Follow TV Tropes


Anti Hero / Marvel Cinematic Universe

Go To

"You think the four of you can save New York? You can't even save yourselves."
Stick, questioning the importance of The Defendersnote 

There are Ideal Heroes, redeemed villains and other card-carrying heroes, but due to the nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a lot of these good guys stand out as the ones who have many character flaws and darker aspects in their personality.


Films, by Release Date
  • Most of the Avengers stand out as this, and many eventually become The Atoners:
  • Nick Fury, the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., a 'Level 10' agent, and campaigner for the Avengers Initiative, is one, especially in The Avengers. He's a practical, levelheaded man who's ultimately fighting for the good side, but he's also a pragmatic manipulator and isn't above deceiving or lying to The Avengers to achieve his goals, such as when the team discovers that he was keeping secrets about using the Tesseract to develop weapons of mass destruction. Even Captain America became appalled with him. This drives a lot of the conflict with him - he keeps secrets and lies to the heroes' faces, and feel no shame about it whatsoever.
  • In the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the eponymous superheroes are a straight-up bunch of anti-heroes, with the team being made up of thieves, career criminals, and assassins (as exemplified in the picture above).
    • Star-Lord aka Peter Quill grew up in space to become an intergalactic outlaw and scavenger. In hindsight, he starts off as a self-serving outlaw and a bit of an asshole although he eventually chooses to step up for true blue unselfish heroism — with a side of whatever (and whoever) he can get his hands on.
    • Gamora is a Zehoberei woman taken in and modified by Thanos to be a warrior in his service. She has a Freudian Excuseher family was murdered in front of her and then she was adopted and raised as an assassin by the one responsible for her parents' death, so it’s no surprise someone coming out of that would be so cold and emotionally reserved. She later has a Heel–Face Turn, turning against her former compatriots and employers to protect the masses of the galaxy from certain doom.
    • Drax the Destroyer is a man who has been on a rampage ever since his family was killed by Ronan. He seeks vengeance against the Kree Accuser, and joins the team when they convince him to not make them his latest victims in exchange for them luring Ronan nearby for Drax to kill. Eventually, Drax realizes that how someone who obsesses with vengeance can not only cause problems, but also make no friends at all, and starts to question his actions. Come Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, he starts to soften up and even thinks of his team as family.
    • Rocket Raccoon is a bounty hunter with a penchant for heavy weaponry and bombs. He's one of the more violent and unfriendly members of the team. It helps that he is the Token Evil Teammate.
    • Groot is a mobile, sapient tree-like alien who serves as Rocket's friend/transportation. He has spent some time kidnapping and/or impaling people for money as Rocket's accomplice. Despite this, he is the Token Good Teammate of the team.
  • Loki is an Ex-Big Bad who turns into this starting from Thor: The Dark World. Having killed numerous innocents in Avengers he is distrusted by everyone with the sole exception of Frigga his mother. When she is killed, he becomes a Nominal Hero by joining Thor and Jane only to avenger her, but still selflessly risks his life to save them both. He then tricks them and leaves, taking the opportunity to seize the throne. At the end of Thor: Ragnarok, he becomes a classic Anti-Hero in the same vein as Valkyrie when he arrives with reinforcements Just in Time to save Asgardians from Hela's Undead Mooks. And in Avengers: Infinity War, he dies in a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier is unwillingly example due to HYDRA's influence, he has come close to killing certain Avengers e.g like Black Widow and Nick Fury and even after his Heel–Face Turn back to good is distrusted by almost everyone with the exception of his best friend Steve Rogers and a few Wakandains. The Russo brothers enjoyed Bucky's character because they could get away with pushing his dark side further any other hero.
  • In the Ant-Man film, Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man II) is a former thief trying to go straight by helping Hank Pym. This, of course, turns out to involve committing another heist, albeit one that will save lives. Although he has his record, several people admire him for robbing a company that robbed others, including Hank.
  • In the Doctor Strange movie, the titular character starts out as a self-centered glory hound who wouldn't do anything too difficult for fear of staining his perfect record to a selfless champion who is willing to endlessly lose against Dormammu in obscurity to spare Earth and the rest of the Multiverse from the fiend.
  • M'Baku from the Black Panther movie is another example. Despite wanting what's best for Wakanda, he is a strict isolationist because he fears the outside world and becoming overdependent on vibranium. And he will not commit to overthrowing a king just because he's asked but may change his mind later.

TV Series, by Air Date

  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • Melinda Qiaolian May, highly experienced agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as an Ace Pilot and weapons expert, is firmly on the side of good, but she occasionally does some less-than-heroic things, such as mercilessly beating up the imprisoned and combat-incapable Ian Quinn after he shoots Skye. To be fair, he did shoot Skye.
    • Daisy JohnsonMISC. INFO  started off as the one shown to have ulterior motives for joining S.H.I.E.L.D. in the beginning. After her much needed Character Development, she is now a good guy, but don’t expect her to pull any punches in achieving her goals.
    • Robbie Reyes, aka the second Ghost Rider (first appearing in Episode 67: "The Ghost") happens to be absolutely brutal in his methods, even torturing and executing his victims after they've already been subdued. However, Reyes only kills those who truly deserve it. The innocent are spared even if they attack him, as shown when Ghost Rider spares Quake even though she doesn't think of herself as a good guy.

Netflix Shows

  • Daredevil (2015)
    • Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil is a morally ambiguous hero from the get-go, described as being "one bad day away from permanently crossing a line". The very first scene with Daredevil has him brutally beating his enemies, yelling at the victims to run, and then finally turning to the last guy and continuously punching him in the face. Matt is still officially opposed to killing, and even comes to blows with his old master Stick over it. He also suffers a moral breakdown over whether or not to kill Fisk for all the death the crime lord has caused. Helps that he is of the Good Is Not Soft flavor. Although, to be fair, Matt is less flawed than most anti-heroes.
    • Frank Castle, aka The Punisher is the Unscrupulous Hero type, with the entire season juggling if he's this or a Nominal Hero. He targets criminals, but unlike Matt seeks to kill them. He also has one hell of a temper, and is not afraid to unleash it (non-lethally) on people who get in his way. Likewise, Frank has zero qualms in using dark methods to make a point.
    • Elektra Natchios is an assassin, but is hunting members of a criminal organization that doesn't care if they destroy entire cities.
  • In Jessica Jones (2015), the titular character is the Good Is Not Nice kind. She does not consider herself a hero and, as far as she's concerned, has given up on the hero career a long time ago, trying to distance herself from problems not involving hers. She is rough, rude, abrasive and antagonizes everyone, and does not trust anyone at face value. Jessica does, however, feel empathy for victims of injustice, and will begrudgingly help them - much more readily if they have been affected by Kilgrave. She goes to extreme lengths to help Hope - Kilgraved into shooting her own parents in an elevator - be found innocent of her crime, and sees it as her job to stop Kilgrave from ruining any more lives. Her methods are pragmatic and risky when not outright destructive or harmful to others, and killing Kilgrave is never something she has a problem with, aside from collateral damage. In short, Jessica stands a stark contrast to Matt Murdock, who is overall a much more polished example of a hero.
  • In The Defenders (2017), there is a eponymous team of street level heroes defending the mean streets of New York from more grounded threats. They’re a much darker, morally grey team compared to the Avengers. Additionally, they are the Knight in Sour Armor variant as these heroes been broken by the world around them, but they continue to fight for what they think is the right thing.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: