For years, the main them in film has been good vs. evil. Heroes vs. villains. Light vs. dark. Recently, a rising trend has been the area between the two teams, the grey area between the black and the white. The most idolized heroes went from being the pure, morally strong heroes like Captain America to the more conflicted individuals like Iron Man. These individuals became known as anti-heroes, those that can partially align with both sides.
With the upcoming action flick Mad Max: Fury Road, we get a good hard look at a rather spectacular anti-hero, but I'll get more into him later. Several other memorable characters can be categorized as anti-heroes as well, so I thought I would take a little time to introduce some of the best portrayals of anti-heroes in cinema.
Wolverine (The X-Men Series)
When I first think of anti-hero, the first character I think of is Deadpool. Seeing as he has yet to be represented accurately on the big screen, I went with the next best thing.
On the surface, Wolverine might seem like a hero. After all, he is the foremost member of the X-Men. That being said, anti-heroes usually come off as good ol' heroes at first. Wolverine differs from the noble heroes like Cyclops in one major fashion, his habit for extreme punishment.
A staple among heroes is their pension for mercy. When the villain lays defeated before them, they tend to strap him with chains and send him to a holding facility. Wolverine doesn't take chances like that. After all, how often do imprisoned villains actually stay imprisoned? Wolverine is the one to take the extra step to make sure that the villain stays down with a snikt of his claws.
Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
Fight Club is one of my favorite movies of all time, and largely because of the character of Tyler Durden. At the beginning of the film, Tyler seems to be a good guy. He helps the narrator get back on his feet, and he opens his eyes to who the narrator really is deep down inside. Later on in the movie, you realize that he has arranged for very nefarious deeds, which lessen his initial heroic reputation.
He can't be categorized as a villain, because as much cruelty as he takes part of, he has a distinct purpose for everything. He is genuinely trying to help the narrator, though he uses less than conventional means to do so.
Max Rockatansky (Mad Max Series)
Max started out as a classic hero. He worked for the police force, and when he wasn't bringing criminals to justice he was spending time with his wife and child. However, when his family and best friend were taken from in one fell swoop, his darker side really started to emerge.
He wandered the desolate wasteland, doing what was necessary for his survival. Even when the good guys begged for his help, he would only consent if he was fairly compensated. He no longer did what was good just to be good. He killed who he needed to kill and he took what he needed to take, yet he is the reigning protagonist of a legendary franchise.
Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction)
Another one of my favorite films, Pulp Fiction centers around many stories, but my favorite of which stars a very dynamic character named Jules. From the beginning of the film, he comes off as a stone-cold hitman working for some big-time gangster, but that doesn't necessarily make him a villain. He does his job, and sometimes that means killing people, but he has a sort of revelation part-way through the movie.
After he survives a near-death experience, Jules claims that he wants to leave his life behind as a hit-man. He explains that he wants to take some time to "walk the earth." He makes good on his claim for a more righteous path when at the end of the movie, he simply talks a man down during an attempted robbery instead of shooting him like usual. With extreme bad and good under his belt, he can't really be considered a hero or a villain. He's both.
Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise)
While the examples above depict ruthless killers, Captain Jack is more of the goofy sort of anti-hero. Instead of being a good guy who does some bad, or a bad guy who does some good, Jack plants his boots right down in the middle.
It is unquestionable that throughout the Pirates series, Jack Sparrow is the protagonist. However, he is a pirate after all. He steals, he cheats, and he does basically whatever he wants. He fights against cursed skeleton pirates and evil tentacle-faced ocean spirits, which would indicate a heroic alignment, but he is in fact a criminal. He is simply who he wants to be, which makes him the epitome on an anti-hero.
Severus Snape (Harry Potter Series)
Snape is a rather interesting character, as he was perceived to be the villain for the majority of the franchise. It isn't until the very end that we realize that he had noble intentions the entire time.
Though he may have had a good-guy mindset, he still can't be considered a hero. He killed Dumbledore for Pete's sake! I don't care if Dumbledore asked him to or not, you can't kill the headmaster of Hogwarts and still be considered morally pure. Not to mention he somewhat tortured Harry, the series protagonist, back in Order of the Phoenix. Remember when he kept trying to penetrate Harry's mind?