24.6k voters

Movie 'Heroes' Who Were Actually Villains The Whole Time

Updated February 22, 2021 130.6k votes 24.6k voters 1.0m views16 items

List RulesVote up the movies that really didn't need a villain, since the hero was so awful.

Sometimes, our favorite movies are actually secretly terrifying. Upon even a cursory examination, logic can ruin even the most hallowed films. Be warned, then, that reading about some of these heroes with suspect morality might make it hard to ever look at them the same way again. See, these are movie heroes who were actually villains

It’s important to note these good guys who did bad things are not your typical anti-heroes, nor are they seemingly good guys who make a second-act heel turn. These are straight-up protagonists. We’re rooting for them because they are supposed to wear the white hat. We've been conditioned to believe that these people are doing the right thing.

Really, however, these heroes who act like villains are just pretending to be good guys. For example, is Leonard from Memento really the sympathetic amnesia-afflicted pseudo-detective who only wants to find justice for his wife? Or, is Leonard much more sinister, simply someone in need of the chase? Regardless of any feelings of blind admiration, it's important to examine our idols critically. It makes you realize that some of your favorite protagonists are actually the worst movie heroes in history. 


  • Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is a hero to every kid in his school. He dupes his parents and principal in order to cut class and proceeds to have the best day ever. We cheer on Ferris as he bests Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) and convinces Cameron (Alan Ruck) to take a joy ride in his father's rare 1961 Ferrari GT California, a car that Cameron admits his dad loves more than him.

    As adults, we can see that Ferris is nothing more than an extremely manipulative teenager. For as much as the movie paints Principal Rooney as this awful villain, he really is just a regular guy trying desperately to do his job against incredible odds. The fact is, Ferris bullies his "best friend" into taking out his dad's most prized possession, even though he will almost certainly get in trouble. That's just selfish and narrow-minded. 

    Is the hero actually a villain?

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  • 6

    Rose In 'Titanic'

    Let's just forget the theory that there was plenty of room for Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) on the floating door that saved Rose (Kate Winslet). Maybe there was, maybe there wasn't. But one thing is definitely for sure; Rose is a spoiled, rich, selfish brat.

    Cal (Billy Zane) may appear on the surface to be the villain of the movie. Granted he's not the nicest guy, but because he's rich, Rose agrees to marry him in order to save her family from financial ruin. So when Cal attempts to thwart Rose's relationship with Jack, we should probably sympathize with the man getting cheated on, not the person cheating.

    Putting young Rose aside, it's old Rose that really makes her character villainous. We find out that after the Titanic disaster, she was ultimately able to marry a man she loved, she had children, and then she had grandchildren. What would have been really nice for the whole family, for generations to come, would have been the $250 million diamond necklace that she tosses into the ocean.

    On the surface, it may seem romantic to throw a rare, expensive piece of jewelry off the back of a boat, but really isn't it simply the most selfish act given the circumstances?

    Is the hero actually a villain?
  • Navy Pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) doesn't listen to authority, even though he is in the actual military, and that's sort of exactly what you're trained to do. Iceman (Val Kilmer) tells him, "The enemy's dangerous, but right now you're worse. Dangerous and foolish."

    And he is: Maverick is very unsafe when he flies. He wrangles with his father issues and can't control his anger. Maverick's ego is, for real, writing checks that his body can't cash. At some point, either Maverick has to grow up and act like an adult, or he's going to continue to put himself and his co-pilots in danger (not to mention risking billions of tax dollars in materiel and resources). 

    Is the hero actually a villain?

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  • Beauty and the Beast is a tale of true love, despite all odds. How romantic... until we remember what a monster the Beast was before he met Belle. The Beast takes Belle into his castle only to attempt to break the spell that made him a hideous creature.

    Then, he's straight-up abusive to Belle while she remains stuck there (he denies her food in the beginning and breaks a lot stuff around her). In the end, they do fall in love, but Belle could easily just be suffering from a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome. 

    Is the hero actually a villain?

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