12 Movie Heroes Who Started Out As Bad People

List Rules
Vote up the heroes who have truly made up for their dark past.

Hollywood loves a good redemption story, which is why there are a lot of movie heroes who start their respective films as no-good villains. Watching a good guy be good is fine, but watching a bad guy put aside his criminal nature for the common good of those around him is something special. Luke Skywalker is boring; it's Han that audiences really like (even though Han's villainy can't hold a candle to what the heroes on this list got up to in their past lives). 

There is nothing moviegoers like more than a good twist. Make a hero bad, make a villain good - who cares, just defy expectations in some way. Giving a hero a complicated and dark past is a great way to add some nuance to an otherwise black and white film. Sure, the hero is doing good now - but what did they get up to before the cameras were rolling? 


  • Nux Defects From The War Boys To Help The Brides
    Photo: Mad Max: Fury Road / Warner Bros. Pictures

    In the beginning of Mad Max: Fury Road, Nux is on the brink of death and is using Max as a blood bag to pump healthy blood into his system. But Nux knows he doesn't have much time, so he convinces the other War Boys to take him with them on their trip to retrieve the brides so Nux can die in battle and go to Valhalla. 

    After failing to help the War Boys capture the wives of Immortan Joe, and embarrassing himself in front of Joe, Nux stows away with the brides and berates himself for his failure. After one of the wives, Capable, cheers him up, Nux decides to switch sides and fights against Joe with the wives. Nux even sacrifices himself to save his new friends. 

  • Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding Became A Kind Older Man After Spending Years Reflecting On His Mistakes
    Photo: The Shawshank Redemption / Columbia Pictures

    As a young man, Red committed murder. Obviously, murder is an absolutely horrific crime for which there isn't really any forgiveness, but the film introduces Red many decades after he committed his one and only misdeed. 

    In The Shawshank Redemption, Red is one of the only kindly faces Andy meets in prison. He's nothing but kind to everyone, and he helps out his fellow inmates when he can. Red is eventually released from prison after 40 years, as even the state has recognized he has been fully rehabilitated for his crimes. 

  • Tony Stark Went From Dirtbag War Profiteer To Intergalactic Savior
    Photo: Iron Man / Paramount Pictures

    Captain America once told Iron Man, "You're not the guy to make the sacrifice play." As it turns out, Cap was wrong on that count - but there was a time when Stark wasn't the type of guy to make a sacrifice play. 

    When audiences first meet Tony Stark in Iron Man, Tony Stark is running Stark Industries, which is a company that makes its money through defense contracts. Stark makes bigger and better weapons and profits off of wars. Stark may not realize his company is selling weapons to both sides of conflicts throughout the world, but that's exactly what happens. 

    Interestingly enough, it is Stark's time as a prisoner of war that ends up turning him into a much better person. Stark continues to experiment with the suit of armor he made to break out of his imprisonment, and he uses it to become the superhero, Iron Man. Eventually, Stark even lays down his own life to defeat Thanos and save the universe. 

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    Caliban Went From Helping People Track Down Mutants To Helping Hide Charles Xavier

    Caliban Went From Helping People Track Down Mutants To Helping Hide Charles Xavier
    Photo: Logan / 20th Century Fox

    In a past life, Caliban worked in the Black Market, where he sold the locations of mutants to the highest bidder. In X-Men: Apocalypse, Caliban helps Mystique find Nightcrawler. Later in his life, Caliban helped track down mutants for the Transigen Project, before deciding he was on the wrong side of history and abandoning them. 

    Later on in his life, Caliban shows back up as Logan's helper who aids him in hiding Xavier from the rest of the world. Caliban is eventually captured by Transigen and forced to help locate his friends, but he later sacrifices himself to kill his captors. 

  • Bucky Barnes Spent Decades As A Cold-Blooded Assassin Before Joining The Avengers
    Photo: Captain America: The Winter Soldier / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Bucky didn't start out his life as a bad guy, but he is turned into one in between the events of The First Avenger and Winter Soldier. Bucky first entered the fight for good as an American soldier during WWII, but while fighting alongside Captain America, Bucky was presumed dead after a massive fall. Little did Rogers know, Bucky was actually abducted by Hydra, brainwashed, and turned into a mindless killing machine. 

    When Captain America is reintroduced to Bucky, Bucky is now a trained assassin known as the Winter Soldier. As the Winter Soldier, Bucky took out dozens upon dozens of targets. Still, with the help of his friend, Bucky is able to remember who he is and eventually joins the Avengers in their fight against Thanos. 

    In the present day, Bucky works alongside Sam, the new Captain America, and tries to do right by the family members of the people he killed. 

  • William Munny Went From Cold-Blooded Assassin To Paternal Protector
    Photo: Unforgiven / Warner Bros.

    William Munny describes his own deeds in Unforgiven, saying, "I've killed women and children. I've killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another." Munny is a former outlaw who wasn't exactly the best guy in his youth; however, he put that way of life behind him after he fell in love and settled down. 

    In Unforgiven, to provide for his children, Munny decides to take up a bounty to track down two cowboys who assaulted a sex worker. Munny is recruited for the job by the Schofield Kid, who goes to Munny specifically because Munny is the coldest and most ruthless killer he can find. While Munny initially takes the job for the money, by the end of the film, he sends the kid off with the reward and continues on with a new mission to get revenge for his friend.