back to top

Our 16 Favorite Anti-Heroes

Not every hero is a poster-boy. These “heroes” aren’t exactly the type that help find your kitty, but they definitely get the job done. This collection of misunderstood protagonists is brought to you by Banshee, a new series premiering January 11th at 10PM on Cinemax. Visit the Banshee GIF Shop for some questionable heroics from the show.

Posted on

1. John Constantine

Eurritimia / CC BY http://2.0 / Flickr: eurritimia

Forget Keanu, we're talking about the original Hellblazer: a con-man/magician/occult detective who looks like Sting and would never quit smoking. He fights demons -- not with some super-powered Pope-gun, but by tricking and manipulating them. A Pope-gun would be pretty cool, though.

2. Michael Corleone

Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

Michael is cinema's best example of the family man, even giving up his dreams to take over the "family business." But anyone who's watched the trilogy knows a thing or two about this guy's ruthlessness, even when it comes to the family he is trying to protect. Also anyone who's watched the trilogy probably has something to say about that helicopter.

3. Frank Castle (The Punisher)

Jonas MF / CC BY-ND http://2.0 / Flickr: sancochopuntocom

You KNOW a dude's not your average dinner party guest when he's rocking a giant skull on his skin-tight t-shirt. Punisher was driven to fight crime by the execution of his wife and two children at the hands of the mob. He employs all forms of cold-blooded murder to deliver punishment, even on laundry day.

4. Jay Gatsby

Paramount Pictures / Getty Images

Gatsby made his millions in some very unorthodox ways, unless your idea of orthodox is bootlegging and hanging out with some dude who fixed the World Series in 1919. But we can't help but root for him to reclaim his long lost love Daisy, even if he faked his wealth and persona and probably murdered people too just to get her to like him again. GET THAT GREEN LIGHT, SON.

5. Han Solo

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Before he was saving the galaxy and junk he was essentially a space pirate who smuggled and stole stuff. He hangs out with a seven-foot fuzzy killing machine who rips people's arms off. And don't forget the whole "who shot first" situation in Episode four. In the original film, HAN shoots first. Han's a dude of questionable morals sometimes, and that's why we love him. Also because he's space-Indiana Jones.

6. Rorschach

Robert Ziegler / CC BY-ND http://2.0 / Flickr: 63998580@N06

Rorschach was a legitimate hero, but in the Watchmen universe, the government outlaws masked vigilantes. He didn't care, and it didn't stop him from seeking out the truth at the expense of anything and everything. Of the Watchmen crew trying to make sense of a world without heroes, Rorschach is undoubtably the one with the most backbone. The "this city is afraid of me" mini-speech is one of the best ever. His face is ink.

7. Walter White

AMC / Getty Images

Calling him a "hero" at this point might be pushing it (no spoilers), but there was a time when the audience was rooting for the down-on-his-luck high school chemistry teacher with lungs full of cancer and pockets full of nothing. Walter has lied and manipulated his way to the top of the meth game, and if nothing else, his will to live has been pretty admirable. It's been fun to watch "the danger" in action, even when he has no idea what he's doing.

8. Wolverine

Yan Renucci / CC BY-ND http://2.0 / Flickr: yan_r

He's a mutant with a healing factor who possesses animal-like instincts, claws, and a skeleton completely covered in indestructible metal. He's over a hundred years old. He's seen countless loved ones come and go, and he accidentally killed his own father. That all doesn't lend itself to a very cavalier attitude about life, you know?

9. Max Payne

Joshua Livingston / CC BY http://2.0 / Flickr: xavierwilkinson

He's a cop and an undercover DEA special agent turned unstoppable vigilante after the death of his family. That's a recipe for hardcore. And bullet time is so cool, the weird bald/beard combo in Max Payne 3 is somewhat forgivable.

10. Léon: The Professional

Columbia Pictures / Everett Collection

There's something wonderful about a cold-blooded assassin whose only friend is a house plant, deciding to help a little girl avenge the death of her family. Just because you're a hit-man, doesn't mean you can't learn to love a 12-year old girl and teach her how to use rifles and stuff.

11. Kratos

Sari Tonkr / CC BY-SA http://2.0 / Flickr: sari_b2

The "Ghost of Sparta" is a scary looking Greek from the God of War series, who has some seriously questionable motivations. He loves killing. He literally kills gods, sometimes. When he feels like it. You know. Spartan stuff. Those nerds in 300 ain't got nothing on this guy.

12. Tony Soprano

Scott Gries / Getty Images

The main protagonist of The Sopranos isn't exactly on the straight and narrow, but there's a real empathetic link between Tony and the audience. He's a terrible dude who orders hits on people, and yet, when he's narrowly avoiding his own death, it feels strangely satisfying when he lives to eat another hefty Italian meat sandwich.

13. Duke Nukem

Russell Bernice / CC BY http://2.0 / Flickr: russellbernice

A wise-cracking, cigar smoking, hyper-masculine amalgamation of Rambo, John McClane, and just about every other fictional tough guy out there. And the ladies love him, for some reason. He may be a politically incorrect killing machine with an ego the size of Montana, but when earth needs saving from hordes of aliens, he's on the shortlist of dudes with experience.

The Driver

FilmDistric / Everett Collection

He'll be the getaway man for any job, and he's the best. But he's also a thief and a murderer. Try to sneak up on him and he'll stomp on your head. He's a lone wolf. And yet, he's just so damn lovable. It must be that Ryan Gosling face. Even when he's stabbing you, he's just so damn handsome.

14. Carl Johnson (CJ)

Videogame Photography / CC BY http://2.0 / Flickr: 107517226@N07

The protagonist of every Grand Theft Auto game is a contender, but Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had a particularly lovable crime-lord. CJ originally left the town of Los Santos to escape the life of crime, but after his mother passes away, he returns, and is immediately pulled back into a world of gangs, drugs, and corruption by a bunch of dirty cops, because it'd be a pretty boring game if he just got a job at Radio Shack.

Lucas Hood (???)


The main protagonist of Banshee isn't exactly saving busloads of nuns. He's a thief, a liar, and a murderer, and we don't even know his real name (yet) -- "Hood" is just an assumed identity. But we can't help but admire his problem solving skills.