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Although an "AntiHero" once referred to one specific kind of character archetype, over time the term has evolved to cover several, many very different but all having one key aspect in common: serving as [[{{foil}} contrast]] to traditional hero types such as the KnightInShiningArmor, TheAce, and the IdealHero. Ranking them along the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism lends itself well to a sliding scale of antiheroes, although the original definition exists somewhat outside of it.

CharacterDevelopment may cause an anti-hero to shift up or down this scale. See the SlidingScaleOfAntagonistVileness for characters that would be the AntiHero, but they play the antagonist in the work. Compare with the SlidingScaleOfAntiVillains.

The morality of the scale, starting from the Disney AntiHero, goes from unambiguously good to evil, but the specific morality of any particular character is usually an issue of diverse opinion.

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'''ClassicalAntiHero''': For much of history, the term ''anti-hero'' referred to a character type that contrasts the badass, bitter, misanthropic, violent qualities of the modern day ''antihero''. In classical and earlier mythology, the hero tended to be a dashing, confident, stoic, intelligent, highly capable fighter and commander with few, if any, flaws. The classical anti-hero inverts this by being: plagued with self-doubt, mediocre (or worse) in combat, frightened/cowardly and/or not particularly bright. The classical anti-hero's story tends to be about overcoming his own weaknesses and conquering the enemy. Whether or not that happens heavily depends on the story's placement in the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism. In an idealistic story, they are all but guaranteed to find true heroism by the end - in a more cynical setting, it's less likely.

TragicHero, UnfazedEveryman and ThisLoserIsYou are relevant tropes.

%% Formerly known as "Type II"
'''[[KnightInSourArmour Disney Anti Hero]]''': This is what the term often means in common speech - a character who contrasts with a squeaky clean KnightInShiningArmor--perhaps a KnightInSourArmor. The term "Disney" is used, because giving it some thought, this character is a hero, with HeroicSpirit, except that they don't have the positive mental attitude that comes with being a straight hero. Very frequent amongst the MrViceGuy. Like the ClassicalAntiHero, a Disney antihero stands a good chance of transforming into a straight hero over the course of the story once they confront their internal conflicts, find someone they want to protect, etc.

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'''[[PragmaticHero Pragmatic Anti-Hero]]''': These are iffier, but no worse than neutral and some stay in the "good" category throughout. This type is willing to ShootTheDog or otherwise [[IDidWhatIHadToDo do what they must do]]. While some of these share the snarkiness associated with a Disney AntiHero, they are somewhat darker than the previous version, as their AntiHero status is associated with their willingness to do [[GoodIsNotNice good through "not nice" actions.]] Essentially a "meaner" version of the Disney AntiHero. They may get nicer and turn into straight heroes over the course of the story, but they just as likely may not.

There is some division in this slot as to the acceptability of lethal force. Some will [[ThouShaltNotKill side against it]], but others deem it a viable solution. In the latter case, it is generally a matter of last resort, but they will do what they have to do.

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'''UnscrupulousHero''': These are the darkest possible while having fundamentally good intentions. This type of AntiHero will recurrently be extremely vicious. In some cases they might simply live in a very CrapsackWorld setting, and could have been a "Disney AntiHero" in a more idyllic setting. This character may have [[BrokenBird undergone something incredibly traumatic]] that made them beyond cynical. Their idea of justice towards someone who made their life a living hell may be serving {{revenge}} not as a side dish, but as the main course, because they feel that person [[PayEvilUntoEvil fully deserves it]]; at the same time, these enemies will be unsympathetic to begin with, [[LaserGuidedKarma to the point where getting rid of them would still be doing the world a favor]]. There is some chance that they may see the error in their ways, get rid of the bloodthirst, and change into a straight hero over the course of the story, but don't hold your breath; a more likely scenario is that they'll remain an AntiHero and retain many of their flaws, but shift up the scale to a more unambiguously good type.

Note that there is also a separate flavour of this category, which trades the heroic objectives for somewhat nicer methods, or at least more redeeming qualities. Their objectives tend to be neutral to leaning somewhat unsavoury (but never outright evil), balanced by having lines they will not cross, soft spots for their friends and loved ones etc., as well as often being on the good guys' side, even if only by chance or because it turns the greatest profit. In other words, what a NominalHero (see below) would be with a sense of honor. (As such, there is possibility of transition between the two.)

PayEvilUntoEvil is a defining {{trope}} for this category. See also NinetiesAntiHero, ByronicHero and HeroWithAnFInGood. Particularly cynical portrayals of the LovableRogue tend to be the latter variety. More heroic {{Sociopathic Hero}}es, as well as more merciful {{Heroic Comedic Sociopath}}s are also this at best.

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'''NominalHero''': While these anti-heroes may fight on the side of good, their intentions/motivations are anything but. These people range from [[NotInThisForYourRevolution amoral characters who happen to be pointed at the villains for one reason or another,]] to actively malevolent characters, [[BlackAndGrayMorality only considered heroes]] because the villains they fight are [[EvenEvilHasStandards much worse]]. They often fall under the title of [[EnemyMine the Enemy of my Enemy]]. These anti-heroes stand practically no chance of becoming straight heroes; if they do, the very credibility of the story is likely to be threatened.

More merciless {{Sociopathic Hero}}es and many [[ByronicHero protagonists from]] Creator/LordByron fit on this trope, as well as many worse NinetiesAntiHero characters, but the tendency was hardly limited to that era, either backwards or forwards. If the conflict is EvilVersusEvil or BlackAndGreyMorality, the anti-hero is the lesser of two evils.

NinetiesAntiHero, NobleDemon, darker {{Sociopathic Hero}}es, and more merciless {{Byronic Hero}}es, recurrently, but do not always, feature this type of character. When on a team, likely to be a TokenEvilTeammate. When PlayedForLaughs, see HeroicComedicSociopath.