With last week's super-exciting, highly anticipated release of the Sin City 2 trailer, we got to thinking about great antiheroes in film over the years. Certainly Mickey Rourke's Marv comes to mind, along with most other characters in the film that aren't just-plain evil, but we've found 10 more of our favorite all-time goodish, baddish main characters that might make you feel conflicted when you start to root for them.
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Years after he first drank that milkshake, Daniel Plainview is still one of the most compelling characters we've seen in movies ever, probably mostly due to Daniel Day-Lewis' stellar performance in There Will Be Blood. Did he just save H.W. because he needed a cute gimmick? How could he have known? And then there's the scene where he beats up that dirt farmer for hitting his little girl, Mary Sunday. He can't be all bad, but he certainly murders enough people with his bare hands to make you wonder. Plus, that whole "bastard in a basket" business was pretty cold.
If you love alliteration and anarchy, V is the antihero for you. While his character and story line are considerably more complex in Alan Moore's comic, the film version of V for Vendetta is a great introduction to the character. We still get the chills when we hear Tchaikovsky thanks to hearing him use it as the loud-speaker soundtrack when he blows up the Old Bailey. While he fights for what is ultimately right in a time of oppressive governmental control, he is pretty much a terrorist, making it difficult to wholly support or condemn his actions. We've noticed a marked rise of protesters around town using that Guy Fawkes mask after the film came out, too.
Speaking of classical music's influence in antihero flicks, who could forget Stanley Kubrick's take on A Clockwork Orange with bad boy Alex DeLarge and Beethoven in the forefront? He rapes and murders and causes a bunch of madness, but the inhumane experiments he endures somehow makes you pity him, despite the fact that he probably is the most repellent, morally reprehensible character on this list.
Comics are a hot bed of antihero archetypes, and The Watchmen is full of them. While Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan, and even the Comedian all fit the bill to some extent, Rorschach's uncompromising moral compass combined with his ultra-violent methods make him the tragic outcast of the group of already fringe heroes. Jackie Earle Haley's portrayal of Rorschach in Zack Snyder's widely criticized rendition of the graphic novel seemed to be one aspect of the film even purist mega-nerds couldn't complain about. If your heart didn't break when (spoiler alert) he gets blown to bits by Dr. Manhattan, you're pretty much made of stone.
Kahn Noonien Singh (a.k.a. John Harrison)
Some Trekkies weren't pleased with J.J. Abrams' treatment of Khan's story in Star Trek Into Darkness, morphing him from a one-dimensional jerkwad to a complex superman with a dark, sad past. Well, Trekkies, we're here to say shut up and let the man speak. Maybe that's just because we're card-carrying members of the Cumberbabe brigade, but it does make for more interesting storytelling when bad guys aren't just bad -- when they have purpose and conflict. Hopefully they unfreeze that Hottie McIcePop in sequels so we can have some more of Benedict doing what he does best by being that impossibly smart and talented antihero we've come to love. Plus, we don't even know if the Eugenics War happened in Abrams' alternate reality, so lay off.
You could pretty easily make the argument that most Wes Anderson leads are antiheroes -- even a lot of Bill Murray's other roles fit the bill. However, The Life Aquatic's Steve Zissou easily tops the list with his endearing insecurities, crackpot revenge schemes, and trademark red cap. When he marches away triumphantly to Seu Jorge's cover of "Queen Bitch," we all want to march away with him -- whether we even know why. That's charisma.
He's destructive and dirty and crazier than anything, but you can't help but want Fight Club's Tyler Durden to succeed in all of his Project Mayhem directives, even if he doesn't want to. He's pretty much what the term antihero was made for, with his two conflicting personalities played by Edward Norton and Brad Pitt putting him at a constant struggle over what he has done and what he should do. Plus, the jabs at Starbucks and IKEA came at a time when we all needed to hear it. Down with the system and stuff, whatever.
Mickey and Mallory Knox
Prepare to have your entire concept of morality come into question when these lovable mass murderers hit the screen. Like a 1990s Bonnie and Clyde, Natural Born Killers Mickey and Mallory go on a cross-country crime spree, which eventually results in their arrest. Despite all of the bad deeds they do and do and do, you still want them to end up together because their love story is so adorably devious, but pure. You just can't help but root for them.
Oh man, just saying the name Snake Plissken takes us to his dark, grunge-y world of government corruption and sheer insanity in Escape from New York. Arguably, Kurt Russell's Snake is the most badass dude on the list, with his equally badass female couterpart played by mega-babe Adrianne Barbeau. Guys, take note: If you want girls to fawn over you this Halloween, get yourself some combat boots and an eye patch and dress as Snake Plissken. You'll thank us later.
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Who hasn't felt the compelling desire to play God and bring the dead back to life? Even though Re-Animator's Herbert West is pretty much a mix of modern-day Dr. Frankenstein and straight-up crazy person, his brilliance and conviction makes him lovable in a weird way. Originally an H.P. Lovecraft story, this '80s cult horror classic is a must-see for lovers of goofy gore.