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Movie Heroes Who Are The Bad Guy In Someone Else's Story

Updated January 3, 2020 44.1k views13 items

Every now and then we see a film that makes us question good and evil, right and wrong. The concepts of villain and hero are often oversimplifications resulting from the demands of popular narrative. After the conclusion of the Avengers franchise left us missing characters like Loki and Gamora, we started to ask, "Who was the good guy, and who was the bad guy?" Are there moments where these lines can be crossed? The X-Men are notorious for destruction and chaos, but they do it in the name of humanity. Magneto is good in one film, bad in another, and ignored in yet another. Heroic Wolverine comes and goes as a raging drunk antihero, while ostensibly villainous Mystique never sheds what seems to be a certain essential humanity. 

In any case, all heroes were once normal individuals who made mistakes en route to becoming heroes. But they don't always understand the actual destruction they leave in their wake. Here are a few movie heroes who might have been seen as the villain from someone else's perspective.

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  • H.I. And Edwina In ‘Raising Arizona’

    A reformed convict and an ethically flexible police officer are in love, infertile, and desperately wanting children - what could go wrong? H.I. and Edwina have their hands full shooing away their past as it comes bursting through their doors (accompanied by an implacable bounty hunter). They also decide to "help out" a young couple by taking one of their quintuplets to raise for themselves, claiming the couple already has enough kids. Vintage Coen-style hijinks ensue.

    In the end, we see a dream of the young couple grown old, surrounded by children and grandchildren. Cute, but are they still criminals?

    • Played By: Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter
  • Bella Swan In The 'Twilight' Films
    Photo: Twilight: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 / Summit Entertainment

    The protagonist of the Twilight saga appears as a curious, tough outsider who loves her independence. Bella Swan moves in with her father while her mother is traveling; he lives out in Forks, a small town hidden in the forests of Washington. Over the course of the school year, Bella becomes friends with some questionable people, as well as the yearbook staff. Everything's just swell, until people start going missing. 

    Bella and a vampire, Edward Cullen, begin a romance that goes against all the traditions and rules of both the town and the ancient vampire/werewolf dynasties. Bella's total disregard for custom gets a lot of people slain and turns lifelong friends away from her. She constantly puts herself in danger - jumping off cliffs, joyriding on motorcycles, and going out at all hours - in pursuit of her vampire boyfriend's attention. She also happens to have no regard for her father's endlessly endangered peace of mind. 

    Taking all this into account, Bella appears less like a sympathetic romantic heroine and more like F. Scott Fitzgerald's withering description of the Buchanans in The Great Gatsby: "They were careless people... they smashed up things and creatures and then... let other people clean up the mess they had made." 

    • Played By: Kristen Stewart
  • Professor X In The 'X-Men' Films
    Photo: X-Men / 20th Century Fox

    Professor Charles Francis Xavier, AKA Professor X, is the wise and paternal face of the X-Men. A hero who commands the utmost respect, he even has a direct phone line to the president. The public face of mutantdom, he must have a firm hand within his own organization in order to keep misbehaving X-Men in line.

    Under the polished surface, though, Xavier is a control freak who, in Dark Phoenix, gets Mystique slain due to negligence. He withholds information from his team to "keep them safe" while using it as a means to manipulate trainees. He orphans children in order to hone their gifts. Perhaps worst of all, he ostracizes his oldest friend, Magneto, because of a philosophical disagreement - pushing the troubled mutant further down the path to villainy. 

    • Roy Neary is just a regular Joe, working his electrical lineman job, when he first spots a UFO. His life is changed forever. Throughout the film, he grows more and more obsessed with the aliens and their impending arrival at Devils Tower, WY.

      Roy's obsession is not shared by his wife Ronnie, who eventually leaves him, taking their three children, as a result of Roy's obsessive and neglectful behavior. Rather than try to win his family back, Roy teams up with another UFO-obsessive, Jillian Guiler, and they make their way to Devils Tower - where Roy successfully gets government officials to allow him passage on the alien mothership bound for who knows where.

      One wonders how Roy's children will feel, as they grow up knowing their dad is umpteen light years away, preferring to hang out with a bunch of aliens than be a father to his kids. Even director Steven Spielberg later admitted, "I would never have made Close Encounters the way I made it in ‘77, because I have a family that I would never leave. That was just the privilege of youth."

      • Played By: Richard Dreyfuss