti-Heroes ever was the guy from Falling Down.
Is the guy from memento a anti-hero though? I wouldn’t consider it. unless i didn’t understand the movie.
list invalid. Alex from A Clockwork Orange needs to be somewhere.
Man, Rorschach from the Watchmen. Him not being on the list invalidates it entirely.
When Boondock Saints doesn’t make the list but Jack Sparrow is number one, you know the list is influenced by a teenage girl.
was the joker good enough to count?
1. You are gay for Depp and Clooney.
2. Boondock Saints is a terrible movie. Thank god it’s not on this list.
3. The joker was a villian, and you are an idiot.
4. Alex from clockwork is the true #1.
5. Vincent, Jules, and Butch from Pulp fiction should be 2,3, and 4.
You forgot the coolest anti-hero of them all: Riddick. Shame on you.
The McManus brothers from the Boondock Saints are slightly-tarnished heroes, not antiheroes. They kill targets who are completely reprehensible BECAUSE they’re reprehensible. They may work outside the law, but their motivations are entirely selfless.
The Joker is a villain. How BAD of a villain depends on who is writing him and possibly who is playing him.
Rorschach isn’t on this list, I suspect, because Watchmen isn’t a movie yet.
I believe a better anti-hero would be Dr. Hannbial Lector. (From Silence of the Lambs, of course.)
Ash Williams? Army of Darkness
you have a broner for dep and cluney
The Punisher, Hellboy, Domino Harvey, and especially Marv (among other Sin City characters) wouldn’t be bad choices… I vote for a bigger list.
The author clearly got the definitions of Hero and protagonist mixed up. The two are not the same. The only good examples on the list are Snake, V, and maybe Porter but the rest are just Badboy protagonists. There’s a better list in this comment board alone. The man with no name was the greatest anti-hero of all time until Ichi the Killer. You’re an idiot! Go watch some more movies.
Cool list, but you did miss some of the classics. Like the other guys said the Man with No Name was probably the greatest anti-hero, but I would also like to add Jef Costello from Le Samurai. Anyway, some really cool ones in there, maybe not so sure about Jack Sparrow though, but he was pretty conniving.
I dont have as much as a bone to pick as everybody else, but you did forget one of the most influential anti-heroes of all time. Han-fucking-Solo. Come on, man.
Han Solo is not an Antihero…an unlikely hero at best. Ash and Jack Sparrow are in the same catagory.
Motherfucker please Ash Williams > All