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Played By: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
- Anti-Hero: Young Joe is a Nominal Hero at the start of the movie. He's (mostly) self-centered, has no qualms executing people for the mob, and shows few signs of heroism throughout most of the film. He develops more into an Unscrupulous Hero when Cid becomes something of a Morality Pet for him in the third act.
- Byronic Hero: Joe himself is a hitman who not only works for himself, but is also a flawed protagonist with a mysterious past that is never mentioned.
- Functional Addict: Averted. While relatively efficient at their jobs, both Joes are crippling addicts to the "eyedrop drug." Somewhat played straight with Old Joe however, as he's been off the stuff thanks to his wife. The withdrawal symptoms on the other hand look to be similar to heroin, only about a hundred times worse.
- Heroic Suicide: Kills himself to stop the cycle that would create the Rainmaker.
- Hitman with a Heart: Develops into this over time, especially with Love Redeems in play.
- Love Redeems: In stark contrast to Old Joe.
- Redemption Equals Death: Redeems himself for his past as a hitman by destroying the main threat in the future... by committing Heroic Suicide.
- Shadow Archetype: He and Old Joe ultimately become this.
- Taking You with Me: Killed himself so Old Joe will cease from existence.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Young Joe is initially very greedy and selfish, prefering to rat out a friend rather than losing half of his silver, but he became a better person after his character development and by the end of the film he even sacrifices himself in order to save the lives of Sara and Cid.
Played By: Bruce Willis
- Always Save the Girl: Old Joe will do just about anything to save his wife. However, when given an option to stop his past self from meeting her, he refuses. He cannot sacrifice their relationship.
- Anti-Villain: Has sympathetic goals when trying to save his wife and prevent the rise of a merciless underworld kingpin. However, he's unwilling to sacrifice his relationship with his wife to save her, and is willing to kill children to stop the kingpin (though he's also tormented by guilt when he does).
- Apologetic Attacker: He cried after killing the first Rainmaker prospect.
- Bald of Awesome: Initially. Eventually becomes Bald of Evil.
- Big Bad: After killing Abe, he comes dangerously close to ensuring that the Rainmaker exists.
- Create Your Own Villain: Almost. Killing Sara would have set Cid on the path to becoming the Rainmaker, but Young Joe's suicide prevents Cid's descent into villainy.
- Crusading Widower: His reason for his mission.
- Determinator: He won't stop at nothing, not even at killing children, in order to save his wife in the future.
- Evil Old Folks: Exceptionally good at combat despite the fact that he's pretty old.
- Future Badass: While Young Joe, as a Looper, is a killer and criminal, his weapons experience basically boils down to shooting bound and gagged prisoners with a blunderbuss. Old Joe, however, has a few decades of hardened crime life under his belt, and is therefore much more of a threat.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Old Joe.
- Hypocrite: He accuses his younger self of being selfish, but he himself is not willing either to give up on his love to save her life in the future.
- I Hate Past Me: He has no kind words for Young Joe.
- Karmic Death: Old Joe was trying to erase the existence of The Rainmaker, by killing a younger version of him, but ironically Young Joe commits suicide and Old Joe is erased from existence instead.
- Love Makes You Evil: The film follows his Protagonist Journey to Villain, though he didn't became "evil" per se.
- He Who Fights Monsters: By trying to stop the events of the past to save his wife, he becomes a child-murdering monster.
- One-Man Army: He is a highly trained killer who singlehandedly takes out Abe and all his henchmen.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: In his quest to stop the Rainmaker, he creates the Rainmaker, making him into the Big Bad by the end of the movie.
- Retgone: After Young Joe's suicide, Old Joe simply vanishes from the existence.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Narrowly subverted. If Young Joe hadn't performed a Heroic Suicide, he would have created the very Rainmaker that ruined his life.
- Shadow Archetype: He and Young Joe ultimately become this.
- Skyward Scream: Not heard, but seen doing this in Young Joe's Imagine Spot when he loses Cid right after killing Sara, realizing the doom future he created.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Old Joe wants to save his wife. Even if it means shooting children.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Ultimately becomes this as he (almost) creates the Rainmaker.
- Would Hit a Girl: Willing to kill Sara because she's in his way of killing Cid, which ended up causing the Rainmaker's existence.
- Would Hurt a Child: Guns down one of the candidates to become the Rainmaker when he's only a kid. And he doesn't feel good about it one bit.
Played By: Emily Blunt
- Action Mom: Handy with a shotgun when it comes down to it.
- Badass Boast: Her first major line has her delivering one while aiming the rifle at the apparent intruder in the corn field. Played with in that Joe quickly realises she's overcompensating - as she's spending too much time describing what she's going to do than actually doing it.
- Good Bad Girl: She used to be a Hard-Drinking Party Girl but has now reformed. Or is trying to.
- Mama Bear: Sara makes an effort to be this trope personified, except she's way softer than she plays at. Most of her badass is bluster, which Joe twigs to quickly.Sara: This is a Remington 870. One blast could cut you the fuck in ha—
Joe: (cutting her off) In half. Yeah, that's telling. You're holding a gun, I say I'm not afraid, so you describe the gun to me. It's not the gun I'm not afraid of.
- Mind over Matter: She's got genetic telekinesis powers, or TK, and they're a bit stronger than most people's. In her wild youth, she'd challenge would-be suitors to move a quarter, then hold it with her own power for her own amusement. Her son got them with compound interest.
- Morality Chain: Cid's transformation into the Rain Maker is implied to have been started by watching her get killed. Her influence is what causes him to spare older Joe.
- Parental Abandonment: She didn't want to have Cid and dumped him on her sister for years.
- Reluctant Warrior: Downplayed. Sara doesn't want to kill anyone, but has to protect her farm from vagrants in some way. She uses a shotgun loaded with rock salt; highly unlikely to be fatal, but it hurts like hell.
Played By: Paul Dano
- Cruel and Unusual Death: It isn't pretty.
- Decoy Protagonist: Well, Decoy Deuteragonist. He's set up to be important in the first act, but stops being relevant to the plot shortly after becoming important to it.
- Fate Worse than Death: Implied for young Seth. Abe knows they can't kill him (because he needs to survive long enough to be sent back in time and complete the loop), so instead condemns him to 30 years bedridden with no limbs, tongue, ears or nose. The fact he can (presumably) still talk at least lets him narrowly avert And I Must Scream.
Played By: Frank Brennan
- And I Must Scream: Averted, Seth begins to scream in horror as he watches his limbs and fingers disappear, one by one, only for his tongue to disappear as well, making him unable to speak properly but is cut short with a bullet to the head.
- Body Horror: His Cruel and Unusual Death involves Fingore, both An Arm and a Leg, Tongue Trauma, and Facial Horror before dying by headshot.
- Half the Man He Used to Be: What's left of Old Seth by the time he makes it to the Doc.
Played By: Noah Segan
- Avenging the Villain: His entire involvement in the final showdown is motivated by his desire to avenge Abe's death at Old Joe's hand.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Blue has aspirations to be something greater, but he's far too incompetent to be taken seriously.
- The Chew Toy: Things rarely go right for Kid Blue, although it's usually his own fault.
- Determinator: Credit where credit's due; he doesn't give up, even if it's the smart thing to do. Especially since this involved driving a hoverbike with a single broken hand, pulling off reasonably accurate shots with his offhand in the meantime.
- Establishing Character Moment: Mishandling his gun and being mocked by his co-workers establishes Blue as a notorious fuck-up.
- The Gunfighter Wannabe: Whelp. Blue runs around in a Badass Longcoat, wields an older fashioned silver revolver, twirls said revolver like a 5-year-old messing with their dads gun, holsters it in an old west style holster, and really, really overestimates his skills with a gun. Hes clearly been watching too many Westerns. Or maybe not enough.
- Gun Twirling: Frequently does this, even though he's shot himself in the foot before.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Hilariously incompetent, but surprisingly not an awful person. Doesn't stop Joe from killing him, though.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: He has this relationship with Abe.
Played By: Piper Perabo
- Chekhov's Gunman: Two examples. Her son turns out to be one of the potential candidates to become the future Rain Maker. Old Joe visiting her apartment also leads to Abe's crew catching him.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Implied. She turns down Joe's offer to give her half his silver, insisting she'd rather earn her money on her own.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: She seems good-natured enough, and comforts Joe when he's feeling guilt over Seth's death. She's also working as a prostitute to provide for her son. However, she flatly rejects Joe's attempts to "save" her from her lifestyle, and she sees him as just another client.
Played By: Jeff Daniels
- A Father to His Men: Seems to be quite close to his henchmen including Kid Blue despite of the latter's incompetence. That said, his patience has limits.
- Affably Evil: Abe just wants to have nice talks with people until they give him what he wants... or until he gets fed up and smashes their hands with a ball-peen hammer.
- Big Bad: Right up until Old Joe kills him.
- Break Them by Talking: His preferred method of dealing with troublemakers. If that doesn't work, he breaks them with a hammer.
- Disc-One Final Boss: He's killed by Old Joe before the finale.
- The Fagin: According to Word of God, Abe acts as a Parental Substitute for the young street thugs he recruits as his assassins.
- Pretty Little Headshots: None of the firearms Old Joe wields in his assault on Abe's HQ would leave such a tiny little hole in someone's head.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Has this relationship with Kid Blue.
Played By: Pierce Gagnon
- Ambiguous Disorder: There's something a little odd about Cid. He's very mature and intelligent for his age in some ways, while also susceptible to age-inappropriate tantrums and meltdowns which, combined with his TK abilities, give him the ability to literally tear people he doesn't like to shreds. He also has a need for control over his environment, which suggests he may be somewhere on the autism spectrum.
- Ambiguous Start of Darkness: Shows some creepy and amoral tendencies before Old Joe goes after his mother, making it unclear if Young Joe saving his mother will ultimately stop the Rainmaker.
- Badass Adorable: This little boy has the potential to become a Person of Mass Destruction, being way more powerful than his mother. And he does, in the timeline where he becomes the Rainmaker.
- Child Prodigy: He is obviously a budding genius. At his young age, he's able to make astute observations and has impressive electrical skills.
- Creepy Child: Particularly when he loses control of his TK.
- Facial Horror: After Old Joe shoots him, he gets a pretty nasty wound on his face.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Cid to The Rainmaker, who "came out of nowhere" and took over organized crime.
- Future Badass: He is the kid who could grow up to be the Rainmaker.
- Mind over Matter: His powers, like his mother. Only even moreso.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Cid, a freakishly powerful telekinetic who may or may not become the Rainmaker, who's described as having destroyed five ultra-powerful crime syndicates at once.
- Power Incontinence: Given how young he is, he has very little control over his abilities.
- Ambiguous Start of Darkness: Given he still existed in Old Joe's timeline where he shot his Old Joe, this puts the Stable Time Loop in question whether it can explain his villainy or not.
- The Dreaded: The Rainmaker, an evil crime lord from the future who took control of every mob family single-handedly, and now presides over an international reign of terror and mass murder.
- One-Man Army: The Rainmaker, a powerful telekenetic who takes over several extremely powerful crime syndicates singlehandedly.
- Red Baron: The Rainmaker, the terrifying future crimelord who sets the movie's plot into motion, the phrase 'reign of terror' is used, making it a pun. It's shown to have another meaning when his powers are demonstrated.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In the timeline where he becomes the Rainmaker. He watches his mother be killed, and that becomes his Start of Darkness. He eventually orders all Loopers killed, presumably trying to prevent his mother's death.
Played By: Garret Dillahunt
- Alas, Poor Villain: Being one of the nicest characters in the film, Jesse really didn't deserve his Cruel and Unusual Death.
- Ludicrous Gibs: Gets utterly ripped apart by Cid's TK, together with the rest of the room they're in, when he accidentally startles the kid.
- Nice Guy: Although he won't be deterred from his amoral and illegal job, he's exceedingly polite about it and tries his best to cause as little disruption as possible.
- Punch-Clock Villain: He's just doing his job, and Young Joe even seems to respect him.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: He trains his gun on Cid when startled by him coming down the stairs, but immediately raises his hands to show he's not a threat once it's clear Cid is a child.