15 Movie Protagonists Who Are Actually Just The Sidekick

List Rules
Vote up the main characters who take a backseat to the true hero.

Some movie protagonists are unquestionable, driving the narrative from beginning to end and clearly functioning as the film’s main hero. Other times, the main character is basically a sidekick to a supporting protagonist with a more active role in the outcome of the narrative. This isn't to say these protagonists are unlikable or inactive in the film’s story, but simply that the supporting characters surpass them. In some cases, the secondary protagonist may have motivations that drive the narrative, might have skills required by the main character to achieve goals, or could simply kick the most a** in the action sequences.

These supporting characters are often so memorable, they surpass the primary protagonist in the audience’s mind. For the most part, this is a credit to the unforgettable quality of the supporting character. In the best cases, each relies on the other to complete the vision of the film.


  • The Main Character: Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) is the protagonist of the film with the clearest arc, as a blacksmith's apprentice coming to terms with his father’s past as a pirate. Will is also the romantic lead opposite Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley), who is kidnapped by cursed pirate Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

    The Real Hero: When Will sets out to rescue Elizabeth from Barbossa, he must rely on the unique skill set of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), a drunken and flamboyant pirate who was betrayed by Barbossa. Although Will is the traditional dashing hero, Jack steals every scene with his eccentric behavior, and he is ultimately the one to eliminate Barbossa in the final swashbuckling showdown.

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    233 VOTES

    Max Rockatansky In 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

    The Main Character: With the film named after him, you would expect Max (Tom Hardy) to be the primary protagonist of Mad Max: Fury Road, especially since he is also the narrator. Max is at the center of the narrative and plays a crucial role in the action throughout, even when he is merely being used for his blood. At the same time, Max’s goal is mostly survival, until he inadvertently joins a mission with a more noble cause.

    The Real Hero: While Max is the narrator and protagonist, he essentially just stumbles into a struggle that belongs to Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a lieutenant in an army of post-apocalyptic soldiers led by a tyrant named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). After Furiosa uses a war rig to help Joe’s captive wives escape, she is pursued by his men in their journey across the desert wasteland. Max is mostly just along for the ride, and what a fun ride it turns out to be!

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    165 VOTES

    Dave Lizewski In 'Kick-Ass'

    The Main Character: With the basic premise of Kick-Ass involving an ordinary teenager deciding to become a superhero, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is the clear protagonist as the high school student who creates the alter ego from which the film gets its name. Dave gets pulled into a conflict with a local mob boss when he crosses paths with a former cop moonlighting as a vigilante crimefighter named Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage).

    The Real Hero: While the focus is on the origin story for Kick-Ass, there are also several scenes showing Big Daddy’s efforts to train his daughter Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz) to be a superhero vigilante named Hit-Girl. Not only is Hit-Girl a much more skilled fighter than Dave's makeshift superhero persona, but she also has greater motivations for taking out the bad guys after they knock off her father.

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    119 VOTES

    Rick Dalton In 'Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood'

    The Main Character: Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the focus of attention in most scenes of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, as a movie star attempting to maintain his fame while aging in a changing film industry in the late 1960s. The climax of the film reimagines the Tate murders by the Manson Family as taking place in Rick's home after a security gate thwarts their initial plans.

    The Real Hero: Although Rick plays a part in dispatching the Manson Family home invaders, it is his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) who takes a majority of them out. Cliff also has earlier interactions with the Manson Family, visiting their home at Spahn Ranch, leading to a confrontation that sets up the final showdown.

  • The Main Character:  After the government shuts down the Superhero Relocation Program following the destruction of the final battle in the first film, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is forced to adjust to life as a stay-at-home parent. Much of Incredibles 2 follows the comedy of this situation until Mr. Incredible joins Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) in a fight against a supervillain using mind-control technology.

    The Real Hero: Mr. Incredible may have been the main protagonist and hero in The Incredibles, but his tendency to have battles with high collateral damage forces him to become the sidekick to Elastigirl in the sequel. Not only does Elastigirl discover the evil plot, but she is also the one to eventually apprehend the supervillain behind it.

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    175 VOTES

    T-800 In 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day'

    The Main Character: Although the first film featured a Terminator sent to eliminate Sarah Connor, a T-800 (played again by Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives to protect her in Terminator 2, along with her son, John (Edward Furlong). The T-800 is necessary to fight attacks from an advanced T-1000 terminator sent to eliminate John before he can grow up to be the leader of a rebellion against the robots. This T-800 has some human qualities, as well, and is able to learn human behavior in a somewhat comedic effort to fit in.

    The Real Hero: As the main returning character from The Terminator, Sarah Connor provides a continuation of the narrative, though her character is far less of a victim than in the first film. Although the T-800 is a necessary tool in the fight against the advanced T-1000 Terminator, Sarah is the one who is forced to make difficult decisions in preventing a robot apocalypse. She is also undeniably bad*ss.