10 Films Where Lead Hero Character Is Actually A Villain

Movie Trivia

“The line between good and evil runs down every human heart.” The best characters have both good and bad in them. Severus Snape, Jackie Brown, and Michael Corleone are compelling figures because they are so morally grey. However, some characters are portrayed as good, but on further reflection start looking like villains.

Some of these characters have pure motives but are willing to commit evil acts for the greater good. Others are selfish and don’t consider the people around them. A few of them are just plain jerks. With heroes like these, who needs villains?

Optimus Prime

After the Decepticons wreak havoc on the city, Optimus tells the humans that he deliberately didn’t intervene sooner so that they would realize the truth about the evil robots. In other words, Optimus let innocent people die to prove a point.

Indeed, over the film’s two and a half hours, Optimus racks up dozens of Geneva Convention violations. He rips apart several Decepticons as they beg for mercy. When Megatron offers Optimus a truce, the Autobot brutally decapitates him. Looked at this way, Optimus is a straight-up war criminal.


The caped crusader is one of cinema’s most iconic anti-heroes, but he might be more villainous than most fans think. After all, he’s a billionaire and a tech genius, but rather than using his resources to fund charities or improve Gotham’s infrastructure, he spends them on his vigilantism and cool outfits. Sure, Batman captures a lot of criminals, but he never addresses the root causes of crime in Gotham – the poverty, the incompetent government, and the lack of opportunities.

It seems like Bruce Wayne (most recently played by Robert Pattinson) is more interested in acting out his own fantasies of heroism than dealing with these chronic problems. Worst of all, Batman causes all kinds of destruction. While pursuing bad guys, he regularly damages buildings, blows up roads, and knocks down bridges. A city like Gotham doesn’t have the resources for these kinds of repairs.

Willy Wonka

Willy Wonka is one of literature’s most famous purveyors of whimsy and delight, but he also has a dark side. He’s paranoid, he’s egotistical, he essentially keeps the Oompa Loompas as slaves, and he visits terrible fates upon the children that displease him. Yes, the kids are awful, but to be fair, they are children. And Wonka’s excuse for all of this? His dentist dad didn’t let him eat candy as a kid.

Both Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp subtly captured these more unsavory aspects of Wonka’s personality in their respective performances. It’ll be interesting to see how Timothée Chalamet interprets the character in the upcomingWonka.

The Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters was one of the defining comedy horrors of the ’80s. With actors like Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, it’s no surprise that the goofball characters are so likable. But when one considers what the Ghostbusters actually do, things start to take on a darker tone.

After all, they trap wayward spirits inside their nuclear-powered equipment, with no plans to release them. They’re essentially damning lost souls to Limbo for eternity. When your job description makes you sound like Lucifer, it’s time to rethink your line of work.

Mrs. Doubtfire

Mrs. Doubtfire is a beloved comedy-drama about Daniel (Robin Williams), a father who pursues a harebrained scheme to be able to spend time with his kids after an acrimonious divorce. He disguises himself as a woman so that he can become their nanny and thus weasel his way back into the household.

As if this deception wasn’t enough, Daniel also tries repeatedly to undermine his ex-wife’s (Sally Field) relationship with her new boyfriend Stu (Pierce Brosnan). Daniel goes so far as to sneak cayenne pepper into Stu’s food, knowing that he’s extremely allergic. If someone attempted any of this in real life they would be promptly arrested

V (‘V for Vendetta)

The only verdict is vengeance, a vendetta…” The titular character from V for Vendetta is charismatic and witty, skilled with a blade and incredibly brave, willing to take on any enemy to defend his ideals. Hugo Weaving‘s portrayal of the character was so good, and the character design so distinctive, that V’s mask has become a symbol of resistance everywhere, famously co-opted by the hacker group Anonymous.

But V is also a terrorist and a murderer. He’s happy to sacrifice the innocent, withhold information from his allies, and even deceive them outright. He is morally ambiguous by design.

Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is a symbol of rebellious teenage spirit. He skips school and encourages his best friend (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend (Mia Sara) to do the same, leading to all kinds of shenanigans. But he’s also the devil on pal Cameron’s shoulder. He encourages Cameron to break the rules. He’s the one who decides to take Cameron’s dad’s car.

Ferris seems to have little concern about getting Cameron into trouble. When Cameron protests against his schemes, Ferris dismisses him. This isn’t to say that Ferris is evil or anything. He’s still a lovable bad boy, and his heart is generally in the right place. But he’s also, well, a bit of a jerk.

Jerry (‘Tom and Jerry’)

On the surface, Tom appears to be the villain and Jerry the victim, but on closer inspection, things begin to look a little different. Jerry is an intruder in the house, after all, who frequently steals food from Tom’s owner. Tom tries to catch Jerry, but usually, it’s Jerry who instigates things, and he inflicts much more harm on the cat than vice versa.

Let’s remember, too, that Tom’s owner repeatedly threatens to throw Tom out unless he can catch the pesky mouse, so Tom is in a difficult position. Jerry could suggest some sort of compromise between them, but the truth is he enjoys tormenting Tom. As a result, the pair are trapped in a toxic co-dependency, doomed to repeat the same pattern over and over – just how Jerry likes it.

Seth (‘Superbad’)

This August marked the 15-year anniversary of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg‘s coming-of-age classic Superbad. It remains an entertaining story of teenage misbehavior, but rewatching it, one can’t help but notice that Seth (Jonah Hill) is kind of a sleazebag.

He’s creepy and objectifies love interest Jules (Emma Stone). He’s also self-centered, a big whiner, and incredibly immature. Not to mention, he outright bullies buddy Evan (Michael Cera). He mostly redeems himself by the movie’s end, but make no mistake: Seth is no angel.

Joe Fox (‘You’ve Got Mail’)

Nora Ephron‘s You’ve Got Mail chronicles an online romance between two people who don’t know that, IRL, they are rivals in the book-selling business. It’s one of three iconic rom-coms starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. But Hank’s character Joe isn’t quite as nice as he appears.

For one, he lies to Ryan’s Kathleen, over and over. He crashes her blind date, then refuses to leave after she asks him to. After he figures out that Kathleen is the woman he has been messaging online, he weaponizes this information against her. The movie has a happy ending, but not before Kathleen loses her business and her income, largely due to Joe. Tom Hanks is a good enough actor that he imbues Joe with some warmth and likability, but the Joe Fox of the script is kind of awful.

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