Movie 'Heroes' Who Were Actually Villains The Whole Time

Over 26.1K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Movie 'Heroes' Who Were Actually Villains The Whole Time
Voting Rules
Vote 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. 


  • 1
    9,290 VOTES

    Grandpa Joe In 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'

    Grandpa Joe has garnered such a bad reputation over the years that there is even a website called, Say No To Grandpa Joe: Exposing the Truth. This site outlines all the ways that he is actually the villain in the 1971 movie musical. 

    Upon further examination, Grandpa Joe IS kind of selfish. He spends money on tobacco while the other seven members of his family are forced to eat cabbage soup every single day. Another solid argument for Grandpa Joe as villain is that he is nothing more than a slacker. He could have been working the 20 years that he spent in bed, constantly criticizing his family, pretending to be too sick to help out.

    When Charlie tells his family that he has the coveted golden ticket, Grandpa Joe jumps out of bed and actually dances. His spryness is rather amazing for a man in his 90s whose feet have not touched the ground in two decades. 

    9,290 votes
  • Leonard (Guy Pearce) suffers from a type of short-term memory loss that makes it impossible for him to make new memories. His condition turns the search for his wife's attacker into a nearly impossible task, and it also makes Leonard one of the most unreliable narrators in the history of cinema.

    In a plot-twist at the end, which is actually the beginning of the backwards moving narrative, we discover that Leonard duped us along. He already found the person who attacked his wife. And, although Leonard won't admit it, he's actually the person who did it. Well, probably. It depends on who you believe in a story where no one is quite believable. Either way, Leonard is an unquestionably bad dude. 

    3,213 votes
  • Thanks to the internet, there are countless Peter Pan fan theories out there. Most of them don't hold water, but every once in a while, something clicks and makes total sense. For example, good ol' Peter Pan probably eliminates the Lost Boys when they get too old. In J.M. Barrie's book, which to date has been adapted into 10 movies, there's a passage that makes Pan sound rather sinister:

    "The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers....and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two."

    So Peter Pan has such disdain for adults that he "thins them out." And no reasonable person can read "thins them out" as anything but a euphemism for permanently taking them out.

    6,886 votes
  • We were all duped as children, trained to believe that the Wicked Witch of the West was the villain in The Wizard of Oz. All along, it was the "good" witch, Glinda, who was actually responsible for all of Dorothy's problems in Oz.

    After Dorothy's house crushes the Wicked Witch of the East in Oz, Glinda is the one who takes the Wicked Witch's red slippers off her feet and transposes them onto Dorothy's feet. Of course, this is going to enrage the Wicked Witch of the West, and rightful heir to the red slippers. But Glinda wants to pick a fight with the west side witch.

    Has there ever been a bigger jerk move in the history of celluloid? Glinda essentially glues a prized possession to Dorothy's feet and turns her into a patsy. She is the master manipulator in Oz, and she pushes Dorothy into a dust-up with the Wicked Witch of the West in order for Glinda to be the only magic game in town. Glinda wants her adversary wiped out, she just doesn't want to do it herself. Can't tarnish that spotless reputation, after all. 

    7,807 votes
  • 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. 

    6,465 votes
  • 6
    8,267 VOTES

    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?

    8,267 votes