12 Movie Heroes Who Were The Public Enemy - Until They Were Needed To Save The Day

List Rules
Vote up the most heroic characters who were unfairly turned into pariahs.

Public opinion can turn on a dime. Matthew McConaughey was once one of Hollywood's hottest up-and-coming actors. Then he was the guy in all the crappy rom-coms your mom loves. Then he was an Academy Award-winning superstar in the middle of one of the greatest Tinseltown renaissances of all time. Now he's kind of flirting with maybe going into politics? Throughout all of these career turns, people's impressions of McConaughey fluctuated wildly. Allowing the popular opinion of a film protagonist to oscillate can be a useful strategy in a screenwriter's repertoire.

How many times have Batman and Spider-Man been social pariahs? Where would the early conflict in Transformers come from if everyone accepted the Autobots as soon as they arrived? What kind of journey could the titular hero of Wreck-It Ralph go on if he was beloved from the jump? Sometimes, a hero needs to fall in the eyes of the people, only to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. 


  • If superheroes were an everyday part of real life, it seems reasonable to assume that "public outrage" would ruin the fun for everyone. The first Incredibles film brings this reality to life, and that's saying something for a G-rated animated film. The opening of the 2004 classic sees the various superheroes of the film's world get shut down by the government and put into the Superhero Relocation Program. Lawsuits had begun to come in hot and heavy as "supers" saved people who didn't want to be saved and collateral damage in the millions began to rack up.

    Essentially, the world Pixar created for the movie felt things would be better without superheroes at all. For a while, that seemed to be the case. Then Syndrome came about, his giant Omnidroid careened out of his control, and the Parr family (with a little help from Frozone) was needed to save the day. Popular opinion about superheroes seemed to change pretty fast after that particular event.

    14 votes
  • Sometimes we are forced to play roles we never intended to perform. Taking this to heart, 2012's Wreck-It Ralph provides a startlingly deep character study of internal worth contrasting with outward valuation and self-acceptance, especially for a freaking Disney movie. Hearing Ralph say to himself, "I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me," as he tries to sacrifice himself for the only person who has ever truly cared for him is an extremely emotional moment.

    Ralph may be the "bad guy" of the made-up video game Fix-It Felix, Jr., but that doesn't mean he has to be a bad person. The Non-Player Characters of his own video game hate him when the movie begins, but they come around when it's all said and done. Ralph's cathartic journey to find self-worth in the face of everything he has to deal with on a daily basis really is quite beautiful.

    10 votes
  • If we're being fair to every single human in 2007's Transformers, it would make complete sense not to trust the Autobots when they first come to Earth. First off, how many aliens had human beings come into contact with before that moment in time? None. Secondly, have you seen both the Autobots and Decepticons? They are massive, shape-shifting robotic extraterrestrials. Do you think the arrival of such advanced creatures would be met with anything but apprehension?

    The only two people who seem to be on the side of the Autobots from the jump are Sam Witwicky and Mikaela Banes, and they're just high school students. Eventually, the humans in charge figure out they're going to need the Autobots to take out the Decepticon threat, and everything is hunky-dory from there, but there is a bunch of hullabaloo about whether the government should trust the heroic aliens in the first place. And here we were thinking everybody loved Bumblebee from the jump...

    8 votes
  • Let's just get this out of the way up front: Cornelius Fudge has absolutely no backbone whatsoever. That dude wasn't even fit to lick Albus Dumbledore's bootstraps, let alone be the gosh-darn Minister of Magic. So, when everyone trying to warn people of Voldemort's return in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is publicly lambasted and turned into personae non gratae, we know who to blame. Sure, Dolores Umbridge is a much more reviled character (and for good reason), but everything Harry Potter and the rest of Dumbledore's Army are put through during the film's run time comes down to Fudge's utter lack of a spine.

    When talentless swine like Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle are glorified, something is clearly up. Of course, Voldemort is revealed to the world when the epic battle at the Ministry of Magic goes down, so our heroes are eventually vindicated, but just remember Cornelius Fudge refused to believe in some of the most respected witches and wizards in history.

    7 votes
  • Say what you want about Zack Snyder's overall directorial ability... the man certainly knows how to compose a shot. Though there is much to argue about when it comes to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, certain shots in the film are absolutely gorgeous to behold. The Man of Steel gets plenty of indelible imagery in the movie, none more striking than when Supes has to head to a congressional hearing in light of public pressure.

    Here is Superman, the Man of Tomorrow, being protested by average Americans like he is some common criminal. Signs range from "This is our world, not yours!" to "God Hates Aliens," and it seems clear that a subset of Americans really do not like Kal-El - until it's time for him to save everybody from Doomsday at the end of the movie and die in the process. Then he gets a massive funeral and everyone laments his loss like there wasn't some huge public debate happening throughout the majority of the film in the first place. It's quite the turnaround if you stop and think about it.

    7 votes
  • Bruce Willis's John Hartigan gets a cool eight years of jail time for being the good guy in the "That Yellow Bastard" segment of 2005's Sin City. The grizzled cop with a heart condition stops the assault and murder of Nancy, an 11-year-old girl, even though doing so will expose a powerful senator's son for the criminal he is. Hartigan, doing what any person with a sense of basic human decency would do, gets charged with the assault of the senator's son and is basically framed for the son's crimes, as well. Solitary confinement ends up being his reward.

    Somehow, Hartigan is set free after agreeing to take the rap for the senator's son, as he believes Nancy, now a 19-year-old exotic dancer (this is Sin City, after all), is in grave danger. Even though Hartigan ends up saving Nancy and doing away with the senator's son, he never gets his moment in the sun, as he takes his own life to stop the senator from hunting Nancy down. Or whatever. It's Sin City, people... we're all here for the amazing visuals and violent action, not coherent plotting. 

    5 votes