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What is an Archetype Character in Film?

Characters in film have various labels or symbols based on their underlying values and characteristics. Archetype characters in film represent a particular underlying set of characteristics that represent the character in some way. Similar to what you might expect from a stereotype. It’s the typical characteristics or qualities that you expect from a person that makes it the archetype. An archetype character is symbolic. And some of the most common include the villain, the hero, the innocent ones, and the mentor characters. Sound familiar?

What’s an Archetype?

An archetype is a symbol. In filmmaking, character archetypes are represented by various qualities or underlying symbols that make them stand out.

Moreover, the archetypes represent specific human experiences and behaviors that the character exhibits or experiences. And they are collectively part of an unconscious meaning that makes the character who he or she is. 

As an audience, we recognize an archetype character in film by their traits and the predictable outcomes that are to be expected as a result of the character traits.

For example, one common archetype is a hero. If someone is the hero, you can expect them to perform a certain way, to have certain underlying morals, and to resemble specific underlying traits or characteristics. 

The Underdog & Other Examples of Archetypal Characters in Film


Furthermore, various archetype characters in film are widely recognized for their place and role in the story. We’ve all heard of the underdog – and we know that the underdog is generally the one that people least expect to succeed, and who ultimately wins.

We know what to predict from this archetype, just as we know how to predict outcomes from various other character archetypes in film

Additional types of character archetypes include:

  • The Hero
  • The Mentor
  • The Everyman
  • The Innocent
  • The Villain

The Takeaway

So, think about the individual characteristics that each of these character types would have. If you’re unsure, simply look up the difference between them all.

Once you understand these archetypes and how they interact within film and literature? You’ll have no trouble predicting the outcomes for each of these types of characters when you’re watching a movie or reading a story.

Because when we answer the question, “What is an archetype character in film?” We know that an archetype has a predictable set of traits or qualities that a character will possess. Relative to their personal experience and behaviors.