The 7 Best Movie Anti-Heroes Of All Time

Most movie characters tend to fall into one of two set categories: the well-intentioned hero and the dastardly villain. Keeping each other in check through their constant battles, these characters represent the eternal struggle between good and evil, typically leading to the protagonist triumphing over their scheming nemesis by the film’s conclusion.

Every once in a while, though, a film will opt for a different interpretation of its lead character, distancing said individuals from the set archetypes surrounding heroes and villains. These characters–known to pop culture fandoms as “anti-heroes”–demonstrate a far more ambiguous personality than their heroic counterparts, blurring the line between a sympathetic protagonist and a morally uncertain lead antagonist.

Travis Bickle

Columbia Pictures

It’s hard not to sympathize with Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, a traumatized Vietnam War who reluctantly finds work as a taxi driver in 1970s New York City. Harboring a misanthropic view of the numerous passengers who board his vehicle, Travis’s disquieting cynicism is matched only by his overarching depression and crippling sense of isolation. Driving around the Big Apple with “some bad ideas” in his head, audiences almost want to reach through their screen and pat Travis’s back, restoring his faith in human decency and basic morality before he falls over the deep end (which, in the end, is exactly what happens).

Michael Corleone

Paramount Pictures

Michael Corleone’s gradual fall from grace forms the backbone of The Godfather trilogy. Initially introduced as an industrious young man who wants to distance himself from his family’s shady business, it isn’t long before Michael’s pulled into the Corleones’ affairs after an attempt on his father Vito’s life. Reluctantly entering the world of ‘40s organized crime out of familial loyalty, Michael soon sacrifices everything for the sake of maintaining his criminal empire, including his marriage, his future, even his own brother, all to secure his unchallenged rule in the East Coast Mafia.

Beatrix Kiddo


As evidenced by almost every one of his movies, Quentin Tarantino doesn’t necessarily have clear-cut “good guys” when it comes to his main protagonists, with many of his characters existing in a moral limbo between hero and villain. Along with such memorable creations as Pulp Fiction’s Jules Winfield or Inglourious Basterds’ Lt. Aldo Raine, viewers can easily spot this trait with Kill Bill’s main character, Beatrix Kiddo. 

A former ninja assassin out for revenge against her former teammates, Kiddo’s path to vengeance comes riddled with nonstop violence, leaving behind the corpses of friends and foes alike. While successful in her mission, audiences can’t help but feel a touch of sympathy for Kiddo, watching helplessly as she gets closer and closer to killing an ex-lover she clearly still has feelings for.


20th Century Fox

Earning the nickname the Merc with the Mouth for a reason, Ryan Reynolds’ motor-mouthed assassin-for-hire Wade Wilson might just be the funniest anti-superhero in all of Marvel. Retaining the signature hilarity of the character’s earliest comic book appearances, Reynolds’ portrayal of Wilson has only grown better over time, ensuring a character audiences can root for as much as they heartily laugh at. Whether awkwardly flirting with complete strangers or mocking his would-be nemeses, nothing out of Deadpool’s mouth can be misconstrued as serious or threatening, making him all the more enjoyable a protagonist to watch hack and slash his way across the Deadpool series.

Will Munny

Warner Bros.

In a genre littered with larger-than-life heroes played by John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, and Roy Rogers, Unforgiven’s William Munny appears as something of an anomaly. A former outlaw who has renounced his violent ways, Will struggles to run a failing ranch in 1880s Kansas, contributing to his eventual return to the saddle. Initially introduced as a good man trying to put his problematic past behind him, Will’s return to the gunslingers’ lifestyle is nothing short of a tragedy, adding some fascinating depth to this selfless, murdering, family-oriented bounty hunter.

Max Rockatansky

Roadshow Films

The eponymous Max of the Mad Max series, Max Rockatansky exists as a kind-hearted police officer driven mad by the world around him. Standing up for law and order in a landscape populated by ruthless bikers and despotic warlords, Max’s struggle to hold onto his morality fuels much of the Mad Max saga, giving Max a more three-dimensional personality compared to his fellow wasteland inhabitants. In spite of his constant attempts at self-preservation, Max always prevails in doing the right thing when it comes to helping others–from rescuing a group of wayward children in the desert to assisting a group of enslaved women in escaping from their tyrannical spouse/cruel master.

Harry Callahan

Warner Bros.

Next to the Man with No Name, Harry Callahan without a doubt remains the most well-known character ever portrayed by Clint Eastwood. A street-smart San Francisco police inspector who tows the line between law enforcement officer and full-blown vigilante, Harry has never hesitated in rolling up his sleeves and taking the law into his own hands. Demolishing criminals with his trusty .44 Magnum, Harry makes the Punisher seem like a docile, law-abiding citizen by comparison, with Harry able to outgun the most hardened personalities of the Golden City’s criminal population.

About the author

Richard Chachowski

Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Fangoria, Wealth of Geeks, Looper, Screen Rant, Sportskeeda, and MDLinx, among many others. He received his BA from The College of New Jersey and has been a professional writer since 2020.