Movie Heroes Who Are The Bad Guy In Someone Else's Story
Photo: Man of Steel / Warner Bros.

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

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.

  • Superman In ‘Man Of Steel’

    Superman is perhaps the greatest superhero of all. He has saved the world countless times and Metropolis countless more. He helps women and children (particularly Lois Lane), puts bad guys behind bars (for a while at least), and foils the megalomaniacal schemes of Lex Luthor (for a while at least). 

    But during all those epic clashes between the forces of good and evil, one small detail always appears to be left out - who cleans up Superman's messes? In Man of Steel, Superman manages to completely destroy Metropolis, and while the bad guys are getting wormholed back to their world, Superman super-jumps to save Lois. In the background, we can see many others breathing their last and buildings crumbling to the ground, as well as a roiling dark-grey sky. 

    You have to wonder whether or not Metropolis can afford to keep being "saved" by Superman for much longer. 

    • Played By: Henry Cavill
  • Ellen Ripley In The 'Alien' Films
    Photo: Aliens / 20th Century Fox

    The thing to remember is that the xenomorphs in the Alien films are just animals. Dangerous animals, sure, but so are grizzly bears - and nobody's calling for their extinction. The thing to do with dangerous animals is to give them a wide berth and treat them with respect.

    Ripley doesn't do that. It's bad enough her crewmates on the Nostromo get all up in the eggs in the first place, but when she returns to LV-426 57 years later, her response to the colony's destruction isn't "maybe we should leave these beings alone." It's "wipe them out."

    Ironically, it's the hot-headed marine Hudson who has the most humane solution to the problem: "Let's just bug out and call it even!"

    Even evil yuppie Burke reasonably points out, "This is clearly an important species we're dealing with." But Ripley won't rest until the xenomorphs have gone the way of the passenger pigeon.

    • Played By: Sigourney Weaver
  • Clarice Starling is an FBI trainee tasked with interviewing the notorious Hannibal Lecter in order to gain insight into her quarry, Buffalo Bill, who has abducted a senator's daughter. Sounds like a great idea on paper, but it turns into a nightmare for Clarice and more than a few hapless bystanders. 

    As Clarice struggles through psychologically intense interviews with Lecter, she gets too close to the situation, leading to errors in judgment - including an ill-advised ploy to deceive Lecter with false promises. The fallout from this fiasco gets Lecter moved to a lower-security facility, from which he escapes, leaving four victims in his wake - plus a likely fifth, Dr. Chilton, in the wings as the end credits roll.

    Clarice does save the senator's daughter, but at what cost? Maybe she should have spent a little more time at Quantico. 

    • Played By: Jodie Foster
  • As someone with a successful career, Julianne Potter has never placed much importance on her love life. When her best friend Michael O'Neal, with whom she had a longstanding marriage pact, tells her he's getting hitched, she realizes she loves him and sets about planning to sabotage the wedding. We feel for Julianne, and even empathize with her feeling that she has dibs on Michael over the young pretender, Kimmy Wallace. In the end, despite all the damage she's done to her best friend's wedding and to her relationship with her gay partner-in-crime George, she is still forgiven.

    In reality, if your friend tried to destroy your relationship for no reason, sabotage your wedding, and throw the token gay best friend under the bus, you might not be so quick to forgive. Julianne single-handedly ruins what should have been the best day of this young couple's life, adds stress to the wedding planning, and snatches time from the young couple. Julianne also tries to force herself onto Michael, which just isn't cool. 

    • Played By: Julia Roberts
  • 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