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"Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right."

Salvor HardinFoundation

A character archetype that is almost as common in modern fiction as the Ideal Hero, an Anti-Hero is a protagonist who has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero. She/he may be bewildered, ineffectual, deluded, or merely apathetic. More often an antihero is just an amoral misfit. While heroes are typically conventional, anti-heroes, depending on the circumstances, may be preconventional (in a "good" society), postconventional (if the government is "evil") or even unconventional.

Most are far to the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.

Other common attributes are: rarely speaking, being a loner, either extreme celibacy or extreme promiscuity, father issues, occasional Bad Dreams and flashbacks relating to a Dark and Troubled Past that can take many forms depending on the Anti-Hero in question; and being able to tell the story of their life through any Nick Cave song. Some won't Save the Villain, but they will Shoot the Dog, and they will not hesitate to kill anyone who threatens them.

Other characters may try to impress upon them the value of more traditional heroic values through The Power of Friendship, but these lessons tend to bounce more often than stick.

What amoral anti-heroes learn, if they learn anything at all over the course of the story, is that an existence devoid of absolute values offers a lot of isolation. Which may be to their liking. Don't You Dare Pity Me! is common, and gratitude may be repulsed with Think Nothing of It (just to get them to leave him alone.)

Anti-Heroes often crop up in deconstructions of traditionally heroic genres. As the struggling, imperfect protagonist begins to gain more respect and sympathy than the impressive-but-impossible-to-relate-to invincible superhero, "anti" heroes have come to be admired as a perfectly valid type of hero in their own right.

Sometimes, they are not the "star" (protagonist), but serve as The Rival or Worthy Opponent of the protagonist and inevitably steal the spotlight. If they are part of a Five-Man Band, they will most certainly be The Lancer.

The term is used more loosely today than it used to be, at least on This Wiki. In one definition of the word, the appeal of an Anti-Hero is that he or she is often very literally a hero: Namely; he or she does heroic deeds. But whereas Superman, Wonder Woman, Hercules, and many other conventional heroes have both the physical and moral capabilities to do it, an antihero almost never has both.

Antiheroes are spread all over the alignment chart, tending toward Neutral types. It is nearly impossible for them to be Chaotic Evil or Lawful Good.

Traditionally, in literary analysis, the meaning of antihero was effectively the opposite of the now common usage, lacking the elements that make a hero "cool" rather than the elements that make them "good". Willy Loman and Shinji Ikari are archetypes of this form.

If you've been sent here by a work referring to someone as a "Type-I" antihero (Or so forth), they are referring to the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes, which is a sub-page of this one.

Compare: Anti-Villain, Femme Fatale, Nineties Anti-Hero, and Sociopathic Hero.

Not to be confused with the webcomic Anti-HEROES.

Examples of Anti-Hero include:

Anime and Manga

  • Guts from Berserk has one goal in life: making his former ally Griffith pay in blood for what's happened to him. A childhood spent as a mercenary and an adult life spent being attacked by demons has left him with few moral precepts. He thinks nothing of cutting people in half, although he does prefer not to take out bystanders (still a bad idea to stand in his way, though). On the other hand, he cares deeply for Casca and has given some thought to what he really wants to do with his life once he's gotten his revenge; he doesn't have an answer for that one yet. Pre-Eclipse Guts is more of a Byronic Hero.
  • You could say that the main cast of Black Lagoon could count as Anti Heroes, but that would be a misnomer.
  • Lelouch and To A Lesser Extent, the Black Knights of Code Geass.
  • Death Note
    • Mello is solely dedicated to being the one to stop Kira and is more than willing to become a mob boss, kidnap innocent girls, and in the manga, even threaten the President to sabotage his rival so said rival can't catch Kira.
    • Light's rival, L, is an Anti-Hero and basically The Anti-Bishonen. He dresses like a bum (he doesn't even wear shoes!), his black hair is shaggy and unkempt, he looks permanently hungover, he strongly detests physical contact with anyone and is close to emotionally dead. As far as his morality is concerned, he is willing to achieve the good goal of capturing Kira (Light) with evil means, such as kidnapping, not preventing murder, invasion of privacy and torture.
  • Dragonball Z.
    • Vegeta. In his first appearance, he's the Big Bad, but in the ongoing series, in his effort to beat Goku, he keeps saving the day. He also often unnecessarily endangers the situation by letting his enemies reach their full potential, so he can have a honorable fight.
    • To a lesser extent, Piccolo could also be seen to possess some Anti-Hero qualities. Though he essentially became one of the good guys after his sacrifice for Gohan, Piccolo was still somewhat aloof, anti-social, and soft-spoken (save for when he launched himself into battle). And though he became one of the Z Fighters, there were still a few instances where Piccolo didn't really view the human members of the team including Yamcha, Krillin, and Chaotzu as being in his league (though not to the same extent as Vegeta viewed them). He would regularly come into conflict with both of them talking down to each other. And the only ones that he generally showed respect to among the big 8 were Goku (Although he gave him one hell of a talking to), Gohan, Trunks, and Tienshinhan. In the Tree of Might movie, Oolong compared Gohan's new pet dragon to Piccolo, saying neither of them let their guard down around anyone except Gohan.
  • Fate/stay night
    • Archer walked this line. He grew up as an idealistic busybody, believing that he could be a 'champion of justice' and turn the world into a better place. In the end, he realized that for everyone he saved, someone else must die. He lost faith in his own ideals, and from then on, he simply killed whoever posed a threat to the rest of humanity, saving millions by killing thousands - "for the greater good", literally. Naturally, he's also a White-Haired Pretty Boy.
    • This was in no small part thanks to his father, Emiya Kiritsugu, who held the same ideals, and did pretty much the same thing - killing people whose work would involve death of others, even if it would've benefited others. After the 4th Grail War, finally believing that he made a difference in the world (ordering Saber to destroying the Grail) he dies. Of course, the Grail wasn't really destroyed...
    • Shirou during the "Heaven's Feel" route faces an important choice between two ideals, both leading to Anti-Hero-dom. Choosing to kill Sakura leads him to kill his emotions and become an Archer/Kiritsugu-style "questionable method" antihero (this, incidentally, is a Bad End). On the other hand, choosing to protect Sakura, no matter the cost, leads him to become more of a "questionable motive" antihero (since the one way to save Sakura is to stop the Grail War, something unquestionably heroic).
  • Scar from Fullmetal Alchemist starts out as a villain and gradually transforms into one of these. Second Greed as well.
  • Getter Robo combines the old Super Robot ideals like Hot Bloodedness with anti-hero main characters. Ryoma is rowdy and an asshole, Hayato's pragmatism in decision making borders on (and sometimes goes beyond) cruelty and so on.
  • The only good guys in Hellsing are anti-heroes or vampire fodder. And then there's Alucard. The only thing that keeps him from being a villain is the fact he is fighting vampire Nazis, although the first anime adaptation definitely plays up the anti-hero side.
  • Inuyasha
    • Kikyo, who is usually very kind and giving, has become dangerous on occasion due to her jealousy over Inuyasha and Kagome.
    • Sesshomaru fights against the Big Bad Naraku (for his own agenda, of course), occasionally helps people who're not related to him, helps his half-brother whom he officially hates and even his brother's friends many times, displays protective attitude towards his followers and great filial respect towards his father. He has a high sense of honor and principle (obviously values honor and principles above his own life). On the other hand, he has many extremely ruthless moments, can willingly join forces with Naraku and use questionable methods (i.e., making exceptions to his principles), also tries to kill his brother on multiple occasions (at first because Inuyasha has the sword he wants and is a "lowly" half-demon, then for reasons like he wants to "test" Inuyasha, or Inuyasha is possessed by a demon who he has to kill quick to make way to save his Rin). In the final battle against Naraku, his status as an antihero is highlighted by this antiheroes signature move.
    • Kagura was created by Naraku out of one of the youkai that had been trapped inside himself for at least fifty years. In return for the hope of freedom in the future, she was forced to work as a slave for him, her life bound due to the fact he, quite literally, held her beating heart captive in his position and could therefore destroy at any moment. Despite her position, her growing feelings for Sesshoumaru, coupled with her growing protective instinct for Kohaku all combined to make her increasingly helpful of both Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha's causes. In the end, she was feeding information to both Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha's groups to help them fight Naraku and ended up dying in an Heroic Sacrifice to save Kohaku's life from Mouryoumaru and Naraku's machinations.
    • Koga, leader of the southern wolf-demon tribe. Seeking vengeance against Naraku, he becomes a reluctant ally (while maintaining rivalry) to Inuyasha. Thanks to his romantic interest in Kagome, he and his men give up eating human. Koga, Kikyo, Sesshomaru and his followers are described as "Those who, at times will fight, and other times have the same intentions." in Inuyasha Zusetsutaizen Ougikaiden.
  • Nao Yuuki from My-HiME is an arguable case; bent on vengeance for her mother, who was severely wounded in a robbery, she uses herself as bait to trap paedophiles, who she proceeds to rob. It's never made clear if her victims receive punishment under a proper judicial system. In fact, she seems to enjoy going after her victims a bit too much.
  • Yukiteru from Mirai Nikki, after his parents were killed and he takes a level in badass. The most recent chapter showed him massacring orphans in the name of becoming God; it's implied that once he becomes god he'll bring them back (keeping him from outright villainy).
    • Likewise, Minene Uryu is one of the craftiest and most resourceful diary owners, and she is not above blowng up an entire middle school full of kids in order to win the survival game and become God. However, unlike some diary owners, she's wants to become god in order to make the world a better place and it's heavily implied that she will revive everyone she kills. Unfortunately for her, in the world of Mirai Nikki, not even God can do that. One has trouble not sympathizing with her when you find out that she's a refugee from an unnamed wartorn country and that she's fighting against serial killers, people that want to become God in order to destroy the world as well as people that want the position just so that they can rule the world. she also works with Yuki to Save the World in the end, too.
  • Shinji Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangelion is a deeply neurotic protagonist who is withdrawn, socially awkward, and completely lacking in self-confidence, but is shown to be a good person under his many psychological problems, all of which stem from him being the series' resident Butt Monkey. Asuka, too, fits the role of Anti-Hero, as her only reason for piloting her Evangelion isn't to protect mankind, but to show everyone how talented she is. Somewhat mitigated by the fact that when she was around 4 her mother lost her mind and thought that a doll was Asuka. And her father started to have an affair with the head nurse in charge of Asuka's mother. So at age four, who cares about Asuka? That's right, nobody. So she works around her abandonment issues by trying to get everyone to need her. Because she doesn't want to be alone. Shinji has the same kind of childhood, but works around it by trying not to have to make any decisions, because he thinks he is in the wrong about most things. This show messes up the background history of every character.
  • Mirielle and Kirika in Noir are assassins, more or less, ruthless, cold-blooded killers. Kirika is saddened, not by killing, but by the fact she isn't saddened by killing, and Mirielle, not even that much, sometimes joking about their kills off-handedly. In this anime, they are the protagonists. There are no traditional heroes in Noir. Except maybe Mirielle's parents.
    • Who were key figures in the Corsican mob, so their hands weren't exactly clean, either. They set the events of the story (And get themselves killed) by declaring that Even Evil Has Standards.
  • Brilliantly lampshaded in an episode of Pokémon. Anti Villains Jessie, James, and Meowth are disgusted by how Anti-Hero Paul mistreats his Pokemon, given the fact that they're far nicer people than he is, and they're criminals!
  • Saito Hajime from Rurouni Kenshin is the very epitome of this trope.
    • Shinomori Aoshi counts if anyone else does. After he became more of a villain; he started off as an Anti-Villain. Most of the male characters can be: Kenshin himself lapses into this and even Sanosuke, who is not afraid to fight against his nation's government. It seems Saitou has an effect on everyone, so it could be said this quality rubbed off nearly as well as anything from Kenshin (Sano in particular).
  • Ikki Phoenix from Saint Seiya starts out like this. It took some time before he stopped horribly killing every opponent.
  • Nicholas D. Wolfwood of Trigun is not amoral by any means, but his harsh "no matter the cost" martialism copied from Knives and Chapel and his sense of fashion screams Anti-Hero, especially when compared with Vash.
  • Vinland Saga's. Thorfinn and Thorkel. Many of the other characters of the manga are villains in one way or another.
  • Mashiba from Hajime no Ippo is this on his good days. Otherwise he's just a Heroic Sociopath. He protects his sister, but overall is a very scary and sadistic boxer. You get to see his really [dead link] bad side. However, he gets better later and refrains from cheating.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • Yami Yuugi from the early manga. Example: A guy steals a playing card from Yuugi. Yami Yuugi comes out to drive him permanently stark raving mad. Whenever he gets out, someone is gonna die or go nuts. Not to mention the fact that he is smiling as he lights people on fire, condemns them to insanity, etc.
    • Seto Kaiba in the anime, certainly. First he's a villain. Then Yami Yugi does some freaky shit to his mind and he becomes a sympathetic villain who's just trying to save his brother (and his company), and admits to respecting Yugi. Then he gets kidnapped and Yugi and his friends save him and they team up to beat the bad guys. Then he's a kind of antagonist again but he keeps helping Yugi beat the bad guys. Then they all have to team up to beat more bad guys. Then in the movie he seems to be a bad guy but he's actually a puppet for the Big Bad and helps Yugi to defeat said Big Bad when he's freed from its control. Then he opens a school to help young people learn to duel. Make up your mind, man! He's been on one side since day one. The side where he can screw the most rules.

He's more like an Anti-Hero, the worst kind of hero there is! They give us villains a good name!

  • Sagara Sousuke from Full Metal Panic! fits this trope's description pretty well. Somewhat of a Heroic Sociopath, all that really matters to him is Kaname's safety and completing his missions. Empathy and strict moral principles aren't really qualities that fit in to his personality. He is definitely against saving villains, has a naturally violent nature and sees absolutely nothing wrong in offing people or Shooting The Dog, tries to be a loner (though he tends to fail at that), is both very chaste and celibate, and has rather dubious combat methods. For example, would a normal person turn a theme park mascot into powered armor designed for police use (and lament that he "lost out on one of his investments" when the police doesn't buy it)?
  • Accelerator from A Certain Magical Index becomes this in the Last Order arc.
  • The eponymous Nadia from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is an antihero. Due to an unhappy childhood and Parental Abandonment, she's grown to be gloomy and depressed, somewhat self-centered and very judgmental. She has an empathic connection to animals and is thus a vegetarian, but can't stand the idea of anyone else eating meat either and constantly berates them for it. Her negative persona is lamp-shaded in one of the omakes, a character profile, where the narrator just keeps rattling off various flaws ("There has probably never been such a selfish heroine.") and expresses incredulity at how anyone can stand her. However, she is still a fundamentally good, caring person, capable of great self-sacrifice and aware of her flaws. (She seems to feel bad about taking her rage out on Jean at various points, to the point where she does something apologetic.) By the time of the Where Are They Now? Epilogue, she seems to have matured into a more sympathetic individual.
  • Hei from Darker than Black. A hitman for The Syndicate who doesn't really bother to question the morality (or, more often, lack thereof) of his assignments, with no compunctions about cheating, killing, or torture if he feels it's necessary.
  • The core protagonists of Slayers, which makes the show as intriguing as it is - Lina Inverse is a well-reputed slayer of bandits and has saved the world, but she's only done the latter if the danger she and her companions were in had reached that point. Otherwise, she slays bandits for personal wealth, has no concern for the welfare of innocents (and entire villages for that matter), and will occasionally go to sociopathic levels to get what she wants, even if it includes hurting her friends. Zelgadis is similar to Lina in those aspects, with the exception being that he's more than willing to either murder or flat-out abandon those he cares about entirely.
    • Princess Amelia is not as much of this as it warrants, but her naivite on peoples' motives inadvertantly make her this - she often relies on stereotypes (such as outward appearances) to determine who is and isn't noble. Gourry the good-natured swordsman would wholly avert this trope if he weren't apathetic to certain worldly events, but that's possibly due to his lack of intelligence. The only protagonist that joins Lina that isn't this trope completely is Sylphiel.
  • The core four in Yu Yu Hakusho, all to varying degrees - Kuwabara being the least so, Hiei being the most.
  • Ciel and Sebastian of Black Butler.
  • Madoka and Mami are the only entirely good characters in Madoka Magica (and even Mami gets her creepy moments). Homura is a straight up Anti-Hero, with a more-or-less good goal and amoral ways of pursuing it. Kyouko is trying to ignore morality entirely, but is having difficulty doing so. Sayaka wants to be an ally of justice, but is bad at it and eventually goes off the deep end and ends up a witch.
  • Agito and Aptom in Guyver.
  • Miyu from Vampire Princess Miyu - She banishes the Shinma because it's her fate to do so, not because she cares about the human race. She even uses humans for her personal amusement, just like the Shinma, but arguably not with the same cruelty of the Shinma.
  • Inner Moka from Rosario + Vampire, until she starts defrosting.
  • Setsuna F. Seiei and the Celestial Being start as this type of characters in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, of byronic variant. Later, however, Setsuna would develop into an entirely good hero.
  • Chirico Cuvie in Armored Trooper VOTOMS.
  • Elise von Barbaroque from Dai Mahou Touge.

Comic Books

  • Marvel's The Punisher is a Badass Normal, trenchcoat-wearing Vigilante Man who often uses extreme amounts of violence to combat criminals. Why do super heroes fight super villains? Because the Punisher shot the lesser ones.
  • Spawn (that is, from Todd McFarlane's comic book of the same name).
  • Every single protagonist in the Sin City series qualifies as an Anti-Hero, though given the Wretched Hive they live in, it's pretty much a given. Marv, for instance, feels no remorse for torturing and killing a great deal of people over the course of his story, even bragging about it on one occasion, but he has several lines that he crosses only with extreme reluctance, such as hitting a woman or Kill a innocent. Dwight has hit several women in the heat of anger and has let his anger get the best of him on many an occasion, but he never turns his back on people who need him.
  • Watchmen
    • Rorschach doesn't differentiate between most degrees of criminal acts, except for the most heinous. He'll kill a rapist, but the general lowlifes in a dive bar only get slightly less severity from him, and even then it seems to be more so that he can pump them for information.
    • The Comedian. Dr. Manhattan thinks he's fallen off the end of the scale. He is "so deliberately amoral" that any heroic aspects are essentially non-existent.
    • Everyone. Nite Owl II is pretty ineffective as a hero. Silk Spectre II was just in it because her mother wanted her to be a hero, just like her. Dr. Manhattan can't relate to humans anymore and his powers have made him apathetic. Ozymandias is a full-blown Well-Intentioned Extremist. The heroes of the last generation were much more heroic in general, especially the first Nite Owl. However, they weren't without flaws, either.
      • Rorschach and Nite Owl were actually effective, having sent at least about 50 criminals to jail (which means they weren't just beaten by a crazy man wearing a mask, but also found guilty in court) - killers, rapists, mob bosses including Big Figure.
      • Judging by their actions in the street conflict during the climax, some of the side characters (the police detective, the psychologist, the newspaper stand owner) seem to be decent if not idealistic people who instinctively try to do what's right in difficult circumstances. Arguably, if there any actual heroes in watchmen, it's them. Their instinctive, uncalculated responses contrast nicely against the murky and/or purely philosophical motivations of the costumed characters, which actually seems to be a pretty good way to distinguish between heroes and antiheroes.
  • Batman is a classic and well-known anti-hero who has had a significant influence on comic book anti-heroes. Batman displayed the traits of the modern anti-hero since his debut in Detective Comics, 1939. However, Batman's status as an anti-hero ultimately depends on who's writing or portraying him; many have leaned towards a more traditional idea of heroism. For example, while Frank Miller's fits this trope like a glove, it's really hard to describe Adam West's Batman as an anti-hero.
  • Say his name with me, comic fans: Lobo. Definitely The Lancer on the space-faring L.E.G.I.O.N. team, and in Young Justice as the de-aged Slobo.
  • Rayek from Elf Quest always does what he thinks is best for the entire elfin race, without ever stopping to ask the rest of the elfin race what they think is best for them.
  • The DCU introduced a slew of Anti Heroes to "replace" their traditional heroic characters during the Dark Age—the Eradicator for Superman, Jean Paul Valley for Batman, Artemis for Wonder Woman, Dark Flash—though whether they were supposed to emphasize how good the originals were in comparison or a cynical attempt to get with the Darker and Edgier trend of the '90s depends on how charitable you are. The only one with any staying power was Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, but he was never really an Anti-Hero to begin with.
    • Kyle Rayner was brought in to replace Hal Jordan who had become the supervillain, Parallax. He didn't need to be dark and edgy.
  • Spider Jerusalem loves to eat puppies, shatter illusions, knock people's teeth out and drive his poor editor to the brink of insanity, but he's also about the only journalist left in his world who tells the truth no matter what. He was also willing to selflessly sacrifice himself to bring down The Smiler.
  • The titular character of the Lucifer series is very much this trope, his vast intelligence and strict code of honour tempered by the fact... well, that he is a selfish, self-centered ass who is defined by his own pride and somewhat childish petulance at the fact that he cannot fully define his own existence. His heroic acts include saving the existence and putting himself at risk to save Elane Belloc and possibly Mazikeen.
  • Cassie Hack in Hack Slash. Her motivation is mostly admirable, but her tactics and personality are... not role model material.
  • Batman, Marvel/DC Happy Hour:

I may seem like a cool Vigilante crusading for justice, but I know myself well enough to know this: I'm one of the richest men in the world, and yet I have absolutely nothing. I'm obsessed, emotionally distant, incapable of maintaining any kind of relationship, and when I die, I'll just be an old man with no wife, no children, no family. Because no matter how many times I close my eyes, all I can see is the blood of my parents on my hands. I believe in what I do, but I'm no role model. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. That sound cool to you, Parker?

    • Never mind the fact that Batman does have family. It's even called the Bat-family and stretches from Alfred, to Robin, to Huntress, to Catwoman, to fucking Superman. Batman has the best kind of family, one of chosen friends.
      • Batman Beyond gives us the image of Bruce Wayne just like that - an old man with no wife, no children, and no family except for his dog.
  • Sometimes the Incredible Hulk due to multiple personality disorder.
  • Sub-Mariner - Namor the Sub-Mariner, since the beginning. He's a month older than Batman, but nowhere near as influential. Usually moving between this and being an Anti-Villain.
  • Crackerjack in Astro City, not in the sense of being grim and ruthless, but in the sense that he fights crime and saves people primarily for his own self-aggrandizement and is, simply put, a jerk. At least, this initially seems to be the case, but he's portrayed in a more favourable light in later stories.
  • A classic example is Raven in Zoids: Guardian Force. Once you get to the last episode, he's screaming antihero.
  • Marvel also has Daimon Hellstrom: The Son of Satan. To be correct, the Badass Crew he joins in Marvel Zombies 3 is an entire team of antiheroes, including Morbius the Living Vampire and Werewolf by Night.
  • Deadpool. I do good, but I never do it out of Chronic Hero Syndrome: I'm pretty sure I do it for personal gain (money, revenge, fame, women, or just cuz I damn well feel like it...), to placate my own feelings of guilt, or simply because higher powers manipulate me into doing so- Mithras directive anyone? Seriously. In fact, it's kinda a crap-shoot exactly how 'villain' I am in any particular story. I once saved the world from an alien, mass-hypnotizing entity (and I did it through kicking Captain America (comics) in the crown jewels. S*** was so cash, but still, my bad Steve) and I do perform a couple of selfless, heroic actions, but I'm also known for flying into a psychotic rage whenever someone removes MY mask (I have issues okay?) or infiltrate my house (these "quirks" were removed in later issues, though) and also for being completely disrespectful of life, if not downright sadistic, and willing to do pretty bad stuff for money. Casinoes anyone? My justification is that, thanks to my handy dandy cancer based Healing Factor, my brain is so messed up that I'm completely insane in the membrane!
  • Cable, Deadpool's former Heterosexual Life Partner, debuted as a Nineties Anit Hero. As he became more intrinsically entwined with the Summers' Tangled Family Tree, he mellowed out... slightly. He still bounces back and forth, Depending on the Writer and what book he's in.
  • Elizabeth Rose is definitely one, almost heading towards Villain Protagonist levels. The other guy seems to be one too, but only in situations where he can't help it.
  • Preacher (Comic Book) - Jesse Custer
  • Jonah Hex, who has been around since 1971.
  • Moon Knight, occasional hero, frequently just a crazy bastard.
  • Shadow, from Archie Sonic comics. Lampshaded in issue #133.

Eggman: Shadow? What do you want?
Shadow: Your death, Eggman. I'm going to snap you like a twig, then use you for kindling.
Eggman: Not if I avoid you like the... devil? Wait a second! Good guys don't kill! Isn't there a hedgehog moral code?
Shadow: Sonic holds such beliefs. Then again, he's a hero, I'm not.

  • The protagonist Joshua Carver of No Hero is one of the darkest antiheroes ever. He is by his own admission a monster that is sent out to kill other monsters and locked up in a cage the rest of the time. It's also heavily implied that he was a Serial Killer before the government found him. The only reason he isn't an outright Villain Protagonist is because the only people the readers get to see him kill are a bunch of supervillains masquerading as superheroes who rule the world with good PR, a chain of deals, and lots of money.
    • Unfortunately, the group Joshua Carver kills off was so vitally connected to the world and its affairs that everything goes straight to hell, literally and figuratively. So it is painfully clear that Failure Is the Only Option.
  • Cynosure's resident go-to guy, Grimjack is willing to do whatever needs to be done to do a job. But despite his gruff exterior, he has a soft spot for people who had the same kind of troubles he had in his past, and has been known to let a deserving person slip out. In the end, he will end up doing the right thing.

The name's John Gaunt, a.k.a. Grimjack, and I'm the guy you hire when you need an asshole on your side.

Fan Works


  • In old Westerns, when the hero and villain would face off in a duel, the hero would traditionally wait for the villain to draw, then draw awesomely faster and shoot first. Anti Heroes facing a villain, would simply draw first.
    • Sometimes averted either for cool factor or pragmatism. One of the black hats in Shane antagonizes a local in order to get him to draw first. Whether this is to show off or to keep the law on his side ("He drew on me!") is never explained.
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance pretty much changed the Western hero from the clean cut sheriff who cleaned up the town and dispensed justice with a gun to the worn down grizzly antihero—who dispensed justice with a gun.
  • Clint Eastwood's characters, Pretty much any character ever played by Clint Eastwood will be an anti-hero.
  • Many characters from Beetlejuice are Anti Heroes. Some are not purely good and do rather terrible things to one another. Yet they still pull of some heroic stunts.
    • Charles was willing to turn the house into a sort of amusement park and have Adam and Barbara perform like some sort of dead sideshow freaks.
    • Otho stole the Handbook For The Recently Deceased.
      • It's debatable that Otho was a flat-out villain in this movie, though not a particularly threatening one.
    • And Lydia used Beetlejuice to save the Maitlands. Remember, Beetlejuice didn't force Lydia into marriage. It was part of a deal that she managed to get out of.
  • The Boondock Saints are this trope. Seriously: two Badass Irish brothers running around Boston with crosses and bringing down the Wrath of God on the scumbags of the Earth? I think yes.
  • Dante and Randal, the main characters of Clerks and Clerks the Animated Series, are Anti Heroes—not especially moral and not especially successful. Jay and Silent Bob, recurring characters in The View Askewniverse, also count, being crude, rude drug dealers who nevertheless dispense wisdom and help out the main characters—when they aren't the main characters themselves.
  • Richard from Dead Man's Shoes is another sympathetic Serial Killer; his victims are the gang who bullied his mentally disabled younger brother when they were teenagers and drove him to suicide.
  • The Warden in Death Race. She is also, by her manipulation of the convicts into playing the Game Show she runs to finance the prison, a Chessmaster, is definitely a Manipulative Bastard but almost but doesn't quite qualify as, and falls just a bit shy of being a Magnificent Bastard.
  • Ash from the Evil Dead series.
  • Sarah from The Descent. What, she doesn't seem all too "anti," to you? Keeeep watching.
  • Snake Plissken from Escape from New York and its sequel. In fact, just about anything set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland tends to have a couple show up simply because such settings tend strongly towards the latter end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.
  • When he's not destroying Tokyo on a daily basis, Godzilla is often saving the world from some other giant monster.
  • Battra qualifies as this. He's a destroyer of humans and protector of Earth. But when he's forced to be paired up with Mothra, then he starts becoming more of a heroic figure. But it becomes a Bittersweet Ending as Battra dies. leaving Mothra to destroy the asteroid.
  • The guys In Bruges would be shining examples of this trope, if anti-heroes were allowed to shine. Even the villain is Affably Evil and has some very clear principles.
  • Lawn Dogs has two of them, adult Trent and 10 year old Devon. Both cause mischief in town, but both are really the only like-able characters in the film, as well as the main characters. Devon is very anti, however, when she threatens her own father at gunpoint and steals his wallet in an attempt to help Trent escape.
  • Porter, Mel Gibson's character in Payback. A film whose tagline was "Get ready to root for the bad guy!" In the Director's Cut, however, he's a more straightforward Villain Protagonist.
  • Walker from Point Blank. Quite possibly the only guy who could make walking down a hall threatening. Adapted from a Richard Stark novel.
  • Tony Montana from Scarface is a murderous drug lord not above gunning down his many enemies, but refuses to kill innocents and breaks with his more vicious fellows, to his very great detriment.
  • Star Wars series.
    • Han Solo is an Anti-Hero, most vividly seen by comparing him to Luke Skywalker, the obvious hero (which also makes him The Lancer). At the end of the first movie, he has a Big Damn Hero moment. From there, he moves more toward the standard hero as time goes on. In contrast, Boba Fett, who was depicted as a villain in the movies, is portrayed more as an Anti-Hero in the Expanded Universe. While he's still the Badass bounty hunter who won't hesitate to disintegrate you if somebody is willing to pay him for it, Fett does have a very loosely defined code of honor and apparently has a soft spot for orphans and the oppressed, and will often go out of his way to help them. Examples include him giving money to charity and saving an alien species from extinction for a hundred credits (it's even implied that he gave their money back).
    • Anakin Skywalker as seen in the second and third Prequel movies is considered by some to be an Anti-Hero. Others see him more as a Tragic Hero.
  • The Street Fighter - Terry (Takuma) Tsurugi from the Sonny Chiba grind-house classic is a particularly vicious Anti-Hero. He fights with a savage brutality seldom seen in the action world (including one scene when he castrates a rapist with his bare hands, which earned the movie the industry's first X rating for violence), he doesn't hold back against men or women, and he protects those he counts as friends with his life. On the other hand, Terry isn't above sacrificing innocents who he's not specifically helping, he can be a stone bastard to those he feels has betrayed him, and he's not above sending you out a window and selling your sister into prostitution if you can't afford to pay him for the job he's just done for you.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Sweeney Todd starts out as one of these, plotting to avenge his wrongful imprisonment and the rape of his wife upon Dirty Old Man Judge Turpin. Then around the middle of the movie, his bid to kill Judge Turpin goes awry and in the midst of his less than Heroic BSOD, he launches into the dynamite "Epiphany" number which marks his transition from Anti-Hero to full on Villain Protagonist with a nasty grudge against humanity in general, and then starts killing people and having them baked into pies.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean - Captain Jack Sparrow. While you can generally count on him to do the right thing in the end, most of the time he's a largely amoral, perpetually intoxicated, marginally sane rogue who's out only for himself (and occasionally people he likes). And we love him for it.
  • Bryan Mills in Taken is a ruthless anti-hero who takes the law into his own hands. His daughter is kidnapped to be sold into slavery, so... he mercilessly tortures and kills dozens of people connected to the kidnapping including unarmed mooks who have surrendered. He is not afraid to Shoot the Dog a few times either.
  • The Dark Knight - Batman's unscrupulous methods in make him something of an anti-hero. His intentions are heroic but he is willing to break the law in order to achieve them.
  • Wikus in District 9 is an example of this: cowardly and selfish, he displays little to no empathy for the aliens except under the most extreme circumstances such as being forced to shoot one against his will. Luckily, he manages to redeem himself later on.
  • In Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Randall Patrick McMurphy is a sleazy, violent, and sometimes downright insane convict. He's still not as bad as Nurse Ratched.
  • Riddick from The Chronicles of Riddick films and various tie-ins.
  • Jet Li's character in Warlords had good intentions and started out as a good guy but as he grew in power his methods became more and more extreme even if his goals were still for the overall greater good.
  • Pam Grier's character in Coffy. She's a nurse-turned-Vigilante who goes after drug dealers and mafiosi in order to avenge her little sister (who became addicted to heroin when she was eleven) and her childhood friend (a police officer who was beaten into a coma for refusing to sell out to organized crime). Her victims are depicted as getting what's coming to them, but she does readily resort to lethal force, fights dirty, and at one point physically threatens an informant to get information.
  • Hello, Inglourious Basterds. You want to run around WWII-era France and use guerrilla warfare to kill Nazis because they're Acceptable Targets, even though you all have just about the same kind morals as they do? Okay, but make sure your most Badass member uses a baseball bat.
  • Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) in The Searchers. He is an ex-Confederate soldier who hates Indians. His brother's farm is raided by Comanche Indians, who kill him and his son, and rape and kill his brother's wife and eldest daughter. They abduct the youngest daughter Debbie and Ethan goes on obsessive search for that goes on for years. At first he wants to find her alive but after a few years when that she might have already been made the wife of an Indian, he intends to kill her. When he finally finds her, he spares her.
  • Plunkett And Macleane's main protagonists come across as heroic, despite being outlaws, due in no small part to how evil their nemesis General Chance is.
  • The Element of Crime. The only reason detective Fisher is the "good" guy is because everyone around him is even worse.
  • Get Shorty. Chili, our protagonist is a shylock who wants to retire from kneebreaking so he can get into producing movies. Depending on one's experience in Hollywood, this could be seen as Chili going from bad to worse.
  • John Russel, as played by Paul Newman in Hombre.
  • Predators has Royce, a mercenary who nearly causes his comrades to die and recognizes he is not a good person. But he's fast.
  • Frank Galvin of The Verdict is a quite the Ambulance Chaser in the beginning of the film, and even after he rediscovers his thirst for justice, he can be rather...scummy in his tactics.
  • The protagonist of the Female Prisoner Scorpion films is an ordinary woman imprisoned for trying to kill her corrupt detective boyfriend, who arranged her rape by Yakuza purely so he could catch the rapists in the act and move in on their business. She's perfectly harmless unless you wrong her; the problem is, she's so determined to escape that the warden and all the guards hate her, and the mass punishment everyone gets when she tries to break out means most of the prisoners hate her too, so she's constantly the target of someone's vendetta. And she holds one hell of a strong grudge. Being a convict, she uses any means she can to survive and do what she has to do: she'll bludgeon dogs to death, she'll hack arms off arresting cops, she'll contrive to make others stab guards when aiming for her. This also means she has no mercy whatsoever.
  • The protagonist of pretty much every Film Noir, ever.
  • Seth Rogen usually plays these, varying vastly from Type 1 (Ben Stone) to Type III (Britt Reid) to Type V (Ronnie Barnhardt)


  • Severus Snape from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. He's a bastard, a known former Death Eater... and Harry never quite knows which side he's on until the final chapters of the last book. JK Rowling, when asked if she thought Snape a hero, said:

JK Rowling: Yes, I do; though a very flawed hero. An anti-hero, perhaps. He is not a particularly like-able man in many ways. He remains rather cruel, a bully, riddled with bitterness and insecurity — and yet he loved, and showed loyalty to that love and, ultimately, laid down his life because of it. That’s pretty heroic!

    • Sirius Black probably counts as well - even though he's a Team Dad and a generally nice, though cynical man.
  • The outlaw protagonists of Water Margin, and especially Song Jiang.
  • The Damned, from Hells Children, by Andrew Boland, are Antiheroes for sure.
  • While Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus already displayed all the hallmarks of the Anti-Hero, the archetype was popularised in the heyday of Romanticism with characters like Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo or Jean Valjean from Les Misérables... and, of course, practically the entire oeuvre of Lord Byron (see Real Life) and Goethe.
  • Takeshi Kovacs, from Altered Carbon. He's certainly not a good character, although his motivations mostly are (take down major crime-lord, solve murder case, protect his girlfriend from eternally being tortured to death and resurrected to be tortured more).
  • Edmund Pevensie from Chronicles of Narnia, in the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, betrays his siblings to the Big Bad, acts like a downright Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, is a complete bully to his younger sister, Lucy, and alternates between Bad Liar and Consummate Liar, but he redeems himself later and becomes a total Badass in the second book, although he keeps some of his old tendencies, remaining a Deadpan Snarker (especially in the movie adaptation), and he still appears as the darkest Pevensie kid.
    • The movie version of the book apparently likes to portray Edmund as this, since, in the third movie, while Caspian is supposed to act evil for a short period of time, the role is actually given to Edmund again, making him look like the Anti-Hero of the story for the second time.
  • Major Elim Rawne and his handpicked cronies from Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000: Gaunt's Ghosts are all coldblooded, merciless, deceitful, and coldly ambitious. Ironically, Rawne himself has perhaps the weakest claim to Antihero status, given that he's also highly respected by his troops and has once been saved by the Power of Friendship.
    • All the Ghosts are anti-heroes to some extent. These are not nice people, they are trained killers, and damn good at it. The few exceptions include Dorden, Curth (before Gereon anyway) and Kolea, to some extent.
  • The protagonist of William Barton's When Heaven Fell.
  • In Steven Brust's Dragaera novels, Vladimir Taltos, an assassin for a criminal outfit who has been known to destroy souls on accident. Lampshaded in Issola:

Better watch out. These things are cold-blooded killers.
I hate to say this, but so are you, boss.
Yeah, but I'm a nice guy.

  • John Taylor of the Nightside novel series can accurately be described by this trope since in his world power and reputation is everything he won't hesitate to kill someone in a brutal or cruel way to uphold his reputation because the baddies are hesitant to attack if they're scared shit-less. He's a nice guy but still not at all that nice and he isn't exactly Mr.Mercy and certainly not Too Good for This Sinful Earth and though he may be powerful he is not Superman so he can't afford to have his enemies think he's weak.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden is an Anti-Hero: Badass Longcoat, check; won't hesitate to kill someone who threatens him or someone he loves, check; bucketful of flaws, check; chivalry, check. He's also been known to murder and torture enemy captives, wantonly destroy property, and accidentally get Innocent Bystanders killed. Contrasted with straight up Hero Michael Carpenter. Still more of a Type II AntiHero than anything else, though, as he will take incredible amounts of damage to try to protect other people. He got his left hand charred almost to a cinder giving a friend time to save some kids who were being held captive in a closet rigged with an antipersonnel mine and sheltered one of his oldest enemies for several days, despite the fact that this put three or four groups of rather dangerous people after him at once. Oh, and he's managed to resist almost every single temptation of power he's been given so far; even the fallen angel in his head for three years didn't do much more than make him grouchier, and in return he actually managed to redeem her into a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Harry claims he's an anti-hero at best, but everyone and their faerie godmother knows different. While he isn't exactly a shining paragon of morality, he is chivalrous, responsible, and most of the time does not think the ends justify the means. For example, you know that fallen angel example above? Harry got her in his head as a result of him protecting a child from its power.
    • He may have made the full on plunge in Changes seeing as he takes up Mab's offer of power (killing the old winter night in the process) and sacrificing Susan on an altar as she turned into a full vampire. Granted, it was to save their daughter, and it wound up killing off all the Red Court, but still.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Ender Wiggin is not only the most talented boy in Battle School - he's also a killer. He isn't the gleeful sadist type: that would be his brother Peter. But, all the same, he gets away with killing two boys who bullied him, and doesn't find out that they really were dead until he saves the world by nearly wiping out an alien species in a war that he didn't know was real. Despite having acted in self-defense, he edges towards suicidal over their deaths:
Well, I'm your man. I'm the bloody bastard you wanted when you had me spawned. I'm your tool, and what difference does it make if I hate the part of me that you most need? What difference does it make that when the little serpents killed me in the game, I agreed with them, and was glad.
Ender, at the end of the book
  • Raymond Chandler's iconic private eye, Philip Marlowe.
  • Ferdinand Bardamu, from Louis-Ferdinand Celine's oeuvre. He is, among other things, an Audience Surrogate, and a real anti-hero.
  • Thomas Covenant from Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is an unusual anti-hero in that he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever—not just in a moral sense, but in a literary sense as well. He manages to mostly not do anything, but just catalyzes events by being present. In the first books the world falls apart around him while he stalwartly fails to intervene.
    • Covenant grows over the course of the books. In the 3rd book he saves the life of a little girl, and in the second trilogy he's positively heroic, all the more so when you consider that he's been Dead All Along - or at least since early in volume one.
  • Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, the main character of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, who in the first part of a six-part novel, brutally murders an old lady and her meek, innocent sister. This example subverts the typical cynicism, though, since he is ultimately redeemed by The Power of Love
  • William Gibson's drug-addicted burnout protagonist Case in the seminal Cyberpunk novel Neuromancer.
  • The Continental Op from the Dashiell Hammett books, wellspring of things Film Noir. He goes after criminals and usually gets them. More importantly he always makes money from the gig: money from crooks or good guys, it doesn't matter. Catching criminals is just a dangerous job, and any effective method is a good one, even making deals with criminals or inciting them to murder. He holds to a private code of honor, a tightly bound book his enemies never see and he himself suspects might be nothing but blank pages.
  • Also from Dashiell Hammett is Sam Spade, pretty much the ultimate Hardboiled Detective. He's rude to everyone, sleeps with every woman he speaks to, and steadfastly refuses to let the bad guy (or girl, as case may be) get away.
  • Yossarian from Joseph Heller's Catch-22.
  • Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian is strong and bold and performs heroic acts, but he also frequently steals and murders without remorse.
  • In George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane are probably the best examples, in terms of their personalities. Their actual roles as protagonists or antagonists are debatable. Jaime might fall in this category too, at least once you progress to the passages written from his point of view.
  • Enemy Glory: The main character, Llewelyn.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, Ardaric Vaanes sharply points out that the Imperial soldiers in the hands of Chaos forces can't really be rescued, and leaves them to death; is hard to persuade to help Uriel because of the danger, though he knows it is the right thing; is willing to leave his companions behind when they are all prisoner but he is free to move; is so horrified by the appearance of the Unfleshed that he assumes they must be evil; and leaves Uriel to carry out his mission alone, taking his fellow renegade Space Marines with him and refusing Ventris' offer of redemption. At the end of the book, he accepts an offer to work for the Chaos forces, for Revenge on Uriel for persuading him to so dangerous and killing so many of his men -- including those he was willing to leave behind. Sequel Hook, anyone?
    • Vaanes returns in The Chapter's Due... As one of the Iron Warrior Honsou's chief Lieutenants. He takes part in the battle against the Ultramarines and Ultramar but is continuously shown to be uncomfortable with the traitors he is with and what he is doing. Later he is captured by the Ultramarines, though he claims he let them take him, and agrees to take them to Honsou if they promise to kill him before he can ruin himself, he has learned that he does not like being a Chaos Marine and he feels he isn't strong enough to walk the path of righteousness but he doesn't want to embrace damnation either. He saves the protagonist's life from another of Honsou's lieutenants, but dies in the next battle when he attempts to kill Honsou who bests him then turns his attention to Uriel Ventris, Vaanes again saves Ventris's life by attacking Honsou again, Honsou then tears off Vaanes' arm and crushes his chest by stomping on it. After he is dead the protagonists notice his restored Raven Guard chapter tattoo, that he gouged out with a knife years ago, causing the them to wonder if he redeemed himself through dying for them and note that they do not feel hatred towards him anymore. At the novel's end Uriel sees a memory of the Newborn that prophesied that the Newborn would be present at a great hero's death, both Honsou and the Newborn believed this to be Uriel. Uriel realises that the great hero was actually Vaanes.
  • The nonhuman sorcerer-king Elric of Melnibone from the works of Michael Moorcock. Elric kills human beings regularly to stay healthy—their souls are fed to him by his sword Stormbringer. Elric kicks the stolen soul energy habit twice but events forced him take up the demonic rune-blade again afterwards. If Stormbringer isn't "fed" sufficiently, the sadistic blade is entirely capable of jumping from Elric's hand and piercing the heart of one of Elric's allies, lovers or friends in front of his eyes.
    • Elric's actions set into motion a course of events that destroys civilization and then kills off everyone in his world. Elric managed to kill the Dukes of Hell on his world during the final battle of Law vs Chaos. He managed to thrice blow the Horn of Fate to birth a new world from unformed chaos after his own is wiped out in a maelstrom of pure roiling Chaos energies, with him the only survivor. Elric is killed shortly afterwards by his own sword Stormbringer, because he had forgotten that the malicious demon inhabiting the blade Stormbringer was a creature of Chaos too. It was set free in the new world, laughing as it flew away.
  • Also from Michael Moorcock we have Colonel Pyatt—a cowardly, cocaine-addicted and cruel anti-hero, and a self-glorifying Unreliable Narrator. Pyatt claims to be a Cossack because he's an anti-Semite whose father was a Jew. He claims to have invented manned flight before the Wright brothers; and rapes a woman on a cocaine binge (he doesn't think it was rape, but it's pretty clear.) All the while decrying others for their "degeneracy".
  • Hawk from the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker is a great example of an anti-hero. Parker often writes the characters as being something dark, powerful and inhuman. Yet, Hawk often considers the main protagonist, Spenser, the closest thing he has to a friend and he treats him as such. Wherein Hawk has few if any rules with respect to violence and its' application, Spenser is his opposite. What makes the series fascinating is that the two work together well.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • Sam Vimes is both a subversion and a deconstruction of Anti-Hero image. He is portrayed as cynical, unshaven, anti-authoritarian and so on—but is actually one of the most noble heroes in the series. A subversion of a trope that is in itself a subversion. That's pretty subversive.
    • Vimes' dedication to justice and Law (not laws) is so great, that he has constructed a policeman inside his own head that keeps him from succumbing to the darkness and the rage of the Beast deep down in his soul. "The Watchman" as the personification of Vimes' quintessential nature takes on semi-mythical proportions in the novel Thud, when Vimes is "infected" with an ancient demonic spirit being from dwarven folklore, the Summoning Dark, and the Watchman repels it. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Vimes watches himself. Like a hawk.
    • Granny Weatherwax is a a good witch in more ways than one. As an Insufferable Genius she'll be the first to tell you that. However, Good Is Not Nice; she has a bad attitude, is a bully and would excel, even delight, at being evil — if she wasn't too smart and too deeply decent to fall for it. As such she is ideal as the rough edge of justice — but often not a happy woman.
    • Discworld has a more traditional anti-hero in the form of Cohen the Barbarian, an Affectionate Parody of Conan (which see).
  • Lestat, of Anne Rice's vampire novels, is an anti-hero who seeks to rationalize his feeding on humans for sustenance by only allowing those he considers "evil" to die, though his morality has been known to lapse at times. This could be considered an example of unreliable narrator, since Louis and Lestat disagree about so much, including who Lestat killed, it's really up to the reader if they believe Lestat only killed murderers.
  • Julien Sorel of Stendhal's The Red and The Black is an interesting case. He's the youngest, smartest, and most attractive of three brothers; he's The Unfavorite of his family; and he's subjected to the whims of so many stupid, boorish people it's easy to feel as the story wants you to feel sorry for him. However, he's hypocritical, pretentious and ruthlessly ambitious. What's more, his schemes almost always fail because his emotions get in the way of his machinations, but he never learns from this. Entire critical essays have been written about whether or not the reader is supposed to like Julien.
  • In Matthew Stover's The Acts of Caine, Caine of Garthan Hold, also known as Hari Khapur Michaelson, the Blade of Tyshalle, and a total bastard.
  • Raistlin Majere of the Dragonlance Chronicles is a textbook example. He's a sarcastic, ambitious, cold-hearted, ruthless bastard who never has a good word for anyone, particularly the twin brother who cares for him devotedly. When dogs need shooting, Raistlin is always the one who pulls out a shotgun. At the same time, he's brave, intelligent, never gives up, and has a soft spot for outcasts and rejects like himself (his friendship with the gully dwarf Bupu is heartbreaking). He later abandons his Anti-Hero role to become an outright villain in Dragonlance Legends.
  • Pretty much everyone from Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series.
  • Meursault, from Camus' The Stranger. Actually, pretty much any Existentialist hero, as noted on the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes.
  • Sherlock Holmes dabbles with cocaine (though this was not actually illegal at the time). He has also been known to let the perpetrators of crime escape if he feels that they were justified and commits a few minor crimes himself in pursuit of the truth. Of course, the cause is always excellent.
  • Jame in P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath has a strong sense of honor and a will to do the right thing, but it's not wrapped in the nicest of wrappings. She was raised among the bad guys for an ill purpose, but rebelled; she still has much of the "darkling" image and glamor, however, and a feline sadistic joy that she allows to come out against those she feels deserve it. She's a killer, a predator, an avatar of destruction, not safe to know or be anywhere near.
  • Kelsier from Mistborn is a brilliant revolutionary determined to bring down The Empire, but he has absolutely no mercy for the nobility, even those who seem to be good people, and those who know him best suspect that he's in this as much for personal glory as for freedom. His protege Vin starts off as one, though she becomes a more solid hero post Character Development. Vin's main anti-heroic trait is her rampant paranoia- in the authors words "she's not a bad person; she just thinks everyone else is." She gets better.
  • Malachi Thorndyke in Christendom - an ugly smoking, alcoholic, former smuggler, arsehole, slob who goes out of his way to prevent people from getting to know him.
  • Haplo from the Death Gate Cycle is an unusual example in that he goes through various stages of Anti-hero-ness through Character Development. He starts out an outright Villain Protagonist, as he's essentially The Dragon to an Evil Overlord who wants to conquer the universe, and is going around destabilizing various governments to make this takeover easier. Both Haplo and his lord are given somewhat sympathetic backstories, but at this point that the character's actions are falling pretty clearly on the side of evil. After the first two books he becomes an Anti-Hero when he starts being pitted against people much more evil than he is, and begins to question his Lord's judgment in private. In the last two books he morphs into someone more purely heroic, as he dedicates himself to saving the universe from The Heartless after they corrupt his Lord to their cause.
  • Hester Shaw from the Mortal Engines quartet. She kills people ruthlessly, and at one point sells a city into slavery just to get rid of the second girl in a Love Triangle. She hovers between this and a Villain Protagonist, but her goals are usually those of the non-Anti-Hero protagonists, and it's all for some kind of noble end.
  • The Whiskey Priest in Graham Greene's The Power and The Glory.
  • Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy.
  • Larry Niven's Beowulf Scheaffer and, to a lesser extent his stepson Louis Wu.
  • Murtagh of the Inheritance Cycle, who can be interpreted as an antihero, an anti-villain, a True Neutral individual who constantly plays both sides and straddles the fence between the opposing sides, etc. Elva leans towards this as the series goes on, until she actually eventually divests herself of loyalty to any group and resolves that she'll do whatever she thinks is right.
  • Roland, the hero of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, has a history of valuing his quest for the Dark Tower above the lives of his friends.
  • Repairman Jack. He'll help those in need but usually just for money. He may be The Chosen One but he sure doesn't like it and the only reason he wants to save the world is because he and very few loved ones happen to be in it. That and the bad guys keep coming after him anyway.
  • All the protagonists of Kelley Armstrong's Exit Strategy. They are after all, professional hitmen, although a couple of them are also of the Do Evil Unto Evil persuasion as well.
  • Elion is the clearest example in Maggie Furey's Shadowleague trilogy, though none of the many characters are conventional heroes.
  • Most of the major characters in William Gibson's Bridge Trilogy, but Rydell, Laney, and Zona Rosa deserve a special mention.
  • All the The Devil to Pay In The Backlands main characters. They can kill you for money or for any other reason - but mostly for money - and do your ladies, but they can also give you food, protection and — well — money.
  • Jakub Wedrowycz is an alcoholic, ditzy, behind-the-times bum with a penchant for Heroic Sociopathy. He helps people with their supernatural problems, but does it for (a lot of) money as much as he does it for heroism.
  • Drake and Elliott from the Tunnels series could be considered anti heroes as they both fight outside the law and have almost no reservations about killing, though in Closer, Drake does not kill any Colonists while on his mission to destroy Styx virus production.
  • Victor Frankenstein, the Main Character in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, demonstrates some anti-heroic attributes. While on the surface he may appear to be a decent man, Frankenstein is driven by ambition rather than morality. Indulging in the literature of ancient magicians, he contrives to build and bring to life a human being, ignoring the consequences such a task, if executed successfully, may unleash upon the world. And when that task is executed successfully, he runs from his creation in fear, leaving it to fend for itself. He then goes on to whine about all his misfortunes without even considering the misfortunes of others. Victor Frankenstein is essentially a selfish douche-bag. But oh, what a marvelous book!
  • Chili from Get Shorty, as mentioned in Film above.
  • Vanya Sedemona from Paul Kelly's The Lost Brigade definitely qualifies for this trope.
  • YMMV, but Richard of the Sword of Truth becomes this more and more as the series progresses. At the beginning? He'll kill in the heat of combat, sure, but he loves life and always seeks the third option. By the end? He's sent his elite soldiers down to the heart of his enemy's stronghold, and told them to lay waste to the land. Justified? Maybe. Probably. Anti-heroic? So much so.
  • James Stark will maybe save your life from hordes of zombies, demons and assassins. But only if you pay in advance.
  • Asher in Someone Elses War. Sure, he'll help you escape the tyrannical child army and find your way home, but show even the slightest hint of treachery and he'll shoot you for it.

Live-Action TV

  • Wesley from Angel, after the whole throat-cutting thing. Angel himself is an Anti Hero and made lots of morally questionable decisions
  • Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, especially after he gets wired by the Initiative and before he gets a soul. Also Faith is an Anti Hero.
    • Also Giles (known as "Ripper" in his youth), who says outright that he is not a hero, unlike Buffy (right before he smothers Ben to prevent Glory from ever returning).
    • Actually, almost all of Joss Whedon's characters are examples of this trope, especially the characters in Firefly (with perhaps the exception of Kaylee and Wash), cf infra.
  • Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica.
    • Hell, most of the Colonial fleet counts. While they are the protagonists, they have become much more distrustful and wary after seeing their friends and family murdered in a vicious surprise attack. The knowledge that the slightest misstep on their part may result in the extinction of humanity lies heavy on their minds, which leads to numerous instances of I Did What I Had to Do. Seeing how the Cylons were quite willing to betray them in the first place and they are quick to adopt a 'fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me' attitude when it comes to their Cylon allies of convenience. Many of the Cylon-human interactions throughout the series go this way: the Cylons approach the Colonials with "genuine" intentions who state their own terms to make the other side sweat a bit but generally accept the deal... at the front. As soon as they have what the Cylons want, the Colonials instantly turn on them and try to extort even more, at the end of which they summarily declare "You Have Outlived Your Usefulness" and throw the hapless skin-job (who has the blood of several million on his or her hands) into the brig or out of the nearest airlock.
    • True, the Cylons nuked the colonies to cinders. But what the Colonials are doing to them during the series don't even try to fit under the definition of "revenge"; "sadism" is a much more apt term. In fact, it's an open secret that many of the Colonials don't hate the Cylons because of what they did to the colonies, they hate them because they're Cylons, period. Kinda makes one wonder why the Cylons rebelled against them in the first place, don't you think?
  • Avon of Blakes Seven is a particularly good example: He begins as a mix of The Rival and The Lancer, supporting Blake only when it's in his personal interest and because he wants the Liberator. Later, once he becomes the leader of the group, he becomes increasingly paranoid and sociopathic, at one point nearly murdering Vila in cold blood.
    • Blake himself was edging into this trope towards the end of the Star One story-arc; he was pressing ahead with a plan that he knew would cause massive collateral damage and potentially kill millions of innocent bystanders, despite being presented with a perfectly workable alternative plan—by Avon no less—that could have achieved the same goals almost bloodlessly. And the Federation were bouncing back from Star One getting blown up by the final season, so he might as well have not bothered.
  • Boston Legal - Alan Shore is lecherous, conniving, snarky to a fault and one of the most dedicated defense attorneys at Crane, Poole and Schmidt, who routinely does tough cases Pro Bono for friends who need help navigating the law. The best example of his heroism was when he successfully got a man let off for bludgeoning his mother to death with a skillet, and regretted it when the bastard killed again.
  • George from Dead Like Me.
  • Alex Russo, from Wizards of Waverly Place, the deadpan Noble Demon.
  • The Strike Team from The Shield
  • Paige Michalchuk and Gavin "Spinner" Mason from Degrassi the Next Generation. The two of them are among the most loathsome teenagers ever portrayed on TV, but the audience can still root for them because they suffer far more than even they deserve.
    • Now that you mention it, Paige did get a lot nicer after she was raped.
    • Season 8 replaced them with Holly J Sinclair and Johnny DiMarco, in the respective roles Paige and Spinner held. Neither is a really nice person... but they aren't bad people. Season 10 adds Eli to the mix, who's more proactive about bully problems.
  • Heroes has a few characters that would fit the bill for this but out of all of them Nathan Petrelli and Noah Bennet really take the cake. Angela Petrelli seemed to fit this as well through season 3
  • Although the Doctor from Doctor Who is traditionally a Heroic Archetype, some incarnations have been less merciful and more deceptive than others.
    • The First incarnation of the Doctor, a grumpy old man who kidnaps and deceives his companions, and has to be forced, manipulated or at least asked before he will help. His worst moment was probably threatening to throw Ian and Barbara out the TARDIS in The Edge of Destruction, something that could easily have killed them. Of course in this incarnation he does get better due to the influence of his Grandaughter and her teachers who he eventually returns home.
    • While Sylvester McCoy's Chessmaster of a Seventh Doctor is arguably the most sly. He destroyed an entire planet with the Hand of Omega to commit genocide against the Daleks and possibly the more peaceful Thals who also lived on the planet.
    • Perhaps the clearest example of Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor's anti-heroism appears in the episode "The End of the World", where he prevents the escape of Lady Cassandra and impassively watches as she dies horribly, coldly ignoring his own companion's request to heed the villain's pleas for mercy.
    • For David Tennant's Tenth Doctor, his cold-blooded execution of the Racnoss in "The Runaway Bride" is probably the quintessential example, an act where he lost himself so completely in his own inherent ruthlessness that in an alternate reality where his companion was not there to stop him, it actually cost him his life. Then you have his actions against the Family of Blood in "The Family of Blood". And he brought down the prime minister that led Britain's Golden Age prematurely because of her own ruthlessness against fleeing aliens. All this leading to "The Waters of Mars," where he gets so dark that when he decides to Screw Destiny by saving three people from the monster of the week, one of them (who knew she was fated to die, according to history) walks inside and kills herself.
    • Not to mention the Brigadier, who ordered the mass genocide of a hibernating race, and aforementioned prime minister Harriet Jones.
    • The Eleventh Doctor. Some of his darker actions include brainwashing the human race into enacting the genocide of the Silents without their knowledge, and destroying a fleet of Cybermen ships in order to intimidate the remaining ship to tell Rory what he wants to know.
  • Speaking of the Whoniverse, Captain Jack Harkness himself is one, more so in his own show, Torchwood. Then again, everyone in Torchwood is an Anti-Hero.
  • Firefly
    • Malcolm Reynolds demonstrates a mixture of altruism and ruthlessness, along with a powerful loyalty to his crew. When a defeated opponent threatens to hunt down and kill Mal—and by extension, Mal's crew—Mal's response is to kick him into the engine of his ship. He is glad to make use of River's Psychic Powers, bringing her along on dangerous jobs, but at the same time is willing to risk his life to keep her safe. He has no problems returning a cargo of critical medicines he's stolen once he realizes how badly they are needed, but also has no issue with gunning down murderers and war criminals in cold blood.

"Mercy is the mark of a great man." *pokes with sword* "Guess I'm just a good man." *stab* "Well, I'm all right."

  • Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights. He's a junior alcoholic, he's slept with pretty much every girl at Dillon High, sees nothing wrong with letting his harem of groupies do his homework for him, and usually, when faced with a choice between The Right Thing and The Wrong Thing to do, will pick the Wrong Thing every time. He's been involved in petty theft, has stolen money from a meth dealer, and has picked more than one bar fight. He carries around a huge suitcase full of self-loathing even though he's one of the best looking people on the planet and is a star on the football team, thus a hometown god. Yet, he's incredibly charming and good hearted, and he'd move Heaven and Earth for those he loves.
  • Dr. Gregory House of House.
  • Det. Crewes from Life. On the surface he practices Tao and is into self help materials. Underneath, he has a vengeful Count of Monte Cristo thing going on as he tracks down who was responsible for setting him up when he went to prison for 10 years. Moreover, despite all of his wisecracks during each episode, he always looks like he is going to snap (and sometimes he does).
  • In Life On Mars, DCI Gene Hunt is a racist, sexist, homophobic, crude, lazy and borderline corrupt Old-Fashioned Copper who has no problems with taking the odd kickback, beating up a suspect to get a confession or to frame someone 'who has it coming' for a crime they didn't commit. Yet he's still one of the good guys, mainly because even in the grey area where he keeps his ethics, there's still a line - and once it's crossed, he won't rest until the person who crossed it is brought to justice.
  • Yaguruma Sou/Kick Hopper in Kamen Rider Kabuto, after taking a level in badass. He's still a Kamen Rider, still kicks monster ass on a regular basis (except when he gets so nihilist that he chains himself to prevent himself acting on his impulses to fight said monsters, because that's seeking the light), but claims to be "a loser that walks in the darkness" and is in hell. Not to mention his hatred for the Designated Hero... and acting on said hatred.
    • Pretty much most of the Heisei Riders fall under this trope.
  • Lincoln Burrows of Prison Break is probably the best example of that show. His past life was that of a normal thug. In the first 3 seasons, this was largely overshadowed by more important plot points. However, in season 4 he seems to gladly show that he's not a nice guy.
  • Profit's titular character regularly engaged in blackmail, bribery, extortion and intimidation to achieve his nefarious goals. The company he's doing this to is practically just as bad and he only wants to reach the top to destroy what he sees as evil.
  • Neil Burnside of The Sandbaggers is not above lying and cheating to get his way, as both Wellingham and Peele frequently tell him. He even (unintentionally) drives a young woman to suicide in order to prevent her boyfriend from resigning from Special Section.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Cameron, Sarah, and Derek Reese fit under this =- Cameron especially, as she is entirely willing to kill people who may be a potential threat to the Connors, and in one case used a man who knew important information on the promise of helping him, and then casually walked away when mobsters came to kill him. Derek also has no qualms with killing people who may be a threat or bring about SkyNet's creation. And (legally, at least) all three are terrorists.
  • Dr. Cox from Scrubs.
  • Tony Soprano of The Sopranos.
  • Stargate SG-1
    • Vala, though less so as time went on and Badass Decay set in.
    • Ronon. Combine elite military training with years of being chased by the Wraith and you get an intimidating muscle wall with dreadlocks and a trigger-happy personality (and a whole armory of knives on his person, including at least one in his hair). For him, shoot-to-kill is default unless explicitly told otherwise.
  • While they still might be the good guys (and guilt whores to boot), both Sam and Dean from Supernatural fit into this category. They're co-dependent, insecure, childish, self-pitying, martyred jerks who've progressively become less disturbed by killing the hosts to kill the demons and other necessary evils.
  • Jack Bauer of 24. He's perfectly willing to torture, mutilate, execute allies if necessary, and break nearly every law in the book. To his credit, he does intend to stand trial for any laws he breaks, even though this never actually happens (given that this is Jack Bauer we're talking about, perhaps nobody is brave enough to try).
  • The military team from The Unit. They are a representation of real world US special operations soldiers like Delta Force, Seal Team Six, etc. They are highly trained, efficient, and ruthless. They will do anything needed to complete their missions. Although they operate by some rules and moral codes, they are trained to do things that the average person would not have the stomach for.
  • Walt, the main character of Breaking Bad qualifies. A high-school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and only little time left. So he decides to start using his degree to make drugs and gather a tidy profit to provide for his family after he dies. By Season 2 he turns into an Anti-Villain arguably. By season 3? Villain Protagonist
  • Malcolm in The Thick of It. He started off as the arch-enemy of the main character, then was made the main character, when the writers realized an amoral spin doctor is a far more entertaining character than a worn-out middle-aged politician.
  • Gleb Zheglov, the police officer in The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed.
  • Tom in Survivors. He stabs a prison guard to death in order to escape before joining Abbey's group. Later he kills an unarmed man by firing point blank at his chest with a shotgun, simply to send a message to the groups pursuers. And yet, he risks his life for the other survivors time and again, and for the most part seems willing to follow Abbey's lead.
  • James Ford AKA Sawyer, in the TV series Lost, is such person.
    • Pretty much non-villain in Lost is.
  • Jimmy McNulty from The Wire is an alcoholic, womanizing cop in Baltimore who has taken every action possible to try and fight the drug problem in Baltimore. Despite him Jumping Off the Slippery Slope long ago he still is better than the drug dealers in Baltimore
    • Not all of them just some of them.
  • Elliot UnStabler - "If that's the guy that's questioning me, I definitely want my lawyer present."
  • Brian Kinney from Queer as Folk is promiscuity personified. He's rude, uncouth, cynical and selfish. He drinks and smokes and uses dugs, he has gigantic daddy issues, has trouble bonding with his son and regularly screws over the people that mean the most to him. But he does love them in his own way, and he makes sure they know that even though he's unable to tell them. And in the end, he's always ready to do what's right even if it won't benefit him specifically.
  • All the main characters in Misfits, five young adults with ASBOs, understandably more or less fall under this.
  • Patrick Jane of The Mentalist is normally a straight consultant helping the cops solve murder cases (his tendency to annoy people aside), but he is obsessed with finding serial killer Red John (for killing his wife and child). When it comes to anything involving this ongoing case his rationality and level headedness flies out the window, his darker side manifests and there are no lines he is unwilling to cross. He fully intends to murder Red John in cold blood when he finally catches him... and partner Lisbon intends to arrest him if he does. At the end of the third season he goes through with his intention and kills Red John, though the episode ends before we find out what kind of consequences are in store for him.
    • Or at least, killed a man that was kidnapping and enslaving women. He also baited a serial killer into insulting Red John so that Red John would kill him, because he couldn't get rid of him any other way.
  • Eric from Power Rangers Time Force starts out like this, but gradually shifts towards being more of a regular hero.
  • Magna Defender is Power Rangers' first. He's also probably the series' harshest, ranking a Type IV on our scale with few heroic acts and a willingness to risk a kid's life to take down a monster (to be fair, the last time he surrendered to save a kid it ended badly).
  • Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead comes across as a foul-mouthed redneck with little consideration for others, yet he saves T-Dog, whom he hates in the second season premiere of the show and has a Crowning Moment of Awesome in the process.
  • Team Leverage: Running down the list, we have an alcoholic ex-insurance agent who plans and runs cons, a grifter, a hitter with a very dark past, a computer hacker, and a world-class cat burglar. They Fight Crime and are heroes to many people, but their methods are less than legal, and have involved hurting some innocent folks, as well.
  • The titular character from Sherlock. Sure, he assists the police rather than criminals, but he makes it very clear that his primary motivation is to solve cases and relieve boredom, not to do the world any kind of good.

Sherlock: I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them.


  • Five Iron Frenzy's song 'My Evil Plan to Save the World' illustrates this point to an extent.
  • God Forbid's song "Anti Hero" Explore themes of anti-heroism, with lyrics like "Torn between right and wrong."
  • My Chemical Romance's Killjoys

Professional Wrestling

  • Professional Wrestling thrives on anti-heroes, as the very nature of the show requires even the most idealistic to pound someone into a gooey paste for a living. Plus, if a woman dumps a man and betrays his trust, the audience will often demand physical retribution from the wronged hero.
  • Stone Cold Steve Austin raised it to an art form by becoming (in his own words!) a "trash-talking, beer-swilling, backstabbing son of a bitch" who was the hero because he opposed Corrupt Corporate Executive Vince McMahon.
  • During The Rock's heyday, he was cheered by millions (and millions) of fans while showing classic bullying behavior, most notably to Mick Foley.
  • Macho Man Randy Savage, meanwhile, made his name by always being on the edge of a psychotic breakdown and would defend his girlfriend Elizabeth whenever necessary—even though he wasn't always the nicest guy to her.
  • Hulk Hogan's status as superhero and protector of the innocent meant he could get away with a lot of things on camera, such as hogging the spotlight and fighting fire with fire. The deconstruction of his wrestling style helped facilitate his infamous Face Heel Turn in 1996.
  • Randy Orton in his current face role. What better example of an antihero do you need than a man who told Sheamus to his face that he would RKO his own grandmother if it meant holding on to the WWE title, and then he would RKO Sheamus' grandmother just to see the look on her face. All the while he's one of the most beloved wrestlers in the WWE.
  • CM Punk is this right now. Brash, bold and hilariously entertaining, he gets cheered for doing/saying anything he would normally.
  • The Undertaker is WWE's first antihero!

Tabletop Games

  • Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl is a game where you play a group of teenage anarchists out to change the world. The "PCs" are called Youthful Offenders and in pretty much every way, the world considers them to be criminals.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Toshiro Umezawa of the setting Kamigawa is a selfish, conniving, snarky bastard. Doesn't keep him from fighting against a war against nigh-omnipresent and incredibly powerful god-spirits wanting to tear the entire world apart, for obvious reasons.
    • Sorin Markov, despite being in many ways a scheming douche, was also one of the three planes-walkers responsible for locking the Eldrazi away in a Zendikar-shaped can. He also created the most powerful force for human survival on Innistrad, admittedly to prevent the other vampires (and the zombies, and the werewolves...) from wiping out the food supply.
    • Urza himself could be considered an Anti-Hero, considering how much of a bastard he was during the Invasion trilogy.
    • After being a straight villain in Agents of Artifice, Tezzeret grabs the Sympathetic POV after some Character Development and takes an Anti-Hero role in the sequel, Test of Metal.


  • John from Shakespeare's The Life and Death of King John tracks this trope pretty closely, in his efforts to navigate the murky realpolitik of early-1200s west Europe. Contending with finicky noblemen at home, enterprising relatives with ambitions of coronation and control, foreign armies, and a heavily influential Vatican, John is completely overwhelmed. In spite of arguably having the military advantage over his foes, the events around him cause him to behave with irrational brashness: he orders the execution of his nephew in vague language, later rescinding the order once he realizes that popular support for such an action is nil; takes his army to continental Europe to battle France and Austria for control of a small départment (which he later offers just to give away), leaving England vulnerable to attack from a swift Franco invasion at the behest of the Pope; and he royally pisses off the church in an attempt to levy unfair taxes on the church, on account of which a priest poisons him.

Video Games

  • Haseo from the .hack//G.U. Is a good example of an anti-hero.
  • Jimmy Hopkins in Bully. No, he's not very nice, but considering he's at least not insane, and in several cut-scenes stands up for smaller kids, and teams up with the weaker Nerd gang, he's a lot more pleasant than the guys he's up against. Jimmy is the lesser of two evils, only the "hero" because he's controlled by the player. Jimmy had a bad upbringing—parents that didn't care about him at all, and as a consequence he's definitely not a good guy at all. He only teamed up with the nerds so he could use their brains to help him take down the Jocks. In fact, every seemingly "good" thing he does has him profiting in some way at the end. He still has Pet the Dog moments and is loyal to the nerds until they respectively Kick the Dog.
  • Magus from Chrono Trigger can almost certainly be considered an anti-hero, and only joins thanks to an Enemy Mine situation—since he only really wants Lavos destroyed, he's willing to join the party. Of course, once we find out about what caused his turn to evil, he softens considerably.
  • The Silencer from the Crusader series of games. In the first game, the character, though definitely fighting for the good guys, is never rebuked by superiors for wantonly killing civilians with weapons of moderate to mass destruction—though this may be due to his skills being literally impossible to replace, as he is the only known defector from the corps he served with. In fact, a viable secondary strategy to acquire weapons and ammunition is to kill people to take their money, so you can buy from Weasel between missions. The Silencer never seems bothered by it in the least, possibly due to being both a Heroic Mime and remorseless killing machine who may or may not have been born in a vat. The money feature is removed from the second game, but occasionally it is useful or necessary to kill an unarmed civilian - to stop them sounding an alarm (nonlethal force is not an option in either game), move them out of your way when the AI buggers up and stops them in the middle of a door way with their hands in the air, get a keycard, and in rare cases (most civilians carry nothing) get an energy cube or medkit.
  • Darkstalkers blurs the line between this and Anti-Villain so much it's scary when you think about it. The guy that officially beats the Big Bad in the first game just did it to take his power into himself. The villain of the Vampire Savior is trying to kill everyone because it's the only way demons have a shot at beginning anew. Morrigan is a Horny Devil if ever there was one, but never displays any genuinely evil feelings. Alien Pyron was responsible for killing the dinosaurs and laying waste to thousands of planets, and yet in his Vampire Savior ending, decides humanity's worthwhile enough to keep around. The person who will one day become the leader of humanity is so mentally scarred it'll be a wonder if she doesn't kill us herself. The Yeti guy reeks of being a Boisterous Bruiser, until he reveals his people are going to make war on humanity. Of course there are legitimate heroes, they're just not important.
  • Ayane from Dead or Alive. She's bound by her duty to hunt down and kill her half-sister Kasumi for running away from the ninja clan where they both grew up, and was also jealous of her for getting all the attention while the others saw her as a "cursed child" due to the circumstances surrounding her birth. In DOA 2 and DOA 3, she's a bit of a loner and a jerk, but in her story mode in DOA 4, she helps Kasumi, Hayate, and Ryu Hayabusa bring down the DOATEC corporation, suggesting that her feelings toward Kasumi may have softened a bit.
  • Sly Cooper goes without saying. His m.o. is thievery after all
  • The hero from DefJam: Fight for NY fits this trope like a bloodied, torn glove, one with the fingers cut out so it can wear expensive diamond rings. No matter how you make him look or sound, he comes across as being as arrogant as the real-life rappers he fights. He even cheats on his girlfriend with Carmen Electra, if you so choose. He kills three of his opponents outright: Trejo, by throwing him onto the tracks of a subway; Sticky Fingaz, by throwing him into the ring of fire that Sticky surrounded them with; and Crow, by throwing him out a window.
  • Caim from Drakengard. It's hard to sympathize with someone slaughtering thousands of people. Many games have protagonists that slaughter enough mooks to populate a small city. Caim is a Blood Knight: he likes it.
  • Kratos from the God of War series, despite being the hero of the story, is a sociopathic warrior who has little to no compunction over the numerous lives that he has taken. His only humanizing trait is his love for his wife and daughter. Later, Pandora's influence does help him to examine his actions. He actually seems genuinely regretful when he observes the damage he caused after his final battle. But the franchise must continue and Kratos must slip back to his basic character. In God of War 3, he kills gods and titans that he himself is responsible for making evil in the first place. Interestingly, Kratos is pretty close to what antique cultures would've considered "heroic".
  • Grand Theft Auto
    • Carl "CJ" Johnson from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Unlike prior GTA protagonists, Carl's main motivation is the protection of his family, avenging his murdered mother, and cleaning up the streets of Los Santos of drugs.
    • Niko Bellic, the star of Grand Theft Auto IV is a classic Punch Clock Villain. There's even an option to have him Pet the Dog in certain story events.
      • The stars of the 2 DLC games, Johnny Klebitz (The Lost and Damned) and Luis Lopez (The Ballad of Gay Tony) also fit this.
  • Agent 47 from the Hitman series, could be seen as an anti-hero, seeing as he is a cold-blooded, remorseless killer. In his defense, the plot of the second game kicks off with him trying to rescue his priest from the Russian Mafiya. He also dislikes killing civilians if he has to, and it can be assumed that the Silent Assassin rankings for each mission are canonical. Later still, in Blood Money—he sheds a tear for killing the budgie he kept. That must offset at least one murder.
  • In the game XIII, the title character seems to be this way at first; Him being betrayed by the other numbered conspirators and left for dead with no memory. The 13th conspirator was named Steve Rowland and was a military general involved with the plot to takeover the United States. However, you later find out that the real Steve Rowland did die from betrayal, and the character you play is really a capable soldier named Jason Fly. Jason agrees to have plastic surgery to look like Steve Rowland in order to shake up the numbered conspirators and force their hand - making him the Hero Protagonist all along.
  • Iori Yagami, introduced in The King of Fighters '95 as an enemy (and later The Rival) of series protagonist Kyo Kusanagi. K' (from KOF '99), one of Kyo's many clones, is also like this, though he brings more stoicism to the table in contrast to Iori's occasional bouts of madness.
  • Kain from Legacy of Kain is generally considered an anti-hero, having apparently doomed the world and subjugated the human race to the point of extinction, but apparently did so since the original choice would have doomed the world either way and is technically trying to save the world.
  • Max Payne eventually comes out as a hero (at least in the first game...), but he freely acknowledges that he's not trying to be a good guy about a quarter of the way through the first game. He's way beyond trying to do something good, and is only doing what's left.

Max: There was no glory in this. I hadn't asked for this crap. Trouble had come to me in big dark swarms. The good and the just were like gold dust in this city. I had no illusions. I was not one of them. I was no hero. Just me and the the gun and the crook. My options had decreased to a singular course.

    • He also acknowledges, indirectly, his own choices and course in his life with a simple line in Max Payne 2:

Max: Shooting a gun is a binary choice: either you pull the trigger or you don't.

  • Shadow the Hedgehog in all the games he's been in, though first appearing as an enemy in Sonic Adventure 2, became a mere rival of Sonic's in later games.
    • Team Chaotix from the same series. They'll do good, but they expect to be paid-handsomely. Of course, Vector at least has his better moments, such as finding a kid's lost toy for free.
  • The ending of Soul Calibur IV for the Siegfried character basically involves him and Soul Calibur covering him, Soul Edge, Nightmare and the world in crystals, creating a "utopia without wars or suffering". The question is, is this what Siegfried, or Soul Calibur (or both!) wants?
  • The Star Wolf team in Star FOX started as a generic "evil Star Fox" group, but in sequels, the team becomes more anti-heroic. The removal of the two "scum" characters Pigma (a traitor) and Andrew (nephew of the main villain in Star Fox 64) and the addition of a ladies' man named Panther (who falls in love with a character on the heroes team) gave them an opportunity to work with Star Fox.
  • Super Robot Wars - Axel Almer ends up as this after his Back from the Dead stitch and Heel Face Turn, everything he does, while good, was for his personal benefit. Saving Lamia was just his way to preserve Lemon's creation and philosophy, and he also wants to prevent Kyosuke to turn into Beowulf, not only his worst nemesis, but will spell doom to the world if unleashed. Likewise, saving the Cry Wolves just happens because he was hunting the enemy that is slaughtering them (Jetzt) also since they were partially responsible of bringing him Back from the Dead, he's not one bastard to cheerfully ignore such good deed on him, so he merely just wants to pay them back.
  • Considering the game is titled Thief, it probably isn't too surprising that the protagonist, Garrett, is a vaguely amoral and deeply selfish burglar, motivated almost solely by profit, who seems to end up saving the world only Because Destiny Says So and all his stuff is there. In his defense, the people he steals from are frequently much worse, he has a sense of humour, and his world isn't one given to rewarding displays of nice.
  • Wario, although debuting as a villain, became an anti-hero in the Wario Land and Wario Ware series, even once agreeing to help free a hidden figure from a music box in exchange for getting to keep all the treasure he finds on the way. He also helped Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi rescue Princess Peach from Bowser in Super Mario 64 DS.
    • His current incarnation is neither a hero nor a villain, just really, really greedy. When he's not a villain, Bowser sometimes fulfills this role in the RPGs where he's forced to help out Mario fight off bigger and badder villains. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story puts him in the role of having to save the Mushroom Kingdom since he's the only one allowed to be the proper villain in his mind.
  • The World Ends With You - Neku Sakuraba, at first.
  • Yuri Volte Hyuga from Shadow Hearts is a quintessential antihero, even though he does incidentally kill a surprising number of world-devouring evils along the way.
  • Destroy All Humans! - Crypto, Pox, Silhouette, and Ponsony from the series all qualify.
  • Wylfred of Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is one of these on the A path, if you don't ever use the Plume to sacrifice your teammates. Otherwise, he's either a Byronic Hero, or a full-on Villain Protagonist.
  • The Bonnes from the Mega Man Legends series were at first seen as Harmless Villains but every single time at the end they decide to aid Mega Man.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Cecil as a dark knight in Final Fantasy IV is this during the intro, where he kills innocent magicians for a crystal, believing it's the right thing to do for his king. After Mist Cave, as the bomb ring destroys Rydia's hometown, however, he becomes a Chaotic Good at best.
      • Kain is probably a better example. While Cecil believed what the king told him to at first, after he destroyed Mist he turned around and never looked back. Kain, on the other hand, is possessed by the Disc One Final Boss (Who is possessed by the Big Bad...) several times during the game, and although usually calm and dedicated, shows that he is truly in love with Cecil's girlfriend, Rosa; stealing her several times during the game (while possessed), and even showing that he, deep down, would be willing to KILL Cecil just to be with her. He has proved to be able to control his inner demons, though, and is truly a good guy.
      • Debatable. When Rosa is kidnapped, once, it's by Golbez, who does so as much to put Kain in his place as to humiliate Cecil. While Kain does insist on fighting Cecil while brainwashed, his lines emphasize a desire for recognition and superiority, not violence for its own sake. Additionally, since there's no real hint as to any of these feelings when he's not being brainwashed and based on Golbez's brainwashing as seen in the DS version, though it was written in the original script, it can be inferred that he was susceptible to brainwashing especially because he had no intention on acting on those feelings and had been trying to repress them.
    • Final Fantasy VI has Shadow, as it's obviously described in his introduction. And who knows if he'd really slit his momma's throat for a nickel like Edgar comments.
    • Cloud of Final Fantasy VII also counts, for about the same period of time. He starts out on the right side at least, but only because they sign his paychecks.
    • And Squall, of Final Fantasy VIII, who likewise gives the impression of it just being a job for most of the story, at least until Always Save the Girl kicks in. His catchphrase is pretty much "...Whatever."
    • Final Fantasy IX has Amarant, who under goes a Heel Face Turn and joins your party purely to observe Zidane, not that he worries about bad guys taking over the world so much.
    • Delita from Final Fantasy Tactics unites the world under his own iron fist by deceiving and killing greedy to evil nobles while outmaneuvering the Corrupt Church attempting to control him. He's quite debatable whatever he's this or Anti-Villain, but at least Ramza never have to fight him.
  • Alex Mercer the second one from Prototype develops into this by the end of the story after spending most of it at Villain Protagonist levels. The original was a straight-up Complete Monster.
  • Altair from Assassin's Creed. Kill templars for peace. Also in mini-objective Altair saves a citizen by killing the guards that harass them.
    • The Assassin order throughout the series. Their motto even states that they "work in the dark to serve the light". Assassins have no respect for the law, working with the seedier elements of the cities to murder important figures and every guard between them and their target. It's all for the benefit of the people and to stop the evil Templar plots.
  • The Bard of The Bard's Tale is mostly a Chaotic Neutral Jerkass whose primary goal is "Coin and Cleavage" rather than any heroic deed. He's only spurred on by the main quest to save the princess for the opportunity to shag her at the end. In fact, The Evil Ending, where he sides with the Demon Queen is the only one that gives him a Happy Ending, the Good ending forces him back into the role of travelling conman once again and the Neutral ending just has him partying it up with zombies.
  • Mira, from Knights Of The Old Republic 2, has some...interesting...views on how to deal with men, has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best bounty hunters in the galaxy, and has a temperamental streak a mile wide. She also has a deep-rooted respect for life and a strong personal code of honor; sometimes she comes across as an Anti-Hero and sometimes as a more traditional hero. If you choose dark-side options up until the critical choices in the first game and then take the light-side final options, you get a character who looks like this.
  • The fan-made Neverwinter Nights module "A Dance with Rogues" literally forces you to play one to get any even remotely heroic traits into your character, due to the Crapsack World it is set in. The Bastard of Kosigan module has Alexandra de Velan, who is out to take over the titular county and is prepared to kill anyone in her way. However, her hatred of every single member of the ruling family except for Alexis is at least partially justified and her plan if you don't ruin it leaves Alexis alive in a comfortable situation.
  • Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. While it's easiest to do as a Renegade, most Paragons will be to some extent anti-heroic. By Mass Effect 2, Paragon Shepard is definitely an anti-hero, but his/her position on the Sliding Scale is left to the player.
    • Most of the squad in Mass Effect 2 also qualify as anti-heroes—some as soon as you meet them (Jacob, Garrus, Samara), some if you dig a little deeper (Mordin, Miranda, Thane).
  • Disgaea
    • Laharl is a demonic Evil Overlord, and Killer Rabbit, particularly in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Quote: "I shall burn a true vision of horror into that empty head of yours!" Even though The Power of Friendship gets to him in the end, he remains a stubborn anti-hero, refusing to acknowledge this.
    • Mao, from Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice is the Evil Academy's top honor student, a position acquired by disregarding all of the rules and being as much of a Delinquent as possible. He develops into an anti-hero after the "Hero" title he stole starts affecting his mind and his repressed guilt over the betrayal of his father surfaces. Much like with Laharl, he refuses to acknowledge The Power of Friendship in the end.
  • Just Cause series - Rico Rodriguez, protagonist, will gleefully commit murder on behalf of drug dealers and terrorists if it gets him closer to taking down a dictator.
  • Dragon Age Origins - It is very easy to play the Grey Warden as one of these in There is no Karma Meter in the game and there are often good rewards for acting like a greedy selfish Manipulative Bastard. It's all for the greater good though, since your end goal is preventing a horde of soulless Ax Crazy rape happy monsters led by an insane dragon god from killing the world.
    • Some of the recruitable characters qualify (Morrigan, Zevran, Sten, Shale, to some extent Oghren, and arguably even Leliana by virtue of being an Atoner). The sequel ups the ante; only Aveline fits a truly heroic mold, and even she has strong Cowboy Cop tendencies.
  • Zero from the Megaman Zero series toes the line on this, as he isn't afraid to kill whatever stands between him and his goal; even his girlfriend, Iris, although the event scarred him mentally. As he said in Megaman Zero 4, "I never cared about justice, and I don't ever recall calling myself a hero... I have always only fought for the people that I believe in. I won't hesitate... If an enemy appears before me, I will destroy it!"
  • In the flash game series Sonny, the titular protagonist is one of these, only saving a mountain village from a cult in exchange for finding his way to a town on a map in the second game. When he first meets the guy who offered to help him perform the above task, his response is along the lines of "Get out my way or die". He also helps out a fellow zombie in the first game who was trying to fight off humans that chase him, immediately fights soldiers in revenge when they shoot and kill someone helping him at the beginning, and hesitates when a traveling companion suggests that they kill a human warrior that just helped them against a common threat.

Veradux: Alright, the Baron's gone. Let's kill this whoopy superhero and leave!
Sonny: But why? He helped us.
Veradux: Listen Sonny. To them, we're monsters. Now we can either be alive monsters, or dead ones. You choose.

Visual Novels

  • M in Shikkoku no Sharnoth is ridding London of monsters, however, he does so in a pretty evil manner and appears to have no emotions resembling empathy.

Web Animation

  • Baninja, the title character of Banana-nana-Ninja!, is a banana who slaughters humans for eating bananas and other "innocent" foods.

Web Comics

  • While Order of the Stick doesn't have an obvious Antihero in its main cast (it's usually either Lawful Good or Heroic Sociopath for the most part), Vaarsuvius comes pretty close. Even not counting the recent events, which could still be explained away by stress and not having rested for six months, the elf is the only truly morally ambiguous protagonist—a decent person and a faithful friend and yet being quick to suggest that the heroes simply execute the captured villains rather than surrendering them to the authorities and not seeming to have a problem with the idea of using evil methods to ensure that they stay dead. (Granted, V WAS representing Belkar's opinion at the time, but still...)
    • Belkar himself is a Chaotic Evil murderous psychopath who happens to be in the good guys' party only because he enjoys the dungeon-crawl killing and because he can't suppress his impulses long enough to cut a proper deal with the forces of evil. His later 'character development' and voluntary commitment to the party comes about when he realizes he can exploit the world much more easily if people think he's a good person.
  • anti-HEROES. The protagonists so far consist of an epic level necromancer, a vampire, a tiefling, and a ghost, all delightfully morally ambiguous. This strip was inspired by Order of the Stick and has a similar artistic style.
  • Head Trip side story "Emokid and Chemokid". They don't have psychic powers or Mad Science at their disposal. They got their names because one of them cries all the time and the other has cancer. Head Trip is big on Dead Baby Comedy.
  • Ironically, Dechs Rashart of Antihero for Hire isn't anti so much as he is dark and edgy. But Crossroad sure is.
  • Looking for Group A recurring theme is doing what must be done. As such, a lot of the main characters tend towards the anti-hero. For at one point, Krunch at one point kills a gnome out of necessity, and then annoyance when the gnome is not quite dead. Benny objects to working for free at one point, claiming that isn't how the world works.
    • Cale has become more like this recently, in the "do what is right rather than what is lawful" sense. Hell, his entire character development has been a transition from Lawful Good to Chaotic Good.
    • Richard is this when he does good instead of wantonly killing things for his own amusement.
  • Ronin Galaxy: Cecil, despite having all the optimism and badassery that ideal heroes ought to, he only keeps that up for as long as it’s convenient (or safe) for him to do. When he’s outmatched he has no problem with kicking his opponent in the crotch.
  • Riff from Sluggy Freelance is in many ways a Badass who saves his friends and the world at large from aliens, vampires, and the like. Thing is, thanks to his Mad Scientist experiments and reckless behavior, he's probably endangered the human race more times than he's protected it. What else do you call a hero who's on record saying this?

Riff: "I literally summon demons to keep myself from buying a shotgun and permanently emptying a Taco Bell!"

  • Special mention needs to go to Abbey from Gnoph.
  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, Abel's side story has Devin, who has a tragic past which constisted of his father walking out him and his mother and his mother's last words being how much she wanted to kill him. He now spends his time protecting travelers in the forest wheter they want to be or not. He is a Deadpan Snarker and in his own words "an asshole". Pity he was killed off... until he came back as an undead.
  • Ed from Fake Knight
  • While its difficult to quantify where, precisely, Sixx from Collar 6 falls due to the Blue and Orange Morality of the series, she clearly isn't a traditional hero.
  • A lot of the main characters from Zokusho Comics are anti-heroes to one degree or another. Serge kills a lot of people, without any remorse. Rotting Johnny is a undead hitman who had a lot of moral ambiguity before he "died". Akira's team of Wayward Cross operatives murder a lot of goblins. Raz does it with glee. Though this may be somewhat averted if Goblins are Exclusively Evil.

Web Original

  • In The Gamers Alliance, Belial works with the heroic Grand Alliance and opposes the evil Totenkopf cult but is also ruthless and does whatever is necessary to make his secret Order of the Black Rose grow more powerful.
  • In The Antithesis, main character Qaira Eltruan is not a hero by any means, and the methods he goes about 'protecting his world' are usually evil, cruel and unjust. While his ultimate goal is to protect his people and rid his world of the angels, Qaira will not hesitate to kill anyone who stands in his way, and this includes his peers. This stems from a lack of moral duty—Qaira is considered a moral nihilist by most readers.
  • All three leading men of Broken Saints fit this in different ways—see the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes.
  • In Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog, the titular character is actually an aspiring super-villain and the good guy, Captain Hammer, is an egomaniac.
  • Gavin Taylore of Kate Modern is often cowardly, often selfish, and sometimes a bully, and cares not for the civil liberties of webcam users, but somehow it's hard not to root for him.
  • In Survival of the Fittest, some of the most popular characters are anti heroes. Among the most prominent examples are version two winner Bryan Calvert and version one contestant Hawley Faust. Over the course of version one, Adam Dodd steadily turned into one.
  • Several characters in Tech Infantry qualify. Others flirt with the line between Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist.
  • Clark of Clark Kallen and His Merry Band was made with this trope in mind.
  • In Theatrica, Arthur represents such a trope although he dips in and out of the Anti-Villain territory later
  • Sami Reese from Little White Lie, plagarizes a classmate by taking advantage of the fact that he's in a coma and that he has a crush on her to win a battle of the bands and to get a record deal. Oh, and she's a total bitch to everyone else in the process.
  • Carmilla of the Whateley Universe. She's a demon, but she has said 'screw you' to fate and is trying to be a demon of lust, instead of a Complete Monster prophesied to wipe mankind off the face of the earth. On the other hand, she has eaten some people who tried to kill her. And then there's the things she did to Jobe in order to maintain their vendetta...
  • Black Cat, a street-level hero in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe is a definite anti-hero. He's dropped people off of roofs (after tying them securely to a line) in order to get them to talk, casually breaks bones, and generally operates with a disregard for civil rights. He's never killed anyone, though, and most Boston cops thank God for that.
  • The Punisher, Wolverine and the majority of the Avengers and New Avengers, just to name a few examples, in Marvels RPG are easily identified as anti-heroes. Most of their solutions to problems, is, well, killing them.
  • Pretty much every character in Ather City falls under this, but the degree varies.
  • The Nostalgia Critic. He's basically a good guy at heart and easy to sympathize with, but he's still a broken asshole.
  • The Nostalgia Chick is only really still on the "good" side because there are people worse than her (like Dark Nella), but she's still likable, has a few Freudian Excuses and loves her puppy.
  • Shoutan Himei from Sailor Nothing. Cowardly, weak, selfish, and pessimistic, she couldn't care less about being forced to kill Yamiko just to get back to her normal life, and her attitude has harmed people close to her constantly, not to mention even herself. I.e., This Loser Is You.
  • The Gungan Council has many anti-heroes, but Je'gan is most notable for beginning a genocidal crusade against the Galactic Empire and Sith.
  • Quirky Misadventures of Soldine the Cyborg: the titular protagonist is a relentless, belligerent Blood Knight, yet he's also genuinely protective of innocent people and gets along well with his teammates.
  • The main character of the web series Chapel is probably a Type III (and getting worse every day). She's cold-bloodedly killed a few people, but they weren't very nice people. If you wrong her, she might not try to kill you, but she also won't try to not kill you either.

Western Animation