Sidekicks are many things to the heroes they serve—loyal companions, confidants, surrogate family, and often, glorified punching bags. For all the thankless assistance that sidekicks provide, it’s kinda crazy how frequently they end up getting abused by the heroes who need them.
Heroes manage to ruin their sidekicks’ lives in a variety of ways. Some slowly destroy their happy helpers through simple neglect. Others place their sidekicks too frequently in the line of fire, eventually getting them either completely mangled or outright killed. And then there are those whose partners are merely one of the many casualties along the hero’s path. More often than not, the hero’s journey requires collateral damage, and the sidekick is usually the one to take the brunt of it. Even the most well-meaning heroes will sacrifice their pal for the sake of the greater good. Sidekicks are so frequently expandable to their respective mentors that it’s difficult to think of times when they’re treated with much respect at all.
To showcase the sidekick’s harrowing journey, here’s a list of 15 Heroes Who Ruined Their Sidekicks’ Lives.
Wolverine is one mean bastard in Logan. For the first half of the film, he’s the “antiest” of anti-heroes, singular in his goals and stumbling through life in a rage, booze, and pain-fueled haze. His only real task is caring for the ailing Charles Xavier, whose mere existence still makes him subject to Wolverine’s growling contempt.
No one receives the brunt of Logan’s misplaced fury more than poor Caliban. Sometime before the events of the film, the pale-skinned mutant was brought in to help take care of Xavier at a hideout south of the border while Logan spent his weeks earning money for the trio as a driver. Not only is Caliban left with most of the work of caring for the senile Professor X, he’s also subject to Logan’s anger anytime the two are together. Our hero’s rough treatment comes to a head when he leaves Caliban behind after an escape from Donald Pierce and his thugs, and the rest of the poor guy’s numbered days are spent in torturous captivity. He does manage to go out on his terms while helping to protect Wolvie, Xavier, and Laura, but Logan seemed to have forgotten that he existed by that point.
14. James Bond
Before Daniel Craig’s gritty, rough-and-tumble tenure as James Bond, 1989’s Licence to Kill was 007’s darkest, bloodiest adventure to date. In the film’s pre-title sequence, Bond (Timothy Dalton) helps longtime CIA pal Felix Leiter capture South American drug lord Franz Sanchez in an elaborate helicopter stunt. Unfortunately, a shifty DEA agent takes a deal to help Sanchez escape. Fueled by revenge for his humiliating capture, Sanchez and his thugs then kill Leiter’s wife, capture Leiter, and feed his legs to a shark.
Leiter’s misfortune sends Bond on a rogue, vengeance-fueled rampage. Along the way, he manages to compromise attempts by other government agencies to bring Sanchez down, and inadvertently places other allies in serious danger. Bond has always a bit of a bullheaded wildcard in the film series, and though his cavalier attitude often works to his advantage, it can also cause plenty of unnecessary damage.
13. Sherlock Holmes
High-functioning sociopath Sherlock Holmes of BBC’s Sherlock is never one to let his sidekicks go unscathed. Over the course of the show’s four seasons, Sherlock exploits just about every personal relationship he has for the sake of the game.
One of Sherlock’s most long-suffering sidekicks is Molly Hooper, a specialist registrar at the local Hospital Morgue. The brilliant detective frequently exploits her work position, as well as her unrequited love for him, for his own purposes. Molly is frequently Sherlock’s last line of defense, the only person who can save him in a pinch, and Sherlock never misses an opportunity to knowingly take advantage of her affection for him in order to get what he wants.
But no one is a bigger victim of Sherlock’s games than John Watson. As the detective’s flatmate, Watson must endure everything from midnight violin playing to random gunplay. As Sherlock’s co-crimefighter, Watson has endured everything from spending months in the dark about his partner’s faked death to losing his fiance, who takes a fatal bullet for Sherlock—leaving Watson a widowed father.
12. Green Arrow
Oliver Queen/Green Arrow is your typical billionaire playboy-turned-superhero in the sense that he definitely has neglected a sidekick or two; the most notable of which being Roy Harper. The Robin to Green Arrow’s Batman, Roy Harper undergoes one of the most heartbreaking transformations in comic book history.
After losing his first adoptive father, Green Arrow takes Roy Harper in and trains him in the ways of archery and vigilantism. Under Green Arrow’s tutelage, Harper thrives and eventually joins the Teen Titans as the superhero Speedy. Harper’s luck changes when the Titans disband and Green Arrow loses his fortune, neglecting his adopted son in the process. Lost and alone, Harper becomes a heroin addict and petty thief, and suffers the Arrow’s wrath as a result. Instead of acknowledging his neglect Green Arrow kicks Harper out onto the streets, where he endures painful heroin withdrawal. Later, he loses his arm in a fight against the supervillain Prometheus. So yeah, he probably regrets signing on with Team Arrow.
11. Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones is never short of sidekicks, from Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade to Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He even manages to make reluctant sidekicks out of his love interests. Even at their most vulnerable, the ladies in Indy’s life aren’t ever able to stay damsels in distress for long before the man in the hat forces them to “tag along” on the next brutal adventure.
We first see Indy steamroll through a woman’s life in Raiders, when he visits Marion Ravenwood’s bar looking for an artifact of her father’s that will lead him to the Ark of the Covenant. Unfortunately, a vicious gang of Nazis are hot on Indy’s trail, and the goons subsequently shoot up and burn Marion’s bar to the ground. With nowhere else to go, Marion joins Indy’s laborious trek across the globe, and endures plenty more Nazi abuse in the process. To top it all off, Indy eventually leaves Marion at the altar with an unborn child who will eventually become Shia LaBeouf!
10. Jack Traven
The ’90s action classic Speed casts Keanu Reeves as the coolest SWAT officer ever and Jeff Daniels as, well, the most expendable one. Reeves’ Jack Traven is the archetypal hot-shot action hero of the ’90s, leaving a trail of destruction and dead allies en route to catching his bad guy, and his best pal isn’t an exception.
In the film’s opening action sequence, Traven shoots partner Harry Temple (Daniels) in the leg in order to break him free from the clutches of Dennis Hopper’s mad terrorist bomber. Later in the film, Harry is sent to do Traven’s dirty work and catch the bomber, only to be met with an elaborate booby trap and get blown to hell. Meanwhile, Traven gets to surf beneath a speeding bus and save a young Sandra Bullock.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has everything fans loved about the first film and more. It also features a much moodier Peter Quill/Star-Lord, who risks the well-being of his loyal teammates to resolve his long-standing daddy issues.
After making contact with Ego the Living Planet, Star-Lord goes full emo—brooding over the lifelong absence of his newfound father until he finally lets his guard down, engages in a game of galactic catch with his dad, and starts learning about his awesome godlike powers. In the process, he manages to completely neglect his teammates, who are all enmeshed in struggles of their own, and suffer greatly at the hands of Ego’s master plan of universal domination and destruction. Eventually, Star-Lord learns the error of his ways and returns to the fold of his adoptive family, but not without consequences.
8. John Constantine
As portrayed by Keanu Reeves (man, this guy really doesn’t pay much mind to his cinematic sidekicks, does he?) in the 2005 film Constantine, the titular occult detective is practically a serial life-ruiner. Multiple characters enlist John Constantine’s help to enter the supernatural realm and encounter terrible fates as a result.
Constantine’s first collateral victim is LAPD detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz), who seeks a hand from the famed DC Comics character to investigate the suicide of her psychic twin sister. Constantine provokes Angela’s own dormant psychic abilities, which eventually gets her kidnapped to be used as a pawn in a plan to unleash God’s wrath upon the world. Though he eventually rescues Angela from possession, Constantine gets another sidekick–his driver/occultist protege Chas Kramer (Shia Lebeouf, another repeat victim on our list)–killed in the process.
7. Frank Darbo/The Crimson Bolt
Super, a revisionist superhero dark comedy from the mind of James Gunn, is incessantly morbid in its execution. The film’s premise–involving a loser who turns to fighting crime with a pipe wrench after his drug-addict wife leaves him for a drug dealer–provides a template with which to satirize the superhero genre with practically nauseating brutality. Naturally, the hero’s relationship to his sidekick is no exception.
As his journey from short-order cook to crazed vigilante begins, Frank Darbo/The Crimson Bolt draws the attention and affections of Libby, a mentally unhinged comic book store clerk. Frank eventually enlists the girl’s help and she enthusiastically dons a superhero costume of her own. Not only does Frank’s encouragement exacerbate Libby’s insanity, but eventually gets her shot in the head in the middle of a bloody final act brawl.
6. The Lone Ranger
Before the big-budget Jerry Bruckheimer flop starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, The Lone Ranger was a classic pop-cultural icon of the American west. Accompanied by his trusty horse Silver and ever faithful Native American sidekick Tonto, the Lone Ranger fought evil in the Old West on television for nearly a decade—though he was often the hero at the expense of Tonto’s reputation.
Tonto’s characterization has always been subject to criticism (particularly in relation to his stereotypically broken English), but he’s also usually depicted as smarter and often more heroic than his not-so-trusty partner. Tonto is usually the one who can track down bandits or execute battle tactics with equal, if not superior skill to the Lone Ranger, which makes the latter look all the more foolish when he gets most of the credit for the pair’s heroics. Tonto may be a superior hero, but he also lives in a state of perpetual hell playing second fiddle to a clunky masked cowboy.
5. Qui-Gon Jinn
Among the ranks of prequel-era Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn will always be a fan favorite in the Star Wars universe. On the surface, he exerts a wisdom and benevolence that seems to even surpass Yoda. But it isn’t a stretch to think that Qui-Gon’s insistence on pursuing the talents of young Anakin Skywalker may have ruined the life of his padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
In his dying breath, Qui-Gon urges Obi-Wan to train the young Skywalker. In this moment, Obi-Wan’s strong senses of duty and loyalty seal his fate. He does train Anakin, only to see him turn to the dark side and destroy the Galactic Republic (and the Jedi Order along with it). From there, Obi-Wan is doomed to a life in exile on the desert planet Tatooine. Not a great way to spend your autumn years—all because Qui-Gon had a hunch about a really annoying little latchkey kid who was really good at pod racing.
4. Buffy Summers
Everyone’s favorite vampire slayer is arguably the poster child for treating faithful sidekicks like crap. Over the course of seven seasons, Buffy never misses an opportunity to submit every member of the Scooby Gang to her selfish whims and unrelenting dedication to slaying. Most of the time, she’s able to save the day, apologize (or not), and win back the affections of her companions pretty easily. Other times, the damage she does is irreversible.
Buffy’s worst offenses against her sidekicks are probably the ones she commits against her closest friends; BFF’s Willow and Xander, and faithful mentor Rupert Giles. All three suffer as a result of Buffy’s tunnel-visioned fight against the dark at some time or another. Trapped by his father’s affection for Buffy, Giles sacrifices his seat on the Watchers’ Council and spends the remainder of the series in a state of emotional limbo, usually at the slayer’s insistence. Buffy also exploits Willow’s Wiccan powers when she needs them, which in turn causes irreversible damage in her friend’s life. And Xander eventually loses an eye as a result of his faithfulness to Buffy’s demands, so he definitely didn’t make it out unscathed, either.
3. Frodo Baggins
No sidekick is more undeserving of the hero they’re dealt with than The Lord of the Rings‘ Samwise Gamgee. Tasked with accompanying Frodo Baggins to Mordor to destroy the one ring, Sam endures the cold, bitter trail across Middle-earth in the selfless service of his friend, facing every conceivable hardship along the way. In return, he often suffers from the effects of Frodo’s inner turmoil and terrible decision making.
Things get really bad for the gardener when Frodo befriends the loathsome Gollum. Frodo and Gollum are both consumed by the ring, and Sam is forced to endure Gollum’s foolishness and deceit as a result. Even when Gollum lands the two hobbits in the hottest of hot water, Sam-not-so-wise remains faithful to Frodo and their task. Sam is eventually rewarded with a happy ending, but not without spending a critical chunk of his life in living hell.
2. Roland Deschain
Over the course of seven novels, Roland the Gunslinger’s quest for The Dark Tower—the nexus of all possible universes—is fraught with innocent bloodshed. As his title suggests, Roland Deschain is a tenacious hero, relentless in his quest to reach the Tower. Every ally he acquires over the course of his long journey learns, to some degree or another, that Roland will stop at nothing for the sake of his singular goal.
One of Roland’s defining characteristics is his unnerving capability to sacrifice the people closest to him. Along his quest, he enlists the help of three reluctant sidekicks from our world—12 year-old Jake Chambers, heroin addict Eddie Dean, and wheelchair-bound civil rights activist Susannah Dean. Roland damns all three to a life in a post-apocalyptic nightmare, and all three live with the knowledge that Roland is willing to sacrifice them at any time for the sake of the Tower. Jake Chambers is in for a rude awakening later this summer.
No iconic superhero has a worse rap sheet with sidekicks than Batman. The guy goes through Robins like toilet paper. The Caped Crusader has had a long, harrowing career of unrelenting vigilantism, taking every possible opportunity to absolutely wreck the lives of his partners, whether he consciously means to or not.
Batman’s most notable sidekick casualty is Jason Todd, the second Robin. Like his predecessor, Dick Grayson, Jason is an orphan taken in by Bruce Wayne and trained in the ways of the bat. As the Boy Wonder, Jason’s life of crimefighting as a member of the Dynamic Duo comes to a head when he is killed by the Joker in the famous Death in the Family storyline. You’d think Jason’s death would have stopped Batman from endorsing crime-fighting child labor for good, but he continues to let bloodthirsty adolescents carry the Robin moniker. The Dark Knight goes through two more Robins before Stephanie Brown, the fourth Robin, is captured and tortured by Black Mask when she tries to execute one of Batman’s master plans.
Can you think of any other heroes who ruined their sidekicks’ lives? Sound off in the comments!
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