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.
- Photo: Miramax Films
Some of our bad guys appear uninterested in their families and all too willing to abandon them. Guido from Life is Beautiful, by contrast, comes across as a good father figure. He takes care to shelter his son Joshua from the true horror that surrounds them while they live in a concentration camp. Thanks to imagination and false hope, Joshua is able to retain his innocence in the most unthinkable circumstances.
Seems like a nice gesture. But behind the scenes, the truth is that Guido is lying to his son. Joshua ends up thinking it's just a sort of harsh summer camp. Yet the opposite is true; Guido's family could be next on the Germans' list, for all he knows. Joshua will never grow up to understand the true seriousness of his situation - or, if he does, will he really be thankful that his father kept him in the dark?
- Played By: Roberto Benigni
- Photo: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest / Buena Vista Pictures
Elizabeth Swann begins her journey as a loud-mouthed rebel who doesn't want to settle down and yearns for a life of adventure. Every man wants her, every woman wants to be her: She's your typical upper-class belle.
Meanwhile, she's full of mischief. When not taking jewelry from penniless men like future lover Will Turner, she's initiating the perilous quest for Aztec gold from a cursed ship, the Black Pearl, and getting her entire family embroiled in a conflict. But wait, there's more! She also goads her betrothed into unethical behavior, gets her father slain, and leads her only friends into a chase that takes them to the far corners of the world. Elizabeth may be smart, but she never thinks ahead, and she really doesn't appear to care much about her friends' well-being.
- Played By: Keira Knightley, Lucinda Dryzek
- Photo: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone / Warner Bros.
A young, orphaned child destined for greatness... what could go wrong?
Inextricably linked with Voldemort, Harry Potter is the child destined to defeat evil in the future. When the time comes for destiny to reach its fruition, Harry and his friends spend most of their time grappling with puberty and engaging in petty prep-school politics. In the end, we're not sure whether good triumphed or evil eventually just faded away since all those dudes were pretty old to begin with.
What we do know: Harry helps end his parents' lives by just existing. He also helps get all his friends tangled up with a horrifying evildoer, which is fatal for many, including Hermione's boyfriends. In the long run, Harry's disastrous shenanigans even cost the life of his mentor and dear friend Dumbledore.
- Played By: Daniel Radcliffe
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Rose DeWitt Bukater In 'Titanic'
Oblivious to the ways of the world, Rose boards the Titanic with her fiancé and her mother to embark on a grand journey to America. While on board, she befriends a charismatic young drifter who saves her from falling off the ship's deck, and the two become entangled in a love affair that will live in the minds of filmgoers for centuries. All seems likely to end happily - until Rose and her new boyfriend, engaging in some on-deck PDA, distract the ship's lookouts just as the fateful iceberg approaches, thereby shaving off precious seconds of response time that might have saved the Titanic.
Jack, a penniless painter, saves Rose's life a second time, as well as helps her escape both the ship and a collapsing engagement to a misanthropic tycoon - and in return, she doesn't make room for him on the big chunk of wooden cabinet that becomes her lifeboat. Even if it couldn't carry their combined weight, maybe the couple could have taken turns on the makeshift raft. Instead, Rose hums into delirium while Jack freezes beside her.
Recounting the epic tale 84 years later, Rose enjoys the hospitality of the treasure hunters who have devoted their careers to locating her priceless sapphire, the Heart of the Ocean. It turns out she's been hanging on to it all along. Does she give it to the treasure hunters? Nope - she tosses it into the ocean.
- Played By: Kate Winslet