Movies where the bad guy was right?
August 23, 2012 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Can you think of some movies where the bad guy is sort of right, or at least has a good point?

Looking to come up with a list of movies where the bad guy, if not right in his execution, at least is right in his thinking, kind of. For instance, in Watchmen, Ozymandias. Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men: "Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives." Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide, because he was following the correct military procedure. Whoever it was in Gattaca who decided, yeah, maybe you shouldn't fly a spaceship to Saturn if your heart is a garbage heart that might explode. Things like that. They're bad guys, but you can at least agree they maybe have a point.
posted by notmydesk to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Falling Down.
posted by eunoia at 1:35 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Magneto in X-Men. For that matter, Magneto in X-Men: First Class is practically the protagonist.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2012 [14 favorites]

General Hummel in The Rock.
posted by true at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October, sort of.
Roy Batty in Blade Runner.
Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds.
posted by griphus at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2012

Syndrome in the Incredibles.
posted by the dief at 1:38 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Khan is a great villain in Star Trek II because he has a legitimate grievance. It's just that he goes about dealing with it the wrong way.

Yes, Khan was marooned on Ceti Alpha V as punishment for trying to hijack a spacecraft. But he didn't deserve to watch his wife and friends be maimed and killed in an unlivable environment full of harmful Ceti Eels. James T. Kirk is completely responsible for failing to check up on him.
posted by steinsaltz at 1:38 PM on August 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

Poking around in the ever-reliable TVTropes, starting on the Villains page. There are a bajillion of them though, so I'll link that while I'm poking because hey, great page.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:39 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Just to clarify, Hans Landa being right is re: the Third Reich being a lost cause, not the anti-Semitism.)
posted by griphus at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2012

TVTropes has it: Anti-Villain in Film... explore all Anti-Villain for more.
posted by artlung at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: griphus: What was Landa right about, specifically?
posted by notmydesk at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2012

Response by poster: Ah! gotcha.
posted by notmydesk at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2012

Complicity (Retribution in America)
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2012

Ed Harris's character in The Rock had a noble cause (acknowledge the sacrifice of soldiers killed on illegal missions) and reveals near the end that he never planned to go through with his chemical-weapon-rocket threat
posted by theodolite at 1:45 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, I missed true's comment. In that case, how about the villagers in The Wicker Man, who were just trying to ensure the success of their harvest and are way cooler than the "hero" anyway
posted by theodolite at 1:46 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ed Harris in The Rock is a perfect example. And I haven't seen it a while, does he even kill anyone taking over Alcatraz? I don't think he does. Granted, a bunch of people die later trying to take it back, but that's the kind of thing I'm talking about: he has a legit beef.
posted by notmydesk at 1:50 PM on August 23, 2012

The prosecution in Breaker Morant; the 11 jurors opposite Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men.
posted by Philemon at 1:55 PM on August 23, 2012

Re: "The Rock"

Gen. Hummel does not kill anyone in taking over Alcatraz. It is even noted in the security briefing ("using brutal but non-lethal force"). A member of his own team dies in the raid, though.

(I have seen this movie many times.)
posted by hmo at 1:57 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Along the lines of Ed Harris in The Rock...doesn't Dennis Hopper set off bombs in Speed because he has a valid complaint about his pension?
posted by steinsaltz at 2:05 PM on August 23, 2012

Any war movie. Who exactly is the "bad guy?" The group firebombing a city or the other group firebombing a different city. I guess any film with a political struggle is going to be life this.

I just watched Hellboy II a little while ago. Prince Nuada just wanted to bring magic back into the world and reclaim his lands from the humans. Hellboy pretty much murdered all these magical beings in response and maintained the status quo of humanity on the surface and magical beings hiding in shame/being second class citizens. This is essentially the native american struggle. I guess any movie of US troops against Indians is probably morally ambiguous as well. Its hard to cheer for the side that took land through military means.

I am probably reading too much into this.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:06 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

And also some villain types come at the idea from a few angles (but nice one, artlung!):

Villain Has a Point

Hero Antagonist

The Extremist Was Right
Utopia Justifies the Means
Hannibal Has a Point
Jerkass Has a Point
Strawman Has a Point
The Social Darwinist
Well-Intentioned Extremist
Designated Villain
Necessarily Evil
Just Like Us
Sympathetic P.O.V.
Not Evil, Just Misunderstood
Knight Templar
My Country, Right or Wrong
(and more I'm sure).

You can also work in reverse by looking up the kind of movie you want and then seeing what tropes apply and what movies fall under those tropes.*

A Few Good Men
Crimson Tide

*This is why I have 4 terabytes of media files.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 2:13 PM on August 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
posted by fuse theorem at 2:32 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

The League of Shadows in Batman Begins has always been one for me. Seems like Gotham city has a whole bunch of problems. Granted the whole kill everyone thing is a bit harsh however.
posted by Carillon at 2:36 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Star Wars
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:39 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Villain in Air Force One: You who murdered a hundred thousand Iraqis to save a nickel on a gallon of gas are going to lecture me on the rules of war? Well DON'T.
posted by biffa at 3:17 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not a movie, but Shane in The Walking Dead AMC series was right pretty much all of the time even though he was portrayed as the bad guy.

He knew what it would take to keep everyone alive and had a good gut. He's portrayed as the bad guy because he has sex with his "best friend" (Rick the protagonists) wife when he thinks that Rick is dead.
posted by nickerbocker at 4:18 PM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's a Wonderful Life. George Bailey is all about the subprime mortgages. Potter ran a might tighter operation that didn't threaten to throw the whole community into default and chaos or ridiculously overleverage his bank.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:30 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tyler Durden in Fight Club.
posted by 4ster at 5:35 PM on August 23, 2012

theodolite, I assume you're referring to the Nicolas Cage Wicker Man, because nobody's cooler than Edward Woodward!

The "bad guys" are right in Gone With the Wind.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:03 PM on August 23, 2012

Along the lines of Ozymandias in Watchmen, the robots in I, Robot.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 6:13 PM on August 23, 2012

I recently saw Singin' in the Rain again, and was surprisingly sympathetic to Lena Lamont, the screechy-voiced blonde actress, and her point about the studio's contractual obligations to her. The other characters also seemed more mean-spirited than I remembered. This isn't to say that she was admirable in how she attempted to remedy the issue.
posted by chinston at 6:16 PM on August 23, 2012

The Joker in The Dark Knight.
posted by morninj at 6:18 PM on August 23, 2012

Hans Gruber from Die Hard. He was one disgruntled fish-out-of-water NYPD cop away from sitting on a beach, earning twenty percent.
posted by Sphinx at 9:06 PM on August 23, 2012

Darkheart from The Care Bear Movie II. He was totally right! Caring is lame! and your friends probably are laughing at you behind your back!
posted by daisystomper at 9:44 PM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Not a movie, but this happened during season 6 of Supernatural. The angel Castiel (formerly a good guy) kind of went dark side because he was trying to save the world from another apocalypse. And even though his methods to do it were insane (open purgatory, swallow everything inside) and the results catastrophic (turn self into mutated god/angel, unleash unkillable planet eating monsters upon the world), he really didn't have a whole host of choices.
posted by katyggls at 10:03 PM on August 23, 2012

Sphinx, you reminded me of this exchange from How I Met Your Mother:

Marshall Eriksen: You're telling me that when you watch "The Karate Kid", you don't root for Daniel-san?
Ted Mosby: Who do you root for in "Die Hard"?
Barney Stinson: Hans Gruber. Charming international bandit. In the end, he dies hard. He's the title character.
Lily Aldrin: What about "The Breakfast Club"?
Barney Stinson: The teacher running detention. He's the only guy in the whole movie wearing a suit.
Robin Scherbatsky: I've got one. "The Terminator".
Barney Stinson: What's the name of the movie, Robin? Who among us did not shed a tear when his little red eye went out in the end, and he didn't get to kill all those people?
[Breaks down]
Barney Stinson: I'm sorry. I just get so emotional.
Ted Mosby: I am never watching a movie with you again.
Barney Stinson: They didn't even try to help him!
posted by grokfest at 11:12 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, the movie was shelved, but I always thought Satan in Paradise Lost had some good points and an oddly heroic role. And I'm not the only one.
posted by clerestory at 11:49 PM on August 23, 2012

Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) in The Brave One.
posted by areodjarekput at 6:41 AM on August 24, 2012

God Bless America.

Kinda. :-)
posted by Decani at 7:40 AM on August 24, 2012

John Doe in Se7en.
posted by matticulate at 11:18 AM on August 24, 2012

Not a movie, but Amon from The Legend of Korra has some valid points about the magic-ocracy of the show's world.
posted by Starmie at 11:38 AM on August 24, 2012

Magua in Last of the Mohicans. He wanted revenge - and not against all the British, but just against Munro and his daughters - for breaking up his family and destroying his village. Awful, but just as valid as anyone else's motive in that film
posted by sidi hamet at 6:18 PM on August 24, 2012

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