troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Anti-Hero

"Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right."
Salvor Hardin, Foundation

An Archetypal Character who is almost as common in modern fiction as the Ideal Hero, an antihero is a protagonist who has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero. (S)he may be bewildered, ineffectual, deluded, or merely apathetic. More often an antihero is just an amoral misfit. While heroes are typically conventional, anti-heroes, depending on the circumstances, may be preconventional (in a "good" society), postconventional (if the government is "evil") or even unconventional. Not to be confused with the Villain or the Big Bad, who is the opponent of Heroes (and Anti-Heroes, for that matter).

Most are to the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.

There are just as many variations on Anti-Heroes as there are normal heroes. Some common attributes are: rarely speaking, being a loner, either extreme celibacy or extreme promiscuity, father issues, occasional Bad Dreams and flashbacks relating to a Dark and Troubled Past that can take many forms depending on the Anti-Hero in question; and being able to tell the story of their life through any Nick Cave song. Some won't Save the Villain, but they will Shoot the Dog, and they will not hesitate to kill anyone who threatens them.

Other characters may try to impress upon them the value of more traditional heroic values through The Power of Friendship, but these lessons tend to bounce more often than stick.

What amoral antiheroes learn, if they learn anything at all over the course of the story, is that an existence devoid of absolute values offers a lot of isolation. Which may be to their liking. Don't You Dare Pity Me! is common, and gratitude may be repulsed with Think Nothing of It (just to get them to leave him alone.)

Antiheroes often crop up in deconstructions of traditionally heroic genres. As the struggling, imperfect protagonist begins to gain more respect and sympathy than the impressive-but-impossible-to-relate-to invincible superhero, "anti" heroes have come to be admired as a perfectly valid type of hero in their own right.

Sometimes, they are not the "star" (protagonist), but serve as The Rival or Worthy Opponent of the protagonist and are prone to becoming a Ensemble Darkhorse as fans enjoy their interactions with the protagonist. If they are part of a Five-Man Band, they will most certainly be The Lancer. Well liked ones may become a Deuteragonist or at least get a Day in the Limelight to please the fans.

The term is used more loosely today than it used to be, at least on This Wiki. In one definition of the word, the appeal of an antihero is that he or she is often very literally a hero: Namely; he or she does heroic deeds. But whereas Superman, Wonder Woman, Hercules, and many other conventional heroes have both the physical and moral capabilities to do it, an antihero almost never has both.

Antiheroes are spread all over the alignment chart, tending toward Neutral types.

Traditionally, in literary analysis, the meaning of antihero was effectively the opposite of the now common usage, lacking the elements that make a hero "cool" rather than the elements that make them "good". Willy Loman and Shinji Ikari are archetypes of this form.

Character types particularly prone to antihero-dom (though each has its share of straight-up heroes, and villains too) include:

Compare Anti-Villain. A character who is a Wild Card or a Heel-Face Revolving Door can be capable of being both an Anti-Hero and an Anti-Villain depending on whether or not they are acting for or against the protagonist at the time. For an ensemble of these heroes, see Anti Hero Team.

If you've been sent here by a work referring to someone as a "Type-I" antihero (Or so forth), they are referring to Analysis.Anti Hero, which is a sub-page of this one. Since those numbers are no longer used even on that page, they should be replaced with an appropriate named type.

Not to be confused with the webcomic anti-HEROES.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In One Punch Man, Saitama fights villains simply because he's looking for a Worthy Opponent—that is, someone who won't go down with simply one punch. He chooses to fight villains specifically because of the added bonus of saving the day (which he genuinely enjoys), and he's a pretty decent guy when not fighting.
  • Guts from Berserk has one goal in life: making his former ally Griffith pay in blood for what's happened to him. A childhood spent as a mercenary and an adult life spent being attacked by demons has left him with few moral precepts. He thinks nothing of cutting people in half, although he does prefer not to take out bystanders (still a bad idea to stand in his way, though). On the other hand, he cares deeply for Casca and has given some thought to what he really wants to do with his life once he's gotten his revenge; he doesn't have an answer for that one yet. Pre-Eclipse Guts is more of a Byronic Hero.
  • You could say that the main cast of Black Lagoon could count as Anti Heroes, but that would be a misnomer.
  • Lelouch and (to a lesser extent) the Black Knights of Code Geass.
  • Death Note
    • Mello is solely dedicated to being the one to stop Kira and is more than willing to become a mob boss, kidnap innocent girls, and in the manga, even threaten the President to sabotage his rival so said rival can't catch Kira.
    • Light's rival, L, is an Anti Hero and The Anti-Bishōnen. He dresses like a bum (he doesn't even wear shoes!), his black hair is shaggy and unkempt, he looks permanently hungover, he strongly detests physical contact with anyone and is close to emotionally dead. As far as his morality is concerned, he is willing to achieve the good goal of capturing Kira (Light) with evil means, such as kidnapping, not preventing murder, invasion of privacy and torture.
  • Dragon Ball Z
    • Vegeta. In his first appearance, he's the Big Bad, but in the ongoing series, in his effort to beat Goku, he keeps saving the day. He also often unnecessarily endangers the situation by letting his enemies reach their full potential, so he can have a honorable fight.
    • To a lesser extent, Piccolo could also be seen to possess some Anti-Hero qualities. Though he essentially became one of the good guys after his sacrifice for Gohan, Piccolo was still somewhat aloof, anti-social, and soft-spoken (save for when he launched himself into battle). And though he became one of the Z Fighters, there were still a few instances where Piccolo didn't really view the human members of the team including Yamcha, Chaotzu, and occasionally Krillin (mostly for his cowardly behavior in some situations)as being in his league (though not to the same extent as Vegeta viewed them). He would regularly come into conflict with both of them talking down to each other. The only ones that he generally showed respect to among the big 8 were Goku (Although he gave him one talking to), Gohan, Trunks, and, to a lesser extent Tienshinhan. In The Tree Of Might movie, Oolong compared Gohan's new pet dragon to Piccolo, saying neither of them let their guard down around anyone except Gohan.
  • Scar from Fullmetal Alchemist starts out as a villain and gradually transforms into one of these. Second Greed as well. Also Olivier Mira Armstrong.
  • Getter Robo combines the old Super Robot ideals like Hot Bloodedness with anti-hero main characters. Ryoma is rowdy and an asshole, Hayato's pragmatism in decision making borders on (and sometimes goes beyond) cruelty and so on.
  • The only good guys in Hellsing are anti-heroes or vampire fodder. And then there's Alucard. The only thing that keeps him from being a villain is the fact he is fighting vampire Nazis, although the first anime adaptation definitely plays up the anti-hero side.
    • Well, Alucard does have his Undying Loyalty to Integra and hates traitors.
  • Gon is an intensely unlikable protagonist in the original manga. Early escapades include destroying a forest to make a tree mound for himself, and beaching a shark that has swallowed him and feeding it a small piece of banana as it suffocates to death.
  • InuYasha
    • Kikyo was originally a very kind and giving miko. She and Inuyasha had a pact for her to give up her miko duties and for him to become fully human so that they could get married. However, Naraku disguised himself as Inuyasha and killed her. She was later resurrected against her will by dark magic that left her suffering from the hatred and betrayal for Inuyasha that she had felt at the moment of her death. This changed over time from trying to kill Inuyasha to trying to kill them both so they could be together in death then to surviving long enough to destroy Naraku for what he had done to her. Despite her rivalry with Kagome for Inuyasha's affections, she was eventually able to live long enough achieve a redemptive death at peace with herself, Inuyasha and Kagome.
    • Sesshomaru fights against the Big Bad Naraku, occasionally helps people who're not related to him, helps his half-brother whom he officially hates and his brother's friends many times, displays protective attitude towards his followers and great filial respect towards his father. He has a high sense of honor and principle (obviously values honor and principles above his own life). On the other hand, he has many extremely ruthless moments, has willingly joined up with Naraku on two occasions (the first contributed to his decision to hunt Naraku as an enemy, the second he was actually using Naraku as a Die or Fly test for Inuyasha to prove his worth once and for all) and used questionable methods, also went through a period of trying to kill his brother who had obtained the heirloom sword he'd been after for years which eventually softened into Aloof Big Brother as he worked out his issues. In the final battle against Naraku, his status as an antihero is highlighted by this antiheroes signature move.
    • Kagura was created by Naraku out of one of the youkai that had been trapped inside himself for at least 50 years. In return for the hope of freedom in the future, she was forced to work as a slave for him, her life bound because he held her beating heart captive in his position and could therefore destroy at any moment. Despite her position, her growing feelings for Sesshoumaru, coupled with her growing protective instinct for Kohaku all combined to make her increasingly helpful of both Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha's causes. In the end, she was feeding information to both Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha's groups to help them fight Naraku and ended up dying in an Heroic Sacrifice to save Kohaku's life from Mouryoumaru and Naraku's machinations.
    • Koga, leader of the eastern wolf-demon tribe. Seeking vengeance against Naraku, he becomes a reluctant ally (while maintaining rivalry) to Inuyasha. Thanks to his romantic interest in Kagome, he and his men give up eating human. Koga, Kikyo, Sesshomaru and his followers are described as "Those who, at times will fight, and other times have the same intentions." in Inuyasha Zusetsutaizen Ougikaiden.
  • Nao Yuuki from Mai Hi ME is an arguable case; bent on vengeance for her mother, who was severely wounded in a robbery, she uses herself as bait to trap paedophiles, who she proceeds to rob. It's never made clear if her victims receive punishment under a proper judicial system. In fact, she seems to enjoy going after her victims a bit too much.
  • Yukiteru from Future Diary, after his parents are killed and he takes a level in badass. Later in the series he massacres orphans in the name of becoming God. However, his goal is to bring everyone who died back to life once he becomes god (keeping him from outright villainy).
    • Likewise, Minene Uryu is one of the craftiest and most resourceful diary owners, and she is not above blowing up a middle school full of kids in order to win the survival game and become God. However, unlike some diary owners, she wants to become god in order to make the world a better place and it's heavily implied that she will revive everyone she kills. Unfortunately for her, in the world of Mirai Nikki, not even God can do that. One has trouble not sympathizing with her when you find out that she's a refugee from an unnamed wartorn country and that she's fighting against serial killers, people that want to become God in order to destroy the world as well as people that want the position just so that they can rule the world. She also works with Yuki to Save The World in the end, too.
  • Shinji Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangelion is a deeply neurotic protagonist who is withdrawn, socially awkward, and completely lacking in self-confidence, but is shown to be a good person under his many psychological problems, all of which stem from him being the series' resident Butt Monkey. Asuka, too, fits the role of Anti-Hero, as her only reason for piloting her Evangelion isn't to protect mankind, but to show everyone how talented she is. Somewhat mitigated by the fact that when she was around 4 her mother lost her mind and thought that a doll was Asuka. And her father started to have an affair with the head nurse in charge of Asuka's mother. So at age four, who cares about Asuka? That's right, nobody. So she works around her abandonment issues by trying to get everyone to need her. Because she doesn't want to be alone. Shinji has the same kind of childhood, but works around it by trying not to have to make any decisions, because he thinks he is in the wrong about most things. This show messes up the background history of every character.
  • Mirielle and Kirika in Noir are assassins, more or less, ruthless, cold-blooded killers. Kirika is saddened, not by killing, but by the fact she isn't saddened by killing, and Mirielle, not even that much, sometimes joking about their kills off-handedly. In this anime, they are the protagonists. There are no traditional heroes in Noir. Except maybe Mirielle's parents.
    • Who were key figures in the Corsican mob, so their hands weren't exactly clean, either. They set the events of the story (And get themselves killed) by declaring that Even Evil Has Standards.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Pokémon. Anti Villains Jessie, James, and Meowth are disgusted by how Anti-Hero Paul mistreats his Pokemon, given the fact that they're far nicer people than he is, and they're criminals!
  • Saito Hajime from Rurouni Kenshin is the very epitome of this trope.
    • Shinomori Aoshi counts if anyone else does. After he became more of a villain; he started off as an Anti-Villain. Most of the male characters can be: Kenshin himself lapses into this and Sanosuke, who is not afraid to fight against his nation's government. It seems Saitou has an effect on everyone, so it could be said this quality rubbed off nearly as well as anything from Kenshin (Sano in particular).
  • Ikki Phoenix from Saint Seiya starts out like this. It took some time before he stopped horribly killing every opponent.
  • Nicholas D. Wolfwood of Trigun is not amoral by any means, but his harsh "no matter the cost" martialism copied from Knives and Chapel and his sense of fashion screams Anti-Hero, especially when compared with Vash.
  • Vinland Saga's. Thorfinn and Thorkel. Many of the other characters of the manga are villains in one way or another.
  • Mashiba from Hajime No Ippo is this on his good days. Otherwise he's just a Sociopathic Hero. He protects his sister, but overall is a very scary and sadistic boxer. You get to see his really bad side. However, he gets better later and refrains from cheating.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • Yami Yuugi from the early manga. Example: A guy steals a playing card from Yuugi. Yami Yuugi comes out to drive him permanently stark raving mad. Whenever he gets out, someone is gonna die or go nuts. He is smiling as he lights people on fire, condemns them to insanity, etc.
    • Seto Kaiba in the anime, certainly. First he's a villain. Then Yami Yugi does some freaky shit to his mind and he becomes a sympathetic villain who's just trying to save his brother (and his company), and admits to respecting Yugi. Then he gets kidnapped and Yugi and his friends save him and they team up to beat the bad guys. Then he's a kind of antagonist again but he keeps helping Yugi beat the bad guys. Then they all have to team up to beat more bad guys. Then in the movie he seems to be a bad guy but he's actually a puppet for the Big Bad and helps Yugi to defeat said Big Bad when he's freed from its control. Then he opens a school to help young people learn to duel. Make up your mind, man! He's been on one side since day one. The side where he can screw the most rules.
    He's more like an Anti-Hero, the worst kind of hero there is! They give us villains a good name!
  • Sagara Sousuke from Full Metal Panic! fits this trope's description pretty well. Somewhat of a Sociopathic Hero, all that really matters to him is Kaname's safety and completing his missions. Empathy and strict moral principles aren't really qualities that fit in to his personality. He is definitely against saving villains, has a naturally violent nature and sees absolutely nothing wrong in offing people or Shooting The Dog, tries to be a loner (though he tends to fail at that), is both very chaste and celibate, and has rather dubious combat methods. For example, would a normal person turn a theme park mascot into powered armor designed for police use (and lament that he "lost out on one of his investments" when the police doesn't buy it)?
  • Accelerator from A Certain Magical Index becomes this in the Last Order arc.
  • The eponymous Nadia from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is an antihero. Due to an unhappy childhood and Parental Abandonment, she's grown to be gloomy and depressed, somewhat self-centered and very judgemental. She has an empathic connection to animals and is thus a vegetarian, but can't stand the idea of anyone else eating meat either and constantly berates them for it. Her negative persona is lampshaded in one of the omakes, a character profile, where the narrator just keeps rattling off various flaws ("There has probably never been such a selfish heroine.") and expresses incredulity at how anyone can stand her. However, she is still a fundamentally good, caring person, capable of great self-sacrifice and aware of her flaws. (She even feels bad for occasionally taking her rage out on Jean, to the point where she does something apologetic e.g. begging forgiveness, going on a walk, playing a game of cards, cooking for him, etc.) By the time of the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, she seems to have matured into a more sympathetic individual.
  • Hei from Darker Than Black. A hitman for The Syndicate who doesn't really bother to question the morality (or, more often, lack thereof) of his assignments, with no compunctions about cheating, killing, or torture if he feels it's necessary.
  • The core protagonists of Slayers, which makes the show as intriguing as it is - Lina Inverse is a well-reputed slayer of bandits and has saved the world, but she's only done the latter if the danger she and her companions were in had reached that point. Otherwise, she slays bandits for personal wealth, has no concern for the welfare of innocents (and entire villages for that matter), and will occasionally go to sociopathic levels to get what she wants, even if it includes hurting her friends. Zelgadis is similar to Lina in those aspects, with the exception being that he's more than willing to either murder or flat-out abandon those he cares about entirely.
    • Princess Amelia is not as much of this as it warrants, but her naiveté on peoples' motives inadvertently make her this - she often relies on stereotypes (such as outward appearances) to determine who is and isn't noble. Gourry the good-natured swordsman would wholly avert this trope if he weren't apathetic to certain worldly events, but that's possibly due to his lack of intelligence. The only protagonist that joins Lina that isn't this trope completely is Sylphiel.
  • The core four in YuYu Hakusho, all to varying degrees - Kuwabara being the least so, Hiei being the most.
  • Ciel and Sebastian of Black Butler.
  • Madoka and Mami are the only entirely good characters in Madoka Magica (and Mami gets her creepy moments). Homura is a straight up Anti-Hero, with a more-or-less good goal and amoral ways of pursuing it. Kyouko is trying to ignore morality entirely, but is having difficulty doing so. Sayaka wants to be an ally of justice, but is bad at it and eventually goes off the deep end and ends up a witch.
  • Agito and Aptom in Guyver.
  • Miyu from Vampire Princess Miyu - She banishes the Shinma because it's her fate to do so, not because she cares about the human race. She even uses humans for her personal amusement, just like the Shinma, but arguably not with the same cruelty of the Shinma.
  • Inner Moka from Rosario + Vampire, until she starts defrosting.
  • Setsuna F. Seiei and the Celestial Being start as this type of characters in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, of byronic variant. Later, however, Setsuna would develop into an entirely good hero.
  • Chirico Cuvie in Armored Trooper VOTOMS.
  • Bleach: Freaking everyone, in one way or another.
  • The Straw Hat Pirates from One Piece. While they almost always do end up saving the day, it's usually because some villain on the island they're on happened to do something to piss them off rather than them acting out of selfless heroism. Luffy himself has made the point that he's not altruistic enough to be considered a hero, and he's clearly more altruistic than many of his crew.
  • Hatou from Murasakiiro No Qualia is slowly but surely starting to fall into this trope.
  • Lupin III and his gang go to great lengths to stop evil people from taking over the world, help capture or kill criminals, and even save little kittens. But they're still not heroes. They are usually motivated out of self-interest, and are always criminals.
  • Likewise, the Kisugi sisters of Cats Eye. They often go out of their way to take down worse criminals, but they still find themselves at odds with the cops, and sometimes victimize innocent people (usually by gagging / drugging and impersonating them).

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel's The Punisher is a Badass Normal, trenchcoat-wearing Vigilante Man who often uses extreme amounts of violence to combat criminals. Why do super heroes fight super villains? Because the Punisher shot the lesser ones. Even more so in the MAX series, which has neither super villains nor super heroes. On one occasion, the Punisher killed two pimps, crippled four and stabbed another one in the eye in order to get information, only to find out that they didn't have it. Later in the same story, he disembowels a human trafficker, among other things. However, as an Antihero he's ultimately on the side of good, going after evildoers specifically to punish them for their actions against the innocent, as opposed to the evildoers themselves who spill innocent blood for profit and/or fun, and he DOES show kindness on several occasions, especially towards children.
  • Spawn (that is, from Todd McFarlane's comic book of the same name).
  • Every single protagonist in the Sin City series qualifies as an Anti-Hero, though given the Wretched Hive they live in, it's a given. Marv, for instance, feels no remorse for torturing and killing a great deal of people over the course of his story, even bragging about it on one occasion, but he has several lines that he crosses only with extreme reluctance, such as hitting a woman or Kill a innocent.
  • Watchmen
    • Rorschach doesn't differentiate between most degrees of criminal acts. His mask is a symbol for his perception on society, an extreme filter of black and white with no "bullshit grey". If he neglects to kill a criminal, it's either because he simply didn't have time or because he wants them around to snitch next time. Worse still, he seems bizarrely obsessed with branding people he knows nothing about with crimes he has no reason to suspect them of, at one point assuming every patron in the bar he was in, the "human cockroaches", in his words, spend their time discussing child pornography, and repeats his suspicions in those exact words to his friend Daniel Dreiberg.
    • The Comedian. Skirts the line between Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist.
    • Dr. Manhattan thinks he's fallen off the end of the scale. He is "so deliberately amoral" that any heroic aspects are essentially non-existent.
  • Batman is a classic and well-known anti-hero who has had a significant influence on comic book anti-heroes. Batman displayed the traits of the modern anti-hero since his debut in Detective Comics, 1939. However, Batman's status as an anti-hero ultimately depends on who's writing or portraying him; many have leaned towards a more traditional idea of heroism. For example, while Frank Miller's fits this trope like a glove, it's really hard to describe Adam West's Batman as an anti-hero.
  • Say his name, comic fans: LOBO. Definitely The Lancer on the spacefaring L.E.G.I.O.N. team, and in Young Justice as the de-aged Slobo.
  • John Constantine, Hellblazer. This is one of the reasons why he was Exiled from Continuity in the first place.
  • Rayek from ElfQuest always does what he thinks is best for the entire elfin race, without ever stopping to ask the rest of the elfin race what they think is best for them.
  • The DCU introduced a slew of Anti Heroes to "replace" their traditional heroic characters during the Dark Age — the Eradicator for Superman, Jean Paul Valley for Batman, Artemis for Wonder Woman, Dark Flash — though whether they were supposed to emphasize how good the originals were in comparison or a cynical attempt to get with the Darker and Edgier trend of the '90s depends on how charitable you are. The only one with any staying power was Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, but he was never really an Anti-Hero to begin with.
    • Kyle Rayner was brought in to replace Hal Jordan who had become the supervillain, Parallax. He didn't need to be dark and edgy.
  • Spider Jerusalem loves to eat puppies, shatter illusions, knock people's teeth out and drive his poor editor to the brink of insanity, but he's also about the only journalist left in his world who tells the truth no matter what. He was also willing to selflessly sacrifice himself to bring down The Smiler.
  • The titular character of the Lucifer series is very much this trope, his vast intelligence and strict code of honour tempered by the fact... well, that he is a selfish, self-centered ass who is defined by his own pride and somewhat childish petulance at the fact that he cannot fully define his own existence. His heroic acts include saving the existence and putting himself at risk to save Elane Belloc and possibly Mazikeen.
  • Cassie Hack in Hack Slash. Her motivation is mostly admirable, but her tactics and personality are... not role model material.
  • Sometimes the Incredible Hulk due to multiple personality disorder. Joe Fixit, especially.
  • Sub-Mariner - Namor the Sub-Mariner, since the beginning. He's a month older than Batman, but nowhere near as influential. Usually moving between this and being an Anti-Villain.
  • Crackerjack in Astro City, not in the sense of being grim and ruthless, but in the sense that he fights crime and saves people primarily for his own self-aggrandizement and is, simply put, a jerk. At least, this initially seems to be the case, but he's portrayed in a more favourable light in later stories.
    • The Confessor would probably like to be an out and out hero, but he can't escape the dark side of his nature, on account of being a vampire. Tough break, if you think about it.
  • A classic example is Raven in Zoids: Guardian Force. Once you get to the last episode, he's screaming antihero.
  • Marvel also has Daimon Hellstrom: The Son of Satan. The Badass Crew he joins in Marvel Zombies 3 is a team of antiheroes, including Morbius the Living Vampire and Werewolf by Night.
  • Deadpool. I do good, but I never do it out of Chronic Hero Syndrome: I'm pretty sure I do it for personal gain (money, revenge, fame, women, or just cuz I damn well feel like it...), to placate my own feelings of guilt, or simply because higher powers manipulate me into doing so- Mithras directive anyone? Seriously. In fact, it's kinda a crapshoot exactly how 'villain' I am in any particular story. I once saved the world from an alien, mass-hypnotizing entity (and I did it through kicking Captain America in the crown jewels. S*** was so cash, but still, my bad Steve) and I do perform a couple of selfless, heroic actions, but I'm also known for flying into a psychotic rage whenever someone removes MY mask (I have issues okay?) or infiltrate my house (these "quirks" were removed in later issues, though) and also for being completely disrespectful of life, if not downright sadistic, and willing to do pretty bad stuff for money. Casinos anyone? My justification is that, thanks to my handy dandy cancer based Healing Factor, my brain is so messed up that I'm completely insane in the membrane! I'm notable for being both a Heroic Comedic Sociopath and a Sociopathic Hero.
  • Cable, Deadpool's former Heterosexual Life Partner, debuted as a Nineties Anti-Hero. As he became more intrinsically entwined with the Summers' Tangled Family Tree, he mellowed out... slightly. He still bounces back and forth, Depending on the Writer and what book he's in. Even at his most heroic, he's still a big believer in the ends justifying the means.
  • Elizabeth Rose is definitely one, almost heading towards Villain Protagonist levels. The other guy seems to be one too, but only in situations where he can't help it.
  • Preacher - Jesse Custer. Cassidy is a subversion; we think he's an anti-hero at first, but later it turns out he's just a shitheel. Or perhaps a Tragic Monster, depending on how generous you are with your Alternative Character Interpretation.
  • Jonah Hex, who has been around since 1971.
  • Moon Knight, occasional hero, frequently just a crazy bastard.
  • Shadow, from Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog. Lampshaded in issue #133.
    Eggman: Shadow? What do you want?
    Shadow: Your death, Eggman. I'm going to snap you like a twig, then use you for kindling.
    Eggman: Not if I avoid you like the... devil? Wait a second! Good guys don't kill! Isn't there a hedgehog moral code?
    Shadow: Sonic holds such beliefs. Then again, he's a hero, I'm not.
  • The protagonist Joshua Carver of No Hero is one of the darkest antiheroes ever. He is by his own admission a monster that is sent out to kill other monsters and locked up in a cage the rest of the time. It's also heavily implied that he was a Serial Killer before the government found him. The only reason he isn't an outright Villain Protagonist is because the only people the readers get to see him kill are a bunch of supervillains masquerading as superheroes who rule the world with good PR, a chain of deals, and lots of money.
    • Unfortunately, the group Joshua Carver kills off was so vitally connected to the world and its affairs that everything goes straight to hell, literally and figuratively. So it is painfully clear that Failure Is the Only Option.
  • Cynosure's resident go-to guy, Grimjack is willing to do whatever needs to be done to do a job. But despite his gruff exterior, he has a soft spot for people who had the same kind of troubles he had in his past, and has been known to let a deserving person slip out. In the end, he will end up doing the right thing.
    The name's John Gaunt, a.k.a. Grimjack, and I'm the guy you hire when you need an asshole on your side.
  • All The Metabarons. Steelhead in particular tends more towards Villain Protagonist in his darker moments.
  • Jason Todd, The Red Hood. In Red Hood and the Outlaws he states that he's become Lighter and Softer in recent years, noting that he no longer enjoys killing people, even criminals.
  • The British comic book character "The Spider" (the original version, not the 2000AD non-canon parody) who is egotistical, proud and inclined to be contemptuous of others. He only fights crime because it's more of a challenge than committing crimes.
  • Superman. At least, the original Golden Age Man of Steel. Superman didn't become the big boy scout we know and love until World War II, or possibly even The Fifties. Back in The Thirties, Superman was an anti-hero, fighting for truth and justice but was more like Batman, terrifying criminals and threatening to kill them. While he never actually killed anyone, he would more often than not avert Save the Villain - in Superman #2 (1939), Superman just stands and watches a villain die slowly from a poisonous gas. As in, stood in the same room with the dying man as he begs for help.
    Villain: Help me!... The pain...I-I'm choking... I can't breathe!
    Superman: You're only getting a taste of the fate you planned to doom others to!
  • Tommy Monaghan, the protagonist of Garth Ennis' Hitman is exactly the popular definition of an anti-hero. Jerk Ass, selfish, amoral, professional assassin with superpowers, who nonetheless manages to do good things, whether because he's getting paid to do so, or because somewhere down there he really wants to do something good.
  • Iron Man his actions in Civil War are severely appalling, and that's just the tip of the iceberg of the other stuff he has done.
  • Foolkiller is often described as a crazier version of The Punisher. However, Foolkiller's definition of fools extends beyond criminals. He also includes negligent mothers and their violent children, racists of any color, trash talk-show hosts, greedy merchants, hypocritical war protesters, exploitative businessmen, a university dean who, during a press conference, took a patronizing stance on the issue regarding insensitive sexist language, and anyone else who he thinks is a fool.
  • Venom has gone the entire spectrum throughout it's existence, from straight up hero, to Anti-Hero, to Anti-Villain, to a Complete Monster villain. It usually depends on who's being the host to the symbiote at the time.
  • The New 52 version of Superboy is one of the Nominal Hero kind. This version of Superboy has no interest in heroics beyond what it takes to survive/gain his freedom. Between the first and second issues, he kills many of his captors by reflex and feels no remorse or guilt, tortures a group of soldiers who hold him at gunpoint, and flat out threatens to kill anyone who stands in his way. Issue #4 seems to be steering him towards being a Knight in Sour Armor.
  • Huntress, the Helena Bertinelli version, was easily one of the most violent and willing-to-kill "heroes" in the DCU. She was, in a sense, Batman's Batman; if Batman is the paradigmatic dark, grim-and-gritty DC hero, Huntress was the one who was too dark for Batman. Interestingly, the TV series Arrow made Huntress an out-and-out villainess with very little change to her basic personality.
  • The Transformers has the Dinobots, a Five-Man Band of Anti-heroes, though how much of an anti-hero they are depends on the individual (and who's writing them). They don't really care about that whole "protect innocent life" thing, they just want to fight. And none of them, not even Swoop (the Only Sane Man of the bunch), like Optimus Prime. Indeed, they spend much of the time they're active doing their own thing, rather than helping the other Autobots.

    Fan Works 
  • In Once Upon A Time Abridged, most characters are this, basically pushing their most unlikable trait in the series Up to Eleven, except the few nice and innocent characters who are vilified by the writers and fandom alike (Broken Bird Deadpan Snarker Princess Abigail, and Disposable Fiancé Nice Guy Gaston, as well as The Cutie Lovable Coward Aurora, to a lesser degree) who are portrayed as Sheep in Sheep's Clothing and straight-up heroes.
  • In Code Geass Mao Of The Deliverance, Mao is the brilliant but borderline-insane protagonist who will do whatever it takes to reunite with his lost love C.C. and destroy anyone who gets in his way or endangers her in his estimation, including grand theft, blackmail, and murder. He also intimidates and manipulates innocent Muggles without a care.
  • Futari Wa Pretty Cure Blue Moon has Emiru/Millusion become one at the end of episode 13.
  • Shugo Kino from Pretty Cure Heavy Metal is usually this, but ever since episode 45, she'll become a psychotic yet Well-Intentioned Extremist when confronted by dangerous criminals such as Kuroimetaru.
  • Beren from Russian Tolkien fic Beyond the Dawn. In Tolkien's The Silmarillion and Lay of Leithian he was so good that he even got vegetarian. In Beyond the Dawn he looks much more like a man who fought six years guerrilla alone.
  • Sinestro in the World of Heroes RPG.
  • A Hero, a crossover between Doctor Who and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, gives us a post-Evolution of the Daleks, non-hybrid Dalek Sec. No, really.
  • Secret War, a Warhammer40k fan fic, that follows Attelus Kaltos, a mercenary apprentice assassin, who is so morally grey in his actions, he could even be interpreted as a Villain Protagonist.
  • World of Warcraft fic Children Of The Stars features Keleria, a raging, red-eyed, cackling beserker...with morals and a soft spot for adorable priestesses.
  • The Tamers Forever Series has several examples, such as: Noble Demon; Chaos, Good Is Not Nice; Takeru and Jerkass Woobie; Rika
  • Harry in The Wizard in the Shadows. Slightly mad, a Blood Knight and quite willing to carve a bloody swathe through almost anything he regards as an obstacle... whilst being charming, unfailingly polite to women, having a soft spot for children and caring deeply for his friends.
    • Chivalrous and unfailingly polite to women? Check (unless you insult his girlfriend. The worst you'll get is temporary hives. If you're a man he will hold you at knife point). Total Bad Ass? Check. Total disregard for anything approaching authority? Check. Occasional habit of torturing enemies? Check. Complete disregard for the value of human life when it might constitute a threat to those he cares about? Check. Probable mild insanity which leads to a near Heel-Face Turn on at least one occasion? Check. He generally hovers around type III until Ginny turns up. Then he's generally a Type II, with Type IV tendencies when someone he cares about is hurt.
  • Joachim Hoch from the Uplifted series, on the one hand is a Waffen SS Officer somewhat disenchanted with the war, charming and kind, sympathetic to the Quarians, and has lines he will not cross. He offers to let his Jewish sister in law escape, though that confrontation ends badly in a shocking fashion. On the other hand he is violent and brutal in combat, not shy about his anti-semetic, homophobic viewpoints (though it does get him into trouble with Hanala at times), and fiercely believes in his cause. He is Waffen SS for a reason. His Quarian counterpart and eventual lover, Hanala Jarva, is manipulative, lying, and brutal, and yet more idealistic than Hoch. Even if it usually is Hoch who plays the role of peacekeeper. The fic also includes examples of Good Is Not Nice; Magnificent Bastard (Erwin Rommel); Badass (Jack Churchill); Bloodknight (Jack Churchill, Otto Skorzeny) among others.
    • Though as of the first interlude (taking place in 1999) both Hoch and Hanala seem to have become a type II in their old age. Each also seem to have taken a level or two of Magnificent Bastard as well.
  • Courier Ethan Sunderland arguably fits this trope to a tee in the Mass Foundations: Redemption in the Stars crossover fic.
  • In Brave New World, we have Team Quantum's Aeon. The rest of Team Quantum still count, but Aeon takes it further when he sucks Team Ebony in his stomach-mouth and puts them through Training from Hell. As a reward, they are now fearless and can use time-themed attacks, but are severely traumatized as a result. Even the rest of Team Quantum didn't like what he did.
    • General Nuken of the Draconian Army is also one, what with his tendency to enjoy killing things and being a sociopath. However, despite this, he is devoted to the Draconian Empire and is well intentioned. His personality is actually due to him taking all the negative personality traits from his brother when they evolved from a Nincada.
  • Tama in The Lion King Adventures. She does a few good things, but mainly for her own needs.
  • Diaries of a Madman has one in Navarone. He'll usually do the right thing when it really matters, but he can act in very unethical and underhanded ways, and can be extremely abrasive. Celestia also dips into this on occasions as well.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, as of episode 11 ProtoMan is this.
  • In Tech 10 Rebooted, Tech fights for what he believes is 'justice', and will straight up ignore the safety of people or the upholding of the law in order to accomplish his goals.
  • The protagonist, Lockbox, of My Little Metro is gradually becoming this as the depravity of the Metro wears down his better natures.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • James Bond is perhaps the definitive example of an anti-hero in film. Despite films always ending with him saving the world from some sort of evil force, he resorts to some insanely unethical measures to achieve this goal: He'll rush into a warehouse with guns a'blazing while its inhabitants are just going about their business, manipulate people into doing some of his dirty work for him, bribe people with money, etc. To top it off, none of this out of any kind of compassion or sense of morality so much as it's out of obligation to his duties as an MI6 agent. Daniel Craig's version of Bond, in particular, is about as far from heroic as you can possibly get without becoming a full fledged villain.
  • In old Westerns, when the hero and villain would face off in a duel, the hero would traditionally wait for the villain to draw, then draw awesomely faster and shoot first. Anti Heroes facing a villain, would simply draw first.
    • Sometimes averted either for cool factor or pragmatism. One of the black hats in Shane antagonizes a local in order to get him to draw first. Whether this is to show off or to keep the law on his side ("He drew on me!") is never explained.
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance changed the Western hero from the clean cut sheriff who cleaned up the town and dispensed justice with a gun to the worn down grizzly antihero — who dispensed justice with a gun.
  • Most of Clint Eastwood's characters, in particular those in his work in westerns.
  • Many characters from Beetlejuice. Some are not purely good and do rather terrible things to one another. Yet they still pull of some heroic stunts.
    • Charles was willing to turn the house into a sort of amusement park and have Adam and Barbara perform like some sort of dead sideshow freaks.
    • And Lydia used Beetlejuice to save the Maitlands. Remember, Beetlejuice didn't force Lydia into marriage. It was part of a deal that she managed to get out of.
  • The Boondock Saints are this trope. Seriously: two Bad Ass Irish brothers running around Boston with crosses and bringing down the Wrath of God on the scumbags of the Earth? I think yes.
  • Dante and Randal, the main characters of Clerks and Clerks: The Animated Series, are examples — not especially moral and not especially successful. Jay and Silent Bob, recurring characters in The View Askewniverse, also count, being crude, rude drug dealers who nevertheless dispense wisdom and help out the main characters — when they aren't the main characters themselves.
  • Richard from Dead Mans Shoes is another sympathetic Serial Killer; his victims are the gang who bullied his mentally disabled younger brother when they were teenagers and drove him to suicide.
  • The Warden in Death Race. She is also, by her manipulation of the convicts into playing the Game Show she runs to finance the prison, The Chessmaster, is definitely a Manipulative Bastard but almost but doesn't quite qualify as, and falls just a bit shy of being a Magnificent Bastard.
  • Ash from the Evil Dead series.
  • Sarah from The Descent. What, she doesn't seem all too "anti," to you? Keeeep watching.
  • Snake Plissken from Escape from New York and its sequel. In fact, anything set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland tends to have a couple show up simply because such settings tend strongly towards the latter end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.
  • When he's not destroying Tokyo on a daily basis, Godzilla is often saving the world from some other giant monster.
    • Battra from Godzilla And Mothra The Battle For Earth qualifies as this. He's a destroyer of humans and protector of Earth. But when he's forced to be paired up with Mothra, then he starts becoming more of a heroic figure. But it becomes a Bittersweet Ending as Battra dies. leaving Mothra to destroy the asteroid.
    • In Godzilla (2014), the only reason why Godzilla hunts the Mutos is not because he wants to stop their destruction, but because their two species are natural enemies. Yet ultimately he is a force for good, restoring balance to the world and saving the human race by opposing the Mutos. Of course, in the process he destroys two major cities and kills tens of thousands of people. He's a 350 foot tall radioactive creature, finesse is not exactly his strong suit and morality isn't exactly his concern when he has the mind of a wild animal. That said, he seems to have no interest in actively killing humans, best seen when he awakens from his victory and returns to the sea.

      He even seem to go out of his way to not outright destroy boats and obstacles in his path. Anyone familiar with older Godzilla movies would have expected a far bigger number of humans and buildings that fell prey to him.

      At the end of the film he is seen by one of the main characters as having his usual sentience, making him a hardcore anti-hero.

      He blocks missiles from striking the evacuation buses on the Golden Gate Bridge. Though, this seems to be more of a fluke of him rising at the right time.
  • The guys In Bruges would be shining examples of this trope, if anti-heroes were allowed to shine. Even the villain is Affably Evil and has some very clear principles.
  • Lawn Dogs has two of them, adult Trent and 10 year old Devon. Both cause mischief in town, but both are really the only likeable characters in the film, as well as the main characters. Devon is very anti, however, when she threatens her own father at gunpoint and steals his wallet in an attempt to help Trent escape.
  • Porter, Mel Gibson's character in Payback. A film whose tagline was "Get ready to root for the bad guy!" In the Director's Cut, however, he's a more straightforward Villain Protagonist.
  • Walker from Point Blank. Quite possibly the only guy who could make walking down a hall threatening. Adapted from a Richard Stark novel.
  • Star Wars series.
    • Han Solo is an Anti-Hero, most vividly seen by comparing him to Luke Skywalker, the obvious hero (which also makes him The Lancer). At the end of the first movie, he has a Big Damn Hero moment. From there, he moves more toward the standard hero as time goes on. In contrast, Boba Fett, who was depicted as a villain in the movies, is portrayed more as an Anti-Hero in the Expanded Universe. While he's still the Bad Ass bounty hunter who won't hesitate to disintegrate you if somebody is willing to pay him for it, Fett does have a very loosely defined code of honor and apparently has a soft spot for orphans and the oppressed, and will often go out of his way to help them. Examples include him giving money to charity and saving an alien species from extinction for a hundred credits (it's even implied that he gave their money back).
    • Anakin Skywalker as seen in the second and third Prequel movies is considered by some to be an Anti-Hero. Others see him more as a Tragic Hero.
  • The Street Fighter - Terry (Takuma) Tsurugi from the Sonny Chiba grindhouse classic is a particularly vicious Anti-Hero. He fights with a savage brutality seldom seen in the action world (including one scene when he castrates a rapist with his bare hands, which earned the movie the industry's first X rating for violence), he doesn't hold back against men or women, and he protects those he counts as friends with his life. On the other hand, Terry isn't above sacrificing innocents who he's not specifically helping, he can be a stone bastard to those he feels has betrayed him, and he's not above sending you out a window and selling your sister into prostitution if you can't afford to pay him for the job he's just done for you.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Sweeney Todd starts out as one of these, plotting to avenge his wrongful imprisonment and the rape of his wife upon Dirty Old Man Judge Turpin. Then around the middle of the movie, his bid to kill Judge Turpin goes awry and in the midst of his less than Heroic BSOD, he launches into the dynamite "Epiphany" number which marks his transition from Anti-Hero to full on Villain Protagonist with a nasty grudge against humanity in general, and then starts killing people and having them baked into pies.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean - Captain Jack Sparrow. While you can generally count on him to do the right thing in the end, most of the time he's a largely amoral, perpetually intoxicated, marginally sane rogue who's out only for himself (and occasionally people he likes). And we love him for it.
  • Bryan Mills in Taken is a ruthless anti-hero who takes the law into his own hands. His daughter is kidnapped to be sold into slavery, so... he mercilessly tortures and kills dozens of people connected to the kidnapping including unarmed mooks who have surrendered. He is not afraid to Shoot the Dog a few times either.
  • The Dark Knight Saga:
  • Wikus in District 9 is an example of this: cowardly and selfish, he displays little to no empathy for the aliens except under the most extreme circumstances such as being forced to shoot one against his will. Luckily, he manages to redeem himself later on after he learns the truth and is appalled.
  • In Miloš Forman's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Randall Patrick McMurphy is a sleazy, violent, and sometimes downright insane convict. He's still not as bad as Nurse Ratched.
  • Riddick from The Chronicles of Riddick films and various tie-ins.
  • Jet Li's character in Warlords had good intentions and started out as a good guy but as he grew in power his methods became more and more extreme even if his goals were still for the overall greater good.
  • Pam Grier's character in Coffy. She's a nurse-turned-vigilante who goes after drug dealers and mafiosi in order to avenge her little sister (who became addicted to heroin when she was eleven) and her childhood friend (a police officer who was beaten into a coma for refusing to sell out to organized crime). Her victims are depicted as getting what's coming to them, but she does readily resort to lethal force, fights dirty, and at one point physically threatens an informant to get information.
  • Hello, Inglourious Basterds. You want to run around WWII-era France and use guerrilla warfare to kill Nazis because they're Acceptable Targets, even though you all have the same kind morals as they do? Okay, but make sure your most Bad Ass member uses a baseball bat.
  • Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) in The Searchers. He is an ex-Confederate soldier who hates Indians. His brother's farm is raided by Comanche Indians, who kill him and his son, and rape and kill his brother's wife and eldest daughter. They abduct the youngest daughter Debbie and Ethan goes on obsessive search for that goes on for years. At first he wants to find her alive but after a few years when that she might have already been made the wife of an Indian, he intends to kill her. When he finally finds her, he spares her.
  • Plunkett And Macleane's main protagonists come across as heroic, despite being outlaws, due in no small part to how evil their nemesis General Chance is.
  • The Element of Crime. The only reason detective Fisher is the "good" guy is because everyone around him is even worse.
  • Get Shorty. Chili, our protagonist is a shylock who wants to retire from kneebreaking so he can get into producing movies. Depending on one's experience in Hollywood, this could be seen as Chili going from bad to worse.
  • John Russel, as played by Paul Newman in Hombre.
  • Predators has Royce, a mercenary who nearly causes his comrades to die and recognizes he is not a good person. But he's fast.
  • Frank Galvin of The Verdict is a quite the Ambulance Chaser in the beginning of the film, and after he rediscovers his thirst for justice, he can be rather...scummy in his tactics.
  • The protagonist of the Female Prisoner Scorpion films is an ordinary woman imprisoned for trying to kill her corrupt detective boyfriend, who arranged her rape by Yakuza purely so he could catch the rapists in the act and move in on their business. She's perfectly harmless unless you wrong her; the problem is, she's so determined to escape that the warden and all the guards hate her, and the mass punishment everyone gets when she tries to break out means most of the prisoners hate her too, so she's constantly the target of someone's vendetta. And she holds a strong grudge. Being a convict, she uses any means she can to survive and do what she has to do: she'll bludgeon dogs to death, she'll hack arms off arresting cops, she'll contrive to make others stab guards when aiming for her. This also means she has no mercy whatsoever.
  • The protagonist of most Film Noir.
    • Some salient examples being the protagonists of many Jean-PierreMelville movies, including LeSamourai, BobleFlambeur, and LeCercleRouge.
  • Seth Rogen as Britt Reid in The Green Hornet.
  • Most of the characters in Exam are anti-heroes, running the entire gambit.
  • In Iron Man, Tony Stark has such a large ego he's willing to use himself as a human guinea pig in his experiments, often with hilariously humiliating results—but the fact that he's doing it for the cause of justice means you can't help but root for him. His comic counterpart's alcoholism got thrown into the sequel, where he became an even bigger jerk due to international recognition as Iron Man and the prospect of dying from palladium.
  • Scanners uses this trope in the thought-provoking sense, rather than the Loveable Rogue sense. Sure, Cameron Vale is a stone cold Bad Ass who can put his enemies into cardiac arrest without lifting a finger, but due to being Blessed with Suck, he's also just generally stone cold. He has no outside interests, no real motivation of his own, and not a whole lot of personality, being described by Kim as "barely even human." During his downtime, he simply sits in his hotel room and waits for the next plot point to happen. So yes, he's a Bad Ass, but not the sort of Bad Ass you would ever daydream about being. See What Could Have Been on the Scanners Trivia tab for how Cronenberg had originally intended to play this trope.
  • Howie from the original British version of The Wicker Man. And he's a very interesting example of one, too. He's at first just a responsible policeman investigating the disappearance of a young girl, but as the film goes on, the uglier side of his moral views, along with his Christian beliefs, reveals itself. He changes into a preachy religious bigot and Jerkass who hates the islanders for being pagans. Murderous, perverted, two-faced pagans who end up killing him, so his view is somewhat justified.
  • Shannon Mullins from The Heat.
  • David from We're the Millers. The entire family actually; Rose and Casey have Jerkass elements (if not to the extent of David) and Kenny is a Classical Anti-Hero.
  • Nick from R.I.P.D.
  • Judge Hardin, and possibly the rest of the judges in The Star Chamber.
  • In Into The Storm Churchill is portrayed as a type III: Basically every character in the movie recognizes Churchill is stubborn, arrogant, ill-tempered man, but they also recognize he is the one who can save western civilization from destruction.
  • Mac and Kelly from Neighbors are just trying to raise their daughter in peace. However they are also far less mature then they like to pretend and very willing to play dirty to get rid of the fraternity, including committing very serious property damage and trying to set up a relationship between Pete and Brooke (Teddy's best friend and girlfriend) without displaying any qualms about it.
  • Lawrence Talbot from The Wolfman (2010).
  • X-Men:

    Literature 
  • Severus Snape from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. He's a bastard, a known former Death Eater...and Harry never quite knows which side he's on until the final chapters of the last book. JK Rowling, when asked if she thought Snape a hero, said:
    JK Rowling: Yes, I do; though a very flawed hero. An anti-hero, perhaps. He is not a particularly likeable man in many ways. He remains rather cruel, a bully, riddled with bitterness and insecurity — and yet he loved, and showed loyalty to that love and, ultimately, laid down his life because of it. That’s pretty heroic!
    • Sirius Black counts as well - a genuinely nice yet cynical man.
    • Harry Potter himself is this, since he commits some ambiguous, not-so-morally right things, like casting the torturing Cruciatus curse on enemies, as well as controlling some characters with the Imperio curse. He's also very decided and willing to kill without any remorse when it comes to revenge.
  • The outlaw protagonists of Water Margin, and especially Song Jiang.
  • The Damned, from Hell's Children, by Andrew Boland, are Antiheroes for sure.
  • While Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus already displayed all the hallmarks of the Anti-Hero, the archetype was popularised in the heyday of Romanticism with characters like Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo or Jean Valjean from Les Misérables... and the entire oeuvre of Lord Byron (see Real Life) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
  • Takeshi Kovacs. He's certainly not a good character, although his motivations mostly are (take down major crimelord, solve murder case, protect his girlfriend from eternally being tortured to death and resurrected to be tortured more).
  • Edmund Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia, in the first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, betrays his siblings to the Big Bad, acts like a downright Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, is a complete bully to his younger sister, Lucy, and alternates between Bad Liar and Consummate Liar, but he redeems himself later and becomes a total Badass in the second book, although he keeps some of his old tendencies, remaining a Deadpan Snarker (especially in the movie adaptation), and he still appears as the darkest Pevensie kid. The movie version apparently likes to portray Edmund as this, since, in the third movie, while Caspian is supposed to act evil for a short period of time, the role is actually given to Edmund again, making him look like the Anti-Hero of the story for the second time.
  • Major Elim Rawne and his handpicked cronies from Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000: Gaunt's Ghosts are all coldblooded, merciless, deceitful, and coldly ambitious. Ironically, Rawne himself has perhaps the weakest claim to Antihero status, given that he's also highly respected by his troops and has once been saved by The Power of Friendship.
    • All the Ghosts are anti-heroes to some extent. These are not nice people, they are trained killers, and damn good at it. The few exceptions include Dorden, Curth (before Gereon anyway) and Kolea, to some extent.
  • The protagonist of William Barton's When Heaven Fell.
  • In Steven Brust's Dragaera novels, Vladimir Taltos, an assassin for a criminal outfit who has been known to destroy souls on accident. Lampshaded in Issola:
    Better watch out. These things are cold-blooded killers.
    I hate to say this, but so are you, boss.
    Yeah, but I'm a nice guy.
  • John Taylor of the Nightside novel series can accurately be described by this trope since in his world power and reputation are everything he won't hesitate to kill someone in a brutal or cruel way to uphold his reputation because the baddies are hesitant to attack if they're scared shitless. He's a nice guy but still not at all that nice and he isn't exactly Mr. Mercy and certainly not Too Good for This Sinful Earth and though he may be powerful he aint Superman so he cant afford to have his enemies think he's weak.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden is an Anti-Hero: Badass Longcoat, check; won't hesitate to kill someone who threatens him or someone he loves, check; bucketful of flaws, check; chivalry, check. He's also been known to murder and torture enemy captives, wantonly destroy property, and accidentally get Innocent Bystanders killed. Contrasted with straight up Hero Michael Carpenter. Still more of an Anti-Hero than anything else, though, as he will take incredible amounts of damage to try to protect other people. He got his left hand charred almost to a cinder giving a friend time to save some kids who were being held captive in a closet rigged with an antipersonnel mine and sheltered one of his oldest enemies for several days, despite the fact that this put three or four groups of rather dangerous people after him at once. Oh, and he's managed to resist almost every single temptation of power he's been given so far; even the fallen angel in his head for three years didn't do much more than make him grouchier, and in return he actually managed to redeem her into a Heroic Sacrifice.

    Harry claims he's an anti-hero at best, but everyone and their faerie godmother knows different. While he isn't a shining paragon of morality, he is chivalrous, responsible, and most of the time does not think the ends justify the means. For example, you know that fallen angel example above? Harry got her in his head as a result of him protecting a child from its power.

    He may have made the full on plunge in Changes seeing as he takes up Mab's offer of power (killing the old Winter Knight in the process) and sacrificing Susan on an altar as she turned into a full vampire. Granted, it was to save their daughter, and it wound up killing off all the Red Court, but still not something a straight up hero would do.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Ender’s Game, Ender Wiggin is not only the most talented boy in Battle School - he's also a killer. He isn't the gleeful sadist type; that would be his brother Peter. But, all the same, he gets away with killing two boys who bullied him, and doesn't find out that they really were dead until he saves the world by nearly wiping out an alien species in a war that he didn't know was real. Despite having acted in self-defense, he edges towards suicidal over their deaths:
    Well, I'm your man. I'm the bloody bastard you wanted when you had me spawned. I'm your tool, and what difference does it make if I hate the part of me that you most need? What difference does it make that when the little serpents killed me in the game, I agreed with them, and was glad.
    Ender, at the end of the book
  • Raymond Chandler's iconic private eye, Philip Marlowe.
  • Ferdinand Bardamu, from Louis-Ferdinand Celine's oeuvre. He is, among other things, an Audience Surrogate, and a real anti-hero.
  • Thomas Covenant from Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is an unusual anti-hero in that he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever — not just in a moral sense, but in a literary sense as well. He manages to mostly not do anything, but just catalyzes events by being present. In the first books the world falls apart around him while he stalwartly fails to intervene.

    Covenant grows over the course of the books. In the 3rd book he saves the life of a little girl, and in the second trilogy he's positively heroic, all the more so when you consider that he's been Dead All Along - or at least since early in volume one.
  • Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, the main character of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, who in the first part of a six-part novel, brutally murders an old lady and her meek, innocent sister. This example subverts the typical cynicism, though, since he is ultimately redeemed by The Powerof Love
  • The Underground Man from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Notes from Underground"
  • William Gibson's drug-addicted burnout protagonist Case in the seminal Cyberpunk novel Neuromancer.
  • The Continental Op from the Dashiell Hammett books, wellspring of things Film Noir. He goes after criminals and usually gets them. More importantly he always makes money from the gig: money from crooks or good guys, it doesn't matter. Catching criminals is just a dangerous job, and any effective method is a good one, even making deals with criminals or inciting them to murder. He holds to a private code of honour, a tightly bound book his enemies never see and he himself suspects might be nothing but blank pages.
  • Also from Dashiell Hammett is The Maltese Falcon's Sam Spade, the ultimate Hardboiled Detective. He's rude to everyone, sleeps with every woman he speaks to, and steadfastly refuses to let the bad guy (or girl, as case may be) get away.
  • Yossarian from Joseph Heller's Catch-22.
  • Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian is strong and bold and performs heroic acts, but he also frequently steals and murders without remorse.
  • In George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane are probably the best examples, in terms of their personalities. Their actual roles as protagonists or antagonists are debatable. Jaime might fall in this category too, at least once you progress to the passages written from his point of view and he undergoes some major Character Development.
  • Enemy Glory: The main character, Llewelyn.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, Ardaric Vaanes sharply points out that the Imperial soldiers in the hands of Chaos forces can't really be rescued, and leaves them to death; is hard to persuade to help Uriel because of the danger, though he knows it is the right thing; is willing to leave his companions behind when they are all prisoner but he is free to move; is so horrified by the appearance of the Unfleshed that he assumes they must be evil; and leaves Uriel to carry out his mission alone, taking his fellow renegade Space Marines with him and refusing Ventris' offer of redemption. At the end of the book, he accepts an offer to work for the Chaos forces, for Revenge on Uriel for persuading him to so dangerous and killing so many of his men — including those he was willing to leave behind. Vaanes returns in The Chapter's Due... As one of the Iron Warrior Honsou's chief Lieutenants. He takes part in the battle against the Ultramarines and Ultramar but is continuously shown to be uncomfortable with the traitors he is with and what he is doing. Later he is captured by the Ultramarines, though he claims he let them take him, and agrees to take them to Honsou if they promise to kill him before he can ruin himself, he has learned that he does not like being a Chaos Marine and he feels he isn't strong enough to walk the path of righteousness but he doesn't want to embrace damnation either. He saves the protagonist's life from another of Honsou's lieutenants, but dies in the next battle when he attempts to kill Honsou who bests him then turns his attention to Uriel Ventris, Vaanes again saves Ventris's life by attacking Honsou again, Honsou then tears off Vaanes' arm and crushes his chest by stomping on it. After he is dead the protagonists notice his restored Raven Guard chapter tattoo, that he gouged out with a knife years ago, causing the them to wonder if he redeemed himself through dying for them and note they don't feel hatred towards him anymore. At the novel's end Uriel sees a memory of the Newborn that prophesied that the Newborn would be present at a great hero's death, both Honsou and the Newborn believed this to be Uriel. Uriel realises that the great hero was actually Vaanes.
  • The nonhuman sorcerer-king Elric of Melnibone from the works of Michael Moorcock. Elric kills human beings regularly to stay healthy — their souls are fed to him by his sword Stormbringer. Elric kicks the stolen soul energy habit twice but events forced him take up the demonic runeblade again afterwards. If Stormbringer isn't "fed" sufficiently, the sadistic blade is entirely capable of jumping from Elric's hand and piercing the heart of one of Elric's allies, lovers or friends in front of his eyes.

    Elric's actions set into motion a course of events that destroys civilization and then kills off everyone in his world. Elric managed to kill the Dukes of Hell on his world during the final battle of Law vs Chaos. He managed to thrice blow the Horn of Fate to birth a new world from unformed chaos after his own is wiped out in a maelstrom of pure roiling Chaos energies, with him the only survivor. Elric is killed shortly afterwards by his own sword Stormbringer, because he had forgotten that the malicious demon inhabiting the blade Stormbringer was a creature of Chaos too. It was set free in the new world, laughing as it flew away.
  • Also from Michael Moorcock we have Colonel Pyatt — a cowardly, cocaine-addicted and cruel anti-hero, and a self-glorifying Unreliable Narrator. Pyatt claims to be a Cossack because he's an anti-Semite whose father was a Jew. He claims to have invented manned flight before the Wright brothers; and rapes a woman on a cocaine binge (he doesn't think it was rape, but it's pretty clear.) All the while decrying others for their "degeneracy".
  • Hawk from the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker is a great example of an anti-hero. Parker often writes the characters as being something dark, powerful and inhuman. Yet, Hawk often considers the main protagonist, Spenser, the closest thing he has to a friend and he treats him as such. Wherein Hawk has few if any rules with respect to violence and its' application, Spenser is his opposite. What makes the series fascinating is that the two work together well.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • Sam Vimes is a deconstruction of Anti-Hero image. He is portrayed as cynical, unshaven, anti-authoritarian and so on — but is one of the most noble heroes in the series. Vimes' dedication to justice and Law (not laws) is so great, that he has constructed a policeman inside his own head that keeps him from succumbing to the darkness and the rage of the Beast deep down in his soul. "The Watchman" as the personification of Vimes' quintessential nature takes on semi-mythical proportions in the novel Thud, when Vimes is "infected" with an ancient demonic spirit being from dwarven folklore, the Summoning Dark, and the Watchman repels it. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Vimes watches himself. Like a hawk.
    • Granny Weatherwax is a a good witch in more ways than one. As an Insufferable Genius she'll be the first to tell you that. She has a bad attitude, is a bully and would excel, even delight, at being evil — if she wasn't too smart and too deeply decent to fall for it. As such she is ideal as the rough edge of justice — but often not a happy woman.
    • Discworld has a more traditional anti-hero in the form of Cohen the Barbarian, an Affectionate Parody of Conan (which see).
    • Rincewind the "wizzard" is cynical, cowardly and incompetent and frequently finds himself thrust into situations where he must save the day. He won't hesitate to betray his companions if it looks like he can save his own skin thereby and has made running away an art form.
  • Lestat, of Anne Rice's vampire novels, is an anti-hero who seeks to rationalize his feeding on humans for sustenance by only allowing those he considers "evil" to die, though his morality has been known to lapse at times. This could be considered an example of unreliable narrator, since Louis and Lestat disagree about so much, including who Lestat killed, it's really up to the reader if they believe Lestat only killed murderers.
  • Julien Sorel of Stendhal's The Red and the Black is an interesting case. He's the youngest, smartest, and most attractive of three brothers; he's The Unfavourite of his family; and he's subjected to the whims of so many stupid, boorish people it's easy to feel as the story wants you to feel sorry for him. However, he's hypocritical, pretentious and ruthlessly ambitious. What's more, his schemes almost always fail because his emotions get in the way of his machinations, but he never learns from this. Entire critical essays have been written about whether or not the reader is supposed to like Julien.
  • In Matthew Stover's The Acts of Caine, Caine of Garthan Hold, also known as Hari Khapur Michaelson, the Blade of Tyshalle, and a total bastard.
  • Raistlin Majere of the Dragonlance Chronicles is a textbook example. He's a sarcastic, ambitious, cold-hearted, ruthless bastard who never has a good word for anyone, particularly the twin brother who cares for him devotedly. When dogs need shooting, Raistlin is always the one who pulls out a shotgun. At the same time, he's brave, intelligent, never gives up, and has a soft spot for outcasts and rejects like himself (his friendship with the gully dwarf Bupu is heartbreaking). He later abandons his Anti-Hero role to become an outright villain in Dragonlance Legends.
  • Everyone from Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series.
  • Meursault, from Camus' The Stranger. Actually, any Existentialist hero, as noted on Anti-Hero.
  • Sherlock Holmes dabbles with cocaine (though this was not actually illegal at the time). He has also been known to let the perpetrators of crime escape if he feels that they were justified and commits a few minor crimes himself in pursuit of the truth. The cause is always excellent.
  • Jame in P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath has a strong sense of honor and a will to do the right thing, but it's not wrapped in the nicest of wrappings. She was raised among the bad guys for an ill purpose, but rebelled; she still has much of the "darkling" image and glamor, however, and a feline sadistic joy that she allows to come out against those she feels deserve it. She's a killer, a predator, an avatar of destruction, not safe to know or be anywhere near.
  • Kelsier from Mistborn is a brilliant revolutionary determined to bring down The Empire, but he has absolutely no mercy for the nobility, even those who seem to be good people, and those who know him best suspect that he's in this as much for personal glory as for freedom. His protege Vin starts off as one, though she becomes a more solid hero post Character Development. Vin's main anti-heroic trait is her rampant paranoia- in the authors words "she's not a bad person; she just thinks everyone else is." She gets better.
  • Malachi Thorndyke in Christendom - an ugly smoking, alcoholic, former smuggler, arsehole, slob who goes out of his way to prevent people from getting to know him.
  • Haplo from The Death Gate Cycle is an unusual example in that he goes through various stages of Anti-hero-ness through Character Development. He starts out an outright Villain Protagonist, as he's essentially The Dragon to an Evil Overlord who wants to conquer the universe, and is going around destabilizing various governments to make this takeover easier. Both Haplo and his lord are given somewhat sympathetic backstories, but at this point that the character's actions are falling pretty clearly on the side of evil. After the first two books he becomes an Anti-Hero when he starts being pitted against people much more evil than he is, and begins to question his Lord's judgment in private. In the last two books he morphs into someone more purely heroic, as he dedicates himself to saving the universe from The Heartless after they corrupt his Lord to their cause.
  • Hester Shaw from the Mortal Engines quartet. She kills people ruthlessly, and at one point sells a city into slavery just to get rid of the second girl in a Love Triangle. She hovers between this and a Villain Protagonist, but her goals are usually those of the non-Antihero protagonists, and it's all for some kind of noble end.
  • The Whiskey Priest in Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory.
  • Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson's The Millennium Trilogy.
  • Larry Niven's Beowulf Scheaffer and, to a lesser extent his stepson Louis Wu.
  • Murtagh of the Inheritance Cycle, who can be interpreted as an antihero, an antivillain, a True Neutral individual who constantly plays both sides and straddles the fence between the opposing sides, etc. Elva leans towards this as the series goes on, until she eventually divests herself of loyalty to any group and resolves that she'll do whatever she thinks is right.
  • Roland, the hero of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, has a history of valuing his quest for the Dark Tower above the lives of his friends.
  • Repairman Jack. He'll help those in need but usually just for money. He may be The Chosen One but he sure doesn't like it and the only reason he wants to save the world is because he and very few loved ones happen to be in it. That and the bad guys keep coming after him anyway.
  • All the protagonists of Kelley Armstrong's Exit Strategy. They are after all, professional hitmen, although a couple of them are also of the Do Evil Unto Evil persuasion as well.
  • Elion is the clearest example in Maggie Furey's Shadowleague trilogy, though none of the many characters are conventional heroes.
  • Most of the major characters in William Gibson's Bridge Trilogy, but Rydell, Laney, and Zona Rosa deserve a special mention.
  • All the The Devil to Pay in the Backlands main characters. They can kill you for money or for any other reason - but mostly for money - and do your ladies, but they can also give you food, protection and — well — money.
  • Jakub Wędrowycz is an alcoholic, ditzy, behind-the-times bum with a penchant for being a Sociopathic Hero. He helps people with their supernatural problems, but does it for (a lot of) money as much as he does it for heroism.
  • Drake and Elliott from the Tunnels series could be considered anti heroes as they both fight outside the law and have almost no reservations about killing, though in Closer, Drake does not kill any Colonists while on his mission to destroy Styx virus production.
  • Victor Frankenstein, The Protagonist in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, demonstrates some antiheroic attributes. While on the surface he may appear to be a decent man, Frankenstein is driven by ambition rather than morality. Indulging in the literature of ancient magicians, he contrives to build and bring to life a human being, ignoring the consequences such a task, if executed successfully, may unleash upon the world. And when that task is executed successfully, he runs from his creation in fear, leaving it to fend for itself. He then goes on to whine about all his misfortunes without even considering the misfortunes of others. Victor Frankenstein is essentially a selfish douchebag. But oh, what a marvelous book!
  • Chili from Get Shorty, as mentioned in Film above.
  • Vanya Sedemona from Paul Kelly's The Lost Brigade definitely qualifies for this trope.
  • YMMV, but Richard of the Sword of Truth becomes this more and more as the series progresses. At the beginning? He'll kill in the heat of combat, sure, but he loves life and always seeks the third option. By the end? He's sent his elite soldiers down to the heart of his enemy's stronghold, and told them to lay waste to the land. Justified? Maybe. Probably. Anti-heroic? So much so.
  • In Sandman Slim, James Stark will maybe save your life from hordes of zombies, demons and assassins. But only if you pay in advance.
  • Asher in Someone Else's War. Sure, he'll help you escape the tyrannical child army and find your way home, but show even the slightest hint of treachery and he'll shoot you for it.
  • There are plenty of Anti-Heroes in the literature of Middle-earth.
    • Boromir and Denethor are both Type III. In Denethor's case, he was this until he jumps off the slippery slope.
    • Gollum becomes a Type IV in The Two Towers before slipping back to his old ways.
    • Frodo heavily slips into Type I as The Return of the King progresses, as he fails to destroy the ring, is tormented by his physical and emotional scars and drifts into a more and more passive role, especially in "The Scouring of the Shire".
    • There are quite a few in The Hobbit. Thorin, Thranduil, Bard, and Beorn to name a few. Bilbo slips from Anti-Hero to The Hero.
    • Túrin from The Children of Húrin is a Type III-V.
    • Elu Thingol from The Silmarillion is a Type IV.
    • Feänor. Oh, FEÄNOR. Type IV codifier in The Silmarillion
  • In The Changeover, Sorry Carlisle. He's essentially a good guy, and he helps Laura a lot, but there are times when he comes off as extremely sinister.
  • In the Marid Audran series, Audran is a lazy, hard-drinking, pill-popping hustler whose best friends are mainly prostitutes and thieves. He does have an idealist streak, but he doesn't like to admit it (even though his friends all know), and covers it with cynicism.
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter gives us Henry Sturges: "All of us deserve Hell, but some of us deserve it sooner." Lincoln himself becomes one at the end, although possibly not quite as dark as Sturges—yet.
  • Almost all protagonists in the historical novels by Mika Waltari. Most notably perhaps Sinuhe in The Egyptian; selling his parents' house and grave to get to sleep with a woman (who does warn him that that's pretty much what she will ask him to do and then ditch him), has no physical merits to speak of and is even somewhat cowardly except in some very distinct occasions. His slave, Kaptah, is one as well: he has even less physical merits, is something of a drunkard and would love nothing more than sit on his laurels enjoying an easy life. Unfortunately for him, his master gets into so much trouble he can barely sit down. Fortunately for Sinuhe, Kaptah is not at all dumb.
  • Both Mediochre and Joseph in the Mediochre Q Seth Series. Mediochre is trying to be an Ideal Hero, he's just bad at it. Joseph doesn't feel the need to try.
  • Adventure Hunters: All three adventurers are mild type II.
    • Artorius is marked with the Sigil of Disgrace, the highest punishment a palladin can receive, yet he is a Friend to All Children.
    • Lisa is a thief but prefers a slightly more legal profession; treasure hunting.
    • Regina is the Black Sheep of Info Mages because she's an Adventurer Archaeologist instead of a historian or book preserver; she is labeled a 'grave robber' by them.
  • In Theatrica, Arthur represents such a trope although he dips in and out of the Anti-Villain territory later.
  • The Apprentice Rogue: Falita isn't interested in 'kingdom's peace' ideas and aspires to be assigned to guard a noblelady because it would mean more creature comforts.
  • Most of the characters in Riesel Tales: Two Hunters. Understandable since the titular planet they're on is a Wretched Hive.
  • Nick Naylor from the book (and adaptive film) Thank You For Smoking. He's a fast talking lobbyist who's trying his best to raise his son and do his job. . . which happens to be defending big tobacco. This may not be so bad but for the fact that he truly revels in, and obviously understands the far-reaching consequences of his actions.
  • Eli and Charlie Sisters from the novel "The Sisters Brothers" both have shades of anti-hero. Narrator and main character Charlie is shown to have much more compassion than his brother Eli who will, on a whim, steal, exploit and murder anything and anyone that stands between himself and whatever his goals happens to be at the current time in the novel. A good example of this is when Charlie needs a tooth pulled, he visits a dentist at the town they happen to be in. The kind and courteous man tells his sob story about how he can't seem to hold a position for more than a couple weeks at a time, and gives Charlie a free toothbrush and "tooth powder" for his trouble. Eli promptly pulls a gun on the man, steals all his medical supplies, and both Eli and Charlie leave.
  • Jacob Reckless from The Mirrorworld Series, a questionably sympathetic professional treasure hunter satisfied with his grand total of one friend...who gets dragged into the middle of a war because he just wants his brother back.
  • Ricker, from Casey Fry's Death Speaker is one, as he wanders a post-apocalyptic Earth hunting down mutated humans that he deems are monsters. This often involves him murdering children. Including one point when he actually breaks the neck of a newborn baby. He actually becomes more sympathetic as the story moves on and you learn all of his dirty deeds from all of the nightmares he suffers.
  • Novak from Undead on Arrival is not a good guy, and spends the book regretting what a bastard he's been. Of course, he's dying of a zombie bite, so it's a little late.
  • Aly, protagonist of Daughter of the Lioness, stands out in the Tortall Universe for being this. At the start she's an Idle Rich student who enjoys toying with boys' affections because her parents won't let her be a spy. And as a spy, she's deceptive, ruthless, pragmatic, and naturally engages in Dirty Business with varying degrees of moral quandary.
  • Nero Wolfe can be - is usually - obnoxious about how much smarter he is than everyone else. On top of that, his reason for being a detective is entirely mercenary; he needs the money to support his opulent shut-in lifestyle. For all that he's perversely endearing and honourable.
  • The Weathergens are a series of ethereal characters who try to keep the Earth's weather and climate in order. However, some of them tend to abuse their powers for their own amusement. For example, Brellina, the WeatherGen of rain, seems to enjoy the prospect of terrifying humans with her "water torture."
  • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games exemplifies the "good" kind of anti-hero(ine). Even though she's fervently against the Hunger Games tradition, she still participates in it (albeit with the intention of saving her little sister). And, while she generally avoids resorting to direct violence whenever possible, she still has moments where she resorts to some pretty atypical methods of fighting (albeit usually with the intention of saving a loved one from danger).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Wesley from Angel, after the whole throat-cutting thing. Angel himself is an Anti Hero and made lots of morally questionable decisions
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Spike. He was a Type V but stubbornly plowed his way up to a Type IV. His anti-heroic traits were especially evident after he gets wired by the Initiative and before he gets a soul.
    • Also Faith is an Anti Hero, types I through to IV, when she's not psychotic.
    • Also Giles (known as "Ripper" in his youth), who says outright that he is not a hero, unlike Buffy (right before he smothers Ben to prevent Glory from ever returning).
    • Wishverse Buffy was a type three. That's not even open to debate.
  • Firefly: Almost everyone except for Kaylee and Wash. Mal and Zoe occasionally raise a few eyebrows with their pragmatism, and Jayne, a Jerkass merc with zero morality and delicacy as well as inconsistent loyalties, takes this trope to it's furthest extent.
  • Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica.
    • Most of the Colonial fleet counts. While they are the protagonists, they have become much more distrustful and wary after seeing their friends and family murdered in a vicious surprise attack. The knowledge of that the slightest misstep on their part may result in the extinction of humanity lies heavy on their minds, which leads to numerous instances of I Did What I Had to Do. Seeing how the Cylons were quite willing to betray them in the first place and they are quick to adopt a 'fool me one shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me' attitude when it comes to their Cylon allies of convenience. Many of the Cylon-human interactions throughout the series go this way: the Cylons approach the Colonials with "genuine" intentions who state their own terms to make the other side sweat a bit but generally accept the deal... at the front. As soon as they have what the Cylons want, the Colonials instantly turn on them and try to extort even more, at the end of which they summarily declare "You Have Outlived Your Usefulness" and throw the hapless skinjob (who has the blood of several million on his or her hands) into the brig or out of the nearest airlock.
    • True, the Cylons nuked the colonies to cinders. But what the Colonials are doing to them during the series don't even try to fit under the definition of "revenge"; "sadism" is a much more apt term. In fact, it's an open secret that many of the Colonials don't hate the Cylons because of what they did to the colonies, they hate them because they're Cylons, period. Kinda makes one wonder why the Cylons rebelled against them in the first place, don't you think?
  • Avon of Blake's 7 is a particularly good example: He begins as a mix of The Rival and The Lancer, supporting Blake only when it's in his personal interest and because he wants the Liberator. Later, once he becomes the leader of the group, he becomes increasingly paranoid and sociopathic, at one point nearly murdering Vila in cold blood.

    Blake himself was edging into this trope towards the end of the Star One story-arc; he was pressing ahead with a plan that he knew would cause massive collateral damage and potentially kill millions of innocent bystanders, despite being presented with a perfectly workable alternative plan — by Avon no less — that could have achieved the same goals almost bloodlessly. And the Federation were bouncing back from Star One getting blown up by the final season, so he might as well have not bothered.
  • Boston Legal - Alan Shore is lecherous, conniving, snarky to a fault and one of the most dedicated defense attorneys at Crane, Poole and Schmidt, who routinely does tough cases Pro Bono for friends who need help navigating the law. The best example of his heroism was when he successfully got a man let off for bludgeoning his mother to death with a skillet, and regretted it when the bastard killed again.
  • George from Dead Like Me.
  • Almost all of the characters on The Secret Circle fit this criteria of anti-heroes, with the exception of Adam and Diana.
    • Cassie is a Type II after she discovers that she is a witch. She becomes more of a Type III as the series progresses later on after she discovers her heritage of Dark Magic. When she lets her dark magic overtake her, she becomes a Type IV or Type V. As the series progresses, although Cassie has good intentions and uses her powers to save people, she also becomes much of a darker individual especially when she discovers her Dark Magic ancestry.
    • Faye could be classified as a Type III or a Type IV.
    • Melissa could be classified as a Type II, possibly Type III.
    • Nick could be seen as a Type III, possibly Type II.
    • Jake starts off as a Type IV or Type V. As the series progresses, Jake becomes more of a Type III.
    • Charles could classify as a Type V in the beginning. As the series progressed, Charles became more of a Type III.
    • Dawn could classify as a Type III or a Type IV.
  • Alex Russo, from Wizards of Waverly Place, the deadpan Noble Demon.
  • The Strike Team from The Shield
  • Paige Michalchuk and Gavin "Spinner" Mason from Degrassi The Next Generation. The two of them are among the most loathsome teenagers ever portrayed on TV, but the audience can still root for them because they suffer far more than even they deserve.
    • Now that you mention it, Paige did get a lot nicer after she was raped.
    • Season 8 replaced them with Holly J Sinclair and Johnny DiMarco, in the respective roles Paige and Spinner held. Neither is a really nice person... but they aren't bad people. Season 10 adds Eli to the mix, who's more proactive about bully problems.
  • Heroes has a few characters that would fit the bill for this but out of all of them Nathan Petrelli and Noah Bennet really take the cake. Angela Petrelli seemed to fit this as well through season 3
  • Although the Doctor from Doctor Who is traditionally a Heroic Archetype, some incarnations have been less merciful and more deceptive than others.
    • The First incarnation of the Doctor, a grumpy old man who kidnaps and deceives his companions, and has to be forced, manipulated or at least asked before he will help. His worst moment was probably threatening to throw Ian and Barbara out the TARDIS in The Edge of Destruction, something that could easily have killed them. Of course in this incarnation he does get better due to the influence of his Granddaughter and her teachers who he eventually returns home.
    • While Sylvester McCoy's Chessmaster of a Seventh Doctor is arguably the most sly. He destroyed a planet with the Hand of Omega to commit genocide against the Daleks and possibly the more peaceful Thals who also lived on the planet.
    • Perhaps the clearest example of Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor's anti-heroism appears in the episode "The End of the World", where he prevents the escape of Lady Cassandra and impassively watches as her frame of skin bursts apart horribly, coldly ignoring his own companion's request to heed the villain's pleas for mercy.
    • For David Tennant's Tenth Doctor, his cold-blooded execution of the Racnoss in "The Runaway Bride" is probably the quintessential example, an act where he lost himself so completely in his own inherent ruthlessness that in an alternate reality where his companion was not there to stop him, it actually cost him his life. Then you have his actions against the Family of Blood in "The Family of Blood". And he brought down the prime minister that led Britain's Golden Age prematurely because of her own ruthlessness against fleeing aliens. All this leading to "The Waters of Mars," where he gets so dark that when he decides to Screw Destiny by saving three people from the monster of the week, one of them (who knew she was fated to die, according to history) walks inside and kills herself.
    • Not to mention the Brigadier, who ordered the mass genocide of a hibernating race, and aforementioned prime minister Harriet Jones.
    • The Eleventh Doctor. Some of his darker actions include brainwashing the human race into enacting the genocide of the Silents without their knowledge, and destroying a fleet of Cybermen ships in order to intimidate the remaining ship to tell Rory what he wants to know.
    • Let's face it, the Doctor has always had anti-hero tendencies in some way or another.
      • Shown in extreme detail in this [1] fan made video, highlighting all of 9, 10 and 11's darkest moments. Aptly named Fury of a TimeLord.
    • The Sixth Doctor was conceived around this idea to contrast with his mild-mannered predecessor. One of his first actions was to throttle his companion, and later an old man, due to an unstable regeneration. He got better over time, though was still willing to kill someone if his life was in danger and would show little remorse for it.
    • The War Doctor, to the point where the future Doctors basically disowned him from being the Doctor. Their attitude seems to have changed after it is revealed he didn't actually destroy Gallifrey but helped save it.
  • Speaking of the Whoniverse, Captain Jack Harkness himself is one, moreso in his own show, Torchwood. Then again, everyone in Torchwood is an Anti-Hero.
  • Firefly
    • Malcolm Reynolds demonstrates a mixture of altruism and ruthlessness, along with a powerful loyalty to his crew. When a defeated opponent threatens to hunt down and kill Mal — and by extension, Mal's crew — Mal's response is to kick him into the engine of his ship. He is glad to make use of River's Psychic Powers, bringing her along on dangerous jobs, but at the same time is willing to risk his life to keep her safe. He has no problems returning a cargo of critical medicines he's stolen once he realizes how badly they are needed, but also has no issue with gunning down murderers and war criminals in cold blood.
      "Mercy is the mark of a great man." *pokes with sword* "Guess I'm just a good man." *stab* "Well, I'm all right."
    • Then there's Jayne Cobb, though he's arguably more of a Heroic Comedic Sociopath.
    • Most of Mal's crew fits under this, and they're saved from being Designated Protagonists by way of Honor Before Reason. Sure, they may be petty criminals working under the radar of a Lawful Evil government, but they at least make an effort to do the right thing.
  • Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights. He's a junior alcoholic, he's slept with every girl at Dillon High, sees nothing wrong with letting his harem of groupies do his homework for him, and usually, when faced with a choice between The Right Thing and The Wrong Thing to do, will pick the Wrong Thing every time. He's been involved in petty theft, has stolen money from a meth dealer, and has picked more than one bar fight. He carries around a huge suitcase full of self-loathing even though he's one of the best looking people on the planet and is a star on the football team, thus a hometown god. Yet, he's incredibly charming and good hearted, and he'd move Heaven and Earth for those he loves.
  • Dr. Gregory House of House.
  • Det. Crewes from Life. On the surface he practices Tao and is into self help materials. Underneath, he has a vengeful Count of Monte Cristo thing going on as he tracks down who was responsible for setting him up when he went to prison for 10 years. Moreover, despite all of his wisecracks during each episode, he always looks like he is going to snap (and sometimes he does).
  • In Life On Mars, DCI Gene Hunt is a racist, sexist, homophobic, crude, lazy and borderline corrupt Old-Fashioned Copper who has no problems with taking the odd kickback, beating up a suspect to get a confession or to frame someone 'who has it coming' for a crime they didn't commit. Yet he's still one of the good guys, mainly because even in the grey area where he keeps his ethics, there's still a line - and once it's crossed, he won't rest until the person who crossed it is brought to justice.
  • Many characters that are The Rival in the Kamen Rider franchise can be said to be this. The first one was Riderman/Yuuki Joji from Kamen Rider V3, and most of the shows that aired from 2000-2010 had at least one Rider that fulfilled this role. As of Kamen Rider Double, the Riders are now largely clear-cut heroes.
  • Yaguruma Sou/Kick Hopper in Kamen Rider Kabuto, after taking a level in badass. He's still a Kamen Rider, still kicks monster ass on a regular basis (except when he gets so nihilist that he chains himself to prevent himself acting on his impulses to fight said monsters, because that's seeking the light), but claims to be "a loser that walks in the darkness" and is in hell. Plus his hatred for the Designated Hero... and acting on said hatred.
  • Del and Rodney from Only Fools and Horses.
  • Lincoln Burrows of Prison Break is probably the best example of that show. His past life was that of a normal thug. In the first 3 seasons, this was largely overshadowed by more important plot points. However, in season 4 he seems to gladly show that he's not a nice guy.
  • Profit's titular character regularly engaged in blackmail, bribery, extortion and intimidation to achieve his nefarious goals. The company he's doing this to is practically just as bad and he only wants to reach the top to destroy what he sees as evil.
  • Neil Burnside of The Sandbaggers is not above lying and cheating to get his way, as both Wellingham and Peele frequently tell him. He even (unintentionally) drives a young woman to suicide in order to prevent her boyfriend from resigning from Special Section.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Cameron, Sarah, and Derek Reese fit under this =- Cameron especially, as she is entirely willing to kill people who may be a potential threat to the Connors, and in one case used a man who knew important information on the promise of helping him, and then casually walked away when mobsters came to kill him. Derek also has no qualms with killing people who may be a threat or bring about SkyNet's creation. And (legally, at least) all three are terrorists.
  • Dr. Cox from Scrubs.
  • Tony Soprano of The Sopranos.
  • Stargate SG-1
  • While they still might be the good guys (and guilt whores to boot), both Sam and Dean from Supernatural fit into this category. They're co-dependent, insecure, childish, self-pitying, martyred jerks who've progressively become less disturbed by killing the hosts to kill the demons and other necessary evils.
    • Dean was always seeking his father's approval and usually wallowing in a deep, dark pit of death-seeking self-loathing so that he puts his family ahead of everything else when he's not utterly hopeless. In his more unsympathetic moments, he can be hypocritical, selfrighteous, and bigoted, with actions ranging from wanting to kill a vampire nest when they weren't killing anyone to wanting to spare a demon who killed his friend and would obviously kill more because she tried to spare him. When Sam isn't addicted, craving, or soulless, Dean tends to be the one who takes care of potential threats or does the practical thing.
    • Sam has apparently been trying to save people since he was twelve, but goes through a period where he's desperate to help everyone just to balance out the darkness inside him. He's usually not as clever as he thinks he is, and his efforts to do something good (saving demon hosts and stopping the Apocalypse) tend to end in disaster because of how easily his lack of self-worth and approval is played upon and turned to Pride when his inhibitions are gone.
    • Castiel and Gabriel (aka the trickster) eschew conventional human morality, but Cas was almost always one of the good guys while Gabriel ultimately ends up behaving heroically. In seasons six and seven, Cass slides down the Anti-Hero scale until he slides right off.
    • Bobby!! He might be the most level-headed of the team, but he has his share of flaws and inner demons, and in the rare episodes where the spotlight is on him, he doesn't behave any better than the Winchester boys. In general, The writers seem to love this trope, as most of the hunters and "good" guys fit it to some extent: John (if you aren't too disgusted at his treatment of Dean, Ellen, Crowley ( at the end of season five), The Ghostfacers, that tech wizard who slept on the pool table at Jo and Ellen's bar, Kubrick and Walker.
  • Jack Bauer of 24. He's perfectly willing to torture, mutilate, execute allies if necessary, and break nearly every law in the book. To his credit, he does intend to stand trial for any laws he breaks, even though this never actually happens (given that this is Jack Bauer we're talking about, perhaps nobody is brave enough to try).
  • Derek Hale from Teen Wolf. Having his entire family murdered by a member of a self-appointed family of "hunters" (his girlfriend no less) has left him with some rather understandable issues. Yet he is actually fairly responsible for a werewolf and is as often a good guy as a bad guy. Sometimes both at the same time.
  • The military team from The Unit. They are a representation of real world US special operations soldiers like Delta Force, Seal Team Six, etc. They are highly trained, efficient, and ruthless. They will do anything needed to complete their missions. Although they operate by some rules and moral codes, they are trained to do things that the average person would not have the stomach for.
  • Walter White, the main character of Breaking Bad qualifies. A high-school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and only little time left. So he decides to start using his degree to make drugs and gather a tidy profit to provide for his family after he dies. By Season 2, he turns into an Anti-Villain. By season 3, he becomes a fully-fledged Villain Protagonist. Finally, by Season 5, he becomes the Big Bad of his own show, a position he only loses near the end of the series because one of the men he hired turns out to be even worse.
  • Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. He started off as the arch-enemy of the main character, then was made the main character, when the writers realised an amoral spin doctor is a far more entertaining character than a worn-out middle-aged politician.
  • Gleb Zheglov, the police officer in The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed.
  • Tom in Survivors. He stabs a prison guard to death in order to escape before joining Abbey's group. Later he kills an unarmed man by firing point blank at his chest with a shotgun, simply to send a message to the groups pursuers. And yet, he risks his life for the other survivors time and again, and for the most part seems willing to follow Abbey's lead.
  • James Ford AKA Sawyer, in the TV series LOST, is such person.
    • Non-villain in LOST is.
  • Jimmy McNulty from The Wire is an alcoholic, womanising cop in Baltimore who has taken every action possible to try and fight the drug problem in Baltimore. Despite him Jumping Off the Slippery Slope long ago he still is better than the drug dealers in Baltimore. Not all of them just some of them.
  • Elliot UnStabler - "If that's the guy that's questioning me, I definitely want my lawyer present."
  • Brian Kinney from Queer as Folk is promiscuity personified. He's rude, uncouth, cynical and selfish. He drinks and smokes and uses dugs, he has gigantic daddy issues, has trouble bonding with his son and regularly screws over the people that mean the most to him. But he does love them in his own way, and he makes sure they know that even though he's unable to tell them. And in the end, he's always ready to do what's right even if it won't benefit him specifically.
  • All the main characters in Misfits, five young adults with ASBOs, understandably more or less fall under this.
  • Patrick Jane of The Mentalist is normally a straight consultant helping the cops solve murder cases (his tendency to annoy people aside), but he is obsessed with finding serial killer Red John (for killing his wife and child). When it comes to anything involving this ongoing case his rationality and level headedness flies out the window, his darker side manifests and there are no lines he is unwilling to cross. He fully intends to murder Red John in cold blood when he finally catches him... and partner Lisbon intends to arrest him if he does. At the end of the third season he goes through with his intention and kills Red John, though the episode ends before we find out what kind of consequences are in store for him.
    • Or at least, killed a man that was kidnapping and enslaving women. He also baited a serial killer into insulting Red John so that Red John would kill him, because he couldn't get rid of him any other way.
  • Eric from Power Rangers Time Force starts out like this, but gradually shifts towards being more of a regular hero.
  • Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead comes across as a foul-mouthed redneck with little consideration for others, yet he saves T-Dog, whom he hates in the second season premiere of the show and has a Crowning Moment Of Awesome in the process.
    • Recent episodes have been painting Rick Grimes as a type III with hints of IV, as he seems more and more willing to pull the trigger if it means keeping the group safe.
  • Team Leverage: Running down the list, we have an alcoholic ex-insurance agent who plans and runs cons, a grifter, a hitter with a very dark past, a computer hacker, and a world-class cat burglar. They Fight Crime and are heroes to many people, but their methods are less than legal, and have involved hurting some innocent folks, as well.
  • The eponymous character from Sherlock. Sure, he assists the police rather than criminals, but he makes it very clear that his primary motivation is to solve cases and relieve boredom, not to do the world any kind of good.
    Sherlock: I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them.
  • Revolution: Miles is Type IV after the blackout though he seems to hover closer to Type III especially after leaving the Monroe Republic though he still sometimes gravitates towards type IV.
  • Person of Interest: John Reese. While it might seem clear to the viewer that him and the rest of the team have perfectly good intentions and usually carry them out pretty reasonably (shooting kneecaps as opposed to taking lives when it can be helped, on occasion circumventing the law as opposed to outright breaking it, etc.), him and the rest of the team are definitely this in the eyes of the government and various law enforcement agencies that try to catch them over the course of the show. Well, at least, as far as the good law enforcement officers are concerned. The corrupt ones probably just see them as strong nuisances, if not nemeses.
  • Scandal: The whole cast, except perhaps Quinn (who probably qualifies as a Classical Anti-Hero instead), Abby even more so.
  • The Vampire Diaries's Damon Salvatore served as unpredictable villain to a reluctant anti-hero as the series went on to Season 2. He usually only did good acts either for his brother's sake or Elena's, the girl he fell in love with. However, through his relationship with Elena, while he is still well-known for his morally questionable actions and believes in "the ends justifies the means", Damon softens and adopts a fluctuating persona between Anti-Hero and Pragmatic Hero from mid-season 3 and season 4. He covers this up with indifference or sarcasm, when deep down, Damon really has begun to care.
    Elena: "Why won't you let anyone see the good in you?"
    Damon: "'Cause when people see good, they expect good. And I don't wanna have to live up to anyone's expectations."
    • Damon and Stefan's old flame, Katherine Pierce, also demonstrates many qualities of an anti-hero. She's suffered from years of loneliness and is often characterized as being somewhat diabolical, prone to focusing on only her own survival. However, over time, Katherine shows her rare signs of humanity and compassion when she repeatedly saves Stefan, Damon, and bonds with her daughter. She even admits she wants to change. Yet, old habits die hard and Katherine still falls back on her default bitchiness and selfish tendencies from time to time.
  • Anti-Heros are everywhere in Farscape. While Crichton tries his best to trend towards idealism and pure heroism, even he has done some very bad things in order to do what's right (y'know, like threatening to destroy the entire universe to force an end to a war between the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans). D'Argo and Aeryn are both more pragmatic, but also have a similar nobility and along with Crichton are among the first to give a What the Hell, Hero? (including to each other). Even Zhaan, who the entire crew acknowledges as The Heart of the group, is willing to use her darker impulses to protect her shipmates and Moya.
    • And then there's Scorpius: Willing to torture, kill, make deals he has no intent on keeping, and is a Magnificent Bastard of the highest order. However it's all for a reason: The Scarrans are something much, much worse and he's a Necessary Evil willing to do whatever it takes to protect the rest of the galaxy from them.
  • By season ten of Smallville, both Chloe Sullivan and Tess Mercer have this air to them. Ironically, they're both Mission Control who have been noted to be Not So Different.
  • Methos from Highlander is old enough to consider chivalry a quaint fad, and has survived for millenia by being ruthlessly pragmatic. He is protective of his friends, but is always looking out for himself.
  • Many in House of Anubis.
    • Patricia, who has always meant well, but has a bunch of morally gray traits- extreme jealousy, Brutal Honesty, a bit of a Hair-Trigger Temper...she has also done a bunch of morally gray actions as well, mostly in the first season, where she had gone as far as locking Nina in the attic in order to try and get information about her best friend, who had gone missing. She's by no means a perfect person, but she does mean well.
    • Jerome was a more blatant example. In season 1, he was a manipulative, uncaring Slime Ball who enjoyed messing with anyone and everyone, including his own best friend Alfie. When Alfie joined Sibuna, Jerome became jealous and forced Alfie to give him information, which eventually culminated in Jerome joining Rufus Zeno. Eventually he realized that Rufus was the bad guy and, once he started getting threatened by his new boss, joined Sibuna temporarily. In Season 2, he started to fix some of his worst traits, but remained as the anti-hero of the show, especially when the gem he spent all season trying to find was stolen. He automatically went on an investigation, which ended up having him once again helping Rufus to get the gem back, as well as the recently kidnapped Trudy. Once again, he helped Sibuna stop Rufus, but only after getting busted for stealing an important object of Sibuna's. In the third season, while no longer part of the mystery, he remains in this roll, as early on in the season he ended up cheating on Mara, his girlfriend, with a girl named Willow. After that, Jerome was an object of Mara's revenge, which became harsh enough to place him squarely back on the hero side of the situation. This also made Mara an anti-hero as well, because her goal was sympathetic, but her actions were not.
    • Finally, there's Joy. In the second season, she was relentless in trying to win Fabian's affections, which meant hurting Nina. She did this by trying to win his sympathies, trick him into kissing her, and then trying to get Nina to leave the school. All of these merely ended up making her hated by Fabian. Then she went on to hurt her other friends as well, despite those friends trying to help her with her problems. By the end, however, she ended up helping Sibuna and saving the lives of both Nina and Fabian, implying that she would have been a fine person if she hadn't felt rejected. In the third season, she was the one of the first to learn about Jerome cheating on Mara with Willow, and at first rightfully attempted to make him tell the truth. Once the truth was out, she tried to help Mara get her revenge- which meant pretending to have feelings for Jerome, getting him to like her back, and then dumping him in front of the entire school. It worked, but she eventually fell for him too, and he found out and dumped her instead. During all of this, she remained a hero for her sympathetic storyline, but her actions- which were being done for a good reason, but just weren't very nice, as well as the fact that she went along with Mara's plan to the end despite knowing it was a cruel trick- puts her into the anti-hero zone.
  • Salem: John Alden, a self-professed murderer.

    Music 
  • Five Iron Frenzy's song 'My Evil Plan to Save the World' illustrates this point to an extent.
  • God Forbid's song "Anti Hero" Explore themes of anti-heroism, with lyrics like "Torn between right and wrong."
  • My Chemical Romance's "Killjoys."
  • Sublime's "Date Rape."
  • Sonata Arctica's "Peacemaker."

    Pro Wrestling  
  • Professional Wrestling thrives on anti-heroes, as the very nature of the show requires even the most idealistic to pound someone into a gooey paste for a living. Plus, if a woman dumps a man and betrays his trust, the audience will often demand physical retribution from the wronged hero.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin raised it to an art form by becoming (in his own words!) a "trash-talking, beer-swilling, backstabbing son of a bitch" who was the hero because he opposed Corrupt Corporate Executive Vince McMahon.
  • During The Rock's heyday, he was cheered by millions (and millions) of fans while showing classic bullying behavior, most notably to Mick Foley.
  • Macho Man Randy Savage, meanwhile, made his name by always being on the edge of a psychotic breakdown and would defend his girlfriend Elizabeth whenever necessary — even though he wasn't always the nicest guy to her.
  • Hulk Hogan's status as superhero and protector of the innocent meant he could get away with a lot of things on camera, such as hogging the spotlight and fighting fire with fire. The deconstruction of his wrestling style helped facilitate his infamous Face-Heel Turn in 1996. Infamously, Hogan was unrepentantly nasty in matches with No Disqualification rules, almost instantly resorting to tactics that were typically only used by heels.
  • Randy Orton in his 2010-2013 face role. What better example of an antihero do you need than a man who told Sheamus to his face that he would RKO his own grandmother if it meant holding on to the WWE title, and then he would RKO Sheamus' grandmother just to see the look on her face. All the while he's one of the most beloved wrestlers in the WWE.
  • CM Punk is this right now. Brash, bold and hilariously entertaining, he gets cheered for doing/saying anything he would normally.
  • The Undertaker was one of the earliest anti-heroes in the WWE. Several examples-including ones listed on this very page-do predate him, though.
  • Jake Roberts was, at his best, a sinister, darkly intelligent schemer. Yet was still wildly popular with the audience.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl is a game where you play a group of teenage anarchists out to change the world. The "PCs" are called Youthful Offenders and in every way, the world considers them to be criminals.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Toshiro Umezawa of the setting Kamigawa is a selfish, conniving, snarky bastard. Doesn't keep him from fighting against a war against nigh-omnipresent and incredibly powerful god-spirits wanting to tear the world apart, for obvious reasons.
    • Sorin Markov, despite being in many ways a scheming douche, was also one of the three planeswalkers responsible for locking the Eldrazi away in a Zendikar-shaped can. He also created the most powerful force for human survival on Innistrad, admittedly to prevent the other vampires (and the zombies, and the werewolves...) from wiping out the food supply.
    • Urza is somewhere between this trope and Designated Hero. Over the course of six millenia of existence, Urza fought a brutal war with his own brother, caused The End of the World as We Know It (twice!), destroyed a small universe (one populated by Angels, no less), used and/or betrayed everyone close to him and their families, sacrificed six of his godlike brethren, and, perhaps most tellingly, was only able to make one real friend in all that time (the others merely being allies or his own creations). The flavor text of the card "Recover," puts it most tellingly:
      As Barrin exhumed his daughter's body, he finally realized the full price of his faith in Urza.
    • After being a straight villain in Agents Of Artifice, Tezzeret grabs the Sympathetic P.O.V. after some Character Development and takes an Anti-Hero role in the sequel, Test Of Metal.
    • Venser in both of his appearances, albeit in different ways: in Time Spiral, he's an arrogant, petulant stereotypical nerd who tries so hard to get into Jhoira's pants that he is more invested in scoring than in the end of the world that's happening right around him, while in Quest For Karn he is an arrogant Jerkass who is addicted to blinkmoth serum and constantly berates his teammates (which, to be fair to the man, dragged him there against his will). What's most jarring is that the set the second novel was written for tries to depict him as a straight up protagonist, in spite of his tract reccord and no attempts on Creative to fix it.
  • A relatively rare Lawful Good example would be Ambros Brasmere from Dungeons & Dragons. He is a Gray Guard, a paladin Prestige Class whose goal is to protect the innocent from evil no matter what. They fight dirty, can convert their Lay on Hand ability to a painful interrogation technique among other things. They're basically as cynical and brutal as their alignment allow.

    Theater 
  • John from Shakespeare's The Life and Death of King John tracks this trope pretty closely, in his efforts to navigate the murky realpolitik of early-1200s west Europe. Contending with finicky noblemen at home, enterprising relatives with ambitions of coronation and control, foreign armies, and a heavily influential Vatican, John is completely overwhelmed. In spite of arguably having the military advantage over his foes, the events around him cause him to behave with irrational brashness: he orders the execution of his nephew in vague language, later rescinding the order once he realizes that popular support for such an action is nil; takes his army to continental Europe to battle France and Austria for control of a small départment (which he later offers just to give away), leaving England vulnerable to attack from a swift Franco invasion at the behest of the Pope; and he royally pisses off the church in an attempt to levy unfair taxes on the church, on account of which a priest poisons him.
  • Titus from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus. Titus kills his own son, Mutius, because he disagrees with his decision to force his own daughter, Lavinia, to marry the Emperor, Saturninus (who is already betrothed to Saturninus' brother, Bassianus). Despite this, Titus does show remorse for what he did, and after Lavinia is raped by Chiron and Dimetirius, he avenges her death by killing them and putting them in a pie to feed to their mother, Tamora.
  • Macbeth from Shakespeare's Macbeth, before his descent into Tragic Villain.
  • The Soldier, from Sarah Kane's Blasted.
  • Prince Hippolytus from Sarah Kane's Phaedra's Love.
  • The 2013 stage musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory takes the Interpretative Character of Willy Wonka and gently nudges him into this trope. He's fiercely proud of and prone to boasting about his marvelous world, and frosty towards the Golden Ticket tour group, more concerned with punctuality and showing off the factory than getting to know them. And when the bratty kids disobey his warnings and get themselves into trouble, he not only has No Sympathy, but clearly sees them as getting what's coming to them...even when it proves fatal. However, he has a sweeter side: It turns out that all of his creations actually stem from a drive to make the world a lovelier place, though owing to his eccentric way of thinking and creating his "art" isn't usually recognized as such. And as ever, he is capable of incredible kindness and generosity, and capable of recognizing diamonds in the rough as readily as devils in plain sight, to the point that he's the reason poor Charlie Bucket found his Golden Ticket to begin with — it's a long story. David Greig, who wrote the book of this musical, commented in a Twitter chat that while the original novel may have No Antagonist, "I started to wonder about the dark side of Willy and realised he is a goodie AND a baddie."

    Video Games 
  • Wasteland allows the player to be this, sometimes veering into Villain Protagonist levels - but considering the Desert Rangers represent the only real force of law in the Wasteland, you're still better than the alternative.
  • Haseo from the .hack//G.U. is a good example of an anti-hero.
  • Jimmy Hopkins in Bully. No, he's not very nice, but considering he's at least not insane, and in several cut-scenes stands up for smaller kids, and teams up with the weaker Nerd gang, he's a lot more pleasant than the guys he's up against. Jimmy is the lesser of two evils, only the "hero" because he's controlled by the player. Jimmy had a bad upbringing — parents that didn't care about him at all, and as a consequence he's definitely not a good guy at all. He only teamed up with the nerds so he could use their brains to help him take down the Jocks. In fact, every seemingly "good" thing he does has him profiting in some way at the end. He still has Pet the Dog moments and is loyal to the nerds until they respectively Kick the Dog.
  • Magus from Chrono Trigger can almost certainly be considered an anti-hero, and only joins thanks to an Enemy Mine situation — since he only really wants Lavos destroyed, he's willing to join the party. Once we find out about what caused his turn to evil, he softens considerably.
  • The Silencer from the Crusader series of games. In the first game, the character, though definitely fighting for the good guys, is never rebuked by superiors for wantonly killing civilians with weapons of moderate to mass destruction—though this may be due to his skills being impossible to replace, as he is the only known defector from the corps he served with. In fact, a viable secondary strategy to acquire weapons and ammunition is to kill people to take their money, so you can buy from Weasel between missions. The Silencer never seems bothered by it in the least, possibly due to being both a Heroic Mime and remorseless killing machine who may or may not have been born in a vat. The money feature is removed from the second game, but occasionally it is useful or necessary to kill an unarmed civilian - to stop them sounding an alarm (nonlethal force is not an option in either game), move them out of your way when the AI buggers up and stops them in the middle of a door way with their hands in the air, get a keycard, and in rare cases (most civilians carry nothing) get an energy cube or medkit.
  • Darkstalkers blurs the line between this and Anti-Villain so much it's scary when you think about it. The guy that officially beats the Big Bad in the first game just did it to take his power into himself. The villain of the Vampire Savior is trying to kill everyone because it's the only way demons have a shot at beginning anew. Morrigan is a Horny Devil if ever there was one, but never displays any genuinely evil feelings. Alien Pyron was responsible for killing the dinosaurs and laying waste to thousands of planets, and yet in his Vampire Savior ending, decides humanity's worthwhile enough to keep around. The person who will one day become the leader of humanity is so mentally scarred it'll be a wonder if she doesn't kill us herself. The Yeti guy reeks of being a Boisterous Bruiser, until he reveals his people are going to make war on humanity. There are legitimate heroes, they're just not important.
  • Ayane from Dead or Alive. She's bound by her duty to hunt down and kill her half-sister Kasumi for running away from the ninja clan where they both grew up, and was also jealous of her for getting all the attention while the others saw her as a "cursed child" due to the circumstances surrounding her birth. In DOA 2 and DOA 3, she's a bit of a loner and a jerk, but in her story mode in DOA 4, she helps Kasumi, Hayate, and Ryu Hayabusa bring down the DOATEC corporation, suggesting that her feelings toward Kasumi may have softened a bit.
  • Corvo Attano from Dishonored could be considered this, depending on how the player chooses to progress.
  • Sly Cooper goes without saying. His m.o. is thievery after all
  • The hero from Def Jam: Fight for NY fits this trope like a bloodied, torn glove, one with the fingers cut out so it can wear expensive diamond rings. No matter how you make him look or sound, he comes across as being as arrogant as the real-life rappers he fights. He even cheats on his girlfriend with Carmen Electra, if you so choose. He kills three of his opponents outright: Trejo, by throwing him onto the tracks of a subway; Sticky Fingaz, by throwing him into the ring of fire that Sticky surrounded them with; and Crow, by throwing him out a window.
  • Caim from Drakengard. It's hard to sympathize with someone slaughtering thousands of people. Many games have protagonists that slaughter enough mooks to populate a small city. Caim is a Blood Knight: he likes it.
    • And in the end you still end up sympathizing with the guy as he gets some of the most tearjerking and heartwarming moments in the game.
  • Kratos from the God of War series, despite being the hero of the story, is a sociopathic warrior who has little to no compunction over the numerous lives that he has taken. His only humanizing trait is his love for his wife and daughter. Later, Pandora's influence does help him to examine his actions. He actually seems genuinely regretful when he observes the damage he caused after his final battle. But the franchise must continue and Kratos must slip back to his basic character. In God of War 3, he kills gods and titans that he himself is responsible for making evil in the first place. Interestingly, Kratos is pretty close to what antique cultures would've considered "heroic".
    • It could even be argued that in the transition from the second and third installments, he went from anti-hero to villain himself, making him no better than the gods he was hunting down and murdering. Hints of this are shown all over the saga, even in the first game, and after he replaced Ares to become the same, or even worse.
  • Grand Theft Auto
    • Carl "CJ" Johnson from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Unlike prior GTA protagonists, Carl's main motivation is the protection of his family, avenging his murdered mother, and getting rid of the drug dealers infesting Los Santos.
    • Niko Bellic, the star of Grand Theft Auto IV is a classic Punch Clock Villain. There's even an option to have him Pet the Dog in certain story events.
      • The stars of the 2 DLC games, Johnny Klebitz (The Lost and Damned) and Luis Lopez (The Ballad of Gay Tony) also fit this.
  • Agent 47 from the Hitman series, could be seen as an anti-hero, seeing as he is a cold-blooded, remorseless killer. In his defense, the plot of the second game kicks off with him trying to rescue his priest friend from the Russian Mafiya. He also dislikes killing civilians if he has to, and it can be assumed that the Silent Assassin rankings for each mission are canonical. Later still, in Blood Money — he sheds a tear for killing the budgie he kept. That must offset at least one murder.
  • In XIII, the title character seems to be this way at first; Him being betrayed by the other numbered conspirators and left for dead with no memory. The 13th conspirator was named Steve Rowland and was a military general involved with the plot to takeover the United States. However, you later find out that the real Steve Rowland did die from betrayal, and the character you play is really a capable soldier named Jason Fly. Jason agrees to have plastic surgery to look like Steve Rowland in order to shake up the numbered conspirators and force their hand - making him the Hero Protagonist all along.
  • Iori Yagami, introduced in The King of Fighters '95 as an enemy (and later The Rival) of series protagonist Kyo Kusanagi. K' (from KOF '99), one of Kyo's many clones, is also like this, though he brings more stoicism to the table in contrast to Iori's occasional bouts of madness.
  • Kain from Legacy of Kain is generally considered an anti-hero, having apparently doomed the world and subjugated the human race to the point of extinction, but apparently did so since the original choice would have doomed the world either way and is technically trying to save the world.
  • Max Payne eventually comes out as a hero (at least in the first game...), but he freely acknowledges that he's not trying to be a good guy about a quarter of the way through the first game. He's way beyond trying to do something good, and is only doing what's left.
    Max: There was no glory in this. I hadn't asked for this crap. Trouble had come to me in big dark swarms. The good and the just were like gold dust in this city. I had no illusions. I was not one of them. I was no hero. Just me and the gun and the crook. My options had decreased to a singular course.
    • He also acknowledges, indirectly, his own choices and course in his life with a simple line in Max Payne 2:
      Max: Shooting a gun is a binary choice: either you pull the trigger or you don't.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, in nearly all the games he's been in and is the quintessential example for the series. He debuted as Sonic's Evil Twin, at first appearing to side with Eggman in his conquest to Take Over the World, but was actually carrying out his own plans. Later on after some Character Development, he pulls a Heel-Face Turn and becomes definitive force of good, however he still maintains his no-nonsense attitude and has no qualms against fighting the rest of the heroes if he feels are getting in the way of his objectives, and remains The Rival for Sonic despite switching to his side.
    • Another prominent example is Rouge the Bat. Like Shadow, she also debuted as an adversary (in the same game no less), but primarily for Knuckles. She was helping Eggman, with the deal that'd she supply the locations of the Chaos Emeralds, and he would give her a means at locating the missing pieces of the Master Emerald. However, she later turned out to be a Reverse Mole tasked with uncovering Eggman's plan. Her motivation for actions however are purely selfish, she just wanted to be paid in jewels and hates anyone who gets in the way of that. Even this is revealed, she remains particularly shady and has no problem stealing said emeralds for herself.
  • The ending of SoulCalibur IV for the Siegfried character involves him and SoulCalibur covering him, Soul Edge, Nightmare and the world in crystals, creating a "utopia without wars or suffering". The question is, is this what Siegfried, or SoulCalibur (or both!) wants?
  • The Star Wolf team in Star Fox started as a generic "evil Star Fox" group, but in sequels, the team becomes more anti-heroic. The removal of the two "scum" characters Pigma (a traitor) and Andrew (nephew of the main villain in Star Fox 64) and the addition of a ladies' man named Panther (who falls in love with a character on the heroes team) gave them an opportunity to work with Star Fox.
  • Super Robot Wars - Axel Almer ends up as this after his Back from the Dead stitch and Heel-Face Turn, everything he does, while good, was for his personal benefit. Saving Lamia was just his way to preserve Lemon's creation and philosophy, and he also wants to prevent Kyosuke to turn into Beowulf, not only his worst nemesis, but will spell doom to the world if unleashed. Likewise, saving the Cry Wolves just happens because he was hunting the enemy that is slaughtering them (Jetzt) also since they were partially responsible of bringing him Back from the Dead, he's not one bastard to cheerfully ignore such good deed on him, so he merely just wants to pay them back.
  • Considering the game is titled Thief, it probably isn't too surprising that the protagonist, Garrett, is a vaguely amoral and deeply selfish burglar, motivated almost solely by profit, who seems to end up saving the world only Because Destiny Says So and all his stuff is there. In his defense, the people he steals from are frequently much worse, he has a sense of humour, and his world isn't one given to rewarding displays of nice.
  • Wario, although debuting as a villain, became an anti-hero in the Wario Land and WarioWare series, even once agreeing to help free a hidden figure from a music box in exchange for getting to keep all the treasure he finds on the way. He also helped Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi rescue Princess Peach from Bowser in Super Mario 64 DS.
    • His current incarnation is neither a hero nor a villain, just really, really greedy. When he's not a villain, Bowser sometimes fulfills this role in the RPGs where he's forced to help out Mario fight off bigger and badder villains. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story puts him in the role of having to save the Mushroom Kingdom since he's the only one allowed to be the proper villain in his mind.
  • The World Ends with You - Neku Sakuraba, at first.
  • Dante from Devil May Cry. A guy who just wants to hit the jackpot from cleaning up his family mess, score with hot chicks, and look stylish and cool while getting paid. His heroism is just a default reaction to all the demonic nonsense he has to deal with and with a devil may care attitude may or may not go and deal with it personally, or just leave it to little brats who may or may not be up to his standards in saving the world.
  • Yuri Volte Hyuga from Shadow Hearts is a quintessential antihero, even though he does incidentally kill a surprising number of world-devouring evils along the way.
  • Destroy All Humans! - Crypto, Pox, Silhouette, and Ponsony from the series all qualify.
  • Wylfred of Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is one of these on the A path, if you don't ever use the Plume to sacrifice your teammates. Otherwise, he's either a Byronic Hero, or a full-on Villain Protagonist.
  • The Bonnes from the Mega Man Legends series were at first seen as Harmless Villains but every single time at the end they decide to aid Mega Man.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Cecil as a dark knight in Final Fantasy IV is this during the intro, where he kills innocent magicians for a crystal, believing it's the right thing to do for his king. After Mist Cave, as the bomb ring destroys Rydia's hometown, however, he becomes a Chaotic Good at best.
      • Kain. While Cecil believed what the king told him to at first, after he destroyed Mist he turned around and never looked back. Kain, on the other hand, is possessed by the Disc One Final Boss (Who is possessed by the Big Bad...) several times during the game, and although usually calm and dedicated, shows that he is truly in love with Cecil's girlfriend, Rosa; stealing her several times during the game (while possessed), and showing that he, deep down, would be willing to KILL Cecil just to be with her. He has proved to be able to control his inner demons, though, and is truly a good guy.
      • Debatable. When Rosa is kidnapped, once, it's by Golbez, who does so as much to put Kain in his place as to humiliate Cecil. While Kain does insist on fighting Cecil while brainwashed, his lines emphasize a desire for recognition and superiority, not violence for its own sake. Additionally, since there's no real hint as to any of these feelings when he's not being brainwashed and based on Golbez's brainwashing as seen in the DS version, though it was written in the original script, it can be inferred that he was susceptible to brainwashing especially because he had no intention on acting on those feelings and had been trying to repress them.
    • Final Fantasy VI has Shadow, as it's obviously described in his introduction. And who knows if he'd really slit his momma's throat for a nickel like Edgar comments.
    • Cloud of Final Fantasy VII also counts, for about the same period of time. He starts out on the right side, but only because they sign his paychecks. However, it's still on Disc 1 when he starts to say that he doesn't want to think of any of the party might be The Mole because he trusts everyone.
    • Squall, of Final Fantasy VIII, who likewise gives the impression of it just being a job for most of the story, at least until Always Save the Girl kicks in. His catchphrase is "...whatever."
    • Final Fantasy IX has Amarant, who under goes a Heel-Face Turn and joins your party purely to observe Zidane, not that he worries about bad guys taking over the world so much.
    • Lightning of Final Fantasy XIII. She's rather "dog eat dog" in her combat philosophy and is constantly making comments like "Target's a target", "Couldn't shoot, got himself shot instead", and "Nothing personal"; is fully willing to kill "brainwashed" soldiers and actually scolds one of her companions for trying to reason with them as they had no chance of getting any of them to listen; and will whip your ass into shape, extremely harshly if she has to. However, She'll fight off entire armies, demi-gods, gods, whatever she has to if you mean the slightest iota of anything to her (Especially if regards her little sister, Serah) and she'll generally try to do the right thing.
    • Delita from Final Fantasy Tactics unites the world under his own iron fist by deceiving and killing greedy to evil nobles while outmaneuvering the Corrupt Church attempting to control him. He's quite debatable whatever he's this or Anti-Villain, but at least Ramza never hs to fight him.
    • Jusqua from Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is a very mild version in that he's a pill who has no time for his fellow "Heroes" and ditches Princess Aire. (Which was, frankly, understandable because she's a pill too.) He becomes more friendly after his Character Development.
  • Karel from Fire Emblem Elibe is definitely this in Rekka no Ken, where he was known as the ''Sword Demon'' who traveled across the continent to seek out the most powerful fighters and kill them. He eventually finds peace and calms down at some point after the journey, as the events of Fuuin no Tsurugi depict him as the Saint of Swords.
  • Alex Mercer the second one from Prototype develops into this by the end of the story after spending most of it at Villain Protagonist levels.
  • Altair from Assassin's Creed I. Kill templars for peace. Also in a mini-objective, Altair saves a citizen by killing the guards that harass them. The Assassin order throughout the series. Their motto even states that they "work in the dark to serve the light". Assassins have no respect for the law, working with the seedier elements of the cities to murder important figures and every guard between them and their target. It's all for the benefit of the people and to stop the evil Templar plots.
  • The Bard of The Bard's Tale is mostly a Chaotic Neutral Jerkass whose primary goal is "Coin and Cleavage" rather than any heroic deed. He's only spurred on by the main quest to save the princess for the opportunity to shag her at the end. In fact, The Evil Ending, where he sides with the Demon Queen is the only one that gives him a Happy Ending, the Good ending forces him back into the role of travelling conman once again and the Neutral ending just has him partying it up with zombies.
  • Mira, from Knights of the Old Republic 2, has some...interesting...views on how to deal with men, has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best bounty hunters in the galaxy, and has a temperamental streak a mile wide. She also has a deep-rooted respect for life and a strong personal code of honor; sometimes she comes across as an Anti-Hero and sometimes as a more traditional hero. If you choose dark-side options up until the critical choices in the first game and then take the light-side final options, you get a character who looks like this.
  • The fan-made Neverwinter Nights module A Dance with Rogues forces you to play one to get any even remotely heroic traits into your character, due to the Crapsack World it is set in. The Bastard of Kosigan module has Alexandra de Velan, who is out to take over the titular county and is prepared to kill anyone in her way. However, her hatred of every single member of the ruling family except for Alexis is at least partially justified and her plan if you don't ruin it leaves Alexis alive in a comfortable situation.
  • Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. While it's easiest to do as a Renegade, most Paragons will be to some extent anti-heroic. By Mass Effect 2, Paragon Shepard is definitely an anti-hero, but his/her position on the Sliding Scale is left to the player. Most of the squad in Mass Effect 2 also qualify as anti-heroes — some as soon as you meet them (Jacob, Garrus, Samara), some if you dig a little deeper (Mordin, Miranda, Thane).
  • Disgaea
    • Laharl is a demonic Evil Overlord, and Killer Rabbit, particularly in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Quote: "I shall burn a true vision of horror into that empty head of yours!" Even though The Power of Friendship gets to him in the end, he remains a stubborn anti-hero, refusing to acknowledge this.
    • Mao, from Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice is the Evil Academy's top honor student, a position acquired by disregarding all of the rules and being as much of a delinquent as possible. He develops into an anti-hero after the "Hero" title he stole starts affecting his mind and his repressed guilt over the betrayal of his father surfaces. Much like with Laharl, he refuses to acknowledge The Power of Friendship in the end.
  • Just Cause series - Rico Rodriguez, protagonist, will gleefully commit murder on behalf of drug dealers and terrorists if it gets him closer to taking down a dictator.
  • Dragon Age: Origins - It is very easy to play the Grey Warden as one of these in There is no Karma Meter in the game and there are often good rewards for acting like a greedy selfish Manipulative Bastard. It's all for the greater good though, since your end goal is preventing a horde of soulless Ax-Crazy rape happy monsters led by an insane dragon god from killing the world.
    • Some of the recruitable characters qualify (Morrigan, Zevran, Sten, Shale, to some extent Oghren, and arguably even Leliana by virtue of being an Atoner). The sequel ups the ante; only Aveline fits a truly heroic mold, and she has strong Cowboy Cop tendencies.
  • Zero from the Mega Man Zero series toes the line on this, as he isn't afraid to kill whatever stands between him and his goal; even his girlfriend, Iris, although the event scarred him mentally. As he said in Megaman Zero 4, "I never cared about justice, and I don't ever recall calling myself a hero… I have always only fought for the people that I believe in. I won't hesitate… If an enemy appears before me, I will destroy it!"
  • In the flash game series Sonny, the titular protagonist is one of these, only saving a mountain village from a cult in exchange for finding his way to a town on a map in the second game. When he first meets the guy who offered to help him perform the above task, his response is along the lines of "Get out my way or die". He also helps out a fellow zombie in the first game who was trying to fight off humans that chase him, immediately fights soldiers in revenge when they shoot and kill someone helping him at the beginning, and hesitates when a traveling companion suggests that they kill a human warrior that just helped them against a common threat.
    Veradux: Alright, the Baron's gone. Let's kill this whoopy superhero and leave!
    Sonny: But why? He helped us.
    Veradux: Listen Sonny. To them, we're monsters. Now we can either be alive monsters, or dead ones. You choose.
    • Given the setting, the other party members are anti-heroes as well, one example being outlined above.
  • Meta Knight from the Kirby series, an Anti-Hero Antagonist. He often opposes Kirby because of the latter's Chaotic Good nature (and the trouble it tends to cause). However, he's not nice about it - he once tries to take over Dreamland because he feels it would be a much better place if he were in charge instead of Dedede.
  • If the player chooses so, Cole MacGrath from inFAMOUS can become an anti-hero, and in the second game's evil ending can wipe out all non-superhumans.
  • Duke Nukem from the Duke Nukem videogame series is the prototype of a Bad Ass anti-hero.
  • Due to the rather dark setting of BlazBlue, all of the "good" characters could be labelled as this. There's Ragna the Bloodedge, a trash-talking Bad Ass rebel with a BFS and Badass Longcoat, who may or may not go around slaughtering NOL personnel wherever he finds them down to the last, Hakumen the Ninja Zombie Samurai Robot Knight Templar Hero Antagonist who is a textbook example of Good Is Not Nice, Jin Kisaragi the Ax-Crazy, Straw Nihilistic Jerk Ass, and Rachel Alucard the aloof bitchy Guile Manipulative Bitch. Most of these people would be Designated Heroes in any other story, but when you consider their mutual enemies are trolling Omnicidal Maniacs who enjoy mind-raping young girls for fun and science...
  • Wes from Pokémon Colosseum. He steals Pokémon away from their thuggish owners so he can save them from being mindless killing machines. Oh, and he's an ex-criminal who's about seventeen years old and travels around with his redheaded Sidekick and his Espeon and Umbreon and has an awesome motorcycle. Although he's got a lot of street cred for that Heel-Face Turn he does at the start, blowing up Team Snagem's base and riding off with their Snag Machine.
  • From Skullgirls we have Peacock, a war orphan who suffered severe physical and psychological abuse before being rescued and transformed into an anti-Artifact of Doom weapon. She's violent, psychotic, and considered one of the few capable of destroying said Artifact of Doom. In her ending, she also goes on to destroy the murderous Mafia family behind her abuse.
  • Valkyria Chronicles III: The Nameless is one whole penal legion of them. They would simply gets in, do the job, and then gets out. All for Gallia. And boy, they don't get paid justly for their troubles. They don't even get their name cleared in the end. Sad.
  • Lord Dearche in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny, which had the former Big Bad being dragged into the role of reluctant Anti-Hero while screaming all the way. She only joins the heroes so that she could gain the infinite powers of the Unbreakable Darkness, establish her rule, and destroy everything. Eventually, her loyal retainers convince her to drop her third goal as something pointless, and she ultimately becomes the one who stops the rampage of the Unbreakable Darkness and reverses the decay of the dying world of Eltria since they coincide with her first and second goals. Mind you, she's still in complete denial over the entire hero thing.
  • Bob from Messiah. He may be an angel and an emissary of God, yet, as Satan himself notes, he has "questionable ethics"... in other words, he has no problem with brutal murder, even of ordinary workers and civilians, and with possessing people against their will and leading them to their death. (Granted, several times the game forces you to do it.) That said, he's still perhaps the most sympathetic character in the game, because at least he cares about humanity, sort of.
  • Yuri Lowell of Tales of Vesperia ultimately wants to make the world a better place, and isn't afraid afraid to do what must be done.
    Yuri: Murder is a crime. I know that.
    Flynn: And yet, you still intend to dirty your hands?
    Yuri: Intend to? I already have.
  • Lara Croft in the Edios designed Tomb Raider games is a hero overall, but she isn't exactly a noble person; In the first game (and the remake), Lara is willing to kill people who got in her way when she tried to claim the Scion pieces and slaughters animals (though they do attack her)). In the second game, Lara kills even more animals, though every human she kills are a part of a dangerous italian mafia. Game three has Lara appear incredibly selfish and greedy; she attacks a tribe and their leader for their artifact, breaks into a U.S. government facility to steal their artifact, attacks security guards in a museum when she broke in to steal an item for someone, and when she tries to escape from Antarctica, she runs into a helicopter pilot and gladly shoots him dead to steal his helicopter so she could escape. Granted, Lara does prevent the artifacts she hunts down from being misused by people who want to use the artifacts for a more evil purpose, but her methods are very immoral at best.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night
    • Archer walked this line. He grew up as an idealistic busybody, believing that he could be a 'champion of justice' and turn the world into a better place. In the end, he realized that for everyone he saved, someone else must die. He lost faith in his own ideals, and from then on, he simply killed whoever posed a threat to the rest of humanity, saving millions by killing thousands - "for the greater good".

      This was in no small part thanks to his father, Emiya Kiritsugu, who held the same ideals, and did the same thing - killing people whose work would involve death of others, even if it would've benefited others. After the 4th Grail War, finally believing that he made a difference in the world (ordering Saber to destroying the Grail) he dies. The Grail wasn't really destroyed...
    • Shirou during the "Heaven's Feel" route faces an important choice between two ideals, both leading to Antihero-dom. Choosing to kill Sakura leads him to kill his emotions and become an Archer/Kiritsugu-style "questionable method" antihero (this, incidentally, is a Bad End). On the other hand, choosing to protect Sakura, no matter the cost, leads him to become more of a "questionable motive" antihero (since the one way to save Sakura is to stop the Grail War, something unquestionably heroic).
    • Kotomine gives a lecture at one point of the nature of an Anti Hero. He describes it as someone who is evil (either in action or intent), but whose actions bring about a positive result, therefore they are lauded as a hero afterward. He uses this to explain why some of the summoned Servants (all of whom are legendary heroes) are evil despite being "heroes", and predicts Shirou following that path in the end.
  • M in Shikkoku No Sharnoth is ridding London of monsters, however, he does so in a pretty evil manner and appears to have no emotions resembling empathy.
  • The dragonslayer in Dra Koi is only there to slay the dragon. Collateral damage is not important.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick
    • While there is no obvious Antihero in its main cast (it's usually either Lawful Good or Sociopathic Hero for the most part), Vaarsuvius comes pretty close. Even not counting the events at the end of Don't Split the Party, which could still be explained away by stress and not having rested for six months, the elf is the only truly morally ambiguous protagonist — a decent person and a faithful friend and yet being quick to suggest that the heroes simply execute the captured villains rather than surrendering them to the authorities and not seeming to have a problem with the idea of using evil methods to ensure that they stay dead. (Granted, V WAS representing Belkar's opinion at the time, but still...)
    • Belkar himself is a Chaotic Evil murderous psychopath who happens to be in the good guys' party only because he enjoys the dungeon-crawl killing and because he can't suppress his impulses long enough to cut a proper deal with the forces of evil. His later 'character development' and voluntary commitment to the party comes about when he realises he can exploit the world much more easily if people think he's a good person.
    • Haley Starshine starts out this way, and continues to pretend to the role, due to operating out of Greed rather than altruistic motives. However, as the story goes on, she becomes more and more loyal to the rest of the team and to helping people, and her love of treasure is at least partly justified because she's been storing up money for her father's ransom. Only partly, though.
  • anti-HEROES. The protagonists so far consist of an epic level necromancer, a vampire, a tiefling, and a ghost, all delightfully morally ambiguous. This strip was inspired by The Order of the Stick and has a similar artistic style.
  • Emokid and Chemokid in Head Trip, a Black Comedy webcomic, don't have psychic powers or Mad Science at their disposal. They got their names because one of them cries all the time and the other has cancer.
  • Ironically, Dechs Rashart of Antihero for Hire isn't anti so much as he is dark and edgy. But Crossroad sure is.
  • Not A Villain has Kleya, though she's doing her best to become a regular hero.
  • Looking for Group
    • A recurring theme is doing what must be done. As such, a lot of the main characters tend towards the anti-hero. For at one point, Krunch at one point kills a gnome out of necessity, and then annoyance when the gnome is not quite dead. Benny objects to working for free at one point, claiming that isn't how the world works.
    • Cale has become more like this recently, in the "do what is right rather than what is lawful" sense. His character development has been a transtition from Lawful Good to Chaotic Good.
    • Richard is this when he does good instead of wantonly killing things for his own amusement.
  • Ronin Galaxy: Cecil, despite having all the optimism and badassery that ideal heroes ought to, he only keeps that up for as long as it’s convenient (or safe) for him to do. When he’s outmatched he has no problem with kicking his opponent in the crotch.
  • Riff from Sluggy Freelance is in many ways a Badass who saves his friends and the world at large from aliens, vampires, and the like. Thing is, thanks to his Mad Scientist experiments and reckless behavior, he's probably endangered the human race more times than he's protected it. What else do you call a hero who's on record saying this?
    Riff: "I literally summon demons to keep myself from buying a shotgun and permanently emptying a Taco Bell!"
  • Abbey from Gnoph.
  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures , Abel's side story has Devin, who has a tragic past which consisted of his father walking out him and his mother and his mother's last words being how much she wanted to kill him. He now spends his time protecting travelers in the forest whether they want to be or not. He is a Deadpan Snarker and in his own words "an asshole". Pity he was killed off... until he came back as an undead.
  • Ed from Fake Knight.
  • While its difficult to quantify where, precisely, Sixx from Collar 6 falls due to the Blue and Orange Morality of the series, she clearly isn't a traditional hero.
  • A lot of the main characters from Zokusho Comics are anti-heroes to one degree or another. Serge kills a lot of people, without any remorse. Rotting Johnny is a undead hitman who had a lot of moral ambiguity before he "died". Akira's team of Wayward Cross operatives murder a lot of goblins. Raz does it with glee. Though this may be somewhat averted if Goblins are Always Chaotic Evil.
  • In Rusty and Co., the Princess. She smokes, wears revealing clothes, is greedy, loves a wight, and has no qualm at all beating up a bunch of mind-controlled innocent bystanders.
  • Atticus Brent, the chain-smoking, apathetic, possibly sociopathic protagonist of Mokepon.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal presents the Iron Sociopath, who is into hero-ing entirely because it's a form of violence he i commit without going to prison.
  • CK from Commander Kitty, a Jerkass Glory Hound who dreams of being the supreme overlord of the entire Cat System. This might extend to all Spacers, really, with Nin Wah's old crew apparently into some shady business, and even the more heroic Velvet Knight crew really being in it for the fame.
  • Luca Micarelli and Francesca from The Thing That Would Not Leave.
  • Sid from Distillum.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, the main characters, the Undersiders, are either Anti-Heroes or Anti Villains, as while they're supervillains they spend most of the story protecting people from the really evil villains and monsters of the Crapsack World that they live in.
  • In The Gamers Alliance, Belial works with the heroic Grand Alliance and opposes the evil Totenkopf cult but is also ruthless and does whatever is necessary to make his secret Order of the Black Rose grow more powerful.
  • In The Antithesis, main character Qaira Eltruan is not a hero by any means, and the methods he goes about 'protecting his world' are usually evil, cruel and unjust. While his ultimate goal is to protect his people and rid his world of the angels, Qaira will not hesitate to kill anyone who stands in his way, and this includes his peers. This stems from a lack of moral duty—Qaira is considered a moral nihilist by most readers.
  • The eponymous teams of Red vs. Blue are, for the most part, too incompetent to be anything other than loser 'heroes', but the more prominent Freelancers (Tex, Washington, and Carolina) range from jaded and pragmatic to damn near Ax-Crazy.
  • In Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the eponymous character is actually an aspiring supervillain and the good guy, Captain Hammer, is an egomaniac.
  • Gavin Taylore of KateModern is often cowardly, often selfish, and sometimes a bully, and cares not for the civil liberties of webcam users, but somehow it's hard not to root for him.
  • Kit of Omega Guardians falls into this territory. The guy means well, loves his brothers, and forms a strong bond with young Andy, but he also put the entire original team in the hospital when he got manipulated by a villain, put his youngest brother into a year long coma when Ace tried to talk him down, and in season 2 Imprisons Matt just to keep him from stealing Andy back after he left the Guardians to join up with Kit's crew.
  • In Survival of the Fittest, some of the most popular characters are anti heroes. Among the most prominent examples are version two winner Bryan Calvert and version one contestant Hawley Faust. Over the course of version one, Adam Dodd steadily turned into one.
  • Several characters in Tech Infantry qualify. Others flirt with the line between Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist.
  • Clark of Clark Kallen And His Merry Band.
  • Sami Reese from Little White Lie, plagarizes a classmate by taking advantage of the fact that he's in a coma and that he has a crush on her to win a battle of the bands and to get a record deal. Oh, and she's a total bitch to everyone else in the process.
  • Carmilla of the Whateley Universe. She's a demon, but she has said 'screw you' to fate and is trying to be a demon of lust, instead of prophesied to wipe mankind off the face of the earth. On the other hand, she has eaten some people who tried to kill her. And then there's the things she did to Jobe in order to maintain their vendetta...
  • Black Cat, a street-level hero in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe is a definite anti-hero. He's dropped people off of roofs (after tying them securely to a line) in order to get them to talk, casually breaks bones, and generally operates with a disregard for civil rights. He's never killed anyone, though, and most Boston cops thank God for that.
  • The Punisher, Wolverine and the majority of the Avengers and New Avengers, just to name a few examples, in Marvels RPG are easily identified as anti-heroes. Most of their solutions to problems, is, well, killing them.
  • Every character in Ather City falls under this, but the degree varies.
  • The Amazing Atheist. He is embittered towards humanity and only hates his fanbase slightly less then the rest of humanity. He has also begged for money from his fanbase despite his contempt for people however he has spoken out against those that have done way worse then him so he is definitely a lighter shade of grey. He has shown that he has a good heart on tumblr and in his atheist marriage video.
  • John Ferrera aka lisanjohn 710 aka what pisses me the fuck off. He is a good person and has good intentions but will curse like a sailor when expressing his opinions and will tell you off if you try to tell him that he can't, he has done more calm review videos and videos with other people talking about wrestling and other topics. He could very easily pass for a type III or I most days and a type IV on bad days.
  • The Nostalgia Critic. He's a good guy at heart and easy to sympathise with, but he's still a broken asshole.
  • The Nostalgia Chick is only really still on the "good" side because there are people worse than her (like Dark Nella), but she's still likable, has a few Freudian Excuses and loves her puppy.
  • Retsupurae. They attack, mock and ridicule people just because they don't like their Let's Play's. However as much as they attack, mock and ridicule people they do give them a chance to redeem themselves and have made amends with a few of them. And there are Let's players out there way worse then them. And you can't help but not like them as they are too likeable to hate or despise.
  • Shoutan Himei from Sailor Nothing. Cowardly, weak, selfish, and pessimistic, she couldn't care less about being forced to kill Yamiko just to get back to her normal life, and her attitude has harmed people close to her constantly, even herself. I.e., This Loser Is You.
  • The Gungan Council has many anti-heroes, but Je'gan is most notable for beginning a genocidal crusade against the Galactic Empire and Sith.
  • The main character of the web series Chapel is probably a Type III (and getting worse every day). She's cold-bloodedly killed a few people, but they weren't very nice people. If you wrong her, she might not try to kill you, but she also won't try to not kill you either.
  • Nocte Yin was born into a family of Villains, but she tries her best not to be as bad as them. It doesn’t always work.
  • Something Awful: Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In Paragon Tier, Gibnaf is slowly becoming a Type IV. To the point that the other players begin tracking up his 'anti-hero points.'
    • Minerelle and Joey were, of course, already Type V anti-heroes at this point, one being a psychotic, paranoid murderer and the other being amoral and gold-obsessed.
  • Linkara of Atop the Fourth Wall is usually a good guy, but he's also snarky, whiny, short-tempered, violent and arrogant, and an entire plot arc was devoted to how close he was to doing a Face-Heel Turn.
    • A Dose Of Buckley aka Adam Buckley He is a good guy deep down, but is prone to dealing with topics in less than ideal ways and will call you a "droolie" and swear.

     Western Animation 
  • All main characters from South Park verge on anti-heroism on occasion, though Cartman often verges on Villain Protagonist. Usually they learn their lesson at the end, however, and often are shown to be morally superior to the adults in town.
  • Mandy from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy is this at her best or straight up Villain Protagonist at her worst. Mostly, it's all about her and follows Pragmatic Villainy.
  • The eponymous character cartoon version of Beetlejuice is rude, gross, mean, a pervert (though, not as much as he is in the movie), and is willing to scam even his own friends out of their money. His redeeming qualities? He cares deeply for Lydia and will do anything to make her happy.
  • Valerie Gray The Hunter on Danny Phantom.
  • Gaz from Invader Zim is an antihero, or even a Sociopathic Hero. Zim might qualify as well, but seems more clearly marked as a Villain Protagonist.
  • The Transformers series Beast Wars had a handful of characters who would arguably qualify, most notably (but by no means limited to)...
    • Dinobot, a Defector from Decadence who never lost his Predacon sense of warrior honour - but had a tendency to push for the more aggressive option.
    • Rattrap, a Jerk With a Spark of Gold, Combat Pragmatist and Loveable Rogue who gleefully insulted, lied, cheated and stole his way through the war (and was one of its few survivors) and yet remained a good guy (and occasional Maximal Commander) throughout.
    • Depth Charge, gritty loner determined to bring Protoform X to justice.
    • And, in season 3, Blackarachnia, who joins the Maximals mainly to save herself, although Silverbolt's constant romantic/chivalric advances may have had something to do with it.
    • Later series have this as well, including Ultra Magnus in Transformers: Robots In Disguise and Starscream in Transformers Armada.
  • One of those rare, completely uncool examples: Batman: The Animated Series, detective Harvey Bullock. He despises Batman, works below the board, lies about his accomplishments, has zero respect for people and their privacy, and in the words of Alfred, "looks like an unmade bed". Yet he's also a startlingly skilled fighter and wholeheartedly dedicated to getting rid of Gotham's "scum". He's essentially the kind of cop who would be a huge supporter of Batman's vigilantism if his own ego would let him.
  • The title character of El Tigre is a preteen super deciding between the heroic path of his father and the villainous one of his grandfather. Lampshaded when in one episode he's subjected to a machine designed to tell whether one is a hero or villain and it explodes!
  • Generator Rex, there's... Well, the title character, who, while a great guy in his own right, he's demonstrated reckless, utterly selfish behaviour.
  • Heloise from Jimmy Two-Shoes.
  • By the end of Total Drama World Tour, Heather gradually became more and more of an anti-heroine (especially when compared to Alejandro.)
  • Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender is something of an antihero, albeit he's the secondary character. Dark and misunderstood, Zuko operates under the sole motive of regaining his lost honor, and not always admirably so. Although he turns himself around in the end.
    • Jet too. At first, he seems like a romantic, handsome, vigilante freedom fighter, but he's willing to go to horrifying extremes to defeat the Fire Nation. Later, he goes straight. Unfortunately, the Genre Savvy viewer would know, Redemption Equals Death.
  • Deconstructed with Captain Tunar from the ThunderCats (2011) episode "Ramlak Rising." Presented as a Shadow Archetype to series protagonist Lion-O, Tunar's obsession with killing the monster that destroyed his people's homeland has shaped him into a man that holds his crew in contempt and views them as expendable, where once he hunted the monster on their behalf. Realizing what Tunar has become, Lion-O moves away from imitating Tunar's ruthless and mercenary focus.
  • Bugs Bunny may be the first fully-realized antihero in animation, coming right around the time Ideal Heroes like Mickey Mouse were falling out of favor. He goes from being a Heroic Comedic Sociopath to Karmic Trickster.
  • Doctor Fate in Young Justice. A helmet-based spirit of Order, he has no qualms about forcibly suppressing a host's original mind to stay active, even if the host in question is just a child.
    • Also, M'gann becomes this. Yes, M'gann, the Naďve Newcomer and The Cutie- by the second season, she is willing to Mind Rape practically anyone to get information or revenge.
    • Pretty much all of the main six characters register on the scale somewhere, though Kid Flash is a Classical Anti-Hero at best.
  • Both Tom and Jerry can be classified as anti-heroes; Tom, being a cat, is a natural predator, and he wants to protect his owner's house from being ransacked by Jerry—by tormenting and sometimes trying to eat him. Jerry, on the other hand, wants to survive and live life a little longer—by seriously injuring Tom.
  • According to Word of God, Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has gone from Big Bad to this following his minor Heel-Face Turn. As if he wasn't enough of an Expy of Q.
  • Muttley from Wacky Races and Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines is depicted as a Villain Protagonist at times. Other times, he's been known to bite the hand that feeds him—namely, Dick Dastardly. He sees himself as a hero in the Magnificent Muttley segments.


Friendly Neighborhood VampireQuirky GoodByronic Hero
Anthropomorphic PersonificationArchetypal CharacterThe Archmage
An AesopPt/Índice de TraduçăoAnvilicious
Anti-AntichristIndex with a Heart of GoldAnti-Villain
The AntagonistLit. Class TropesAnti-Villain
Anti-AntichristHeroesAnti-Hero Substitute
All That GlittersOlder Than SteamArgument of Contradictions
Fan NicknameOverdosed TropesChekhov's Gun
Alpha BitchJustForFun/Tropes of LegendApplied Phlebotinum
    Film NoirBad Cop/Incompetent Cop
All Men Are RapistsRomance Novel TropesArranged Marriage
The Pajama GameThe MusicalParade
Anarchy Is ChaosCynicism TropesNineties Anti-Hero
Anthropomorphic PersonificationWe Are Not Alone IndexAnxiety Dreams
Infinite CrisisImageSource/Comic BooksThe Dark Knight Returns
The Red BaronUsefulNotes/World War IThe Lost Battalion
The Alleged CarThe New TensAscended Meme

alternative title(s): Anti-Hero
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
403765
0