Many movies consist of a protagonist and antagonist working against one another, but it’s not always the villain who takes the hero down. In these 24 movies, the main characters are the cause of their own undoing.
1- Fargo (1996)
William H Macy is a central character in Fargo and completely falls apart when confronted with financial problems. He tries to extort his father-in-law by hiring two thugs to kidnap his wife, and, as you can imagine, it all goes south from there. He’s just a sweet midwestern man trying to dig himself out of a deep hole.
2- Election (1999)
The way the main character self-destructs in this movie is so cringe. A well-liked high school teacher essentially blows up his entire life because of his feelings toward a high school student. While it’s painful to watch the character throw his life away, the movie depicts the slow descent into idiocy well.
3- Black Swan (2010)
In Black Swan, Natalie Portman plays a professional ballerina who drives herself mad, striving for perfection. This is one of the best examples of a main character self-destructing, as much of the movie consists of her delusions and hallucinations that only happen in her mind as she loses her grip on reality.
4- Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
In Leaving Las Vegas, the main characters destroy themselves with drugs and drinking. It’s a dizzying depiction of substance dependence and an outrageous bender. Unlike Black Swan, the characters in this actively choose to self-destruct and drink themselves in oblivion until they forget their names.
5- My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
Julia Roberts plays a narcissist in My Best Friend’s Wedding, where her best guy friend is getting married to a cheerful and sweet woman. Upon hearing the happy news, she decides she belongs with him and goes to extreme lengths to break them up and ruin the wedding, which only proves to hurt her in the end.
6- The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
When a man who lives on an island off the coast of Ireland is told by his lifelong friend that their friendship is over, he twists himself every which way to figure out what has happened and how to fix it. Eventually, the main character comes to his senses, but he self-destructs, trying to determine why his buddy is done with him.
7- The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street is a dramatic and clever depiction of self-destruction. The main character, Jordan Belfort, as well as other side characters, descend into a drugged-out haze, taking any kind of pills they can get their hands on. By the end, Belfort has ruined his professional and personal life.
8- Blow (2001)
If you know anything about Blow, this one is self-explanatory. It’s all about drug lords who indulge completely in the drugs they sell. The overall theme of the movie looks at how drugs can destroy communities, but it also destroys the individual characters involved in the smuggling and distribution.
9- Nightmare Alley (2021)
Nightmare Alley is an eccentric and dark film about a con man trying to make it big by ripping off rich people. The entire two and half hours show his descent into madness and poverty, showing how quickly one can go from being on top of the world to one of the most desperate people in society.
10- I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a complex and artistic movie about a man who is contemplating taking his own life. Much of the movie depicts his delusional relationship and lack of grasp on reality, eventually ending with him letting himself, presumably, die in a car covered in snow.
11- Thelma and Louise (1991)
This self-destruction is pretty literal, as they grab hands and drive off a cliff together at the end. While they didn’t mean to blow up their lives when they started the road trip, one horrific incident and a quick reaction turned them into fugitives, a lifestyle they seemed to embrace easily.
12- The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Matt Damon plays a man who longs to be wealthy so he can indulge in the finer things in life. Once he gets a taste of luxury, he can’t go back and sinks further into his lies and deceit until he ends up taking the life of a wealthy and spoiled man. The lengths he goes to to take over this man’s life are extreme, and he’s eventually caught.
13- Double Indemnity (1944)
In Double Indemnity, an insurance salesman finds himself in a treacherous situation when he falls in love with a woman determined to kill her husband to collect the insurance money. The main character lets his love for the woman blind him and becomes a criminal fairly quickly, leading to his downfall.
14- Rear Window (1954)
Rear Window is a story about a photographer who is injured in an accident and becomes stuck in his apartment. He begins spying on his neighbors and believes he witnesses a murder, and becomes intent on solving it and getting justice for the victim. However, he eventually finds his way out of danger after devolving into paranoia.
15- The Truman Show (1998)
Jim Carrey’s character, Truman, self-destructs in a surprisingly good way in this film. Truman has the perfect, happy life until he realizes it’s all fake. He leaves everything he knows behind to start over and live in the real world, blowing up his life in the best way possible.
16- Emily the Criminal (2022)
Emily the Criminal is about a girl, Emily, played by Aubrey Plaza, who is desperate for money and turns to a life of crime. She partakes in credit card fraud and excels in her new criminal career, eventually overtaking the people who taught her everything she knows.
17- Project X (2012)
This self-destruction isn’t too bad. A high school student decides to throw the most epic party ever, which, of course, descends into complete chaos. By the end, his entire house is destroyed, and he’s basically guaranteed he’ll be in trouble with his parents and the law.
18- Tár (2022)
Tár is about a musician days away from recording an important symphony that will elevate her career. The movie is a psychological drama that shows he the pressure gets to her and how she falls apart when everything seems to go wrong. She allows herself to entertain abusive relationships and, in the end, is her worst enemy.
19- American Beauty (1999)
American Beauty is about a family man who falls deeply in love with one of his teenage daughter’s beautiful friends. He blows up his life for this young girl because he is entering a mid-life crisis, exemplifying how stupid and reckless people can be.
20- Click (2006)
Click is a surprisingly emotional and heartfelt Adam Sandler movie. Sandler plays a workaholic who is constantly obsessed with getting the next promotion to the point that he loses his family and misses out on the most important moments. Luckily, he gets a do-over and realizes what is truly important in life.
21- The Shining (1980)
Jack Torrance brings himself down in flames in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Between the way he verbally, physically, and emotionally abuses his family and his attachment to alcohol, even when there isn’t any around, he is the ultimate reason for his undoing. Yes, the hotel possesses him, but only because he is vulnerable enough to let it in and let it destroy him.
22- Ingrid Goes West (2017)
This criminally underrated Aubrey Plaza movie is about an unhinged woman who loses her mother and decides to move to California. She stalks an Instagram influencer and basically tries to become her, which freaks everyone out and eventually leads her to attempt to take her own life.
23- Seven Pounds (2008)
The self-destruction in Seven Pounds is extremely deliberate, as Ben, played by Will Smith, knows he is dying and wants to help seven people before he leaves this world. He literally takes himself apart to save other people, donating bone marrow and several organs so others can live despite his impending death.
24- The Whale (2022)
The Whale is a fantastic and emotional movie about a man who is binge-eating himself to death despite pleas from his loved ones. This type of self-destruction revolves around a lack of hope, making it one of the more tragic movies on this list.