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Anti Villain / Live-Action Films
aka: Film

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  • William Ford from 12 Years a Slave treats his black slaves with kindness and shows concern about their wellbeing, but still clearly only sees them as property and justifies his keeping them with the financial ruin he would face otherwise. The director has gone on record for saying that he actually considers him the worst of the three slavers, as unlike the other two he is under no illusion that slavery is monstrous, and yet partakes in it anyway. Solomon actually has a rather positive opinion of Ford, as a "decent man under the circumstances", but Eliza does not.
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  • Ghost from Ant-Man and the Wasp goes to increasingly brutal lengths as the film progresses, but her only goal is to relieve herself of the constant agony she's suffering from as a result of her phasing powers and to prevent her inevitable and imminent death.
  • Jurassic Park:
    • John Hammond. Unlike the selfish, money-focused book counterpart, the film's version is basically a rather lovable grandfather figure who just doesn't understand the full ethical consequences of cloning dinosaurs and the harm they could cause if he lost control of them (which is precisely what happens).
    • Roland, the big game hunter from the second film. Yes, he's the one who injured and captured the T-Rex baby to use it as bait but he clearly isn't an evil man, just a hired Blood Knight who works for a shady corporate master he has no real loyalty to. He expresses concern for Kelly and for the men under him. In the end he gets what he signed up for but he lost his best friend and hunting partner of many years and feels robbed of any sense of triumph, and he then realizes the futility of InGen's vision and refuses to have anything else to do with them.
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    • Also from the second film, the two Tyrannosaurus who hunt down the heroes across the island because their baby was stolen.
  • Planet of the Apes (1968): Dr. Zaius, although ruthless and even evil in his actions, is working to make sure that ape society doesn't suffer the same fate as human society. He is one of the very few apes who know the truth about the origins of the ape society, and in the end it's shown that his hatred of humankind isn't necessarily unwarranted. In contrast to the blind optimism of Zira or Cornelius or the ignorant violence of the gorilla soldiers, Zaius can be seen as an official who's willing to get his hands dirty to keep society functioning. He is also willing to talk personally with Taylor, going so far as to call him by name, to find out the truth of Taylor's origin. Also shown in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, in which it's said that although he insisted on bringing Zira and Cornelius to trial for heresy, he asked for clemency on their behalf.
    Dr. Zaius: What I do, I do with no pleasure.
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  • Star Wars: Darth Vader, who in the end of the original series turns out to be something of a Tragic Monster. In the prequels we see him as an anti-villain, someone with noble ideals who is manipulated into evil means. Eventually he's consumed by self-loathing.
  • M starred Peter Lorre in the role of Hans Beckert, the first Serial Killer in all of film and an implied pedophile, and one of the most pitiable villains ever portrayed. When a group of vigilante career criminals finally apprehends him, he delivers a "Reason You Suck" Speech, painting himself as a victim of compulsion while accusing them of being criminals by choice.
  • Samara in The Ring Two. Sure, she killed a bunch of people, but she just wanted to be loved. This is different from how she is in The Ring.
    Doctor: You don't want to hurt anyone, Samara.
    Samara: But I do.
  • Colonel Saito in The Bridge on the River Kwai, who is Not So Different from our heroes.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2. Altruistic guy, working for "the good of mankind", accidentally kills his wife and turns himself into a monster with no inhibitions, and fixates on his dream, still believing that he is trying to help humanity, when he is actually constructing the means to destroy half of New York City. He's manipulated by his own technology to boot. Regains his senses at the end and pulls a Redemption Equals Death to atone for his crimes.
    • In Spider-Man 3, the Sandman is a textbook Anti-Villain, pursuing noble ends (saving his daughter's life) through criminal means.
  • Prince Nuada in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Nuada is striking back at humanity because it is destroying his world. Nuada insists, and the film supports, that the world will be a worse place without his kind. Director Guillermo del Toro notes that Nuada has more morals than most of the heroes, notably Abe and Liz, who both place their own love before the fate of the world... Although Nuada is also a hypocrite and somewhat Ax-Crazy, such that you shouldn't be outright rooting for him to win.
  • Fredrick Zoller is almost the most conventionally heroic character in Inglourious Basterds until his very last lines. He's brave, humble, seems like a Dogged Nice Guy Romantic Comedy protagonist while courting Shoshanna, and actually seems to have some remorse and trauma from his war service. But on the other hand...he's a Nazi (albeit a reluctant one), and then it turns out that he doesn't like to take "No" for an answer.
  • In We Were Soldiers, the North Vietnamese soldiers can be seen as anti-villains. Although they clearly are the antagonists of the story, fighting and often killing American soldiers, they are not portrayed as monstrously evil, or even as devout Communists. The North Vietnamese general shows sadness for all the soldiers under his command who die in the battle, is depressed at the end of the battle because he knows that the war will only grow from that point, and even shows respect for the American soldiers by replacing a small American flag placed on a post. Likewise, North Vietnamese soldiers are shown to largely be scared young men fighting for their country, writing thoughts in a diary and keeping pictures of wives and girlfriends, much like their American counterparts.
  • Vaako, the Noble Demon from The Chronicles of Riddick, comes off this way at times. He's surprisingly competent, genuinely believes in the Religion of Evil, shows signs of Honor Before Reason, and, to the surprise of everyone, doesn't attempt a Klingon Promotion on the Lord Marshall (well, not until his wife convinces him that the Lord Marshall has violated the Religion of Evil).
  • In The Rock, General Hummel (Ed Harris) is an American Vietnam War hero who is motivated to get the government to acknowledge the sacrifices of soldiers who died during black ops...even if he has to hold an entire city hostage to do it. Furthermore, late in the movie it's revealed that he had no intention of ever letting innocents die, and gets killed trying to stop his Ax-Crazy subordinates from launching nerve gas at San Francisco.
  • The bank robbers in Inside Man are doing it to get even with a former Nazi Collaborator. They have scruples that involve not hurting or killing anyone, and not stealing cash from the bank but only some diamonds from a man guilty of war crimes. They freely admit they are no martyrs but don't fit under the label of plain old villains either.
  • Blade Runner Roy Batty. All he wants is a way for himself and his fellow Replicants to live longer than the four years allowed to them.
  • Downfall is about the final disintegration of the Nazis and portrays Adolf Hitler as a a broken man. Between his paranoia, willful ignorance, uncontrolled sobbing, and tirades that the German people all deserve to die for failing him, the directors were really trying to reveal him to be a pitiful, mentally ill waste of life, rather than a diabolical supergenius warlord he's often thought of to be.
  • The original Scarface, the one from 1932, has an Anti-Villain as its titular character, who pets the dog at multiple points in the film. It was very controversial at the time because of this.
  • William "D-FENS" Foster from Falling Down. He's dangerously insane and becomes increasingly violent, but at the same time he's also clearly a victim of powers beyond his control, and the audience is encouraged to feel catharsis through his actions even as the movie condemns them.
  • Sybok from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier uses his powerful telepathic abilities to cure people of their deepest emotional pain in order to win them over to his side and help him achieve his goals. It's unclear whether he's more motivated by altruism or selfish ends...though he achieves both either way.
  • The villains of The Adjustment Bureau aren't really very evil. In fact, they're trying as hard as they can to save humanity from its own evil. They just have a heavy-handed, Lawful Neutral way of doing it.
  • Lestat in the film adaptation of Queen of the Damned: he's a remorseless, amoral killer, but he has an incredible capacity for compassion and empathy. And, as he'd point out, he's just obeying his nature when he kills.
  • Chip Douglas from The Cable Guy. His creepy and obsessive stalking of the main character is driven by the fact that he's been socially isolated for his entire life and is desperate for somebody to be his friend.
  • Robert from Mystery Team. He didn't want Brianna's parents to be killed, and took her and her sister in. He didn't even interfere with the Mystery Team. That said, his motives are rather sinister, risking the lives of thousands of employees and customers to save money.
  • The Operative from Serenity is willing to do virtually anything to achieve his ends, even kill innocent children, but he sees himself as Necessarily Evil, and is even the Trope Namer for No Place for Me There.
  • Loki, the villain from Thor, is continuously doing the wrong things for the right reasons. He's actually just a screwed-up "Well Done, Son!" Guy trying to win his father's approval through pretty much the worst means possible.
  • Claudia in Snow White: A Tale of Terror. She is only really a villain once the miscarriage drives her mad and the enchanted mirror starts manipulating her. And then what does she want? A living child and the love of her husband.
  • The Street Fighter: Sue Shiomi and Junjo Shikenbaru.
  • In the 2011 film Warrior: Both Brendan and Tommy are treated sympathetically throughout the film, but Tommy fulfills the role of the villain. He's a complete jerk to both his brother and father throughout the film, refusing to help them reconcile their old family demons (although not without reason). He also fights like a classic screen villain, curb-stomping his foes with anger and brutality.
  • The vampires in We Are the Night are bloodthirsty killers, but are deeply tragic characters.
  • General Zod in Man of Steel. While he is willing to commit genocide on the human race he sums himself up magnificently in a single quote, "Every action I take, no matter how violent or cruel, is for the good of my people." He was bred to be a warrior, to defend his race no matter how monstrous he had to be to do so.
  • In Now You See Me, The Horsemen never harm any innocents, and the people they're stealing from have wronged many others in the past and indirectly caused the death of one man as well as cheating the family out of his inheritance.
  • Designated Villain Lucian in Underworld - while employing some rather dubious tactics - was a former slave who led an uprising after his lover and unborn child were brutally killed, and is only trying to prevent his people from being exterminated. If his plan in the first film had succeeded, the end result would have been peace between the two sides.
  • Boss Johns in the third Riddick is after Riddick, but his grudge is quite personal, since he wants to know what happenened to his son on M6-117 and if Riddick killed him. He also views Riddick as a dangerous, murdering savage. After learning that his son was a child-killing junkie, he keeps his promise to Riddick and they leave on good terms.
  • Major König in Enemy at the Gates is hunting down Vasily and killing his friends, but he's involved in a brutal war which naturally requires him to kill, doesn't engage in atrocities himself until he hangs Sacha (and that's for being a spy), disapproves of torture as shown when he's told of Volodya's capture, and has only come to Stalingrad to avenge the death of his son.
  • General Ross in the 2003 Hulk movie, as opposed to his The Incredible Hulk version. Considering the long history of Hulk comics neither is exactly inaccurate to the comics. He's portrayed as a concerned general who deeply loves his daughter and is just trying to stop the hulk menace, but goes out of his way to pursue and distrust Banner because of who his father is.
  • The zombies from Land of the Dead. They're horrifying undead predators, of course, but a few of them seem to be regaining a semblance of sentience, and their attack on Fiddler's Garden seems to be motivated by revenge. Amazingly, they're more sympathetic than the human characters of the film (Humans Are Bastards is in full effect).
  • Frank Abagnale Jr. of Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can becomes an elusive Con Man who lives a rich life by stealing millions of dollars from the government and the banks. He also came from a family that fell from grace and broke up, and started out with his schemes to support himself. He's never purposely malicious, more an irresponsible kid who should know better, tries to remain friendly with the officer pursuing him, and genuinely wants to stop his crimes by the halfway point but can't. He ends the movie being prematurely released from prison and inducted into the FBI Financial Crimes Unit with Hanratty's help.
  • Elysium:
    • President Patel, Elysium's board of directors, and Delacourt's unfortunate assistants are repulsed by Delacourt's Establishing Character Moment (which nearly leads to Delacourt losing her job as Defense Secretary). Not that Patel's any more tolerant of undesirables from Earth, but he prefers to simply round them up and deport them.
    • Delacourt is a slight example, as her stated reason for taking control of Elysium is to ensure a future for the children of Elysium.
  • Paul Doyle in Pain and Gain. He didn't want to be part of the kidnapping at all but was persuaded by Daniel and Noel into doing so and felt guilty the entire time.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Elsa Schneider was basically a foil for Indiana Jones. She was an ambitious scholar who wanted the Holy Grail even more than Indiana’s father. Her intentions are mostly selfish in nature, but she sees the grail as a priceless artifact to be preserved. Unfortunately, she sides with the Nazis to achieve her goals. In the end, she cannot be spared a Karmic Death. Despite Indiana’s efforts to save her, Elsa attempts to reach for the grail while hanging over an abyss. Her hand suddenly slips from his hold and she falls to her death.
  • In the Holocaust film Conspiracy (2001), there are two such characters:
    • Dr. Kritzinger is the only Nazi official present at the conference who feels that the wholesale extermination of the Jews is wrong. He feels legitimately betrayed when he figures out that he has been kept in the dark with false promises that they would be spared by the regime. Heydrich deconstructs this for Kritzinger by noting that he's only barely better than the rest of them because he never had any problems with terrorizing, enslaving and sterilizing the Jewish populations in Europe so long as they weren't immediately being killed.
    • Rudolf Lange is an SS officer who has personally seen the horrors of war in the east. He actively hates the Jews he has ordered to be killed but even he is disturbed by the ad hoc mass murders in Latvia. He gets pissed off at Heydrich for the casual way in which he couches the ensuing genocide with euphemisms and has become quite introspective about his station.
  • Another WWII biopic, Into the Storm (2009), has a lighter example: Lord Halifax is something of an antagonist in the first half of the movie (as he seeks peace with Hitler, opposite to Churchill), but he's portrayed as simply a misguided man. He's shown as wise, calm, well-mannered and respectful. Churchill himself notes Halifax is no enemy of his.
  • Teddy from Neighbors (2014) goes way too far with the feud but the film establishes he's not not really a bad guy, just an immature one who is desperately afraid of his limited prospects after college. By the end of the film he and Mac make up as friends.
  • The MUTO, not really apparent until near the end of Godzilla (2014). Their goal is merely to reunite with one another, have offspring, and ensue the resurgence of their species. Even with the amount of destruction they cause, they are at least sympathetic in this regard. In addition, they usually only cause destruction solely because they're so large and through the movie they act like actual animals. The only time we see them act out of any sort of malice is after the nest is destroyed and the male MUTO is killed by Godzilla, at which the enraged female goes full-on Omnicidal Maniac on every single human she finds.
  • Aberline from The Wolfman (2010). He antagonizes Lawrence, but is technically one of the good guys.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • Magneto has an unquestionably sympathetic backstory and very good reason to believe that humans are out to eradicate the mutant race. However, he is a dangerous individual with few limits on his devotion and what must be done to ensure the survival of his kind. Even his best and oldest friend isn't safe from his extreme methods and beliefs.
    Warren Worthington II: It's not like he's forcing mutants to take the cure.
    • Likewise, Dr. Kavita Rao is just doing her job.
    • Magneto and Mystique become this at the end of X-Men: First Class.
    • Bolivar Trask in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Unlike other characters obsessed in exterminating the mutants, he does so not out of hatred, but a desire to see humanity united against a common threat, and actually admires mutants for helping him accomplish that goal. Pity he has no empathy...
  • Gorgon from the Walking with Dinosaurs film. He's supposed to be the main antagonist of the film and also kills the father of The Hero, but it's only because he is a predator and only trying to survive and feed his pack. He even unintentionally delivers Laser-Guided Karma to the movie's resident Jerkass.
  • Ben Russell from Cold in July is a Type II. He is only looking to avenge his son's death. Then it turns out his son isn't dead at all and he joins forces with his son's supposed killer to find out what happened.
  • Dean Vernon Wormer from Animal House. He's the primary antagonist, and he has a short temper and some definite sinister moments, but he's only doing what any reasonable college administrator would when confronted with Delta house's reign of property damage, terrifying pranks, and occasional sexual harassment. He gets bonus points for his clear disgust with the brothers of Omega house, whose violence, racism, and abuse of their power within Faber University make them much more straightforwardly villainous.
  • In Robin Hood (1991), Baron Daguerre is against Robin due more to the law than to malice, though he does allow acts of cruelty in the course of enforcing the law. At the start, he's Robert's friend and tries to be fair to all sides when Sir Miles Folcanet demands that Robert be tried for aiding a poacher. He orders just one stroke of the lash, but this is too much for Robert who insults them both and gets outlawed. And he and Robin basically agree that Saxons and Normans ought to get along, unlike Folcanet and Prince John.
  • Mr. Morton in Once Upon a Time in the West. A powerful Railroad Baron, he's crippled, terminally ill and just wants to complete his transcontinental railroad before dying. His biggest failure is hiring the clearly psychotic Frank, who doesn't share his scruples about murdering anyone (regardless of age or gender) who gets in Morton's way. Morton chews Frank out for this several times, and even gains some audience sympathy when Frank usurps his power and tries to kill him. Morton even gets a tragically ironic death scene, crawling towards a puddle.
  • Stonehearst Asylum: Lamb. While he is a little insane and does some pretty nasty things, his methods are much more humane than those of Salt's.
  • Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Remirez from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the most morally ambiguous of the trio. He has an extensive rap list of crimes including rape, murder and embezzlement, but he's also the most likable and sympathetic character in the entire movie, and is sort of an underdog loser, who's Laughably Evil to boot. He also has a strong love for family, shown in the scene where he gets into a fight with his brother after finding out about the deaths of his parents, whom he supposedly turned to a life of crime to care for and whose passing he was genuinely thunderstruck by. It's shown that while he's a bad man, he's also terribly misguided, which is what makes him so "Ugly" inside.
  • Jug Face: Sustin leads the town in worshipping an Eldritch Abomination and making sacrifices to it, but he only does it so his town can use the aforementioned Abomination's healing properties.
  • King Yeongjo from The Throne is a corrupt and despotic ruler who didn't even want to be king in the first place, and who treats his son like crap, eventually punishing him by locking him in a rice chest for eight days. However, he deeply regrets everything when he finds the posthumously named Sado dead, admitting he wouldn't have abused him so much if he hadn't been the king, and Sado the crown prince.
  • Dr. Petrov in The Hunt for Red October is a genuinely decent man who looks out for the people in his care, and is only a villain because he, unlike the rest of the officers on Red October, actually takes his oath of loyalty to the Soviet Union seriously.
  • Aunty Entity from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is an iron-fisted dictator and ruthless in keeping power, but she probably does more to rebuild a functioning society than anyone else in the franchise. She's fair as possible, recruits Max to ensure that her takeover of Master's methane works is done according to the rules, adheres very rigidly to I Gave My Word, and when Max busts a deal, punishes him strictly according to the rules (which seem arbitrary and random, but are designed to be easily understood by the people). In the end, having Max at her mercy, she lets him go because there's no point in killing him by that point. All together, though antagonistic, she's only very loosely villainous.
  • Black Panther (2018) ends with T'Challa essentially admitting Killmonger was 80% in the right the whole time. It's only the 20% that's about conquering and killing that makes Killmonger a villain.
  • Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War perform multiple genocides across multiple planets because he genuinely believes that if the planets are left unchecked, then they could suffer from an Overpopulation Crisis and leave the planet into a lifeless shell just like his own. He holds no ill will towards his enemies and fully respects their resolve regardless if they are against him or not. It's only his own hubris and hurt pride that prevents him from seeing a solution besides mass murder.
  • Elijah Price, of Unbreakable and the upcoming Glass, believes that superheroes — specifically, people with superhuman abilities and the instinct to fight evil and protect others — are real, and that by finding and nurturing one of these superheroes, he can make the world a better place and bring meaning to his own tragic life. How does he accomplish this? By becoming a full-on supervillain of the Diabolical Mastermind variety, known as "Mister Glass". In Unbreakable, Mister Glass engineers disasters and causes hundreds of deaths in order to find David Dunn and guide him into becoming a superhero, while in Glass, he teams up with a superpowered villain called "the Horde" to force Dunn's hand and prove to the world that superheroes exist.

Alternative Title(s): Film


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