Films

13 movie anti-heroes who stole the show, and our hearts

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Gary Ogden
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13 movie anti-heroes who stole the show, and our hearts

Heroes? Not interested in them, we all love a bastard, don’t we? Here are 15 of cinema’s greatest

Not sure if you were aware, but there’s this comic book film coming out, right, with Tom Hardy in it, and he’s got this big alien thing in him, and it makes him bite people’s heads off. Venom, it’s called, and it looks quite good. Not enough head-biting in the cinema nowadays, we’ve always said this.

Anyway, the big deal with Venom is that Hardy’s eventual dual-character is a bit of a dick, basically - he’s a long way from your day-glo, earnest, boring, don’t-wanna-bite-no-heads-off superheroes. An anti-hero, if you will.

You know the ones - all that hate to love malarkey - big old bastards that we just can’t help but feel a real affinity towards. Cinema is chock-full of them, and to celebrate the rapidly oncoming release of Venom, here are 12 more right old sods that it’s absolutely worth spending a bit of time with. 

To make things interesting - this is the internet, everything must be interesting - we’ve skipped the obvious ones (your Travis Bickles and your Punishers) and searched in the background for those doing the dastardly good and stealing the show from under the main character’s feet.

In no particular order:

(Spoilers ahead, ya big not-watching-the-film-soon-enough babies)

1. Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road)

15 movie anti-heroes who stole the show, and our hearts 2

“A number one all-over please, I need a haircut to match my robot arm. Also give it me for nowt otherwise I’ll knock your sodding block off.”

Have another watch of Mad Mad: Fury Road and you’ll notice something: Tom Hardy doesn’t do… much? Like, the film’s named after him and everything, but try and remember a single scene with him in, a thing he said, anything he actually does (that isn’t getting strapped onto a truck and driven through the desert, anyway) and you can’t do it, can you? That’s because Imperator Furiosa absolutely whips the film out of his grasp and runs home with it.

Why an anti-hero? Well, she absolutely does not take a single shred of shit from anybody, and when she first turns up she knocks a good hiding into Max - the one we’re supposed to be rooting for. Even when they team up, she’s not about pulling punches and will absolutely kill anyone and anything to get to her final destination - big gross bad Immortan Joe. Who yeah, she kills as well. Loves a spot of the old ultra-violence, does Furiosa.

2. Quint (Jaws)

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“Sharks? Yeah I’ve headbutted a few sharks. I’ve headbutted sharks you wouldn’t believe. Oh, sorry, a shot of tequila please, barkeep.”

Grizzled, mutton-chopped, hard-drinking, prone-to-yelling, Quint is the greatest character in Jaws (besides the shark, obviously). Just a bit of an all-round jerk, a vegan-bothering shark-hunter that does it for fun and is introduced by literally scratching his fingernails down a blackboard - surely the greatest crime you could ever commit.  

Nevertheless, we love him - nay, are in love with him. Quint is a true anti-hero, because really, you should dislike him with every fiber of your moral being, but instead, by virtue of him being one of the only people who may be able to save the day, you simply don’t. And you shan’t.

3. Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction)

50 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Pulp Fiction 20

“Hair? No, me and John Travolta both gave up on that long ago. Both in different ways, but still.”

Maybe an obvious choice, what with Samuel L Jackson being one of the most recognisable and essential parts of Pulp Fiction, but it doesn’t warrant a dressing-down to state that he’s not the main character, seeing as the film doesn’t have any. Still, Jules stands out as one of the most likable characters in the film, which really should prompt you to take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror, buster, because this man deserves shame, not plaudits. Sure, he’s cool and charismatic and fashionable and Samuel L Jackson, but he’s also a professional murderer - like, he gets money for killing people. That, in what should be your opinion, is not an honest profession.

But then again: Samuel L Jackson.

4. Jason Dixon (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

15 movie anti-heroes who stole the show, and our hearts 4

“Here I am demonstrating how not to use a magnifying glass. This method serves no possible purpose whatsoever.”

Straight off the back, old Jase is a nasty bit of work. A racist, cruel, bumbling idiot who you wouldn’t want round for dinner - and were he to remain in this guise, then he’d be as far away from this list as possible. On some other list, probably. A Racist Shitbag list, most likely. But hey, there’s this thing called redemption, and somehow, he achieves it. Admittedly, it takes getting fully burnt from head to toe (maybe he deserved it) to knock his moral compass into gear, but he realises his grievous mistakes, and sets out to atone for them. 

He ends up - like many an anti-hero before him - a vigilante, and like only the most effective examples do, he forces you to ask yourself a few questions, too. Why do you suddenly feel warmth towards an ostensibly terrible man? Who’s the real scumbag now? It’s you, isn’t it? It’s YOU!

5. Big Chris (Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels)

15 movie anti-heroes who stole the show, and our hearts 5

“Silly this, really, holding two guns like this. If I genuinely had to use them, they’d fly off backwards and I’d be all over the place. Looks cool though, don’t it? Vinnie Jones! I’M VINNIE JONES!”

It’s very possible to think the following and not be chastised by your peers for being a PC-mad milquetoast: banging someone’s head in a car door repeatedly is not the kindest thing available for you to do as a human being. Doing it would make you - in many eyes - a bit of a “bad egg”. Yet, even though we possess the knowledge that Big Chris - played by real-life anti-hero Vinnie Jones - has similarly clouted a bloke’s nugget inside the wings of a Rover 3500 numerous times, it’s not that much of a deal. Still like the guy. The guy that’s just absolutely flattened someone’s brain into slush - nice man, and would request that we spend more time with him, please.

6. Alejandro (Sicario)

15 movie anti-heroes who stole the show, and our hearts 6

“Hamme tha fakking keys you cacksuckerwhathafack?”

A great feature of the best anti-heroes is that they posses a worthy cause that we can get behind. Like, sure, they’re doing some pretty immoral and bad things, but it’s all in the name of… good? That’s a proper anti-hero, there. And the greatest anti-hero quest? REVENGE. You can be excused all manner of trigger happy carelessness if you’ve a justified thirst for vengeance. 

That’s why old Alejandro from Sicario and its sequel deserves your sympathy and forgiveness (to a certain extent, anyway). His wife and daughter were murdered, and in most books that’s enough to spark off a rampage - sure, he takes it a tad overboard at the shocking climax, but as we said previously, the best anti-heroes are the ones that make you question your own attempts to legitamise them. Makes your brain do things, does Alejandro.

7. Iceman (Top Gun)/Doc Holliday (Tombstone)/Madmartigan (Willow)

15 movie anti-heroes who stole the show, and our hearts 7

“I am Val Kilmer, I can fly planes, shoot guns, swing swords and be an actually quite good Batman if you ignore most of what is going on around me in the one film in which I played him.”

Do we have a cop-out here? Three characters in one slot? What has this website turned into? It’s turned into an honest one, that’s what - and to include three Val Kilmer characters would be to sully the arbitrary “13” in the title of this article. Happy now? Good, here’s why each one of these Kilmer classics deserve a shared spot:

Iceman: He’s a, how-you-say, dickhead, but he is also most absolutely a hero. And at the end he’s sort of not a dickhead anymore, which is great. That’s the bit where you cry, at the bit where he’s not a dickhead anymore, the bit where you cry at the airplane movie.

Doc Holliday: He’s arrogant, a womaniser, a gambler, a suspected murderer, but you cannot deny - particularly through Kilmer’s movie-stealing performance in Tombstone - he’s the coolest got-darn varmit out there. There’s never been a slicker, perma-coughing cowboy in history.

Madmartigan: A selfish bastard and an unwavering pessimist, basically, but then whoops! He saves the day! Good example of someone who sheds their unsavoury traits as the film goes on - by the end, there’s nothing ‘anti’ about him.

8. Roy Batty (Blade Runner)

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“Something something moonbeams. Something something space planet laser gun aliens cupcakes.”

Hey! You! The guy writing this list! Roy Batty is a bad guy! He’s no hero! These are things you are shouting, currently, at your screen, but it’s all in vain, because Roy Batty absolutely deserves a slot on the wall of this storied corridor. 

Sure, he’s a big murderer (and also, like a cyborg, basically, and they’re always evil), but once you get the bloke out in the rain and he starts on a misty-eyed soliloquy, then hold your horses, because what’s that? Sympathy? Compassion? Respect? Yeah, you better believe it - you’re on his side now, huh? All that moral bravado you so confidently displayed at the start - it’s dust. Roy Batty has made a believer out of you.

9. Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)

15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About The Silence Of The Lambs

“I ate his wig with some baked beans and a warm glass of Lambrini. SPTHSPTHSPTHSPTHSPTHSPTH” 

When you think of old Hannibal Lecter up there, you think “Oh, he was the main character in that film Silence Of The Lambs, weren’t he? Yes, he were, he absolutely were” but you, you over there, thinking that, are wrong. Hannibal Lecter is on-screen for less than 20 minutes - and Anthony Hopkins won a bloody Oscar for it! What a payday, eh?

Anyway, that means he qualifies here. He’s helping the main character solve crimes, he’s effortlessly charismatic and intelligent, but - and it’s a rather big but (or should I say ‘rump’?*) - he likes to eat people. Like, human people, kill and eat them, make them die and then eat them afterwards. Still, it’s healthy to have at least one vice, so let him off - you’re no better than him!

*You see, ‘but’ sounds like ‘butt’, and Lecter has probably eaten a human ‘butt’ before, but because he’s all hoity-toity about his silly nouveau cuisine, he’d have called it ‘rump’. I was doing a joke about that. A big arse joke about the cannibal. Hope you enjoyed it. If you didn’t, you can shove it up your rump.

10. John Blutarsky (Animal House)

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“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH”

A bit gross, is John Blutarsky, gross in a way that involves him shoving a load of food into his mouth and then slamming his hands into his cheeks, spraying the contents of his gob onto an unsuspecting table of jocks and blurting “I’m a zit”. However, despite this crude display of vulgarity, his is a magnetic aura, and one you want to get involved with. But why? Why would you wish to be in the vicinity of the pig-man? Well:

1. It’s funny

2. He knows how to perform a proper rabble-rousing speech, does Bluto, and if you’re not swept up in the heat of the moment like the rest of his fraternity, then you’re a stronger person than most

3. It’s funny. THE ZIT THING IS FUNNY

11. Wednesday Addams (The Addams Family)

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“You’ve let yourself go since Back To The Future, mate.”

Good old Wednesday isn’t an anti-hero in the same way as some of the others on this list - you know, she isn’t a gun-toting ultra-murderer or anything (also, a child) - but she’s still a far way from your archetypal ‘hero’. Like, she buries a live cat, tries to kill a baby, commits arson - she’s not great, if we’re honest. 

Then again, she is absolutely the best member of the Addams Family, and is fully framed as someone to root for. And root for her you absolutely do, particularly during her summer camp revolt, leading a group of social outcasts in a kidnapping mission - sticking it to the cool kids, essentially. And if you can’t do that with a bit of fire, then what can you do?

Also, greatest school play ever.

12. Don Logan (Sexy Beast)

12 movie anti-heroes who stole the show, and our hearts

“I just like saying the f-word a lot, OK? Love saying it, in fact. I’ve even been known to say the c-word, too, but I won’t actually say it here because I think I get penalised and I appear further down Google’s search results if I do.”

Can someone earn the “hero” part of their anti-hero status simply be being very, very funny? Like, no other redeeming features apart from being extremely hilarious? Is that possible? A real, full-on bastard, a criminal, an arsehole, an aggressive, unreasonable red-faced vuvuzela of a man, but, erm, well funny? We think that, yes, this is enough to become an anti-hero. 

Ask anyone who has seen Sexy Beast, and they will tell you that Ben Kingsley as Don Logan is their favourite character - and favouritism as a concept tends to lend itself to things that are ‘good’. Heroic, even. Logan is the gut-busting hero of this film, simply by virtue of him being the funniest thing in it. A right old idiot, sure, but a funny one with it.

13. May Day (A View To A Kill)

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“Slave To The Rhythm is an absolute banger, if I do say so myself. Anyway, I’m going to throw you on the floor now”

Hard as absolute nuts and bolts and screws AND nails, is May Day. And while she’s ostensibly a villain - she likes to kill, oh Lordy does she like to kill boy - she is absolutely magnetic while she’s doing it. “Where is May Day?” you say, constantly, when you don’t know where May Day is. This is because A View To A Kill is best when May Day is there - when she is not, it is but a shadow of its former glories. She’s the best thing in it.

And hey, she actually conforms to the very definition of a hero at the end of the film, when SPOILER she sacrifices herself and basically saves James Bond - heroic sensibilities and martyrdom: check. She’s bad and also good, like only the best people are. You know who you are.

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(Images: Warner Bros./Universal/Miramax/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Handmade Films/Lionsgate/Paramount/Buena Vista/MGM/Orion Pictures/Channel Four/MGM/UA/EON Productions

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Gary Ogden

Shortlist writer and "the least woke person in the office", Gary Ogden, likes horror movies, Cheestrings, tapping his leg under the desk, "having a drink", hiding from responsibility, screaming into the mirror whenever he is alone, and assorted other things. Mainly the screaming thing though. @garyblogden

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