We all know what the lead character in a movie is supposed to be like, and what qualities he is supposed to possess. Most movies have a hero, a guy that we look up to, one who will save the day and solve whatever problem that needs to be solved, usually in a rather magnificent way.
But then there are the antiheroes; the bad boys, the guys that you don’t really want to root for, but you do anyway. Of course some antiheroes you don’t end up rooting for at all, they are just too awful, but, nonetheless, they still are the star of the movie. These guys are icons, and iconoclasts all at the same time, and that is not an easy thing to do. We all like our bad boys. Guys secretly, or not so secretly, want to be them, while women want to be with them, but would never admit it.
Some of the more famous antiheroes in cinema are Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver), The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s “Spaghetti Western” Dollars Trilogy), and Jim Stark (James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause). Those all made the list, but there are a few more on here that might surprise you, and that you probably are going to disagree with. So let’s find out. Here is TheRichest’s list of the 15 greatest antiheroes in movie history. If you like bad boys in movies, then you are going to dig this list. Just don’t invite these guys home to meet Mom.
15. Seth Gecko
If you have never seen George Clooney act as Seth Gecko, then you really have never seen George Clooney act. Those of you who just see the good looking Clooney and have never seen the bad-boy Clooney are in for a surprise. Seth Gecko was a cool, suave, sociopath in the Dusk to Dawn movies. In the beginning of the first movie Gecko had been broken out of prison by his brother, who is even more crazy than Gecko is (played to the hilt by Quentin Tarantino). Right off the bat he shows his antihero side despite being a bit of a psycho who robs and kidnaps without feeling any guilt, he also has a code of honor, only killing when he thinks he has to, which is really what most of these antiheroes are all about. Clooney owned this role and made Gecko even more compelling than he would have been anyway.
14. Snake Plissken
Snake Plissken fits the definition of an antihero to perfection. Played by Kurt Russell in the Escape to New York movies, he is a former Special Forces operator and a war hero that has turned into a criminal. The movie is set in the future as the war that he is a hero of is World War 3. He gets apprehended by the United States Police Force and then has to get top-secret material from New York City and Los Angeles (which in the future have been turned into maximum security prisons). These movies are a lot of fun, and Kurt Russell is perfect for the role. He embodies this list well, as Snake is obviously a total loose cannon, but is a charming and good looking one that you root for anyway, no matter who he might be blowing away at the time.
13. Dirty Harry
One simply can not have a list like this without Dirty Harry, a ridiculously violent cop who was played of course by Clint Eastwood. While some others may seem more popular now, at the time this guy was the antihero for his generation. At one point in the movie Dirty Harry sees a bank robbery in progress. He responds to it and kills two of the robbers and wounds a third. Dirty Harry then stands over the third guy while holding a gun and says “I know what you’re thinking: ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?” Total BAMF.
12. Jim Stark
One can’t do a list of antiheroes without including Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause. Stark of course was played by James Dean, who was one of the biggest antiheroes of all time. A whole generation thought he was cool, at a time when guys just were not that cool at all. This movie was one of the very first mainstream attempts in film to show that American youth were not just a whole bunch of nice and wholesome kids doing a lot of nice things, and James Dean totally owned this role. The movie opens with Stark being arrested while he is drunk on a sidewalk and just gets a little darker from there. This movie truly catapulted James Dean to stardom, and set the pace for all the antiheroes in film to follow. Sadly, James Dean died at 24-years-old.
11. William Foster
For those of you who like your movies weird and a bit violent then check out Falling Down, a movie in which Michael Douglas plays a character named William Foster who has pretty much had it with just about everything going on in this country and turns into a vigilante. He goes on a violent rampage as he makes his way across Los Angeles so he can reach his daughter’s birthday party. This movie is more confusing than most on the antihero scale as the viewer is really not quite sure if he is supposed to be rooting for this guy or not. I mean, on the one hand, it is pretty easy to identify with this guy just losing it because of all the pressure of being an American in today’s society. Unfortunately, on the other hand the dude is just an absolute psycho.
10. Tony Montana
Pretty much everyone knows who Tony Montana is. Played excellently by Al Pacino, he was the lead character and protagonist in the movie Scarface. While there is no doubt Montana was a brutal nut job, he also embodied the rise from the bottom of society to the top as he went from a very poor Cuban refugee to one of the richest drug dealers in the world. Montana became a bit of a cultural icon, and is known as one of the most famous movie characters of all time. Scarface is now thought of by critics as possibly the best mob movie that was ever made, and a big part of that is because of the acting of Pacino, as well as the antihero status of the role that he played. Montana was crazy and over the top, but he carried the movie nonetheless.
9. Patrick Bateman
Okay, so this one is a little confusing. Christian Bale is the actor that played Patrick Bateman in the movie American Psycho. First of all, if you have never read the book, please do so. While the movie gives you a relatively good idea of what Bateman is all about, in the book it really comes out to be so much more. And what is he about? Well, he is a serial murderer who is incredibly shallow, but yet a lot of American men seem to have identified with him, at least on a certain level. The world that Bateman lives in is filled with people that are so shallow that even when he tries to confess to the other guys in his social circle that he has been killing people, they just laugh him off and get another martini and talk about the business meeting the next day.
8. The Man With No Name
So you thought Dirty Harry was tough? He was nothing compared to the Man With No Name, who was also played by Clint Eastwood. The Man With No Name is the antihero in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” of Spaghetti Western films: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The movies were called Spaghetti Westerns because they were filmed in Italy, and were what truly broke Clint Eastwood as an actor. This character was a strong, silent type who went around mostly minding his own business until things went bad, and then he would pretty much start killing everyone around him until there were no bad guys left. Eastwood was so cool in these movies that it was almost unbelievable- check them out if you have not already.
7. Eric Draven
Eric Draven was played by Brandon Lee in the movie The Crow. As the story goes, Draven was engaged to Shelly Webster, with their wedding set for Halloween night. On the night before a gang led by T-Bird murdered both Shelley and Eric. Eric is resurrected by the crow one year later in order to get revenge. Tragically Brandon Lee actually died while filming this movie because of an accident involving a gun. Eric Draven was already a pretty incredible antihero even before the horrible accident, but because of it he is even more well known. The film was released despite his death, they used a stunt double and special effects to make up for the loss of Lee, which was rather tasteless in my, and many, many other peoples’ opinions.
For those of you who have been living under a rock over the past year, Ryan Reynolds played Deadpool in a recent movie of the same name. Deadpool is a mercenary. He is skilled and talented at his job, which obviously has a lot to do with killing people. What makes him even more of a classic antihero is how unstable he is; he is quite dangerous to the people around him as well as himself. Deadpool was a huge financial success, it grossed around $780 million, broke numerous box office records and was the highest grossing X-Men film ever. With that kind of financial success, it is no wonder that producers and directors keep putting out movies featuring main characters that are heroes, but don’t always act as heroes are supposed to.
5. Travis Bickle
Travis Bickle has to be on this list, there is simply no way around it. Played excellently by Robert De Niro, this character in the movie Taxi Driver is one of the most famous antiheroes of all time. Bickle is a taxi driver who was a marine in the Vietnam War. He also is obviously pretty severely mentally ill. He spends his days and nights driving his cab surrounded by addicts, pimps, and thieves that he considers “filth” and starts to think about cleansing the streets and packing a whole bunch of weapons on his body at all times. This truly is a great movie, that needs to be seen and De Niro is amazing in this role. His scene where he looks into the mirror and says “You talking to me?” is one of the most famous scenes in cinema, and deservedly so.
4. Jules Winnfield
Jules Winnfield is played, in the most awesome way, by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Pulp Fiction. He is a hitman who has what he calls a “moment of clarity,” who gives it up and decides to leave to “walk the Earth.” He is full of good quotes throughout the movie, which is, by the way, excellent. At one point after shooting a man on the couch he says “I’m sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn’t mean to do that. Please, continue, you were saying something about best intentions. What’s the matter? Oh, you were finished! Well, allow me to retort. What does Marsellus Wallace look like?” Pulp Fiction is maybe not one of the best movies ever made, as some people claim, but it is one of the most enjoyable, and a big part of the reason for that is Jackson and the character in which plays.
3. The Dude
Speaking of amazing movies, and we were, The Big Lebowski is one of the best ever. In fact pretty much anything done by the Coen Brothers is pretty amazing. Jeff Bridges plays The Dude or as he says “Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not “Mr. Lebowski”. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.” The Dude is a total antihero; he can barely get dressed in the morning, wears a bathrobe all the time, downs White Russians like crazy, and hangs out with a bunch of crazy bowlers. But he sure is focused on finding his stolen rug which as he says “really pulled the room together.” If you have never seen The Big Lebowski check it out.
2. Jack Sparrow
Jack Sparrow is played of course by Johnny Depp and is the main character in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Talk about an antihero. First of all, Depp plays these types of characters like it is his job, which in actuality it is, of course. Second, even in real life Depp has become a bit of an antihero himself, what with all of the allegations of bad behavior that he has been facing lately. And to top it all off, he has said that he based the character of Jack Sparrow as a combination of Keith Richards and Pepe LePew. How truly, weirdly cool is that? Now that I think of it, Pepe LePew should be on this list somewhere, he truly embodies what this list is all about. With that said, not many on this list can top Depp and his version of Jack Sparrow- he embodies the term “scene chewer” with this one.
1. Tyler Durden
Before the movie Fight Club came along, Brad Pitt was largely thought of as just another pretty face. Okay, well maybe not just another pretty face, he was already a big star and obviously ridiculously good looking. But regardless, it was a big surprise to me, as well as a lot of others, how well he pulled off the role of Tyler Durden, who is a guy that is unhinged yet magnetic, and started Project Mayhem, and introduces the narrator to Fight Club. This is an excellent movie and Pitt is amazing in the role. Speaking of excellent and amazing, read the book of the same name that this movie is based on, as it will really hit you and stay with you for a long time. Something else that will hit you and stay with you is Tyler Durden, and pretty much any of the other roles that are on this list. Because sometimes a hero with a dark side makes the whole thing so much more interesting.