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Dirty Coward / Live-Action Films

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  • Airplane II: The Sequel: Simon, Elaine's fiance. He lied and said that Stryker was wrong about the Mayflower shuttle being defective, and later abandons the shuttle rather than help save its passengers from the disaster.
  • Aliens: Carter Burke. His meddling directly causes the deaths of everyone in the colony. When called on this, he tries to bribe Ripley, then attempts to get Ripley and Newt infected so he can sneak them past quarantine. And to top it off, in order to sell a convincing story to the authorities, he was going to kill the rest of the team in their sleep on the way home. Slime ball doesn't even begin to describe him. In fact, being such a Dirty Coward is what leads to his death. When the Aliens attack, he tries to escape on his own, shutting a security door behind him as he does, which seemingly prevents Ripley and the Marines from getting out as well. He then runs straight into a single Alien, which kills him. Which is a kindness compared to the original script, where he ended up another victim of the Alien's parasite-based birthing process until Ripley gives him a grenade for a Mercy Kill (a fate which made it into the novelization). Burke was so bad that when Paul Reiser, the actor portraying him, took his parents to the film's premiere, his mother nodded in approval when her son's character died.
    Ripley: You know, Burke, I'm not sure which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.
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  • Attack: Captain Cooney continually puts his men in jeopardy by being too cowardly to send reinforcements. At the end, when they're trapped in a basement in a town overrun by SS and other Nazis, he becomes a full-on dirty coward when he grabs a gun and threatens anyone that would keep him from surrendering. This is despite the fact that one of his men is Jewish and the others tell Cooney the SS won't honor his POW rights. The others shoot him before he can surrender and reveal their position.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron gives us Disc-One Final Boss Baron Wolfgang von Strucker.
    Strucker: [...] NO SURRENDER!
    HYDRA Soldiers: NO SURRENDER!
    Strucker: [to Dr. List] I'm going to surrender...
  • The live-action version of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (2017) is even more of a Dirty Coward than his original counterpart. In addition to begging Beast for his life in the climax then shoots him in the back, he callously uses Lefou, his best friend, as a human shield when the castle's furniture starts attacking, then leaves him behind.
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  • In Convoy, Spider Mike, one of the truckers who formed the eponymous convoy, is thrown into prison by the Sheriff of Alvarez, Texas, a brutal racist who beats the crap out of him. When all the other truckers come to save their friend, the Sheriff immediately jumps on his patrol car and tries to flee. But he is outdriven by the truckers and crashes into a house.
  • In The Double, James turns out this way. He's incredibly selfish and climbs ranks using trickery and blackmail, not caring what it does to Simon, and when Simon physically threatens him at his mother's funeral, he tries to hide behind whatever girl he brought with him rather than face Simon head-on.
  • Major William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow. Upon learning that he's going to be embedded with the invasion (which, admittedly, ends in failure), he panics and blackmails General Brigham, resulting in him being arrested and sent to the front lines. Over the many times he repeats this process, he gradually takes levels in badass and loses this tendency.
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  • The Evil Dead: Scotty initially appears to be a badass and the ideal hero, holding his own against the deadites while Ash is left paralyzed in fear. However, when he's forced to chop up his girlfriend Shelly with an axe after she's possessed, he promptly abandons Ash and an injured Linda to save himself, explicitly telling Ash that he doesn't care what happens to the latter. He pays for it when deadite-possessed trees rip him to shreds.
  • Honey Pie from Feast. She manages to escape the bar, evade the monsters, and safely get to a beer truck, but instead of picking up the remaining survivors, she hightails it, and leaves them for dead. Worst of all, she gets away with it scot-free, too. Until the third movie, that is.
    • Greg in the second film, who sacrifices a baby to the monsters so he can escape. He did initially try to save it, though, but still.
  • Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men. For all his claims of toughness, he was willing to throw two marines under the bus to protect his sorry hide.
    • Also his C.O., Markinson. Out of some seriously misguided Undying Loyalty, and thinking that Jessup is a man who will do anything to not get indicted over Santiago's death (and has the connections and political pull to do so, even if it really doesn't make sense — like being able to make an entire flight coming out of Guantanamo and arriving to another U.S. military base disappear from the records of both bases note ), he decides to go on the lam, provide information to Kaffee Deep Throat-style, blow his brains out when Kaffee manages to get him subpoenaed to testify in court, and his suicide note (addressed to Santiago's mother) literally says "the only truth that you need to know regarding your son's death is that I was too weak-willed to try to prevent it".
  • The Flight of the Phoenix (1965): Sgt. Watson. At first, he fakes an injury to avoid going with his Captain into the desert, then he refuses to go with him to look for help. Both prove to be wise decisions, but Watson is clearly a coward made worse by the fact that he lives and never gets his comeuppance whereas more heroic characters do die.
  • In The Four Feathers, Harry Faversham is not a coward, but it has been drummed into his head by his father that he was. He was so terrified of showing cowardice in combat (with all the social punishment that follows) that he resigns his commission just before he was to be sent to the Sudan. This brings on all the things he tried to avoid, including losing his friends and his fiancé. He then goes on a private mission to prove his courage to them and redeem himself. Ironically, although he makes a good case for choosing his own life and its responsibilities, he actually proves his father right in that physical courage is the only measure of a man.
  • Karl-Heinz in Germany, Year Zero is accused of being this, as he refuses to register with the government for food rations that the family needs due to fear of repercussions from his activities as part of a Nazi regiment. He doesn't deny this, but by the end of the film, he gains the confidence to go with the police and get registered.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Zartan, especially when he knife-stabs Cover Girl in the back (much to Storm Shadow's disgust).
    "For you, Zartan, I make an exception."
  • Godzilla:
    • Godzilla vs. Megalon has two goons hired by a Seatopian agent. Not only are they bribed with "100,000 yen" to unknowingly kill a man and his younger brother inside a massive crate, but after realizing that they were being used and managing to kill the agent, they still follow through with the orders and try to dump the crate off a nearby dam, despite knowing they won't get paid. Why? Because they're afraid of the consequences if they don't. Once a friend of the heroes tries to convince them to save his friends, what do they do? They steal his car and run away, never to be seen again for the rest of the film.
    • In All Monsters Attack, Gabara picks on Minya because he knows the poor kid won't fight back. This bites him in the ass when Godzilla goes to town on him.
    • In Godzilla (2014), when the power plant starts to melt down, two of Sandra's team members simply run instead of trying to help Sandra with the final teammate, who was knocked off his feet. They still don't manage to make it to the security door in time (instead showing up at the same time Sandra and the final team member do, so maybe they felt guilty and went back for them).
  • Vanessa from The Grudge 2 qualifies. She acts tough and bullies the new student into hiding inside a closet in the film's cursed "grudge" house. She claims the house is so scary that only she and her bully goon have been able to stay inside it for too long. The second the new student sees the ghost and starts screaming in terror inside the closet, Vanessa shoves her goon friend and bolts out of the house, leaving the other girls behind with the unseen terror. Later in the film, Vanessa is left alone in the school principal's office. She is visited by one of the ghosts and once again flees. She bolts into a phone booth, where the ghost finally pins her legs down and kills her. The principal is then taken by the ghost as well because of Vanessa. The film further highlights Vanessa's cowardice by having her wet herself with fear when she sees a ghost in the locker room. Her behavior is ironic since she starts off bullying the new student into a scary situation in an attempt to take a picture of her terrified for a laugh. When the tables turn and the horror hits home, Vanessa clearly falls apart like the cowardly wuss she is.
  • Roger Winston from Heroes for Sale. He's sent on a mission to capture a German soldier, but chickens out when the time comes. What makes this worse is that he takes the honour of this sacrifice from Tom, the guy who actually captured the officer. He then takes this glory and uses it to his advantage even when Tom suffers from it.
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:
    • When Smaug attacks Laketown, the Master of Laketown attempts to escape by boat and knocks away any of the pleading townspeople who try to get on.
    • Alfrid absolutely refuses to do anything to contribute to his people's survival and does anything he can to hide or escape. His most disgraceful scene is when he disguises himself as a woman and hides where the women and children are. When the women all pick up weapons and join their husbands on the battlefield, he still refuses to help.
  • Inception: Nash (Cobb's original architect) sells out Cobb and Arthur to Saito to save his own skin. But said person would then leave Nash to the mercy of Cobol Engineering, who would inevitably hunt him down and kill him when they find him.
  • I Shot Jesse James: The people of The Wild West find Robert Ford to be this trope after he shoots Jesse James in the back. It's actually an aversion, however, as Bob did the action more out of pragmatism: Jesse wasn't paying attention to him and was separated from his guns.
  • I Spit on Your Grave: Johnny in the remake. He pees himself when faced with Jennifer's revenge. She reacts with extreme disgust, commenting that even the others didn't do that.
  • Jurassic Park:
  • Vernita Green from the film Kill Bill qualifies big time, asking the Bride to spare her by using the fact that she is a mother as a pretense and hiding behind her little girl, which is even more shameless if one considers that she's brutally beaten the Bride while she was heavily pregnant herself. Then, once it becomes painfully clear that this doesn't mean shit to her, she tries to off her in a surprise sneak attack, which promptly gets her killed with a thrown dagger from the Bride.
  • The sailor named Tim in King Kong is portrayed this way. When the natives notice the interloping white people, he freaks out and tries to run away, which would've potentially made an already tense situation dangerous. "What're you runnin' for?" Jack demands to know. A sheepish Tim doesn't reply.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Charlie fails the Secret Test of Character where he is given the choice between betraying the Kingsmen or dying. He gives the Kingsmen up without a second thought.
  • Snipe in Morning Departure is a claustrophobe, which should have precluded him from submarine service. However, he lied about his condition so he could receive the extra pay awarded to submariners. When he discovers he is not one of the mariners to be sent to the surface, he panics and attacks the captain. His other attempts to escape endanger the lives of the surviving crew.
  • The Mummy (1999):
    • Beni fits squarely into this role, betraying every member of the cast and joining with the villain in order to save his own skin. His comeuppance is suitably horrible.
    • Anck Su Namun in the second movie qualifies as well. While Evie risks her life to save Rick when he and Imhotep are on the verge of being Dragged Off to Hell, Anck Su Namun just straight up abandons Imhotep to die to save her own skin.
  • In North Country, Josey's high school boyfriend witnessed her being raped by the teacher, but panicked and never told anyone, even when the whole town shamed her for having a baby out of wedlock.
  • Paths of Glory: Lieutenant Roget. While out on a mission, he kills one of his own scouts in a blind panic and later tries to cover his tracks by having the only witness court-martialed.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • One of the glaring personality flaws of Captain Jack Sparrow is his tendency toward dirty cowardice (though he may arguably be more of a Lovable Coward), especially in the face of certain death, and escape from death becomes his major motivation in Dead Man's Chest and At World's End.
      Barbossa: You've always run away from a fight!
      Jack: Have not.
      Barbossa: You have so.
      Jack: Have not.
      Barbossa: You have so!
      Jack: Have not!
      Barbossa: You have so and you know it!
      Jack: Have not! Slander and calumny! I have only ever embraced that oldest and noblest of pirate traditions. I submit that here now, that is what we all must do. We must fight — to run away.
    • Blackbeard in On Stranger Tides will do absolutely anything to escape death. He even chooses to sacrifice his daughter, who he has described multiple times as the only good thing in his life, in order to make the Fountain of Youth work and gain a few more decades to live.
  • In Pitch Black, Johns pretends to be a brave, upstanding man of the law at first, but is eventually revealed as a cowardly, self-serving junkie mercenary. He steals all the morphine so Owens has to die in agony. After the aliens come out during the eclipse, he stays back and lets the others investigate even though he's the only one with a gun, uses Jack as an excuse to hide his own fear, and is prepared to kill Jack and use her as bait to distract the creatures, causing Riddick to kill him.
  • Yang, President Park's drinking buddy in The President's Last Bang. After an assassin comes in, shoots Park in the chest, and leaves after his gun jams, Yang scurries away. He leaves two women entertainers with President Park, who is bleeding heavily but still very much alive.
    Shim: Are you fucking kidding me? Come here and help us!
    Yang: You're brave girls. Wait here. I'll be right back.note 
  • The Princess Bride:
    • Prince Humperdink. So much that, at the end of the movie, Westley says that simply letting him live the rest of his life as a coward is enough of a punishment.
    • Count Rugen as well. When Inigo Montoya finally confronts him, Rugen raises his sword as if to fight, then turns and sprints away. (And then, on top of it, ambushes Indigo when he finally does catch up to him. But what do you expect from a guy whose idea of a "hobby" was Cold-Blooded Torture?)
    • Also, Yellin, Humperdink's Captain of the Guard, given how he reacts after his men flee:
    Westley: Give us the gate key.
    Yellin: I have no key.
    Inigo: Fezzik, tear his arms off.
    Yellin: Oh, you mean this key.
  • Rambo IV: In the final battle, Major Tint hides when the fighting starts (leaving his own men to be slaughtered). When the battle's over, he runs for his life. The only time he ever even fires his weapon, it's to shoot an unarmed missionary In the Back.
  • Hopp from The Revengers. Recruited for his knowledge of the Outlaw Town Benedict wants to find, he initially refuses to take the team there and has to be threatened into complying. He attempts to jump ship at the first opportunity and is dragged back in ropes by one of his fellow convicts. He attempts to flee the final combat and is tackled by one of the others which probably saves his life.
  • Revolution (1985): Tom didn't want to have anything to do with the Revolutionary War, and he doesn't want to get in trouble with the British. He grows out of this later on.
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: Owen, Penny's whiny ex-boyfriend, who uses her as a human shield and Screams Like a Little Girl when bullets start flying during a riot.
  • Star Wars:
    • Nute Gunray and the entire leadership of the Trade Federation in the prequels. They never made a move without an entire army to protect them, and cowered without any shame when there wasn't anyone to protect them. (In fact, pretty much every leader of the groups in the Separatist Alliance was like this, which is likely the whole reason why Palpatine chose them as Unwitting Pawns — they'd be easy to dispose of once he didn't need them anymore.)
    • The Phantom Menace: Sebulba, Anakin's pod-racing rival; although the movie does not suggest it, one Expanded Universe source said that the reason he had it out so badly for Anakin was because secretly, he was afraid of him. If Anakin was to actually win a race, even accidentally, Sebulba would have been humiliated beyond belief (which is exactly what happened).
    • In that vein, the Expanded Universe (particularly The Force Unleashed) does a good job of establishing Darth Vader as a self-pitiful coward.
    • Captain Phasma from The Force Awakens. She orders the mass execution of war prisoners and has a Social Darwinist view of her own subordinates, but when Han, Chewie, and Finn ambush her, she immediately surrenders and gives up the shield codes.
  • In Saving Private Ryan, the German soldier known as Steamboat Willie shamefully grovels to the American protagonists when they have him prisoner. They spare him and allow him to walk free, but he joins up with another German unit and shows up for the final battle, and isn't so forthcoming of mercy when the situation is reversed, being responsible for the deaths of Captain Miller and another American mauve-shirt. Upham is often argued as one as well, as he sat cowering in fear as a German soldier was overpowering Mellish and stabbing him with his own knife, although he redeems himself for avenging Miller and shooting Willie dead.
  • The Shawshank Redemption: Serial Rapist Bogs Diamond won't dare approach Andy Dufresne without the aid of The Sisters, his gang of fellow prison rapists (especially when it's shown that Andy could fight them off from time to time). Several officers eventually give him a taste of his own medicine, catching him alone and beating him to a bloody pulp. Bogs is soon seen trying to crawl out of his prison cell, screaming and begging for someone, anyone to help him.
  • Storage 24: Mark in the British horror film. Not only does he bail on his best friend when they are attacked by an alien (the friend, who is the protagonist, manages to survive anyway), he later tries to bar an exit to keep the alien from reaching him, even though it means locking his friends in with it.
  • Tombstone: Ike Clanton. He always talks trash when he has fellow gang members to back him up, but instantly turns into a cowering dog when the tables are turned on him. He backs down in fear or runs for his life no less than four times in the film.
  • Transformers Film Series:
  • Trapped in Space: When Captain Howard finds out that the ship is in danger, he immediately runs to the escape vessel and leaves instead of waiting for a few minutes for his crewmates. As a result, they're stuck on a damaged ship with an oxygen shortage and no means of asking for help. When he talks to reporters about it, he wraps bandages on his head and tells them a sob story about how he tried to save them. Since he claims that they're already dead, nobody tries to rescue them.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes: "The Donkeys", apes who defect from Caesar's tribe and join the humans, are viewed as this by the other apes as many of them (including Red and Winter) betrayed the pack to save themselves from war.
  • The sadistic Quint family in Will Penny (including Donald Pleasance in Large Ham mode and Bruce Dern in an early role). All of them worthless, heartless monsters, none of them have the courage to tackle the title character unless they're all together. Of course, the title character happens to be Charlton Heston.
  • In The Wolverine, Noburo Mori runs from conflict, especially in the face of Wolverine.
  • Played for Laughs in Willow, as Burglekutt objects to the idea that Vohnkar accompany Willow on his journey, as he's the best warrior in the village.
    High Aldwyn: All this expedition needs is a leader. And according to the bones, that leader is... you, Burglekutt!
    Burglekutt: VOHNKAR!!!
  • Unfriended: Blaire was the one who shot the video that prompted Laura to commit suicide (and got Mitch to upload it). When Laura's vengeful spirit comes looking for payback, she sells out all of her friends and gets them all killed in a vain attempt to avoid the blame. When it's just her and Laura, she snivels and pleads for her life, appealing to their friendship to try and save herself. It doesn't work.
  • In X-Men: Apocalypse, when Jean Grey frees Weapon X (a Brainwashed and Crazy Wolverine) from his cell, he attacks and slaughters every soldier at the Alkali Lake facility. Stryker tells his men that he will be right back. He boards his helicopter and leaves — the only other survivors? The mutants he took captive.
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