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"Tales without end are told of these massive, lonely figures who bore half-seriously, half-mockingly a motto adopted from one of Salvor Hardin's epigrams, 'Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right!'"

An Archetypal Character who is almost as common in modern fiction as the Ideal Hero, an anti-hero is a character who lacks a handful of the traditional attributes of a hero but is ultimately heroic. They may be bewildered, ineffectual, deluded, or merely apathetic. More often an anti-hero is just an amoral misfit. While heroes are typically conventional, anti-heroes, depending on the circumstances, may be preconventional (in a "good" society), postconventional (if the government is "evil") or even unconventional.

Most are to the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.

There are just as many variations on Anti-Heroes as there are normal heroes. Some common attributes are: rarely speaking, being a loner, either extreme celibacy or extreme promiscuity, parental issues, occasional Past Experience Nightmares and flashbacks relating to a Dark and Troubled Past that can take many forms depending on the Anti-Hero in question; and being able to tell the story of their life through any Nick Cave song. Some won't Save the Villain, but they will Shoot the Dog, and they will not hesitate to kill anyone who threatens them.

Other characters may try to impress upon them the value of more traditional heroic values through The Power of Friendship, but these lessons tend to bounce more often than stick.

What amoral antiheroes learn, if they learn anything at all over the course of the story, is that an existence devoid of absolute values offers a lot of isolation. Which may be to their liking. Don't You Dare Pity Me! is common, and gratitude may be repulsed with Think Nothing of It (just to get them to leave them alone).

These often crop up in deconstructions of traditionally heroic genres. As the struggling, imperfect protagonist begins to gain more respect and sympathy than the impressive-but-impossible-to-relate-to invincible superhero, "anti" heroes have come to be admired as a perfectly valid type of hero in their own right.

Like any other character types, they can take on various roles, like not serving as The Protagonist but as The Rival or Worthy Opponent of The Hero and are prone to becoming a Ensemble Dark Horse as fans enjoy their interactions with the protagonist. If they are part of a Five-Man Band, they will most certainly be The Lancer. Well liked ones may become a Deuteragonist or at least get A Day in the Limelight to please the fans.

The term is used more loosely today than it used to be, at least on This Wiki. In one definition of the word, the appeal of an anti**hero** is that they're often very literally a hero: Namely; they do heroic deeds. But whereas Superman, Wonder Woman, and many other conventional heroes have both the physical and moral capabilities to do it, an antihero almost never has both.

Anti-Heroes are spread all over the alignment chart, tending towards Neutral types (and Good ones if the anti-heroic side of his character is less prominent). While the Knight in Sour Armor or the Classical Anti-Hero aren't actually morally flawed, and can even be pure good characters, the other anti-hero types are never pure good, as they tend towards the morally grey zone.

Traditionally, in literary analysis, the meaning of antihero was different from the now common usage, lacking the elements that make a hero "cool" rather than the elements that make them "good". Willy Loman and Shinji Ikari are archetypes of this form, in contrast to someone like Spawn or Kain.

If you've been sent here by a work referring to someone as a "Type-I" antihero (or so forth), they are referring to Analysis.Anti Hero, which is a sub-page of this one. Since those numbers are no longer used even on that page, they should be replaced with an appropriate named type.

Compare and contrast this trope with its antithesis, the Anti-Villain. A character who is a Wild Card or a Heel–Face Revolving Door can be capable of being both an Anti-Hero and an Anti-Villain depending on whether or not they are acting for or against the protagonist at the time. For an ensemble of these heroes, see Anti-Hero Team.

Not to be confused with the webcomic anti-HEROES, or the villain/Big Bad, who is the opponent of Heroes (and Anti-Heroes, for that matter), or Villain Protagonist, where the main character is outright evil.

Sub-tropes and related tropes

Character types particularly prone to anti-heroism (though many have their share of straight-up heroes, and villains too) include:


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    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat Fun Class, Wolffy gets a lot of his antagonistic traits toned down in comparison to the show it's spun off from, with the worst thing he does being that he's ruder than the goats, being louder and a Sore Loser (as demonstrated once in the second season, Sports are Fun). He's not as willing to hurt them on purpose as in Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, but is still clearly not as heroic as the goats with his rudeness.

    Audio Plays 
  • In Sarah Jane Smith, Sarah Jane Smith becomes this trope herself. She sometimes comes across as a bit of a Jerkass, puts the greater good ahead of her friends' lives, and in "The TAO Connection," she essentially murders the villain of the episode.

    Fan Works 
  • All For Luz: Luz Noceda develops a more ruthless personality after her experience at the Death Camp, becoming willing to do whatever is necessary to protect the ones she cares about, even lethal force, and avenge them.
  • Assassin Among Heroes: Ristu Ogawa, aka Shinigami, is a vigilante Villain Killer who hunts and murders criminals, and openly views the pro-heroes' Thou Shalt Not Kill policy as impractical nonsense. He also kills them in brutal fashion, and yet those he kills are so vile that it's hard to feel they didn't deserve it. In spite of this, he's a actually a pretty Nice Guy in his civilian life, if awkward and a bit aloof.
  • In The Requiem of Remnant, Giorno Giovanna is a Good Is Not Nice example. While his main goal in the fic is to get back home to hsif friends, along the way he will help out Vale and its people if he can, even coming to odds against Cinder Fall and doing everything he can to put an end to her and her schemes. However, to do so, Giorno won't hesitate to beat his enemies within an inch of his life, ally himself with other criminals, and fight against Team RWBY without a moment's hesitation or remorse.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, the Bakugou of Earth-2018.688 is self-entitled prick who wants nothing more than to beat the crap out of Izuku, who he blames for ruining his life. As Venom, he's menacing, has little regard for property damage, never takes responsibility for his own mistakes, and is a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around. That said, he repeatedly puts his life on the line out of a genuine desire to save people and stop Carnage.
  • Child of the Storm has most of the heroic cast as some shade of this thanks to the Black-and-Gray Morality -though there are several explicit examples of The Cape (Steve Rogers being the main one, though a young Clark Kent comes to prominence in the sequel), who are all treated with utmost respect by other characters and the narrative. This is also a little complicated by the likes of Thor - he's classically heroic, but by a slightly different moral standard (i.e. he's The Cape, but he's got no compunctions about killing).
  • Children of Remnant: All of the Claimed are this. While they are definitely overly aggressive and their moral codes are nonsensical at the absolute best, they're driven by their love for each other and they genuinely do mean to advocate for peace.
  • In Code Geass: Mao of the Deliverance, Mao is the brilliant but borderline-insane protagonist who will do whatever it takes to reunite with his lost love C.C. and destroy anyone who gets in his way or endangers her in his estimation, including grand theft, blackmail, and murder. He also intimidates and manipulates innocent Muggles without a care.
  • The Deliver Us from Evil Series fic "Mortality" has Watson as a Good Is Not Soft version. He is sweet, but won't hesitate to torture someone for information on his friend's whereabouts, and has no problem in killing a criminal without remorse if they really piss him off by torturing his friend with an inch of his life, and gloating over his friend while he's dying.
  • Tama in The Lion King Adventures. She does a few good things, but mainly for her own needs.
  • The Protagonist of The Night Unfurls, Kyril Sutherland, defies standard morals, ethics, and philosophies. In a Standard Fantasy Setting that champions the ideal of noble, chivalrous Knights in Shining Armor, Kyril is swift, brutal, and merciless towards his enemies. His stoicism, asociality, deranged weaponry, sinister appearance, lack of remorse for morally ambiguous actions, and the tendency to decorate the ground with heaps of limbs and innards during his fights instill unease and wariness to the people around him. Impressing upon him stock values (e.g., optimism, hero worship, battlefield courtesy, etc.) is tantamount to banging one's head against a wall, for he often chooses his own values over those expected of him. Nevertheless, Kyril does heroic deeds, like ending a centuries-old war and protecting the innocent from legions of rapists, pillagers and slavers. Unlike many characters of the same archetype, Kyril is neither a Deadpan Snarker nor a toxic asshole (though some people In-Universe think he is the latter).
  • In Once upon a Time: Abridged, most characters are this, dialing up their most unlikable trait in the series, except the few nice and innocent characters who are vilified by the writers and fandom alike (Broken Bird Deadpan Snarker Princess Abigail, and Disposable Fiancé Nice Guy Gaston, as well as The Cutie Lovable Coward Aurora, to a lesser degree) who are portrayed as Sheep in Sheep's Clothing and straight-up heroes.
  • Drake Aurion from Tales of Fate is a very unique example. While he presents himself as a loner with a dark and troubled past, he actually has a strong sense of camaraderie with his friends, but has little faith in humanity and only fights to help others because it's the right thing to do. He's also killed more people than anyone at Beacon Academy ever has.
  • Shugo Kino from Pretty Cure Heavy Metal is usually this, but ever since episode 45, she'll become a psychotic yet Well-Intentioned Extremist when confronted by dangerous criminals such as Kuroimetaru.
  • Beren from Russian Tolkien fic Beyond the Dawn. In Tolkien's The Silmarillion and Lay of Leithian he wasn't prefect, but he was closer to be the Ideal Hero. In Beyond the Dawn he's angrier and more pragmatic.
  • Sinestro in the World of Heroes RPG.
  • A Hero, a crossover between Doctor Who and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, gives us a post-Evolution of the Daleks, non-hybrid Dalek Sec. No, really.
  • Secret War, a Warhammer 40,000 fan fic, that follows Attelus Kaltos, a mercenary apprentice assassin, who is so morally grey in his actions, he could even be interpreted as a Villain Protagonist.
  • World of Warcraft fic Children of the Stars features Keleria, a raging, red-eyed, cackling berserker...with morals and a soft spot for adorable priestesses.
  • The Tamers Forever Series has several examples, such as: Noble Demon; Chaos, Good Is Not Nice; Takeru and Jerkass Woobie; Rika
  • Harry in The Wizard in the Shadows. Slightly mad, a Blood Knight and quite willing to carve a bloody swathe through almost anything he regards as an obstacle... whilst being charming, unfailingly polite to women, having a soft spot for children and caring deeply for his friends.
    • He tortures enemies. He has a disregard, at best, for figures of authority, along with generally disregarding people's lives when facing a threat to those he cares about. He generally hovers around Pragmatic Anti-Hero until Ginny turns up. Then he's generally a milder Anti-Hero, with worse tendencies when someone he cares about is hurt.
  • Joachim Hoch from the Uplifted series, on the one hand is a Waffen SS Officer somewhat disenchanted with the war, charming and kind, sympathetic to the Quarians, and has lines he will not cross. He offers to let his Jewish sister in law escape, though that confrontation ends badly in a shocking fashion. On the other hand he is violent and brutal in combat, not shy about his anti-semitic, homophobic viewpoints (though it does get him into trouble with Hanala at times), and fiercely believes in his cause. He is Waffen SS for a reason. His Quarian counterpart and eventual lover, Hanala Jarva, is manipulative, lying, and brutal, and yet more idealistic than Hoch. Even if it usually is Hoch who plays the role of peacekeeper.
    • Though as of the first interlude (taking place in 1999) both Hoch and Hanala seem to have become a Disney Anti Hero in their old age.
  • Ethan Sunderland, the Courier, was depicted as this trope in Redemption in the Stars, mostly a Pragmatic Hero. To start, he killed a batarian thug, stopping him from mugging him and looted the corpse for anything of value to use. He agreed to work with Cerberus on a project to repair his Transportalponder (though he was not happy about it himself), abandoned Liara and Feron at the mercy of Tazzik when things turned for the worse during their pursuit of Shepard, and took a Blue Suns Centurion hostage to extract information on Liara's and Feron's coordinates from her comrades. On the other hand, he had assisted the NCR during his travels in the Mojave, according to the narration. He was also squeamish working with Cerberus but didn't see much of the choice but to go along.
  • In Brave New World, we have Team Quantum's Aeon. The rest of Team Quantum still count, but Aeon takes it further when he sucks Team Ebony in his stomach-mouth and puts them through Training from Hell. As a reward, they are now fearless and can use time-themed attacks, but are severely traumatized as a result. Even the rest of Team Quantum didn't like what he did.
    • General Nuken of the Draconian Army is also one, what with his tendency to enjoy killing things and being a sociopath. However, despite this, he is devoted to the Draconian Empire and is well intentioned. His personality is actually due to him taking all the negative personality traits from his brother when they evolved from a Nincada.
  • Diaries of a Madman has one in Navarone. He'll usually do the right thing when it really matters, but he can act in very unethical and underhanded ways, and can be extremely abrasive. Celestia also dips into this on occasions as well.
  • In Tech 10 Rebooted, Tech fights for what he believes is 'justice', and will straight up ignore the safety of people or the upholding of the law in order to accomplish his goals.
  • The protagonist, Lockbox, of My Little Metro is gradually becoming this as the depravity of the Metro wears down his better natures.
  • Alexandra Harris, the protagonist of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Power Girl crossover-fic Origin Story best showed that she was an Anti-Hero when she fought Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. After she uses her "super-breath" to freeze him in place, thus nullifying his stretching powers, he assumes that she has insured that he'd thaw before suffering permanent damage from frostbite. Alex corrects him, telling Richards that she neither knows nor cares whether or not he'll thaw before being permanently injured.
  • Seamus Finnigan, whose method to defeat the Big Bad in Sluagh is by ritually torturing and murdering his recruits both current and potential.
  • Jason Shepard, aka Lightstorm of Sailor Moon: Legends of Lightstorm is this, though his motivation stems primarily from necessity. Due to legally not existing, his main source of income is money and resources that he takes from the criminals of Tokyo that he kills. Mostly this is so he can buy things like food, clothes, and materials to make his armor and weapons, but he has been shown to have other reasons for going after criminals (in one instance, he seemed to be extremely angry with a drug dealer (so much so that he seemed about to torture the guy to death), and less than a minute later he refers to the session as "training" to Luna over the phone).
  • Swordstorm has Kapral. His motives are unclear, but he is rather sarcastic and pragmatic.
  • Tom in Tom Riddle's Schooldays is nice and helpful for selfish reasons.
  • Shinji from Thousand Shinji is a violent jerkass, manipulates people's feelings and often displays a disturbing lack of empathy. Still he fights Eldritch Abominations and eviler people than him, and he intends to save mankind.
  • Subverted in The Second Try. Shinji and Asuka were this in the original timeline and in the After the End chapters (since they fought to save the world for selfish reasons or merely struggled to survive), but in the "repeat" chapters they're straight up heroes: They really don't have any reason to pilot the EVAs anymore. They lost everything the first time around, they had dealt with their issues and regrets a long time ago, and now they've lost their daughter. They don't have any attachments to the world, nor anything to gain from saving it. But they choose to fight anyways, just to give the world another chance.
  • In Worm fanfic Quicken, Emma's fighting style is brutal and gory and she kills a lot of people. Said people are thugs, gangsters, rapists and Nazis who want to kill her, rape her or sell her into slavery because she is too white, she isn't white enough, she's a woman or she's in the wrong place in the wrong time.
    Screw this.
    I was done with words. I was tired of being tossed from one struggle to the next. I was done listening to them and their useless voices. Yan, Lao, the Empire thugs from earlier, Cricket, these Empire thugs—it was just a blur of monsters wearing human faces. I was done hearing them talk, make justifications for their depravity. I was done watching them continue to breathe. I was just done.
    They thought I couldn't hurt them? We'd see.
  • In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, the protagonist who seems to have trouble showing basic human decency a lot of the time. Granted, the fact that he is appointed duty counsel for you-know-who doesn't help, of course.
  • A number of characters in Forum of Thrones are heroic but have rather murky morals and can't be called clear heroes.
    • The Burned Man is this even if you are on his side. He is affable, gentle and generous, but it must be remembered that he is a professional criminal and a very successful one at that. He employs children and raises them into a life of crime, yet his intentions are to keep them from falling victim to even worse things and to teach them something that will actually help them survive in Oldtown.
    • His adopted daughter Harpy is no less complicated. She is a sweet and caring young woman, with a soft spot for the children her adopted father employs. Many of them come to see her as a big sister and she genuinely mourns every loss close to her. Ultimately, she only wishes for a normal life, which sadly gets more and more out of reach for her. She is also incredibly vengeful, willing to go to great lengths to avenge any injustice she and the people she loves suffer. Her temper can also only be described as volatile.
    • Perhaps under the influence of the abovementioned characters, Jaron develops into one as well. Starting the series firmly as an idealistic, yet naive Knight in Shining Armor, he gradually got more cynical and more willing to compromise his honour to get results. The key moment that cemented this was arguably when he did not stop Harpy when she moved to kill the defeated Butterfly.
    • Irving is a Classical Anti-Hero. He lacks the skill of almost everyone around him, lacks the will to improve on his flaws (at least initially) and is a huge, but lovable coward. He is also firmly one of the good guys despite all of this.
    • Torvin Breaker is a sympathetic Point-of-View, with plenty of likeable traits, which makes it easy to forget that he is, by all means, part of a culture that encourages Rape, Pillage, and Burn. Compared to a majority of the other Ironborn, Torvin is certainly not that much of a bad guy and the ones he fights against are worse without a doubt, but even at his best, he is merely an Unscrupulous Hero.
    • After his Heel–Face Turn, Samuel Harrington has not lost his moral ambiguity. Though generally on the side of the good guys ever since, he has no problem with getting innocent people harmed or with stabbing those that consider him an ally in the back. That said, he also gradually develops into a more likeable person, as evidenced by his Ship Tease with Raenna.
  • In Total Drama fanfic Unbreakable Red Silken Thread Though greatly reformed compared to her in Total Drama, Heather still has many flaws that she acknowledges and must deal with.
  • This applies to many of the characters in The Hounds of Vegas. Dean, Randy, and eventually Seth are the biggest examples.
  • SAPR: Sunset Shimmer, since she wasn't hit by a friendship beam like in canon My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, has to learn to become a good person the hard way. Since she doesn't actually think she is a bad person, this road is rockier than normal.
  • Alucard in Turning Point has a much stronger moral compass than his father, but he is also willing to kill the people responsible for his mother's near-death and he isn't above conning a merchant by "selling" his magic sword if it means providing for himself and his mother.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reality's Curtain, Lady Light is happy to torture and murder her enemies with a smile on her face, and probably only qualifies as a hero because she's fighting the bad guys. Kimiko seems to be a lighter gray but is a huge Jerkass to everyone and happy to resort to physical violence even when the person she's assaulting was just trying to be her friend.
  • Pokémon: The Lost Child: Zoroark is looking to take down the evil Brotherhood but is willing to resort to measures like torture and murder in order to accomplish it.
  • A Dip in the Inkwell: Just as in canon, Todd is portrayed this way in "Gardening Lessons". He's no longer a villain but doesn't wish to get cozy with Odd Squad and accept their help. He eventually does, after much persuading from resident Genki Girl Olympia.
    Todd: Just because I'm not a villain anymore doesn't automatically make me a good guy, Agent Optimism. I can be odd and just garden instead of causing oddness.
  • We Must Be Killers: Almost every District 2 character has committed brutal murders in the arena in the service of an evil regime, can be very judgmental to people in other districts and even the ones who go against the Capitol have mixed motives, but they also truly care about each other and the people of their district? and do believe in the greater purpose of their actions. Even the nicer and better-adjusted victors often have Kick the Dog or Obliviously Evil moments, such as Brutus's mentor Odin refusing to let his mother see him and help repair his life after he becomes a victor.
  • In the Turning Red fic Turning Red: Secrets of the Panda, Catherine Moore starts off this way, as she does some immoral things such as experimenting on people, and removing Mei's panda spirit, but she's only trying to help people and soon realises her actions have caused more harm than good.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Beast from Beauty and the Beast. He started off as a selfish tyrant who ruled his kingdom with an iron fist, but is noble, protective and brave to a certain extent.
  • Despicable Me:
    • After his Heel–Face Turn, Gru switches to the hero side, but still keeps his negative qualities.
    • Kevin, Stuart and Bob, the three main minions from the prequel Minions, are the examples to this rule, in a way. Although they intend to find their sinister master for them to serve, they perform acts of goodness, such as looking out for each other, as well as (unintentionally) save England from Scarlett's influence.
  • Killer Bean Forever: Detective Cromwell qualifies as the Knight in Sour Armor variety. He is quite dead-set on sending Cappuccino to prison, trying to find dirt on him in any way he can, which is why he tries to meet with Killer Bean in the first place to get assistance. However, in most cases, he chooses to solve conflicts peacefully, such as when he meets Killer Bean in a bar and is able to avert any sort of conflict between Killer Bean, the bar owner, and himself.
  • Like Gru's example, the eponymous character of Megamind becomes this after his Heel–Face Turn. He's certainly not a hero in the traditional sense, and most of the problems he's faced with were his creations in the first place, but he does save the day.
  • Rise of the Guardians:
    • Jack Frost may be brave and heroic at heart, but also an incorrigible trickster who prefers to work alone.
    • Bunnymund is also one, acting like a complete jerk, although he deeply cares for his friends and children.
  • Ruben Brandt, Collector: Other criminals try to capture Ruben Brandt and his friends for stealing paintings, not because of the law, but because for the reward they can gain from it.
  • In Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, the titular character is definitely this. While he proves to have nobility and courage, Sinbad is also a thieving pirate captain who initially attempted not to return to Syracuse even though his best friend's life was on the line.

  • Chinese Hero: Hua Ying-Xiong becomes progressively colder and crueler with every friend and loved one he loses.
  • The Exploding Girl: Ping was clearly a delinquent before getting superpowers, but has been shown to use those fighting skills to protect helpless people from bullies. Mao is similarly all for stopping the Violencia and the rogue Exploding Girls, but their methods can be ruthlessly cold, pragmatic, and even sadistic.
  • Weapons of the Gods: As much as the narrative labels them as "heroes", lots of them are self-serving, and aren't above scheming to get what they want (e.g. Bei-Ming Zheng, Dong-Fang Xiong, and the Phoenix Queen), or are too brutal and ruthless (e.g. Tie-Xin). This is contrasted by the outright traditional, virtuous heroes like Wen-Tian and Xi-Cheng Xiu-Shu.

  • Cavalier of the Abyss:
    • Nex is a cold, bitter, ruthless, jaded tyrant! He's also trying to prevent Caladbolg and followers from bringing ruin to both worlds. This includes ordering entire villages executed because even one is infected.
    • Xix is driven by his desire for revenge against Nex and is not afraid to play dirty, but a good person at heart.

  • Five Iron Frenzy's song "My Evil Plan to Save the World" illustrates this point to an extent.
  • God Forbid's song "Anti Hero" Explore themes of anti-heroism, with lyrics like "Torn between right and wrong."

    Myths And Religion 
  • Since one of the main themes of The Bible is that Humans Are Flawed, almost all the "heroes of faith" whom God chooses to carry out His purposes have vices that causes all sorts of problems.
    • In the Old Testament, God usually identifies Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All three men are less-than-ideal in their own way, but especially Jacob, who deceives his father to steal his older brother's blessing, and later shows blatant Parental Favoritism towards his son Joseph (sparking fatal jealousy in his brothers). Despite this, God promises to make a great nation out of him and renames him "Israel", and this name is what his descendants would be known as for the next hundreds of years.
    • David, despite being known as "a man after God's own heart" repeatedly falls into his vices, such as committing adultery with Bathsheba, and having her husband murdered.
    • Unlike the later Kings of Israel, the judges are personally handpicked by God to rescue the nation from foreign opressors, but a lot of them (especially the latter half) are just as proud and bloodthirsty as their enemies.
      • Gideon massacres a neutral party for refusing to help him chase his enemies, and, after defeating his adversaries, builds an ephod for his honour (which becomes a new source of Israel's idolatry), which is described as a "snare to his family".
      • Jephthah recklessly makes an oath to sacrifice whatever comes out of the house to greet him when he returns from battle. This turns out to be his daughter, and Jephthah chooses to stand by his (poorly thought out) oath and sacrifices his daughter rather than admit his mistake and bear the consequences of breaking the oath by himself.
      • Samson is consistently depicted as violent, ill-tempered and prone to fall into his own carnal whims. He marries a Philistine woman (the nation he's supposed to be saving Israel from), then promptly divorces her when she causes him to lose a bet he made with the party guests, only to regret it later and tries to get her back. Failing to get back his wife, he goes on to cavort with prostitutes, including Delilah (who would lead to his downfall). Whenever he kills the Philistines, it's not because he wants to help his oppressed people — as his predecessors did — but because he's pissed and goes on a rampage.

  • In Wagner's Ring Cycle, Wotan is trying to establish a world of order and laws, his actions are nearly always self-serving.

  • Jason Whittaker, John Whittaker's adult son, from Adventures in Odyssey is certainly this; particularly when faced with a dangerous or otherwise sticky situation. He is the most likely to be told that he doesn't have to ignore basic morality to successfully counter evil, and he tends to be very cocky and aggressive when he thinks he knows what he's doing.
  • The Shadow of the radio series is a Lighter and Softer version of this term, at least during Orson Welles' tenure. He was much more moral overall and never directly killed anyone, but still often manipulated villains into killing each other or themselves. Once Welles left the role, however, later actors played him as a straight-up hero.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A relatively rare Lawful Good example would be Ambros Brasmere from Dungeons & Dragons. He is a Gray Guard, a paladin Prestige Class whose goal is to protect the innocent from evil no matter what. They fight dirty, can convert their Lay on Hand ability to a painful interrogation technique among other things. They're as cynical and brutal as their alignment allow.
  • Assumed to be the norm amongst players of Dungeons Of Drakkenheim. The setting corebook lets players gamble with their sanity and souls by employing Black Magic, in the form of spells fueled by Delerium; though very powerful, most of these spells cause the user to either risk or automatically gain Contamination levels, which results in crippling deformities and transformation into a non-playable mad monster. Players can also choose to be members of the Church of the Sacred Flame, a bunch of zealots who oppress followers of the Old Faith and mageborn, or even join the Followers of the Falling Fire, a Sacred Flame doomsday cult, or they can be mageborn who are loyal to the Amethyst Academy, which is determined to protect and promote mageborn rights no matter the cost. The player's guide offers a number of new subclasses that either actively embrace the dark power of Delerium or simply have a sinister flavor, such as a paladin who uses curses to defeat its enemies and a doomspeaking bard who spreads terror and despair.
  • Grim Hollow embraces the idea that player characters may have to embrace the darkness to fight the darkness, in contrast to settings like Ravenloft. The corebook offers a variety of monstrous transformations that players can choose to undergo; none of these affect their alignment, not even turning into a lich, vampire or literal demon, but all of them are inherently sinister in their abilities at best. Playable races, on the other hand, range from Draconic Humanoids who are implied to be embracing the anti-arcanist inquisition in part to cripple humanity — who relied on the power of arcane magic to destroy their former empire — to underwater-dwelling necromancers who sacrifice twin-born children.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Toshiro Umezawa of the setting Kamigawa is a selfish, conniving, snarky bastard. Doesn't keep him from fighting against a war against nigh-omnipresent and incredibly powerful god-spirits wanting to tear the world apart, for obvious reasons.
    • Sorin Markov, despite being in many ways a scheming douche, was also one of the three planeswalkers responsible for locking the Eldrazi away in a Zendikar-shaped can. He also created the most powerful force for human survival on Innistrad, admittedly to prevent the other vampires (and the zombies, and the werewolves...) from wiping out the food supply.
    • Urza is somewhere between this trope and Designated Hero. Over the course of six millenia of existence, Urza fought a brutal war with his own brother, caused The End of the World as We Know It (twice!), destroyed a small universe (one populated by Angels, no less), used and/or betrayed everyone close to him and their families, sacrificed six of his godlike brethren, and, perhaps most tellingly, was only able to make one real friend in all that time (the others merely being allies or his own creations). The flavor text of the card "Recover," puts it most tellingly:
      As Barrin exhumed his daughter's body, he finally realized the full price of his faith in Urza.
    • After being a straight villain in Agents of Artifice, Tezzeret grabs the Sympathetic P.O.V. after some Character Development and takes an Anti-Hero role in the sequel, Test of Metal.
    • Venser in both of his appearances, albeit in different ways: in Time Spiral, he's an arrogant, petulant stereotypical nerd who tries so hard to get into Jhoira's pants that he is more invested in scoring than in the end of the world that's happening right around him, while in Quest For Karn he is an arrogant Jerkass who is addicted to blinkmoth serum and constantly berates his teammates (which, to be fair to the man, dragged him there against his will). What's most jarring is that the set the second novel was written for tries to depict him as a straight up protagonist, in spite of his tract record and no attempts on Creative to fix it.
    • Liliana Vess only cares about one person: herself. Luckily, her interests have largely aligned with the greater good again and again, and saved Innistrad twice.
  • Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl is a game where you play a group of teenage anarchists out to change the world. The "PCs" are called Youthful Offenders and in every way, the world considers them to be criminals.

  • John Adams from 1776 certainly qualifies. The fact that he's frequently described as "obnoxious and disliked" (and remember, he describes HIMSELF that way) says a lot about his heroic disposition. The directors' commentary says that he's a difficult role to cast, as he must be disliked by Congress but likable to the audience.
  • The 2013 stage musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory takes the Interpretative Character Deuteragonist of Willy Wonka and nudges him into this trope, to the point that he comes off as Ambiguously Evil. On the one hand, all of his confectionery creations stem from a drive to make the world a lovelier place For Happiness, though owing to his eccentric way of thinking and creating his "art" isn't usually recognized as such. And he is capable of incredible kindness and generosity, able to recognize diamonds in the rough as readily as devils in plain sight, to the point that he's the reason poor Charlie Bucket found his Golden Ticket to begin with — it's a long story. BUT. He has a Sugar-and-Ice Personality; he's fiercely proud of and prone to boasting about his marvelous world, and frosty towards the Golden Ticket tour group, more concerned with punctuality and showing off than getting to know them. And when the bratty kids disobey his warnings and get themselves into trouble, he not only has No Sympathy (in part because he's more concerned with his factory's continued operation), but clearly sees them as getting what's coming to them...even when it proves fatal. Oh, some of them might get an offstage rescue or Disney Death... but we'll never know. David Greig, who wrote the book of this musical, commented in a Twitter chat that while the original novel may have No Antagonist, "I started to wonder about the dark side of Willy and realised he is a goodie AND a baddie." (Coincidentally, this show's director is Sam Mendes, who directed two of the Daniel Craig James Bond films, and actor Douglas Hodge, who originated the role of Wonka, previously played Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare's Globe!)
  • William Shakespeare plays featured a few.
    • John from The Life and Death of King John tracks this trope pretty closely, in his efforts to navigate the murky realpolitik of early-1200s west Europe. Contending with finicky noblemen at home, enterprising relatives with ambitions of coronation and control, foreign armies, and a heavily influential Vatican, John is completely overwhelmed. In spite of arguably having the military advantage over his foes, the events around him cause him to behave with irrational brashness: he orders the execution of his nephew in vague language, later rescinding the order once he realizes that popular support for such an action is nil; takes his army to continental Europe to battle France and Austria for control of a small départment (which he later offers just to give away), leaving England vulnerable to attack from a swift Franco invasion at the behest of the Pope; and he royally pisses off the church in an attempt to levy unfair taxes on the church, on account of which a priest poisons him.
    • Titus from Titus Andronicus. Titus kills his own son, Mutius, because he disagrees with his decision to force his own daughter, Lavinia, to marry the Emperor, Saturninus (who is already betrothed to Saturninus' brother, Bassianus). Despite this, Titus does show remorse for what he did, and after Lavinia is raped by Chiron and Dimetirius, he avenges her death by killing them and putting them in a pie to feed to their mother, Tamora.

    Visual Novels 
  • The dragonslayer in Dra+Koi is only there to slay the dragon. Collateral damage is not important.
  • Fate/stay night
    • Archer walked this line. He grew up as an idealistic busybody, believing that he could be a 'champion of justice' and turn the world into a better place. In the end, he realized that for everyone he saved, someone else must die. He lost faith in his own ideals, and from then on, he simply killed whoever posed a threat to the rest of humanity, saving millions by killing thousands — "for the greater good".

      This was in no small part thanks to his father, Emiya Kiritsugu, who held the same ideals, and did the same thing — killing people whose work would involve death of others, even if it would've benefited others. After the 4th Grail War, finally believing that he made a difference in the world (ordering Saber to destroying the Grail) he dies. The Grail wasn't really destroyed...
    • Shirou during the "Heaven's Feel" route faces an important choice between two ideals, both leading to Antihero-dom. Choosing to kill Sakura leads him to kill his emotions and become an Archer/Kiritsugu-style "questionable method" antihero (this, incidentally, is a Bad End). On the other hand, choosing to protect Sakura, no matter the cost, leads him to become more of a "questionable motive" antihero (since the one way to save Sakura is to stop the Grail War, something unquestionably heroic).
    • Kotomine gives a lecture at one point of the nature of an Anti Hero. He describes it as someone who is evil (either in action or intent), but whose actions bring about a positive result, therefore they are lauded as a hero afterward. He uses this to explain why some of the summoned Servants (all of whom are legendary heroes) are evil despite being "heroes", and predicts Shirou following that path in the end.
  • M in Shikkoku no Sharnoth is ridding London of monsters, however, he does so in a pretty evil manner and appears to have no emotions resembling empathy.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • anti-HEROES. The protagonists so far consist of an epic level necromancer, a vampire, a tiefling, and a ghost, all delightfully morally ambiguous. This strip was inspired by The Order of the Stick and has a similar artistic style.
  • Ironically, Dechs Rashart of Antihero for Hire isn't anti so much as he is dark and edgy. But Crossroad sure is.
  • While its difficult to quantify where, precisely, Sixx from Collar 6 falls due to the Blue-and-Orange Morality of the series, she clearly isn't a traditional hero.
  • CK from Commander Kitty, a Jerkass Glory Hound who dreams of being the supreme overlord of the entire Cat System. This might extend to all Spacers, really, with Nin Wah's old crew apparently into some shady business, and the more heroic Velvet Knight crew really being in it for the fame.
  • Crowshed: Sheryl breaks into the Gravestone family house, stabs their child, and steals the kid's blood, all within the first ten pages.
  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, Abel's side story has Devin, who has a tragic past which consisted of his father walking out him and his mother and his mother's last words being how much she wanted to kill him. He now spends his time protecting travelers in the forest whether they want to be or not. He is a Deadpan Snarker and in his own words "an asshole". Pity he was killed off... until he came back as an undead.
  • Sidney from Distillum is an abrasive, confrontational loner with implied issues. She's also the one person in the group with any experience in heroing, although as a mentor she ranges from cynical to downright abusive.
  • Ramy from FireSoup is one: even if she's well-meaning and doesn't live in Jerkass territory, her goodness has its flaws such as implying a will to kill someone, with sarcasm or not: she shouted “DIE!” when hitting a criminal with a fire extinguisher, and muttered to herself that she’ll kill Bett for convincing her to join Frida in beating the burglar at Biscuit Street Bank. Plus, due to being a Shrinking Violet disliking attention, she’s been at first reluctant to be a superhero, only for her to see that it can help her against her debt.
  • In the series, For Love Nor Money, Eamonn Lees, who starts out as an idealistic but impoverished young boy, is driven to murder and eventually leads the life of a wanted criminal after escaping to America, forced into a despicable role against his wishes and making increasingly dire choices that ultimately cost him everything.
  • Abbey from Gnoph.
  • Emokid and Chemokid in Head Trip, a Black Comedy webcomic, don't have psychic powers or Mad Science at their disposal. They got their names because one of them cries all the time and the other has cancer.
  • Hungry City. The main character Jerome is a vampire who has no problem hunting humans for food, but the Zombie Apocalypse forces him to ration the blood of Mina, a surviving human he manages to find, rather than kill her outright. As for Mina herself, she's a self-serving Action Survivor who is ready to offer others as vampire bait to save her own life.
  • I Don't Want This Kind of Hero has several.
    • Naga, the main character, is the plain and unmotivated type. He's compassionate enough, but he doesn't go out of his way to be heroic either.
    • Dana is much more pragmatic and violent than you might expect a leader of superheroes to be, though she's fundamentally a good person.
    • Haze is both of the unmotivated and vicious variety. His prime motivation to do anything is money, but he's deep down a good guy.
  • Inverloch has two:
    • Varden is the Disney type. While he's grumpy and prejudiced and makes clear that he's not there to be anyone's friend, he's a good guy not-so-deep down and it doesn't take him long to start genuinely caring about Acheron and Lei'ella, becoming more of a Lovable Rogue.
    • Neirenn is Pragmatic. She's a friendly teenager but she's also worryingly interested in dark magic and can act less than noble. In the epilogue, we're told that she sat on the information Raul gave her until she wanted to oust Stonier and take his job. But her desire to learn healing magic is perfectly understandable.
  • Sed from Iron Nail Afternoon. He's charming, intelligent and highly educated. But he also put one of his best friends in hospital. Although he had some moral justification (his friend was guilty of elder abuse), the real reason is simple. Sed was having a bad day. Despite being Sheriff of Iron Nail, he's more like a mobster, using his position to distribute black-market magic. However, he does have several morality pets like The Jekkel and Galand. He also seems to genuinely care about the downtrodden and restricts his violence to those his size or bigger.
  • Looking for Group:
    • A recurring theme is doing what must be done. As such, a lot of the main characters tend towards the anti-hero. For at one point, Krunch at one point kills a gnome out of necessity, and then annoyance when the gnome is not quite dead. Benny objects to working for free at one point, claiming that isn't how the world works.
    • Cale has become more like this recently, in the "do what is right rather than what is lawful" sense. His character development has been a transition from Lawful Good to Chaotic Good.
    • Richard is this when he does good instead of wantonly killing things for his own amusement.
  • Atticus Brent, the chain-smoking, apathetic, possibly sociopathic protagonist of Mokepon.
  • Not a Villain has Kleya, though she's doing her best to become a regular hero.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • While there is no obvious Antihero in its main cast (it's usually either Lawful Good or Sociopathic Hero for the most part), Vaarsuvius comes pretty close. Even not counting the events at the end of Don't Split the Party, which could still be explained away by stress and not having rested for six months, the elf is the only truly morally ambiguous protagonist — a decent person and a faithful friend and yet being quick to suggest that the heroes simply execute the captured villains rather than surrendering them to the authorities and not seeming to have a problem with the idea of using evil methods to ensure that they stay dead. (Granted, V WAS representing Belkar's opinion at the time, but still...)
    • Belkar himself is a Chaotic Evil murderous psychopath who happens to be in the good guys' party only because he enjoys the dungeon-crawl killing and because he can't suppress his impulses long enough to cut a proper deal with the forces of evil. His later 'character development' and voluntary commitment to the party comes about when he realises he can exploit the world much more easily if people think he's a good person. Later on however, his character development ends up becoming real.
    • Haley Starshine starts out this way, and continues to pretend to the role, due to operating out of Greed rather than altruistic motives. However, as the story goes on, she becomes more and more loyal to the rest of the team and to helping people, and her love of treasure is at least partly justified because she's been storing up money for her father's ransom. Only partly, though.
  • Ronin Galaxy: Cecil, despite having all the optimism and badassery that ideal heroes ought to, he only keeps that up for as long as it's convenient (or safe) for him to do. When he's outmatched he has no problem with kicking his opponent in the crotch.
  • In Rusty and Co., the Princess. She smokes, wears revealing clothes, is greedy, loves a wight, and has no qualm at all beating up a bunch of mind-controlled innocent bystanders.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal presents the Iron Sociopath, who is into hero-ing entirely because it's a form of violence he is able to commit without going to prison.
  • ''Simtopi: Rowan Marlen is tattooed, crude, vulgar, drinks, can be mean, sleeps around...and has no problem with saving everyone's lives.
  • Riff from Sluggy Freelance is in many ways a badass who saves his friends and the world at large from aliens, vampires, and the like. Thing is, thanks to his Mad Scientist experiments and reckless behavior, he's probably endangered the human race more times than he's protected it. What else do you call a hero who's on record saying this?
    Riff: I literally summon demons to keep myself from buying a shotgun and permanently emptying a Taco Bell!
  • Springtrap and Deliah: Springtrap's main motivation is to keep Deliah all to himself and replace Nick as her father-figure. His anger issues and fears of abandonment make him increasingly desperate in his endeavors, going so far as to threaten anyone he perceives as a rival for Deliah's affection with violence. However, he does genuinely love Deliah and is at least to some extent aware he needs help, keeping him from being entirely unsympathetic.
  • Sweet Home (2017): Hyuk may not be the nicest person around and he is willing to make some morally ambiguous decisions, but he is firmly on the survivors' side and is only the way he is because he has to look out for the whole group as its leader, despite being a teenager.
  • Templars of the Shifting Verse features Augustus Praxio, who is considered a hero and expresses heroic sentiments yet is also selfish and quick to anger. He also has no qualms spying on his friends using his magic.
  • Luca Micarelli and Francesca from The Thing That Would Not Leave.
  • A lot of the main characters from Zokusho Comics are anti-heroes to one degree or another. Serge kills a lot of people, without any remorse. Rotting Johnny is an undead hitman who had a lot of moral ambiguity before he "died". Akira's team of Wayward Cross operatives murder a lot of goblins. Raz does it with glee. Though this may be somewhat averted if Goblins are Always Chaotic Evil.

    Web Original 
  • In The Antithesis, main character Qaira Eltruan is not a hero by any means, and the methods he goes about 'protecting his world' are usually evil, cruel and unjust. While his ultimate goal is to protect his people and rid his world of the angels, Qaira will not hesitate to kill anyone who stands in his way, and this includes his peers. This stems from a lack of moral duty — Qaira is considered a moral nihilist by most readers.
  • Every character in Ather City falls under this, but the degree varies.
  • Linkara of Atop the Fourth Wall is usually a good guy, but he's also snarky, whiny, short-tempered, violent and arrogant, and a plot arc was devoted to how close he was to doing a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Fiearius Soliveré of Caelum Lex is a smuggler, thief and sometimes assassin, often makes selfish and reckless decisions and yet is depicted as a hero.
  • The main character of the web series Chapel is probably Pragmatic (and getting worse every day). She's cold-bloodedly killed a few people, but they weren't very nice people. If you wrong her, she might not try to kill you, but she also won't try to not kill you either.
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the eponymous character is actually an aspiring supervillain and the good guy, Captain Hammer, is an egomaniac.
  • A Dose of Buckley: Adam Buckley is a good guy deep down, but is prone to dealing with topics in less than ideal ways and will call you a "droolie" and swear.
  • Does it hurt when you sleep? by Kerry Hammond of Search and Rescue Woods fame has the protagonist suspect that their college is in the early stages of a lethal airborne fungal pandemic reminiscent of a mutant Cordyceps strain that affects humans. Rather than volunteer this information to their school, they instead choose to immunize themselves early as a precaution. Once the outbreak is in full force, they seal their dorm room off from the rest of the student body and wait it out before making their escape in the end to tell the rest of the county the danger it's in now that there are whole buildings full of proof to back up their claims.
  • In Entirely Presenting You, on her first night out in the mask, Blank Face tries her best, but is forced to take questionable actions at times.
  • John Ferrera aka lisanjohn 710 aka what pisses me the fuck off. He is a good person and has good intentions but will curse like a sailor when expressing his opinions and will tell you off if you try to tell him that he can't, he has done more calm review videos and videos with other people talking about wrestling and other topics. He could very easily pass for Pragmatic or Classical most days and Unscrupulous on bad days.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Belial works with the heroic Grand Alliance and opposes the evil Totenkopf cult but is also ruthless and does whatever is necessary to make his secret Order of the Black Rose grow more powerful.
  • The Gungan Council has many anti-heroes, but Je'gan is most notable for beginning a genocidal crusade against the Galactic Empire and Sith.
  • Hero House features numerous examples from several franchises, including Kratos, Red Hood, and Big Boss.
  • In Impractical Magic Yam Hist of the Ken Seekers and Cal are both introduced in their first chapters as anti-heroes. Cal is a street thief who wanted to rob someone, found them dead, and decided to pretend to be them so she could learn enough magic to rob the fancy stores. Yam has a temper issue that led to him stealing from a racist ferryman who said he would pee in his barge (in an act of superior spite Yam sneaks in and does just that after grabbing enough money to hire a better ferryman).
  • In The Iron Teeth web serial, the main character is a goblin. Are you really surprised he is an Anti-Hero? Many of the other characters that are more stereotypical heroes, such as Saeter, are also violent and ultimately self interested.
  • Gavin Taylore of KateModern is often cowardly, often selfish, and sometimes a bully, and cares not for the civil liberties of webcam users, but somehow it's hard not to root for him.
  • The Kindness of Devils has Hardestadt Delac, a "demonic" creature who spends his time helping people in need, but more than often ends up brutally killing all of the foes he ends up fighting. At one point, he even turned into a full-on villain in the 1400s and wound up slaughtering innocents during said time.
  • The Legatum series has several "heroic" characters who are a Jerk with a Heart of Gold at best, and sociopathic or morally-ambiguous and willing to let civilians die at worst. The four goblins from Help Not Wanted and Harvon Mullok and his crew from The Road to Hell... are the most notable examples who fall in the former and latter categories.
  • Sami Reese from Little White Lie, plagiarizes a classmate by taking advantage of the fact that he's in a coma and that he has a crush on her to win a battle of the bands and to get a record deal. Oh, and she's a total bitch to everyone else in the process.
  • Nocte Yin was born into a family of Villains, but she tries her best not to be as bad as them. It doesn't always work.
  • Kit of Omega Guardians falls into this territory. The guy means well, loves his brothers, and forms a strong bond with young Andy, but he also put the entire original team in the hospital when he got manipulated by a villain, put his youngest brother into a year long coma when Ace tried to talk him down, and in season 2, imprisons Matt just to keep him from stealing Andy back after he left the Guardians to join up with Kit's crew.
  • The eponymous teams of Red vs. Blue are, for the most part, too incompetent to be anything other than loser 'heroes', but the more prominent Freelancers (Tex, Washington, and Carolina) range from jaded and pragmatic to damn near Ax-Crazy.
  • Shoutan Himei from Sailor Nothing. Cowardly, weak, selfish, and pessimistic, she couldn't care less about being forced to kill Yamiko just to get back to her normal life, and her attitude has harmed people close to her constantly, even herself. I.e., This Loser Is You.
  • Something Awful: Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In Paragon Tier, Gibnaf is slowly becoming Unscrupulous. To the point that the other players begin tracking up his "anti-hero points".
    • Minerelle and Joey were already Nominal Heroes at this point, one being a psychotic, paranoid murderer and the other being amoral and gold-obsessed.
  • In Survival of the Fittest, some of the most popular characters are anti heroes. Among the most prominent examples are version two winner Bryan Calvert and version one contestant Hawley Faust. Over the course of version one, Adam Dodd steadily turned into one.
  • Tails of the Bounty Hunter has Cale Tomlik, a former mercenary turned Bounty Hunter who doesn't mind breaking the law and occasionally causes collateral damage while he's trying to apprehend his targets.
  • Several characters in Tech Infantry qualify. Others flirt with the line between Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist.
  • In Twig, the Lambs may be the main protagonists, but they tend to make questionable moral decisions in most situations. However, they do occasionally look out for those less fortunate (like the mice).
  • Unwanted Houseguest: While the Houseguest is generally friendly, he doesn't seem to care about any evil that doesn't effect him personally. Notably, he's friends with Doctor Wolfula, who openly tortures his zombie servant Ghoulash.
  • Carmilla of the Whateley Universe. She's a demon, but she has said 'screw you' to fate and is trying to be a demon of lust, instead of prophesied to wipe mankind off the face of the earth. On the other hand, she has eaten some people who tried to kill her. And then there's the things she did to Jobe in order to maintain their vendetta...
  • In Worm, the main characters, the Undersiders, are either Anti-Heroes or Anti Villains, as while they're supervillains they spend most of the story protecting people from the really evil villains and monsters of the Crapsack World that they live in.


Video Example(s):



Falsely convicted of the murder of his wife, Nathan Graves now punishes the guilty who've evaded justice as the otherworldy spectre, Tombstone.

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