Most of the time, when we watch a movie, we default to assuming the main character is the good guy. We root for them to achieve their goals, cheer on their friends and associates, and boo as the bad guys appear to mess everything up. But movie history is littered with films where the so-called good guys’ motives are more than a little sketchy. Here are some movie heroes who on second thoughts might actually be bad guys.
25. Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid
Daniel LaRusso is a classic underdog, raised by a single mother in a bad part of town and forced to start at a new school, where he becomes the target of bullies.
Daniel eventually develops a relationship with a mysterious father figure, wins the local karate tournament and gets the girl of his dreams. It’s a story no one could possibly take issue with, right?
Well, there’s no denying that from the perspective of LaRusso’s karate rival Johnny Lawrence, events look kind of different. (This perspective has of course been explored in the Karate Kid TV sequel, Cobra Kai.)
From Johnny’s point of view, Daniel LaRusso is the cocky new kid who picked a fight with him on the beach after openly flirted with his girlfriend.
Later, Daniel humiliates Johnny in front of his friends at the Halloween dance, and ultimately defeats him in the karate tournament with an illegal move.
Not only that, but LaRusso is also super petty, whiny and prone to flying off the handle. Not exactly qualities you want in your heroic underdog.
24. Nate in The Devil Wears Prada
Throughout The Devil Wears Prada, Andy’s boyfriend Nate is supposed to be the voice of reason.
He is supportive of Andy as she gets a fashion magazine internship and works her way towards the newspaper job of her dreams, but he calls her out when she becomes just like the other shallow, selfish and backstabbing fashionistas that vie for editor Miranda Priestly’s attention.
Nate is loving but honest, and he refuses to entertain Andy’s delusions when she loses herself in her job. These, surely, are the actions of a good guy.
In reality, Nate is the worst boyfriend in the world. He seems to thrive on being the successful one in the relationship, and is passive-aggressive and mocking from the moment that Andy begins to enjoy her job (something that a decent boyfriend would be happy about).
When Andy begins dressing in a way that makes her happy, Nate is cruelly dismissive, while throwing petulant temper tantrums whenever a work commitment means that she can’t be around him 24/7.
Whatever the title of the film says, the devil actually wears a chef’s hat and ugly sweaters, not Prada.
23. Andie Walsh in Pretty in Pink
For many teen girls in the mid to late 80s, Andie from Pretty in Pink was the blueprint.
She had an eclectic but instantly iconic personal style (with the exception of that terrible prom dress), and she refused to change to make herself more ‘palatable.’
She was also determined and stoic when it came to balancing her schoolwork with supporting her family. Not only that, but her virtues eventually won her the boy of her dreams.
Still, Andie is hardly a Disney princess. Most damningly, she spends the entire film treating her best friend Duckie (seemingly the only person willing to hang out with her) as an inconvenience.
She also spends her time at work, in a customer-facing role no less, acting sullen and bored. She even decides to date the best friend of the school bully, even when it transpires that they have exactly zero chemistry.
Worst of all, any time anyone attempts to help Andie out, whether it’s with a donated dress or a kind word, she immediately retreats into annoying martyrdom. Yikes.
22. Gabriella in High School Musical
On paper, Gabriella Montez is a hard character to fault. She’s a dedicated straight-A student as well as a genius maths whizz, but she’s also humble enough to want to keep it a secret.
She’s quiet and kind to everyone, but she’s also unintimidated by the bullying tactics of Sharpay and Ryan. She’s a total geek, but dimensional enough to use her smarts to bend the rules.
It’s no wonder that Gabriella manages to bag the hottest guy in school, and also win both the maths tournament and the starring role in the school musical.
With all that said, Gabriella does spend the second movie seething in silence at her boyfriend, just because he spends time trying to score a basketball scholarship and a good summer job rather than spending time going on dates with her.
In the third movie, she keeps her college success a secret, and runs away across the country instead of discussing her worries openly.
Last of all, she steals the lead in the musical three times in three years, from the drama kids that actually want to make a career out of the theatre.
21. Veronica Sawyer in Heathers
No one is ever going to confuse Veronica Sawyer with the sweet girl next door, but she’s nevertheless considered the hero of Heathers.
After all, she manages to take down not just one megalomaniac teenager who believes all other high schoolers are beneath them, but two.
Veronica ends the movie having brought the reign of terror of the Heathers to an end, become the queen bee of the school and gotten rid of JD for good. Not a bad track record.
However, all the bad things that happen in Heathers happen precisely because Veronica is too infatuated by a boyfriend that she is wisely warned to stay away from by just about everybody.
In JD’s first scene, he shoots someone with a fake gun, but that doesn’t even register as a red flag for Veronica. It takes the death toll of the movie creeping dangerously close to double digits for her to break up with her pet murderer.
She never reconciles with the fact that she was so fatally naive, despite considering herself smarter than everyone else in school.
20. Morpheus in The Matrix
It should be pretty easy to figure out who the villains are in The Matrix.
Any time anyone has a vested interest in keeping the illusion going, whether they’re a clone assassin or a creepy, squid-like Sentinel, you can probably count them amongst the bad guys.
In contrast, Morpheus spends all of his time on screen trying to free people from the prison of the Matrix, and he even gives them a choice about whether they accept the life-changing knowledge. You can’t get much more good guy than that, can you?
Well… Morpheus is never completely honest about what breaking out of the illusion will really be like.
He paints it as an opportunity for enlightenment and progression, when it’s actually a devastating experience that people tend to regret and wish they could go back from. Except of course they never can.
Morpheus manipulates all his victims into taking the red pill, when they probably would have refused if they knew what horror was really waiting for them on the other side.
19. Bella Swan in Twilight
Any way you look at it, the Twilight Saga’s Bella Swan is hardly the most beloved romantic heroine.
Many people have criticised her for her seemingly chronic inability to emote, her lacklustre conversation skills and the serious lapse of judgement she makes in deciding to date a vampire in the first place.
However, while none of those are compelling reasons to cast Bella Swan as the villain of her own love story, there are plenty of worse things that she is guilty of.
In the original Twilight alone, Bella pressures Edward into dating her, thus forcing Edward’s whole vampire family to adapt to having a human in close quarters almost every day.
This leads to Jasper, the youngest vampire, almost losing control and killing Bella. Bella deciding to date Edward later leads to the whole family having to protect her from a killer vampire tracker, who Bella goes out of her way to meet alone, resulting in Edward having to drink her blood against his will.
Not only that, but Bella also alienates her childhood best friend and is a jerk to her dad.
18. Glinda in The Wizard of Oz
It seems impossible that anyone with the name Glinda the Good Witch could ever be the villain of their own story.
Just look at her: she carries a magic wand, and wears a crown and a floaty pink dress.
Glinda is the ultimate comforting childhood figure: gentle and maternal, firm and unafraid, ready to take on whatever under-the-bed monsters come your way without even smudging her red lipstick.
With that said, would a real hero put the burden of keeping the ruby slippers safe onto a literal child?
Would a real hero abandon that very same utterly unprepared youngster to walk the perilous yellow brick road alone?
There’s no reason why Glinda couldn’t have defeated the Wicked Witch of the West herself, but instead she outsources the responsibility and sends Dorothy on an ultimately fruitless journey to find an even more useless magic user in the Wizard.
17. Maverick in Top Gun
Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell is what every young man in the 80s was told they had to be: the best in his field, ultra-confident, and determined to grab hold of what he wanted.
The hotshot fighter pilot embodies a masculine ideal which in the eyes of many belongs strictly to its era, but in many ways it’s an ideal that endures today – though many would question whether it should.
In his bullheaded determination to be better than anyone else, Maverick knowingly and willingly disregards the rules as they have been laid out to him.
It seems we’re meant to empathise with Maverick’s hot-headed approach over the literal cool of his arch-rival Iceman, but it’s often hard to see why we should, given how thoroughly selfish and unsympathetic Maverick is.
We are of course led to believe that Maverick finally learns his lesson after his brash attitude inadvertently results in the death of best friend Goose. However, when we see how soon Maverick reverts to hot shot mode when unexpectedly called into a genuine combat mission, it’s doubtful that he’s changed much. (On top of which, we can’t fail to note how killing actual enemy pilots has no emotional impact on him at all, beyond joy.)
And all this is without taking into account his possessive attitude toward women, and his mistreatment of barroom flirt-turned-instructor Charlie.
16. Belle in Beauty and the Beast
When Beauty and the Beast was first released, Belle was intended to represent a positive progression in the female leads of Disney animated movies.
Far from the simpering damsels of old who wait helplessly for a man’s assistance, Belle was a strong, well-read, independent-minded woman able to take care of herself.
Rather than simply being captured by the Beast, Belle makes a conscious decision to become his prisoner so that her father may have his freedom – a selfless and loving act, surely.
Still, while Belle can’t be blamed for attracting the attention of both Beast and the truly monstrous Gaston, she certainly doesn’t do much to endear herself to anyone. In fact, she’s stunningly self-absorbed and unfeeling toward others.
We can scarcely forget that when we first meet Belle, she’s wandering the streets of her home town complaining about how dull it all is, then paying no mind to the rest of the world as she wanders around lost in a book, causing several accidents along the way.
Then, far from sacrificing her own freedom for the sake of her father, Belle allows herself to become the Beast’s prisoner simply to ensure she’s looked after, and toys with his affections to get what she wants.
15. Scott Pilgrim in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
It can be said that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is as much the story of a young man conquering his own demons as it is about a young man forced to do battle with the seven evil exes of his new girlfriend.
It’s not too hard to see why nerdy bass player Scott would be prepared to run the gauntlet for the hand of the enigmatic and alluring indie girl Ramona Flowers – but there’s a rather larger question mark over why she would be at all interested in him.
As a 22-year-old slacker with no job, no self-discipline and little prospects of making much of himself unless his band happens to break big, Scott’s not exactly a terrific catch.
He’s lazy and self-interested, relies on others to take care of him (notably his roommate Wallace), and frequently avoids any scenario that might force him to make some effort. All this makes him a poor friend, and a lousy band member (more than once we see him bail on practice at the drop of a hat).
Of course, the big problem with Scott is his way with women. He sets about wooing Ramona Flowers whilst still dating Knives Chau – who, we can hardly fail to note, is five years his junior and still in high school.
We’re supposed to believe he’s learned his lesson by the end, yet Scott seems to feel that a quick confession and simple apology to Ramona and Knives will automatically fix everything. The climax poses the question of which of the women he should really be with, when surely the answer is they’re both better off without him.
14. Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
For decades, Ferris Bueller has been the inspiration for every high schooler who has ever attempted to skip school for a day of adventure… or at least a day of playing video games on the couch.
He’s a dedicated boyfriend, a loyal and encouraging best friend, and an all-round charismatic dude, who makes some great memories and reminds everyone at his school to seize the day. He’s even nice to his sister!
With that said, Ferris also spends the entire movie wrapped up in himself and completely convinced that he knows best.
He also has no qualms about forcing his friend and girlfriend into situations he is sure they’ll enjoy without their consent.
Among his misdeeds, Ferris steals a car, makes his socially anxious best friend take the fall, harasses innocent staff at a restaurant, drives his sister to distraction and takes advantage of his parents’ love.
In real life, being friends with Ferris would probably land you in detention, if not jail.
13. Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
When you look at Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’s Grandpa Joe, it’s hard at first to feel anything but pity.
The poor dude has spent the majority of his twilight years rationing chocolate whilst sleeping in a bed with three other people, after all.
Joe’scmain form of escape is entertaining his grandson with memories of the happy days he spent working at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
No wonder he encourages Charlie Bucket to never give up hope of finding a golden ticket, and leaps out of bed at the first opportunity to return there.
However, Joe is anything but a responsible chaperone. It’s Joe who encourages Charlie to try the forbidden fizzy lifting drinks, which not only nearly costs Charlie the opportunity of a lifetime, but also nearly kills the both of them.
As if that isn’t bad enough, it is also revealed that sweet old Grandpa Joe is constantly hoarding money to spend on tobacco, when the rest of the family is literally starving.
12. Daniel Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire
Daniel Hillard is an actor who, in the wake of an acrimonious divorce, disguises himself as an elderly Scottish woman in order to become his ex-wife’s new housekeeper.
This is presented to us as an inspiring demonstration of the lengths a loving father will go to in order to remain close to his children.
One doesn’t need to look too closely, however, to question Hillard’s motives, or indeed his very sanity given his course of action.
To begin with, there is the simple illegality of his actions, breaching not only the terms of his divorce settlement to get closer to his kids, but also committing fraud by misrepresentation.
On top of this, Hillard goes out of his way to try and sabotage ex-wife Miranda’s new relationship with her suitor Stu.
He might delude himself that he’s acting out of love for his kids, but Hillard’s actions only serve to fuel his own selfish desire to exercise control over the woman who no longer loves him, whilst refusing to accept his new station in life.
11. Tony Stark in Iron Man
As Iron Man, Tony Stark was the first major figure to take the stage of what became the Marvel Cinematic Universe, soon to be a founder member of super-team The Avengers.
There’s a redemptive air to Stark’s story arc, as he goes from being a wilfully ignorant playboy billionaire living large off the profits of weapons sales, to an enlightened figure who recognises the damage he’s done and is anxious to make amends.
Stark may think his near-fatally wounded heart is in the right place, but he still approaches every scenario from the perspective of a spoiled rich brat who’s always had things their own way and expects this to continue, even if he has to defy the entire world.
Witness his smug, dismissive attitude at the government tribunals over his superhero status in Iron Man 2. It is of course entirely right that such lethal new technology as the Iron Man suit should be subject to regulations, yet Stark sees nothing wrong with him holding all the cards and breaching international conventions to dish out justice as he personally sees fit.
This same arrogant ‘Tony knows best’ attitude leads Stark to spearhead the creation of Ultron, an all-powerful, self-replicating artificial intelligence which causes global devastation.
Then of course, Stark thinks nothing of enlisting schoolboy Peter Parker to his personal crusade, luring the starstruck youngster with a fancy new suit and gadgets, and the implication of a mentorship. Then Stark proceeds to ditch Parker once the boy has served his purpose, exacerbating the abandonment issues of a child who has already lost both parents and a father figure in his uncle.
10. Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars
As Obi-Wan Kenobi himself tells us in Return of the Jedi, “many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” From Luke Skywalker’s point of view, Obi-Wan is a wise and noble figure who brings purpose to the otherwise directionless life of the young, disillusioned farm boy.
However, it’s not too great a stretch to see Obi-Wan as an extremely shady figure who indoctrinates Luke into signing up for a militant insurgency, and leaves the young man in the dark about a great many things.
For one, Obi-Wan tells Luke that the boy’s biological father, Darth Vader, is really his father’s murderer. When Luke ultimately confronts him with this deception, Obi-Wan remains completely unapologetic (coming out with that ‘certain point of view’ claptrap we mentioned earlier).
After luring in Luke with seductive notions of being a courageous and noble warrior, Obi-Wan then selfishly abandons the boy within mere days, allowing himself to be struck dead by Vader. (Obi-Wan himself has no qualms about this, knowing full well he’ll carry on as a ‘force ghost,’ but Luke doesn’t understand this yet.)
Luke was already in a bad way emotionally, both from having never known his own parents, and from the recent, brutal loss of the aunt and uncle who raised him. Losing yet another parental figure so soon afterwards only serves to wreak further psychological damage on the youngster, harm which could easily have been avoided had Obi-Wan been open and honest in the first place.
Plus, we can scarcely fail to note the extraordinary creepiness of Obi-Wan’s knack for messing with people’s minds with a sly smile and a wave of his hand. The mind boggles at the potential sinister applications of that particular skill.
9. Ariel in The Little Mermaid
Plenty of us can relate to the inner turmoil of Princess Ariel. She’s young, she’s curious, she’s lived in the same place all her life, and she wants to see more of the world.
Still, being impetuous, inquisitive and a little rebellious is all well and good, but showing the kind of flagrant self-interest and self-pity which Ariel displays is something altogether different.
It’s clear from the beginning that Ariel only cares for herself, given how she ditches the big performance at the movie’s beginning, completely letting down her father and sisters, and humiliating Sebastian in the process. She acts so hard done by, despite the fact that she’s a literal princess.
We can’t judge Ariel too harshly for being unable to give up her fixation on the human world, as it’s wrong to live in denial of your own true feelings. But even so, the way she goes about dealing with this is beyond the pale.
The dim-witted mermaid goes ahead and makes a deal with Ursula, despite very clear warnings from others as to the the sea-witch’s nature – not to mention the fact that Ursula is so blatantly evil she may as well be wearing a T-shirt that reads “I am a villain.”
Ariel’s deal with Ursula very nearly leads to the sea-witch becoming all powerful, visiting great suffering upon the mer-people – and to what end? So an infatuated teenager can try to impress a handsome human she’s only just met, that’s what.
8. Harry Trasker in True Lies
Harry Trasker is a highly skilled, musclebound secret agent who saves the world every other day and can’t step out of his front door without kicking some butt.
He would seem to embody an ideal of masculine heroism, then – but Harry does all this whilst keeping his wife Helen and daughter Dana completely oblivious to the true nature of his work, telling them instead that he works in computer sales.
Whilst leaving his wife in the dark, Harry has no qualms about killing scores of men and flirting with women such as Juno Skinner, all supposedly in the name of duty. However, when it comes to light that Helen may be having an affair, Harry reacts as though he’s been done a massive injustice.
So rather than accepting the situation, discussing things with his wife, or even – heaven forbid – telling her the truth about his own life, what does Harry do? He disregards his ongoing investigation of a dangerous terrorist organisation, and abuses official government resources in order to first track down Helen’s would-be lover, then to manipulate his wife into what he tells her is a covert spy mission.
As for the particulars of this ‘mission:’ Harry orders to his wife to go to a hotel posing as a prostitute, and put on a show for an unseen agent. What Helen doesn’t know is that the mission is entirely bogus, and the man watching in the dark is Harry himself, who believes this is a suitable way to seduce his wife and re-ignite the spark between them.
Naturally, Helen is horrified – but then Harry gets let off the hook when the real terrorists burst into the hotel and take them both hostage. One has to wonder how the remainder of the scene would have played out if the bad guys hadn’t inadvertently saved Harry’s skin like that. Did he honestly expect the woman he had been lying to for so long to suddenly understand, accept and forgive his creepy and manipulative actions?
7. Nick Curran in Basic Instinct
As a cop on the trail of a brutal serial killer, Nick Curran would certainly seem at a glance to be a standard example of a big screen good guy.
To an extent, we can forgive him for falling prey to the seductive powers of Catherine Trammell; he’s only human, after all, and she is an expert in the art of sexual manipulation.
However, Catherine doesn’t suddenly transform Nick into a rampaging fireball of unfettered machismo and libido. All she does is chip away at the thin layer of repression that keeps Nick’s wicked ways in check.
We learn early on that Nick has already been under investigation and kept under close observation, including therapy, after a history of drug abuse and use of excessive force on the job.
We also learn that Nick had proceeded to enter into a romantic relationship with the therapist in question, Dr Beth Garner; and though that relationship has since ended, Nick proceeds to force himself on Beth shortly after meeting Catherine Trammell. So great is his aggression in this moment, the act looks a lot like rape.
Nick only grows more unhinged as both his investigation and his personal relationship with Catherine intensifies. It’s not so much a case of good guy gone bad, as it is a case of bad guy gone worse.
6. Mufasa in The Lion King
As the noble, benevolent ruler of the Pride Lands, Mufasa is seen as a great king, and an aspirational figure for young son Simba, who is destined to inherit the crown.
The bulk of the kingdom seems to place Mufasa on a mighty pedestal, and in the eyes of his son he’s pretty much infallible, setting a perceived standard that dooms the boy to a lifetime of feeling inadequate.
This, of course, is made all the worse for young Simba as he comes to believe it’s his own fault that his father meets an untimely demise in a stampede. Such is the danger when we come to see authority figures as more than the ordinary people they really are.
Mufasa’s flaws run deeper than simple fallibility, however. As much as he may wear a mask of big-hearted kindness, his coldness is evident from his unfeeling treatment of his brother Scar (who clearly has major flaws of his own, but is also acting out of a perceived inadequacy in the face of Mufasa’s supposed greatness).
Mufasa talks a big talk about balance and harmony, yet he’s happy to banish the hyenas from the kingdom and doom the entire species to starvation by default. Small wonder the animals would be furious and strike back at the first opportunity.
Mufasa also severely messes with his son’s mind by refusing to give straight answers to direct questions, and fails to recognise when Simba’s bold and rebellious nature needed to be kept in check.
5. Dumbledore in Harry Potter
It’s a considerable responsibility to be left in charge with the upbringing and safety of a boy destined to essentially be the saviour of the entire world.
This is the job that Albus Dumbledore is laboured with when the deaths of his former students James and Lily Potter leave young Harry an orphan – and honestly, we’re not sure he was ever up to the task.
To begin with, Dumbledore sees no harm in abandoning Harry on the doorstep of the Dursleys, the newborn child’s aggressively anti-magic aunt and uncle. In so doing, Dumbledore surely is aware not only that Harry will be raised in total ignorance of witchcraft and wizardry, but also that they will treat him with inordinate cruelty and neglect.
It’s fair to assume that Dumbledore continues to keep an eye on Harry during his first 11 years of life, and what does the wise old wizard do when witnessing the abuse that the innocent child endures? Absolutely nothing, that’s what.
That said, what reason do we have to think Dumbledore cares about the safety of any children in his charge? After all, he has no qualms about running a school on the brink of an extremely dangerous wood filled with murderous creatures, not to mention the abundance of dangerous ghosts and monsters within the school itself. Nor does he care about small children playing the potentially lethal sport of Quidditch, or participating in the ridiculously perilous Triwizard Tournament.
Yet Dumbledore flaunts his irresponsibility with a pretence of respectability and wisdom, keeping Harry loyal to his cause through not-so-subtle manipulation and a ludicrously slow drip-feed of information regarding the boy’s own past, and the true nature of the fate that awaits him.
4. Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers
We know the drill by now: the clean-cut, athletic, handsome and ambitious young man out to make a name for himself is always a heroic figure to be respected and admired, right?
Johnny Rico seems a perfect example of this: high school sports star with low grades but lofty ambitions, who enlists in the Mobile Infantry to help the war effort against the alien arachnids of Klendathu, and quickly rises through the ranks.
However, Johnny’s motives are questionable. He only really signs up in the hopes to get the approval of his girlfriend Carmen and her parents. Then, after Carmen dumps him, Johnny takes advantage of the affections of his old friend Dizzy, knowing full well that she has been in love with him for years – and despite the fact that he does not reciprocate those feelings.
Johnny’s hot-headed, win-at-all-costs attitude bites him in the behind before he’s even out of training, when a cadet under his command is accidentally killed during a live fire exercise. Even so, Johnny is allowed to complete his training and go into active duty, and soon enough he’s leading a platoon of actual children to almost-certain death.
Still, perhaps we shouldn’t judge Johnny too harshly. He is after all just a product of a dystopian future police state, where basic human rights are denied to those without military service.
Small wonder that, by the time he has reached a command position, Johnny is roaring the exact same gung-ho militant platitudes that have been thrown in his face his whole life.
3. Grand Pabbie in Frozen
What is it with wise old omniscient figures who live only to dish out pearls of wisdom? Why do they always have to be so cryptic?
Elsa’s parents bring their daughters to Grand Pabbie Troll after the young princess accidentally hits her sister Anna in the head with her mysterious freezing powers.
Grand Pabbie’s solution to this is to tamper with Anna’s memory, and cast dire warnings of the terrible fate that may ensue if Elsa’s powers develop unchecked – but he’s not especially clear about this.
It won’t be until many years later that Elsa realises Pabbie’s warning ‘fear will be your enemy’ really means she should dismiss her fears and embrace love. If her parents had understood this, perhaps they wouldn’t have dealt with the situation by locking their daughter away, teaching her to be afraid of the world, and leaving her with crippling social anxiety.
More to the point, avoiding this would have also meant that Elsa and Anna would not have been estranged from one another for almost the entirety of their lives, struggling to make up for a lifetime of emotional damage afterwards.
All of this is on the head of the supposedly wise old troll, who had it in his power to avoid all this needless suffering, but didn’t for the sake of seeming a bit more mysterious.
2. Superman in Man of Steel
So, what could possibly be sinister about a practically indestructible man with superhuman strength and speed, the ability to fly, the ability to shoot heat rays out of his eyes and blow freezing cold air out of his mouth, who also has X-ray vision?
Superman has always been a figure of alarming destructive potential, one who could hold the world under his boot if he so desired. Historically, he’s refrained from doing so because of the values that he was raised with, both by his adoptive human parents and from the messages left by his biological Kryptonian father.
Unfortunately Superman often seems to have a somewhat askew interpretation of what it means to serve the greater good.
Never is this more evident than in his brutal showdown with General Zod, another survivor of Krypton who opts to use his power to rule humanity, in Man of Steel.
In a strange and slightly disturbing way, it almost seems as though Superman welcomes Zod’s challenge. After a lifetime of holding back his rage because he knows full well the damage he could do to normal people, getting to properly go full-force against an opponent who gives as good as he gets seems genuinely cathartic for our hero.
The fact that this epic punch-up winds up destroying much of downtown Metropolis, with untold scores of people surely meeting their demise in the process, is seemingly neither here nor there. This time, Superman cares more about his own personal victory than he does about protecting those who cannot protect themselves.
1. Rose in Titanic
Thanks to her doomed whirlwind love affair with Jack Dawson, Rose DeWitt Bukater of Titanic is arguably the last great romantic heroine of 20th century cinema.
Whilst none of us envied her ordeal in the frigid depths of the Atlantic, millions of viewers directly related to Rose’s search for self-discovery, and the liberating power of her love for Jack.
There’s one small problem with all this, however. Rose is quite brazenly an awful person, and selfish, ungrateful and unrepentant in that.
This much is clear from the get-go, when she turns her nose up at the biggest, mightiest ship ever built, and shows no gratitude over getting first class service every step of the way. We’re meant to feel that getting to know the impoverished Jack gives Rose some new perspective, but there’s little to indicate her me-first attitude ever abates.
Then, of course, comes that big tragic finale, when Rose lives but Jack dies – because she decided not to give him space to join her on the door floating in the icy water, when there was quite clearly room for both of them.