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Byronic Hero / Live-Action Films

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Byronic Heroes in live-action movies.

  • Sydney Prosser in American Hustle. She's a con artist who, it's strongly indicated, got into the game with a highly Romanticized view towards the life. Throughout the film, she's put through the emotional wringer — especially from her conflicting feelings towards whether she should abandon her lover for the FBI agent who's offering her a different path — as she struggles to decide what path she should take for herself. Bonus points for being played by Amy Adams, who is well known for typically playing heroines with a highly Romantic worldview (e.g. Princess Giselle or Lois Lane).
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  • Citizen Kane is an archetypal example. As a little boy, he gets snatched from his family and introduced into the cold, ruthless world of media, politics, and business. By rising to the top of that ruthless world through cutthroat cunning, he becomes an internationally famous media tycoon and one of the richest men of all time. But under all that wealth, he's a broken man who can't hold down a relationship with anyone and desperately longs for his stolen childhood.
  • William "Billy" Costigan in The Departed. Deeply troubled by the pressures of his role as an undercover agent, he is very intelligent, attractive, brooding and angry. Billy also has a dark past, having lost all his close family by the start of the film.
  • Driver in Drive (2011). A complete enigma. Nameless and largely silent throughout the film, Driver is attractive and brooding with an air of sadness. Despite his cold and icy demeanour as well as his career as a dangerous criminal, it is clear through his affection for Irene and her child that he has a good heart.
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  • Britt Reid in The Green Hornet. Ungrateful, deluded, ungrateful, egomaniacal, self-centered, ungrateful, immature, stupid and did we mention ungrateful. He is not shown to have one decent or redeeming quality about him - even after he manages to drive away Kato, until his extravagant efforts to promote the Hornet as a menace resulted in the deaths of seven innocents who just happened to be wearing green. His horror at the consequences of his selfishness is the first time we get to see a decent and heroic side to him, and he gets better from there.
  • Martin Blank from Grosse Pointe Blank. As a man who recognized that he was a sociopath from a young age, he chose to exile himself rather that inflict misery on his friends. He does develop some humanity at the end but still remained a Professional Killer.
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  • In The Hobbit films, Thorin's Adaptation Personality Change turns him into this. He's an exiled king who's intensely driven by the desire to reclaim his people's homeland of Erebor from the dragon Smaug despite nearly everyone around him viewing his quest as a fool's errand, has suffered through watching his brother and many other brethren die, and is a charismatic and inspiring leader to his company but also a hard-headed dwarf whose pride makes things more difficult than they needed to be at several points. He succeeds in reclaiming Erebor, but tragically succumbs to the dragon sickness of his family line in doing so and dies after finally defeating his hated nemesis Azog.
  • "Fast Eddie" Felson of The Hustler (1961) is a milder example. He's obsessed with beating "Minnesota Fats" and proving himself the best pool player, despite the destructive effect it has on his life.
  • Various incarnations of James Bond, especially the Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig interpretations, tend to fall under this category.
  • The titular Maleficent, thanks to Adaptational Heroism and Adaptational Angst Upgrade, ticks many boxes.
    • Dark and Troubled Past? Stefan, her first love, betrays her and cuts off her wings, crippling her physically and psychologically. She becomes grim, bitter, and cynical, and, beneath her regal façade, dwells on the pains and injustice of her past to the point of obsession.
    • Self-centered? She curses Stefan's infant daughter: to get her revenge, she is willing to effectively murder an innocent girl.
    • Passionate and conflicted? Her thirst for revenge and, later, her conflicted feelings cause half of the trouble in the movie, as well as half of her own problems. Maleficent develops a soft spot for Aurora, and the metaphorical ice in her heart melts, but she finds out she cannot revoke her curse.
    • Troubled integrity? She pulls a Face–Heel Turn after Stefan's betrayal, starts to care about Aurora and feels a great deal of remorse for cursing her, and pulls a Heel–Face Turn in the end.
    • She is charismatic, and as for beauty, well, she is played by Angelina Jolie.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe offers several examples:
    • Tony Stark: cynical, womanizing, ex-weapons maker and alcoholic who is frequently haunted by his past. Over the course of the films, he frequently does as much harm as good. His arrogance, zealous passion, and guilt are manipulated by Scarlet Witch, leading to the creation of Ultron, resulting in the Sokovia Accords.
    • Bruce Banner (both the Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo portrayals) has shades of this. He is a brilliant, non-confrontational scientist who is terrified of his own destructive potential, considering himself a monster because of the Hulk, though in reality, the Hulk is more of necessary darkness that Banner must one day accept as part of who he is.
    • Loki is the embodiment of Byronic traits. He is physically attractive and charismatic but struggles with his own personal integrity. He is intelligent, perceptive, sophisticated, educated, cunning and adaptable, but also self-centered. He sees his values and passions as above others, manifesting as arrogance. He is emotionally sensitive and conflicted and dwells on the perceived injustices of his life to the point of over-indulgence.
    • The original lineup of the Guardians of the Galaxy are an entire team of Byronic Heroes, minus Groot (at first). All of them are cynical individuals who are charming, have tragic backstories, defy societal norms, and possess a high amount of skill in whatever they do. Later team members zigzag this; Yondu and Nebula play this straight (Yondu was sold into slavery as a child and was exiled from his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits (the original Ravagers) while Nebula was kidnapped by Thanos as a child and constantly mistreated), while Kraglin and Mantis avert this for various reasons; we don't know anything about Kraglin's past while Mantis is very naive and empathetic.
  • Noah has its title protagonist who hits just about every box: Flawed, angsty, passionate (outright fanatical) with his beliefs, an exile who lives far from the industrial civilization of Cain, an opposing philosophy that he wishes to impose upon the world and self-destructive.
  • Both Johnny and Bodhi in Point Break. Johnny suffers from Game-Breaking Injury and Bodhi is apparently haunted by Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Prisoners gives us two examples:
    • Keller Dover, who takes extreme measures and does whatever he feels necessary to find his missing daughter while being uncooperative with the police investigation.
    • Detective Loki has several characteristics that made him fit the bill of being Byronic: Arrogant, brooding, moody, sophisticated, mysterious, passionate and rebellious.
  • Dr. Herbert West from the Re-Animator franchise is maybe an odd case. He genuinely doesn't want to hurt anyone, but his blind pursuit of science leads to him doing some REALLY dreadful stuff in its name. He also has many flaws, including bluntness and lack of social skills.
  • George Emerson in A Room with a View and its source material. This is lampshaded when Mr. Beebe finds a book of Byron in George's house and his only comment is "Exactly."
  • In the biopic Saint Laurent Yves is brooding, sometimes mean-spirited, mercurial and wracked with mental illness and substance abuse issues but is also generous, sometimes kind, brilliant, charming, charismatic and rich so attracts The Beautiful Elite to his couture house as well as to his social circle. He's also got a Dark and Troubled Past, stemming from his conscription into the army and subsequent nervous breakdown.
  • Scent of a Woman: Frank Slade is this. Sarcastic, womanizing, and very intelligent, he's also got a hard shell to get through initially. It doesn't help that his brother prefers to avoid him and he reclused himself off from the world after his blinding accident.
  • The 1960s B-movie Single Room Furnished tells the story of a woman (Jayne Mansfield Playing Against Type in one of her late films) who, in spite of her looks, ended up as a hooker since her life spiraled down after being a victim of the Cartwright Curse.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness: John Harrison/Khan. He fits the bill in a few ways; Brooding, charismatic, and physically attractive but also incredibly vengeful, prideful and was once an Evil Overlord back in the day.
  • Star Wars:
    • Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader was raised as a slave before joining a warrior order. His status as The Chosen One made him arrogant, while the loss of his mother left him a brooding and temperamental figure who initially fights for good but is driven to villainy out of love for his wife, who he fears will die. Even after he turns to the Dark Side, he still believes himself to be on the side of justice. Furthermore, the television shows reveal further things, such as the travesty of war and seeing so many soldiers die along with seeing his student undergo wanton cruelty and betrayal to where she refuses to rejoin the order when her name is cleared. Combine this with the stoicism and emotional control imposed by the Jedi Order and we see further how the young Skywalker became Vader.
    • Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, Vader's grandson from the sequel trilogy, also counts (albeit, not as a hero). He's tormented by a split in his soul between the light and the dark, very emotional, extremely determined, sarcastic and cynical, an attractive Pretty Boy, and has unique and rather anarchic beliefs about destroying everything from the past. He has the potential for good and has suffered quite a bit, but some of it is through his own doing and his adamance in his beliefs stops him from embracing that potential.
  • Doc Holliday in Tombstone is a sympathetic example. Dangerous, charismatic, intelligent, and brooding due to his terminal tuberculosis.
  • Achilles in Troy has many of the distinct traits, although if you read the backstory, he may or may not be a Tragic Hero instead, depending on if his flaws were meant to be flaws at all.
  • V from V for Vendetta (though not as much as in the comic). He has a mysterious past and is verbosely eloquent, cultured, charismatic, brooding, and defiant of the authority that has wronged him. At the same time, he is driven by vengeance, murderous, sadistic, subversive, and wantonly destructive.
  • Valentine: Adam Carr, real name Jeremy Melton, is a villainous version. A handsome, charming, and highly skilled man who is tormented by the false allegations made against him as a boy, a wrong that he cannot forgive and can only cope with through drinking and taking revenge on those who framed him. The one person he loves is the girl who was nice to him even though she rejected him when they were children, unfortunately his way of looking out for her safety is to murder someone who was stalking her.
  • Victor Frankenstein: Victor possesses many classic traits of this trope: he's very intelligent, handsome, self-absorbed, emotionally volatile, tormented by his past, his beliefs (which he considers to be morally superior) clash with society's, and he's extremely stubborn. The single-minded pursuit of his goals becomes detrimental to both his mental health and his friendship with Igor.
  • The Wages of Fear: The main characters Mario and Jo are unsympathetic people and combining it with their panache and friendship for one another fits this trope.
  • Tommy Conlon from Warrior, is a quiet, distant loner, who has very painful experiences in his family life and in the Marines. When fighting, he is very ruthless, curb-stomping his opponents in one hit. In addition, he is shown to have a certain disregard for rules, such as not attending press-conferences and leaving the ring immediately after matches. He also has quite the charisma, as he actually gains a huge number of fans because of this.
  • Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto in X-Men: First Class is a milder case. Morally troubled, emotionally damaged, attractive, and very charismatic about his pro-mutant beliefs. Particularly to some of the impressionable younger characters like Mystique.