One of the most important elements of any story is the protagonist. They drive the narrative, we see the world through their eyes, and we regard them as the hero of the tale. However, throughout cinematic history, films have always featured main characters who lack traditional heroic traits. We call this type of character the antihero.
They can be characterised as protagonists who are morally ambiguous and have a lot of flaws that aren’t in line with that of a typical hero. Unlike the villain, they usually have a redeemable quality. However, this isn’t always the case. Who can forget Patrick Bateman in American Psycho? Despite being charming and really fun to watch, there is nothing redeeming about him at all. He is simply a lunatic – and he knows it.
I have always loved watching anti-heroes because, in many ways, they are way more interesting than the traditional hero. There is an extensive amount of engaging and well-developed antiheroes. Just to name a few, there is Tony Montana in Scarface, Tyler Durden in Fight Club, and one of the most famous and iconic antiheroes of all time, Travis Bickle, in Taxi Driver.
Here I’ve selected five great anti-heroes that you often don’t see in top ten lists, or even in larger lists. Also, I am hoping to shed light on some anti-heroes you may not have yet seen in action.
Bruce Robertson, Filth (2013)
Portrayed by the talented James McAvoy, Bruce Robertson is the main character in Filth, a crime comedy-drama, based on Irvine Walsh’s novel of the same name. He is a Detective Sergeant in Edinburgh, and his main goal is working his way up the ranks in the police force, and the film is about his investigation of a recent murder.
Bruce is a very complex character and definitely an antihero. He indulges in a very hedonistic lifestyle, abusing drugs and alcohol, engaging in petty schemes, and manipulating and bullying anyone who gets in his way.
However, Bruce is very mentally disturbed and as the film progresses, it is difficult not to feel genuinely sorry for him. It becomes clear he has some sort of mental illness. Although he is a pretty nasty guy, he is still sympathetic, and he has a great character arc overall. McAvoy plays the part excellently, making Bruce a spectacular antihero.
Trife, Kidulthood (2006)
Kidulthood is a daring depiction of youth culture in inner city London, and it features some pretty morally complex characters. One of the main characters, teenager Trife (Aml Ameen) is one of them. Although he is the most sensitive character on this list, he’s no clean-cut hero.
He is involved with his uncle’s criminal underworld and has a habit of getting into fights and other trouble, but what makes him redeemable is the fact he wants to change his ways. The whole film is set in just one day and it’s all the more compelling with Trife at the heart of it.
Driver, Drive (2011)
Like the book, Drive is about an unnamed driver who works as a mechanic and as a Hollywood stunt driver, as well as providing a getaway driver service. Cold and ruthless, the driver gets drawn into the world of crime, after he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose husband (Oscar Isaac) is involved with gangsters.
The driver is an ambiguous character and interestingly, he has an introverted personality, yet he is prone to sudden explosions of rage and disturbing violence. You could argue that he’s an unconventional anti-hero because he is so brooding and languid, but he does change over the course of the film, due to his affection for Irene and her son.
Hayley Stark, Hard Candy (2005)
Hayley, played by Ellen Page, is one of the most shocking and disturbing characters I have seen to date!
Hard Candy focuses on the topic of child sexual abuse. Against the odds, Hayley is a 14-year-old vigilante who targets a male sexual predator in an act of vengeance. Despite being sadistic and deranged, she still can’t quite be considered a villain. Even though she is a complete psychopath, believe it or not, she does have good intentions.
Many people would argue she occupies the role of an ‘anti-villain’. Without giving away any spoilers, she does have a sense of justice, but it just happens to be warped and twisted. There are no good guys in Hard Candy, but it’s a challenging indie film that I highly recommend.
V, V for Vendetta (2005)
Set in an alternate future, V for Vendetta imagines a world where the UK has been subjected to a neo-fascist regime. The anti-hero of the tale, V (Hugo Weaving) is a freedom fighter who aims to start a revelation through barbaric acts of terrorism.
V lights up the screen with his charisma and humour. He was the unwilling subject of human experimentation so you can sympathise with him. Nobody likes doing things against their will! We follow his journey as he hunts down the people responsible. V is a character you unwittingly root for. He’s a great antihero, embodied with so much political themes and ideas.
Are there any other unusual antiheroes you can think of? If so, feel free to comment your thoughts below.
Also, you might be interested in my Top 10 Greatest Movie Villains.