It’s hard not to love a cinematic antihero. You know, one those characters you just love to hate. Flawed, three-dimensional, often rotten creations that we can’t help but pin our hopes onto, the sort we find ourselves rooting for when we really ought not to. Perhaps it’s that they can display certain aspects of our demeanour we don’t let out (societal norms and all that) and we can project those feelings onto these roles, and root for those our parents always taught us to steer well clear of. So, in line with S. Craig Zahler’s Dragged Across Concrete, which has quite nasty bastards at the core of the piece, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite/worst antiheroes to grace the silver screen. Warning: this article contains A LOT of Al Pacino.
Michael Corleone – The Godfather- We begin this article that honestly isn’t all about Al Pacino, with an Al Pacino character. Arguably the most esteemed piece of cinema ever, naturally when you dive in to the underground world of organised crime, you’re gonna encounter a few questionable figures. Corleone may not be as power hungry as those around him, but he’s embroiled in the mob. He kills, and he gets others to do his dirty work for him too. You may feel he’s an honourable man who would give you his word, but there would be blood on the hand that you shake.
R.P. McMurphy – One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest – It’s hard to find too many issues with a man inspiring a rebellion against a tyrannical and oppressive person of power – yet when you’ve feigned insanity to avoid a prison sentence, history suggests you’re not exactly a respectable citizen yourself. It’s that sense of conflict within viewers that makes so many antiheroes so compelling. Add Jack Nicholson to that, and you’ve got yourselves a winner.
Sonny – Dog Day Afternoon – Technically, robbing a bank and threatening innocent members of the public is a bad thing to do, it’s on a list of things we’re genuinely aware isn’t allowed. Yet in Dog Day Afternoon, based on a true story, not only do we like Al Pacino’s Sonny, we kinda want him to get away with it. What’s more? You sort of feel like the hostages do too.
Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver – It’s said that Robert DeNiro became a licensed cab driver in New York to help prepare himself for this role in Martin Scorsese’s timeless classic. Odd, really, to go to such lengths, but such is the conviction of his performance that it’s hard to argue against it. Bickle is a fine cinematic antihero. He’s obsessive, he’s dangerous, and he has got a lot of opinions, and he ain’t afraid to let everyone know what they are. He’d be a nightmare on Twitter.
Tony Montana – Scarface – You know you’re dealing with a good antihero when at school, all the boys in drama class pretend to be him every time the teacher makes the mistake of letting the students choose their story. “Say hello to my little friend”: we’d shout. Trying to show off, look cool, be dark and dangerous. We were succeeded in none of the above. But what a character, and honestly, this is our final Al Pacino entry – though we could easily have had more.
Patrick Bateman – American Pyscho – He’s a psychotic, murderous, violent individual, but, he does has a nice business card. Yes, it’s Patrick Bateman, brought to life in stunning fashion by Christian Bale, of a character you inherently hate, but you just can’t stop watching. I wouldn’t say you ‘root’ for him, exactly, because he is real nasty, but you find yourself beguiled, and that in itself allows him to qualify for this very list.
Dae-su Oh – Oldboy – When Oldboy begins, you’re on the protagonist’s side. He’d been kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, and only has a limited time to find his captor. There’s an adventurous streak to this, he represents something of an underdog, a more traditional hero. Right? Well… we thought so. Then he he got the octopus out…
Daniel Plainview – There Will Be Blood – Perhaps it’s a lasting impression from Toy Story 2, but there’s something about the role of a ‘prospector’ that just feels innately villainous. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar winning drama, that’s not too far fetched when describing the film’s lead, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. His greatest flaw? He’s driven. He won’t stop at anything to get what he wants. His greatest asset? The very same thing. And that’s what makes him one helluva antihero.