Everybody makes mistakes from time to time – and that includes the heroes of the big screen! While even the most severe screw-up can usually be overlooked, sometimes even the good guys do things that are flat-out unforgivable.
There are plenty of reasons why an otherwise virtuous movie character might not deserve to have their sins absolved. Perhaps their actions have horrific consequences (unforeseen or expected) which are so terrible that even the most noble of goals just can’t provide justify things. After all, as they say: the pathway to Hell is paved with good intentions.
Or maybe they committed their dastardly deeds before showing remorse and returning to the side of the angels, which still ends up amounting to “too little, too late.” And then there are those instances where what has been done isn’t so appalling, but – for whatever reason – it affects another character so deeply, that character will never be able to forgive our hero for their actions.
Whatever the reason, the end result is invariably the same: no amount of apologizing is going to let these do-gooders off the hook with audiences! In the time-honored tradition of naming and shaming, we’ve pulled together this list of 15 Unforgivable Acts Committed By ‘Heroic’ Characters.
15. Anakin Skywalker and the Younglings – Star Wars
Before he went on to become the Star Wars saga’s most iconic villain, Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker started out as one of its greatest heroes. That’s what makes the many crimes on his rap sheet all the more upsetting – especially his slaughter of the Jedi younglings!
Despite murdering countless other people – he’s technically complicit in the obliteration of an entire planet – killing these Force-sensitive tykes still manages to rank as easily the worst thing Vader ever did.
In fact, it’s so bad, it even calls into question Anakin’s eventual redemption in Return Of The Jedi. Admittedly, redemption doesn’t equal atonement, but it’s still hard to shake the idea that tossing an evil old bugger like the Emperor to his doom – even if it did save Vader’s son Luke, eradicate the Sith Order, and technically end the Galactic Civil War – doesn’t quite make up for killing a bunch of innocent kids.
14. Inhumans’ Slave Class
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that slavery is A Very Bad Thing. However, somehow, it seems that the Royal Family in Inhumans – which we’ve squeezed onto this list thanks to its debut in IMAX theatres – never received this memo, considering they preside over caste system built on the back of a slave class!
Known as “Alpha Primatives”, these unlucky individuals don’t benefit from the superpowers that Black Bolt, Medusa, and their aristocratic family and friends have been blessed with. As a result, by the laws of the Inhuman kingdom (and boy, was there never a more fitting name for a place), the Alpha Primitives are expected to live out their days hard at work in the mines.
Seriously: it’s not hard to see why critics and audiences alike have complained that Inhumans’ lead characters are hard to root for!
13. James Bond’s abuse of Sévérine – Skyfall
A big part of James Bond‘s appeal is as a wish fulfillment character: he can beat any baddie and bed any woman. And while the sexual politics surrounding this latter quality have come under more intense scrutiny in modern times, his treatment of Sévérine in Skyfall justifiably earned Agent 007 vocal real-world backlash!
The cause of this outcry was simple: despite learning that Sévérine was formerly a sex slave, Bond still proceeds to seduce the exotic beauty – something that could be viewed as being an unspoken trade-off for setting her free from villainous employer, Silva.
Worse still, he reacts to her senseless murder with a tasteless joke about wasted whiskey, which is unfathomably cold, even for a superspy trying to project a “tough guy” image.
12. Ozymandias Saves Billions By Killing Millions – Watchmen
Does the ends ever truly justify the means? It’s a question philosophers have struggled with for centuries, however Watchmen superhero Ozymandias certainly seems to think he has the answer!
Self-proclaimed world’s smartest man Ozymandias is so smugly secure of his intellectual superiority that he figures he’s the only person on the planet capable of averting full-scale nuclear war – he just needs to kill several million innocent people to do it.
Reasoning that the only way to bring an end to the Cold War is to unite the American and Soviet forces against a common enemy, Ozymandias creates one for them, obliterating several of the world’s major cities and framing colleague Doctor Manhattan as the culprit.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, maybe the worst part is that it very well may all have been for nothing. Despite securing an immediate end to hostilities between the USA and the USSR, Ozymandias’ plan stands poised to be revealed to the world via former ally Rorschach’s diary, rendering this atrocity a potentially pointless affair.
11. Dumbledore abandons Harry Potter
Like most eccentric geniuses, the motivation behind many of the deeds of Professor Albus Dumbledore can be hard to fully understand. That said, his decision to leave baby Harry Potter on the doorstep of 4 Privet Drive – home of Harry’s relatives, the odious Dursley family – comes across as questionable at best!
Yes, there were a lot of reasons why he had to do this – these are better explained in JK Rowling’s original novels, but mostly it boils down to “magical protection” – but regardless, Albus is responsible for placing Harry into an environment where his eventual mistreatment was absurdly easy to predict.
It makes you wonder why Dumbledore – widely regarded as one of the most brilliant and powerful wizards of all time – couldn’t have devised a better alternative for housing Potter that kept him safe, not only from Lord Voldemort, but from child abuse as well!
10. Jake Sully sells out to the Na’vi – Avatar
Betrayal is one of those sins that’s just so damn hard to forgive, but Jake Sully seems to get by just fine in Avatar. Initially integrating himself into the Na’vi community in order to learn the alien race’s secrets for the benefit of his corporate bosses, Jake does admittedly see the error of his way and repent his actions.
Unfortunately, by this point, he’s sold the Na’vi out enough that the human forces are able to launch a devastating attack on the clan that had taken Jake in, resulting in the deaths of a lot of people (and one great big tree)!
Yes, he does find himself on the outs with Na’vi once his treachery is exposed, however Jack is soon able to win back their trust and at least partly make amends by successfully leading them into battle.
9. Frodo Baggins can’t resist the One Ring – Lord of the Rings
Poor Frodo was set an impossible task in The Lord of the Rings: to carry the ultra-addictive, highly corrupting One Ring all the way into Mordor, and once there, to destroy it by flinging it into the fires of Mount Doom. It was a job that several other, more ostensibly worthy candidates – including Gandalf, Galadriel, and Aragorn – refused to put their hands up for, and it’s to the hobbit’s credit that he only fails at the very last hurdle.
All that said, when Frodo does finally succumb to the Ring’s power and claims it as his own rather than destroying it, it’s kinda a really big faux pas. Indeed, had Ring junkie Gollum not intervened and inadvertently brought about the end of this insidious piece of magical bling, the free peoples of Middle-earth would have lost everything!
8. Tony Stark Creates Ultron – Age of Ultron
If there’s anything worse than a powerful enemy bent on your destruction, it’s a powerful enemy bent on your destruction that you created yourself! Such is the case with Avengers foe Ultron, a ruthless AI developed by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner.
Originally intended to oversee a global peace initiative, Ultron promptly went down the “killer robot” route, undertaking a destructive reign of terror, which reached its peak with the devastation of Eastern European nation Sokovia.
Although Tony cops a bit of flack at the time – Captain America and Thor seem more angry with him than Banner, given the latter’s obvious remorse – the guy in the Iron Man suit manages to largely shake the blame going forward.
Heck, in Captain America: Civil War, Stark even has the audacity to side with the pro-registration team – citing the lack of accountability for costumed adventurers – when he’s largely the one out of control, as evidenced by his arrogant decision to build Ultron, despite the obvious risks involved!
7. Big Daddy raises a killer – Kick-Ass
When Kick-Ass arrived in theatres back in 2010, the breakout character was unsurprisingly hyper-violent, foul-mouthed child vigilante Hit Girl. It’s true that there’s a certain subversive glee to be derived from watching a 13 year-old child eviscerating crooks and casually dropping C-bombs, but it’s just as fair to say that the person responsible for raising a child this way deserves our disgust.
So take a bow, Big Daddy – you may be a murderous pastiche of Batman with an inarguable talent for dispatching underworld thugs, but you’re also the same guy who brainwashed your daughter, turning her into a living weapon at the cost of her childhood.
6. Benjamin Martin’s War Crime – The Patriot
At first glance, Benjamin Martin, hero of American War of Independence epic The Patriot, is a stand-up guy: he’s a doting father, non-slave owner, and fierce warrior. But when you take into consideration why Martin is known as the hero of the Fort Wilderness campaign during the French and Indian War, his track record looks a lot more dubious.
See, it turns out ol’ Benjamin and his brothers-in-arms tortured and mutilated the defeated French soldiers after they overran the Fort, as an intimidation tactic. Whilst the circumstances of war sometimes dictate soldiers to commit acts that would otherwise be condemned by society, there’s really no getting around the fact that if this had happened today, Martin and his comrades would be charged with committing war crimes!
5. Rick Deckard Retires Replicants – Blade Runner
The central theme of cult classic Blade Runner is the nature of humanity, with the film’s artificial lifeforms, aka replicants, clearly shown to be at least as human as the flesh-and-blood detectives who pursue them. So it is that every time protagonist Rick Deckard “retires” – or to put it more accurately, “kills” – one of the rogue replicants he’s been sent to decommission, both the blade runner and viewers are left feeling more than a little uneasy.
Sure, his quarry were undeniably violent fugitives responsible for several deaths, but they were also arguably driven to this point by virtue of being manufactured to serve as cheap, disposable labor, and treated largely with contempt by society.
Regardless of whether his actions are legally above board, it’s kind of hard to forgive Deckard for essentially acting as an unquestioning assassin (especially considering he may have been targeting his own kind).
4. Never Seen A Dragon? Thank Bowen
Everyone likes dragons, right? Well, everyone except Bowen, the hero of Dragonheart, who almost single-handedly wipes out the entire species!
After his student Einon winds up as a tyrannical king, Bowen comes to the bone-headed conclusion that it’s the result of a heart transplant the ruler received from a dragon in his youth.
Bowen eventually comes to his senses, realizing that Einon was a bit of a stinker all along and teaming up with dragon Draco, but not before all the rest of these magnificent creatures – none of whom were evil, we remind you! – have been exterminated, largely by him.
3. Lawrence of Arabia takes no prisoners
Another example of a war crime, the massacre of the Turks by T.E. Lawrence and his comrades in Lawrence Of Arabia is almost impossible to forgive. Of course, as we’ve already discussed, there will always be bloodshed during times of conflict, but when you reach the point where you’re screaming “No prisoners!” – as Lawrence does during this raid – it’s clear that things have taken a turn for the worst.
Of course, viewed from a current day perspective, Lawrence’s conduct in the region (and by extension, that of the British overall) during World War I is highly questionable. However, it’s this incident above all that really crystallizes the extent of the misconduct that took place there, and Lawrence’s prominent role in proceedings leaves an indelible black mark against his name.
2. Achilles drags Hector through the dirt – Troy
It’s very often a good idea not to make business personal – particularly when your business is warfare. In Troy, Greek hero Achilles has a showdown with Hector, after his Trojan adversary kills his beloved Patroclus in battle. It’s a spiteful affair, as a distraught Achilles refuses to acknowledge that Hector genuinely didn’t mean to cause Patroclus’ death and is very obviously apologetic about it.
Being the ultimate warrior that he is, Achilles emerges victorious. While bumping off Hector on it’s own wouldn’t be so bad – they were soldiers in opposing armies, after all – Achilles takes things a step to far when he desecrates his enemy’s corpse, dragging it behind his chariot.
True, he later relents and returns the body to Hector’s family for a proper burial, but by the time Achilles himself bites the dust, his own heroic qualities – not to mention Brad Pitt’s chiseled good looks – aren’t quite enough to win back the audience’s full support.
1. The Bride Makes An Orphan – Kill Bill
Was there ever a protagonist as justified in their pursuit of revenge as Kill Bill anti-hero The Bride? Badly beaten by her former teammates in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and left for dead – while pregnant, no less – she embarks on a quest for bloody retribution against those involved.
This includes Vernita Green (formerly codenamed Copperhead), who has since retired from hitman game, settled down, and had a daughter, Nikki. Her status as a mother isn’t enough to spare Vernita from the Bride’s wrath, and after a brutal brawl, she is killed – sadly, right in front of Nikki.
While audiences might be able to forgive the Bride for this – what was done to her was pretty horrific – it seems highly unlikely that Nikki ever will. The Bride herself seems aware of this, recognizing the girl’s own right for revenge, and inviting her to seek retribution in the future – which director Quentin Tarantino has long suggested could form the basis for a third film in the series!
Did we miss any other unforgivable acts committed by ‘heroic’ characters? Let us know in the comments!
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