Heroes Who Had To Lose A Loved One To Finally Step Up

Help shape these rankings by voting on this list of Heroes Who Had To Lose A Loved One To Finally Step Up
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Vote up the heroes who had to be spurred into action.

The reluctant hero is one of the most reliable archetypes in Hollywood cinema. This individual, for whatever reason, shows themselves to be reluctant to join in the battles and great conflicts of their time. Eventually, however, the world comes knocking at their door, and they often have to suffer the loss of a loved one, usually to death or imprisonment at the hands of an enemy. Then, driven by a desire to get revenge, they become the hero they were always meant to be. This stereotypical narrative convention occurs in a number of genres, but it is particularly prominent in both the action film and the epic, both of which place a particular emphasis on the vital importance of heroism. So scroll down and vote up your favorite heroes who had to lose somebody to start their journey.

  • For some webheads, Tobey Maguire remains the best Spider-Man ever put to film, and it’s easy to see why this would be the case. Tom Holland and Andrew Garfield certainly have their fans, but many just think of Tobey as the Peter Parker. He has a boyish charm that is undeniably appealing, and he perfectly brings out the character’s reluctance to be a hero in 2002's Spider-Man.

    In fact, it’s his Uncle Ben’s demise at the hands of a crook that gives him the motivation to become the superhero he was always intended to be. His loss is especially tragic, for Peter was the one who let the wrongdoer escape in the first place, thus making him indirectly responsible for his uncle's passing. It’s no wonder he comes to be so serious about his role as a defender of the powerless.

    29 votes
  • Hugh Jackman has repeatedly shown remarkable versatility as an actor, as comfortable in a musical as he is in an action film. For many filmgoers, one of his best roles is as Logan, better known as Wolverine, in Fox's X-Men film franchise. In 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Jackman's titular mutant refuses to join the hunt for whoever is killing old squadmates of his as he's happy living a solitary life with his girlfriend, Kayla Silverfox.

    Of course, Logan is then spurred into action after the apparent demise of Kayla at the hands of his half-brother, Victor. It's okay though, as it turns out Kayla was forced into faking her own expiration by the evil William Stryker in exchange for the safety of her sister. 

    22 votes
  • Luke Skywalker In ‘Star Wars’
    Photo: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope / 20th Century Fox

    Having appeared in both the original Star Wars films and its sequel trilogy, Luke Skywalker has become a fundamental part of the series and its lore. In his first appearance, however, he proves more than a little unwilling to be the hero he would later become, particularly once he is provided an opportunity to leave his old life behind and set out on an adventure. 

    Despite his restlessness at being stranded on the isolated planet of Tatooine, he still turns away from Obi-Wan’s injunction to travel to Alderaan to help Princess Leia. Only after he finds his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru wiped out by Imperial stormtroopers does he depart his home planet, setting off on the journey which will see him bringing about the end of the Galactic Empire and the rebirth of the Jedi Order. The sight of their charred cadavers sprawled outside of their home is a reminder to Luke, and the audience, of the ruthlessness of the enemy they have set out to fight.

    34 votes
  • 4
    23 VOTES

    Wyatt Earp In ‘Tombstone’

    As a genre, the Hollywood western has had periods of both immense success and utter dormancy, and the 1990s was one of the former. Tombstone benefits from this boom period, having been given an embarrassment of riches regarding its cast. Kurt Russell is particularly strong in his portrayal of Wyatt Earp, a man who, like many other western heroes before him, is somewhat reluctant to take up the position demanded of him. The passing of one brother and the disabling of another pushes him to go after those who committed the deed.

    As would be the case throughout his career, Kurt Russell plays a perfect lawman. Though he is his traditional tough-guy self, there is also a potent emotional authenticity to his portrayal. Reluctant as he might be, the film also gives him the chance to ride off into the sunset, ready to start a new life with the woman he loves.

    23 votes
  • 5
    21 VOTES

    William Wallace In ‘Braveheart’

    By the mid-1990s, Mel Gibson had repeatedly shown himself to be one of Hollywood’s biggest box office draws. In Braveheart, as both director and star of the film, he continued his hot streak. Gibson plays William Wallace, the man who helped lead the Scottish in their rebellion against their English overlords in the 13th century. In the beginning, Wallace seems more interested in his relationship and marriage with Murron. However, when English soldiers brutally eliminate her, he is spurred into outright rebellion. As the film unfolds, he leads the Scottish to many victories against their oppressors before his eventual end inspires others to take up the cause of Scottish freedom.

    Wallace, like so many other epic heroes, must undergo a journey to prove he is worthy of the task set before him. Because he has already suffered the loss of his love, this grants his quest against the English both emotional and political weight. As such, it allows the viewer to truly feel invested in what is about to happen, rather than acting as a mere bystander to the unfolding of history.

    21 votes
  • 2000's Gladiator was a remarkable achievement for director Ridley Scott, who almost single-handedly managed to inaugurate a new cycle of sword-and-sandals-type epics. In the film, Russell Crowe plays Maximus, a Roman general who wants to return home to a peaceful retirement with his family rather than pursue a path of politics and power. When both Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Maximus's family are slain, he is set on the path that will change his life. He ultimately becomes a gladiator who slays the unscrupulous Commodus, paving the way for the return of the Roman Empire to its humbler, purer origins.

    Because he is at first reluctant to join the fight, Maximus becomes the perfect sort of epic hero: one who pursues violence not for its own sake, but because it is the right thing to do. In bringing about the end of the patricidal emperor, he thus restores a sense of justice and balance to the world of the film.

    30 votes