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What is an Antihero in Film?

Screenwriting is an art that features a lot of different underlying rules. That may or may not necessarily be recognizable when you’re just starting. For example, most films or screenplays will have a protagonist and an antagonist. And many will have an antihero. When looking at film characters, you may hear about the antihero. But what is an antihero in film? And what does it mean to be the antihero in a film?

What is an Antihero?

The antihero in a film represents the protagonist that is defined by their own self interest and generally exhibits feelings of having been rejected by society.

The antihero is often someone that has been in isolation. Or who acts in a self-destructive manner. Which leads to his or her further isolation and or death. 

Anti hero characters are incredibly popular in today’s movies and television shows.

You may recall popular characters that represented the antihero in the following films:

  • Tony Montana from Scarface
  • Han Solo from Star Wars
  • Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean

Characteristics of the Antihero

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An antihero may have several different characteristics but the most common include feeling at odds with society. The antihero is generally motivated by his or her own self-interest. Their actions or morals are generally noble, which is why we often love the antihero.

In fact, people tend to gravitate to the antiheroine because he or she is acting on their own morals and although they may be struggling to achieve good things, they genuinely appear to mean well when it comes down to it.

Sometimes we see an antihero that fights against the status quo of society and, their meaningful intent, while technically something we all would fight for, is still seen as “bad,” or “wrong” mainly because of how they go about handling the situation.

Moralistic Antiheroes

We call this the moralistic antihero, and one of the most common examples of a moralistic antihero in action is in the character Walter White from the popular television series Breaking Bad. 

Walter was wronged, is sick with cancer, and while one may argue that he’s only cooking meth in order to achieve financial gain.

But in the beginning his intentions were more than just to achieve financial gain. He was trying to ensure his family would be properly cared for if he were to die from cancer.

In Summation

The moralistic antihero seeks acceptance and control but in the process will isolate himself from society and, while we may empathize with this antihero character.

Especially when they are the victim of corruption or having been dealt a bad hand. We still recognize that what they are doing is morally wrong.

Regardless of right or wrong, the antihero is a common element to any film or story and is frequently included in the character line up. Antiheroes are common, and while we may not always agree with them we certainly find ourselves resonating with them.

Having a hard time remembering some of the antiheroes you’ve seen before? Watch Mojo has an awesome video that further explains and gives examples of plenty of popular ones!