The conventional film dynamic portrays the protagonist as a virtuous and morally upright person the viewer relates to, identifies with, and roots for. So, what happens when you flip this trope on its head and instead make your protagonist a morally bankrupt, irredeemable person who commits evil without remorse?
These movies challenge our expectations, drawing us into their central figures' twisted minds and dark motivations. From diabolical masterminds to remorseless criminals, we're exploring 11 captivating films that showcase protagonists who revel in their wickedness
1. There Will Be Blood (2007)
Set in the early 20th century, this epic drama follows Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), a ruthless oil prospector driven by insatiable greed and ambition. As he manipulates and destroys the lives of those around him, Plainview becomes a symbolic representation of the dark side of human nature.
2. Raging Bull (1980)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, this gripping biographical drama portrays the turbulent life of Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro), a self-destructive middleweight boxer. LaMotta's violent and abusive tendencies not only ruin his relationships but also threaten to consume his career, revealing the destructive nature of his character.
3. Training Day (2001)
In this gritty police drama, Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) takes rookie officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) on a day-long training mission in the dangerous streets of Los Angeles. As the day progresses, Hoyt discovers that Harris is a corrupt and morally bankrupt cop, using his authority to commit crimes and exploit the system. Hoyt must decide whether to join in or expose his partner's nefarious actions.
4. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) assumes the identity of wealthy playboy Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) in this psychological thriller. As Ripley delves deeper into deception, lies, and murder, he reveals himself as a skilled and chilling sociopath who stops at nothing to maintain his facade.
5. Cruel Intentions (1999)
This seductive drama follows the manipulative step-siblings Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) as they engage in dangerous mind games and exploit those around them for their amusement. Their callous actions and disregard for others' emotions showcase their dark and immoral nature.
6. The Killer Inside Me (2010)
Adapted from Jim Thompson's novel, this neo-noir crime film tells the story of Lou Ford (Casey Affleck), a small-town deputy sheriff with a hidden sadistic side. As his violent tendencies escalate, Lou's chilling descent into darkness exposes the depths of his malice
7. The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
In this animated comedy, the self-centered and power-hungry Emperor Kuzco (voiced by David Spade) finds himself transformed into a llama by his scheming advisor, Yzma (voiced by Eartha Kitt). Kuzco's journey of self-discovery and redemption highlights his initially narcissistic and arrogant nature.
8. Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Based on a true story, this black comedy directed by Martin Scorsese depicts the excessive and debaucherous life of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a corrupt stockbroker. Belfort's unscrupulous actions, drug-fueled excesses, and fraudulent practices make him a prime example of a morally bankrupt anti-hero.
9. The Assassination of Jesse James (2007)
This Western drama focuses on the complex relationship between Jesse James (Brad Pitt), a notorious outlaw, and Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), a young member of his gang. Ford's obsession with fame and envy culminate in a treacherous act, showcasing the dark side of his character.
10. Good Time (2017)
In this gritty crime thriller, Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a frenzied nightmarish journey through New York City's criminal underworld to free his mentally challenged brother from jail. Connie's desperate and immoral choices underscore his willingness to harm others for personal gain.
11. Drive (2011)
This stylish neo-noir thriller centers around the unnamed protagonist, known simply as “Driver” (Ryan Gosling), a skilled getaway driver by night and a mechanic by day. Driver's quiet demeanor belies his capacity for extreme violence and ruthlessness as he becomes involved with his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her husband's criminal dealings. His actions reveal a dark and enigmatic character willing to go to any lengths to protect those he cares about, regardless of the consequences.
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