A good hero is a joy to watch. You cheer them on their adventures whether it is to slay the dragon, solve the crime, or merely get the courage to ask that girl out. Sometimes as an audience a feeling occurs something different. You want to see someone a bit more complicated. A character who might do some overall good, but their methods are controversial or unethical. With this said we would be looking at ten of the many great anti-heroes in film and television.
SPOILER WARNING FOR SOME ENTRIES MARKED IN BOLD
#10: Dexter (Dexter)
Besides the inconsistent quality of the show, when Dexter was at its best, it was one of the best shows in the crime drama genre. Dexter Morgan, excellently portrayed by Michael C. Hall, comes off as an introverted, polite man who works for the police. However, Dexter is a serial killer. That sounds monstrous, but he kills murderers. People who killed innocent people are his primary targets. He devotedly follows a moral code from his father that keeps him in check. It is hard not to love this charming serial killer who gives donuts to his colleagues. Just don’t commit murder in Miami.
#9: Walter White (Breaking Bad)
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) develops a lot throughout the events in Breaking Bad. From family man and high school teacher who everyone loves. He is the typical American man living the American dream. When diagnosed with cancer, he goes down a dark path. He is a drug lord and murderer but still tries his best for his family and his humanity. By the end, he confesses that this was for him. Walter loved the power and money. His final act that shows the kind man inside of him is still alive is saving Jesse (Aaron Paul). Bryan Cranston’s performance as Walter will always be his best, and one of the best characters of all time.
#8: Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is a pirate, so making him a hero is a bit hard. When his whole purpose is to drink and plunder, it is unlikely that Jack will be the hero. He must act as a hero since mystical villains such as Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) keep cropping up in his life. Our heroic pirate always manages a way to defeat monsters and other evils that comes his way on the high seas. While doing this in his favor by stealing any gold that comes his way and continues to get wasted off of some rum or any other alcohol he finds. Johnny Depp has struck gold with his most beloved and iconic role here. With a few more movies on the way despite the massive decline in quality, we will eventually see how Jack’s story ends.
#7: Ash Williams (Ash vs. Evil Dead/Evil Dead/Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness)
If people start getting possessed by evil and other horrific monsters come to your door, then you need Ashley Williams (Bruce Campbell). If you knew the man as a person and not a demon killer, then he would be the last person you want. A man with a drinking problem, a weed problem, and cannot keep his pants on when a woman gives him the smallest smile. The selfish womanizer is humanity’s best bet against the evil that rises from the Book of the Dead. With his one-liners, charming smile, and incredible skills with a chainsaw, it is hard not to love this despicable character. You know writers and the actor have it perfectly nailed when they can take a character who in real life would be cast away by any sane person, makes them one of the most loveable characters in horror. Bruce Campbell brings out one of the funniest and charismatic performances of his career in the franchise, especially in the tv show, Ash vs. Evil Dead. Sadly, the show got the ax, and Bruce says he is done playing Ash forever. With multiple movies and a tv show with three seasons, there is plenty to watch to enjoy Ashley Williams kill deadites.
#6: Jamie Lannister (Game of Thrones)
Game of Thrones is full of some of the most complex characters we have ever seen on TV. It greatly helps that the source material is so strong along with brilliant minds to turn pages onto the screen. Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is one of the many characters whose character arc becomes increasingly complex as the series goes on. From someone we see as a villain to someone who turns his back on his sister to fight along the same side, he called the enemy to defeat the White Walkers. By season 8 we might see Jamie as a full-on hero. However, his ultimate flaw that keeps him from that line as of now is his sister. He stood by her side as she commits atrocities. Jamies seldom stands against her until season 7. The turn is happening which will decide the King Slayer’s fate for the final season. Will we be able to call Jamie the Queen Slayer too?
#5: Walt Kowalski (Gran Torino)
Walt (Clint Eastwood) might be the hero at the end of the story, but his racist feelings never truly left. Due to his time in the war, Walt Kowalski grew a hatred for Asians. For unspecified reasons, he hates other people of color too. With some of the ridiculous dialog that is more comedic than anything, Walt is a man full of hate. His heart sparks a light as he sees the gangs harassing his new neighbors. The end shows Walt sacrifice himself to send the gang members to prison ultimately. When his lawyer describes Walt’s will to his family and his new friend and neighbor, Thao, we still get a glimpse at the man he became and was. The Gran Torino going to Thao continues to show how much of a better man Walt became. However, the instructions on not what to do with the car shows Walt’s racist feelings never died.
#4: Alejandro (Sicario)
The mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) is shown mostly to be a supporting character who helps interrogate for Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). The end reveals he is the sicario, meaning a hitman. He does whatever is necessary to avenge the death of his wife and daughter who were brutally killed at the hands of Alarcon, a Mexican drug dealer, and his men. Nobly avenging the death of his family is the hero thing to do. The methods that Alejandro takes shows a darker side to the man that crosses into anti-hero territory. In the film, he guns down Alarcon’s wife and children before executing his primary target. When Kate (Emily Blunt) finds out what is happening and that everything they are doing is illegal, she threatens to tell the truth. The end shows Alejandro take a gun to her head and forces Kate to sign a paper that will confirm that their mission was done by the book. We will see more of Alejandro on June 29 in Sicario: Day of the Soldado.
#3: Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
If you have read my 10 Awesome Female Characters then you know I love Lisbeth’s character. A mysterious, unique, introvert whom possesses extreme knowledge of computers to use to her advantage. As a character who has been wronged in every possible way in life from emotional, physical and sexual abuse, she makes sure nobody abuses her again. A powerful female lead who manages to crush everyone who crosses her the wrong way. Her methods are ethically questionable, but her targets always deserve it. If you have a skeleton in your closet, she will find every bone in there.
#2: Sandor Clegane AKA The Hound (Game of Thrones)
Yes, another character from Game of Thrones, is that a problem? It should not be because the show is fantastic and is full of complex characters. Sandor (Rory McCann) is one of the many skilled fighters in the show and books. With a world full of trained killers, Sandor is up there. Besides his massive size and can kill just about anyone in his path, he grows to be much more. At first, he comes off as a brooding character who only does things for himself. Defending Arya showed there was some humanity in him. When he reemerges later in the series, after thinking he had died for so long, he avenges the camp that had saved his life. Now we see Sandor standing with an army to fight White Walkers. The fire vision changes him for good which makes his decision to fight against the evilest force in the world.
#1: John Luther (Luther)
Idris Elba is at his best with this gritty crime drama. His character Luther is an emotionally invested detective. The emotional investment is a gift and a curse. As he gets more invested, more time and resources get put to catch the criminal he is chasing. However, his methods cross a moral line. Physically hurting suspects to flat out almost killing some. The show opens with him letting a serial killer fall which puts him in a coma. Luther takes the emotionally connected police drama to the next level with its gritty stories and unique protagonist.
Those are just ten great anti-heroes. Of course, there are many from all sorts of genres. Be sure to comment below some of your favorites in the comments.
Header image via Showtime