Anti-heroes in Science Fiction Movies

Anti-heroes in Science Fiction Movies
Anti-heroes in Science Fiction Movies

Why are there anti-heroes in 90 percent of science fiction movies? Then again why are there anti-heroes in 99 percent of mainstream movies? Ours is essentially an unheroic age. It is an age hostile to grand gestures, sharp moral distinctions, and larger than life characters. It is not the age of Beowulfs or Gandalfs.

Science fiction movies generally reflect that attitude. On every hero, you can find ten less-than-heroic characters.

Or maybe there is something in the nature of the genre itself. The boundless space, the outer rim planets, some inhabited with alien species, some utterly desolate. Against this backdrop established norms do not count anymore. Human resilience falters and fails.

Well, whatever the reason, there they are. Complex, morally problematic, insecure or overbearing. Anti-heroes.

Jump to the gallery of’s favorite anti-heroes.

We looked into as many anti-heroic characters as we could find. Here are some common themes we identified.

Anti-heroes in Science Fiction Movies
Anti-heroes in Science Fiction Movies

They walk the fine line between right and wrong. There is moral ambiguity about everything they do whether they save the world or simply kick some butt.

Unlike heroes, they have no sense of mission. They do not feel called upon to do great things. They are not extraordinary in any particular way. They are not lost scions of noble and old families, nor are they endowed with any special powers, or extra abilities, except perhaps sharp reflexes and keen instinct of self-preservation.

They are called many names – mavericks, outsiders, renegades. And although they mostly tend to be loners, they often have a soft spot, which they hide beneath gruff manners or dry-wit.

Most of them are recruited from the ranks of failed idealists, former policemen, soldiers, revolutionaries. Although you can also find the odd convict or criminal among them.

Regardless of their color or creed, they all have one thing in common – they have a strong sense of not belonging. Deeply flawed and haunted by their excesses, they slog their way through the world they mistrust, or dislike, or can’t understand.

They have crossed the line that separates them from the law-abiding citizen. They court death, and tragedy and destruction follow on their heels. It is dangerous to know them, and yet when the going gets tough it is always good to have them on your side.

They are resourceful. No one is better at escaping from maximum-security prisons or breaking into restricted government compounds or handling guns or flying a spaceship than these guys.

They will also do things no hero would ever dream of doing. Cheat, lie, steal, punch below the belt and even put their tail between their legs and call it quits.

There is another thing common to them all – though they have suffered a thousand slings and arrows of outrageous fortune there is still one more fight left in them. If pressed, they will once again put everything on the line and don their rusty, dented armor.

Anti-heroes in Science Fiction Movies
Anti-heroes in Science Fiction Movies

Although they almost never look for a battle, the battle finds them, through a twist of fate or the influence of forces they cannot control. The state, or the police, or a sinister corporation bent on the world domination – that’s what corporations are for! – as often as not hound them with schemes which are one part malevolent and two parts crazy. Small wonder they usually end up as borderline paranoiacs or career cynics.

They may find themselves sticking up for a little guy. Though they are just as likely to kick the little guy’s butt if he gets in their way!

However, their motives will always be questionable. At times they will play the role of a protector if there is a reasonable prospect of reward. And sometimes they will do it on a point of principle – if the local ruffian has so little sense as to start knocking the little guy’s head against their table and accidentally spills their drink.

And when the credits roll, and there is only one man standing, deep down you know that no sagas will be sung about their deeds and ultimately their faces will fade into oblivion.

That is what makes them so believable. That is why we love them.

And most importantly, they have all the best lines in a movie!

Here is a gallery of’s favorite anti-heroes.


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