Top Five: Antiheroes

Villains we love to hate, or just plain love, ranging from the deplorable to the deranged – I’ve chosen five of my favourites.

These are all characters who commit acts of selfishness, curelty or violence. Why do we like them? Are we bad for enjoying them? I like how a really good villain can convince us to side with them – and in the end, hold the mirror up to us, the viewer.

Michael Caine Alfie


Cheeky chappy or malicious reprobate, Alfie’s motto is ‘you do what you want so long as you don’t hurt nobody’ which, as Alfie painfully learns, is precisely what he is doing.


Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver

Travis is an antihero that gets hailed as a hero because of his violent attack on the ‘scum, the dogs, the cunts, the filth, the shit…” But don’t forget – he first tried to kill a politician before he goes on a rampage on the downtown pimps of New York. Angry, mad, lonely and broken, Travis is a wounded Vietnam vet pushed to the edge.


Withnail – Withnail & I

Failed actor and furious alcoholic, Withnail rages, laments and drinks with a vengeance throughout the entirety of cult classic Withnail & I.


Alex DeLarge – A Clockwork Orange

Alex is a funny one, because we don’t ever really like or sympathise with his character. At once ominous and playful, he is a teenage delinquent and sadistic gang leader with few redeemable characteristics. Perhaps we enjoy him so much because all the other characters in the film are stupid and grotesque. Alex is intelligent, charismatic and cultured.


Leon – Leon/The Professional

Leon is a hitman, or ‘cleaner’. He kills people for a living (no women, no children), which, I think we can all agree, is pretty bad. Leon is also very endearing: we watch him ironing a shirt and drinking milk. He also looks after Matilda, and eventually sacrifices everything to help her. Does this redeem this cold-blooded killer?

Honourable mentions: Michael Corleone, Lisbeth Salander, Harry Calahan, Hannibal Lecter, D-Fens, Jules Winnfield, Alfie, Tom Ripley, Robin Hood, Patrick Bateman



  1. Solid list. Can’t disagree with any of them, and Bickle would be my first choice, followed by Michael Corleone and Alex DeLarge. I’d also like to add Charles Foster Kane from Citizen Kane.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and reading! I’ve never seen Bronson – but interesting fact: I met his father whilst working as a barmaid in Aberystwyth! I must watch the film…

      1. I can’t imagine how that came up in conversation…?!

        ‘Hi, I’ll have a Directors bitter please and did you know my son is the violent but loveable Michael Gordon Peterson, aka Charles Bronson?’

  2. Great post Georgina! Antiheroes are often more intriguing that straight heroes/heroines. Love the mention of Leon, it’s a great film and perhaps Jean Reno’s most memorable role. Patrick Bateman would definitely make my top 10, boy talk about ‘if looks could kill!’ :D

  3. A very good list indeed. Leon is interesting there, because it turned out that he had a big heart. From the very first scenes we start to admire him – and all he does is – his job – scarring the ‘victim’ and satisfying the client. That reminds me of the anti hero in Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment, who killed two innocent people, and the reader still feels sympathy with him. It may be far from the obvious choice but I liked Tom Stall in ‘A History of Violence’. He was a violent man who lied to his family, but turned his life around.

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