Top 10 Redeemed Jerks in Movies
VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks! For this list, we'll be looking at the most memorable film villains, antiheroes, and unlikable jerks who had redemption arcs. Our countdown includes “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, "Iron Man", “Star Wars” franchise, and more!
Top 10 Redeemed Jerks in Movies
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Redeemed Jerks in Movies.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most memorable film villains, antiheroes, and unlikable jerks who had redemption arcs. Since we’ll be discussing the fates of these characters, a spoiler alert is in order.
Which of these arcs did you enjoy the most? Let us know in the comments below!
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)
This movie is full of memorable characters, but Nux has long been a fan favorite. Nux starts the movie as a War Boy intent on little more than using Max as a blood bag and dying a warrior’s death for Immortan Joe. He tries on multiple occasions to kill Furiosa, who has stolen Joe’s truck and wives. When he fails to do so, he is chastised by Joe and becomes an outcast. But it’s here that he finds a family with Furiosa and Joe’s wives - specifically Capable, with whom he shares a deep attachment. In the end, Nux earns the warrior’s death he so desperately desires, as he sacrifices himself to let Furiosa’s group free the Citadel.
“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001)
There is very little gray area to be found in “The Lord of the Rings,” as it tells an epic story of good vs. evil. Every character within the Fellowship is unflappably heroic - everyone, that is, except Boromir. Boromir is the antihero of the Fellowship, as he only cares about attaining the Ring for himself and using it to help his fellow men in Gondor. He is quite antagonistic to Frodo, and he’s the first member to snap under the Ring’s influence. However, Boromir feels immediate shame for betraying Frodo and uses his newfound clarity to defend Merry and Pippin from the attacking Uruk-hai. He dies for the hobbits and is given an honorary hero’s burial by Aragorn.
#8: Phil Connors
“Groundhog Day” (1993)
Bill Murray has a real knack for playing jerks, and Phil Connors may be the jerkiest of them all. Phil begins the movie as a real nasty piece of work. He’s selfish, he’s not committed to his job, and worst of all, he treats everyone around him with patronizing contempt. And even though he initially sees the time loop as a curse, he eventually uses it as a force for good. He genuinely gets to know Rita rather than seeing her as a conquest, and he uses his knowledge of the day’s events to help the town’s citizens. Many academics have studied the movie for its religious and philosophical themes, with most of the work being centered around the time loop and Phil’s character arc.
It’s not often that James Bond villains get reused, but Jaws proves the exception. Jaws was an enormously popular villain from “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and he escapes at the end of the movie after quite literally eating a shark. He reappeared in the follow-up “Moonraker,” and he initially continued in an antagonistic role. However, Jaws makes a major 180 after meeting and falling in love with a woman known as Dolly. Bond uses the villain’s newfound love and gets him to switch sides against Hugo Drax. Jaws helps destroy the space station with Bond and escapes back to Earth with his new girlfriend, presumably to live happily ever after. Are we the only ones who want a romantic comedy about these two?
#6: Tony Stark
“Iron Man” (2008)
This movie worked for a large number of reasons, including the character of Tony Stark. Not only was Robert Downey Jr. exceptional in the role, but Stark was quite unlike any other movie superhero of the time. He existed in a more morally gray area, and this was quite fresh and exciting. He begins the movie as a selfish and obnoxious weapons manufacturer who is only interested in three things - destructive weapons, money, and women. He’s the quintessential rich playboy, and many people (including audiences) do not like him. It’s not until he’s nearly killed by his own weapon that Tony takes a more heroic stance and uses his intelligence and expertise for the forces of good.
#5: Severus Snape
“Harry Potter” franchise (2001-11)
One question permeated pop culture throughout the ‘90s and 2000s - is Snape good or bad? The books and movies kept us guessing, and things seemed especially bleak after “The Half-Blood Prince” when he, you know, killed Dumbledore. Snape was a monumental jerk throughout the entire series, treating everyone - and especially Harry - with flagrant scorn and disdain. He did absolutely nothing to stymy his reputation as the school’s most unlikable teacher. And even though his jerkiness never really goes away, he is redeemed through his memories. Harry realizes that Snape was a tragic good guy all along and that he loved his mother dearly. In the end, Harry even names his son after Snape, calling him the bravest person that he’s ever known.
#4: The Grinch
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000)
This titular character has long been a catch-all term for being an unpleasant jerk. The entire point of the Grinch’s character is that he’s an insufferable outsider who hates Christmas. That’s fine. Many people do. But the Grinch makes an obnoxious point about it, like burning down the town tree, sending fake eviction notices in the mail, and stealing everyone’s presents. The sole reason that the Grinch is fun to watch is because Jim Carrey plays him. If it was anybody else, this movie would never work. But, as everyone knows, the Grinch eventually comes around thanks to the optimistic spirit of the Whos and the general cuteness of Cindy Lou. He famously carves the roast beast, a symbol of his long-awaited redemption and acceptance.
“Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)
The MCU is full of memorable characters, and Loki is undoubtedly one of them. This mischievous villain made his debut all the way back in 2011 with “Thor,” in which he played the primary antagonist. Loki is your typical supervillain who is hoping to kill his brother and take the throne of Asgard. He remains one of the MCU’s main villains until “Thor: Ragnarok,” when he reluctantly teams up with his estranged brother to fight Hela. This begins Loki’s very brief redemption arc, which continues into “Avengers: Infinity War.” In the original timeline, Loki risks everything in an attempt to save Thor and kill Thanos His death concludes a memorable character arc and brings Loki’s storyline to a satisfying and heroic end.
#2: Darth Vader
“Star Wars” franchise (1977-)
One of the greatest redemption arcs in movie history belongs to Darth Vader. The first two movies depict Vader as an incredible force of evil. He leads the Galactic Empire, kills many enemies and employees, and even cuts off his own son’s hand. However, everything changes when he deals with the Emperor. Palpatine tells Luke to vanquish Vader, and when he refuses, he shocks Luke with Force lightning. It’s then that Vader finally redeems himself, as he saves Luke by throwing the Emperor down the shaft. He allows Luke to see his real face before dying a hero’s death, finally at peace with his actions and the relationship that he shares with his son.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
Steve Stifler, “American Pie” franchise (1999-2012)
The Obnoxious Party Guy Actually Became Quite Sweet in “American Wedding”
Han Solo, “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977)
One of the Greatest Heroes in Movie History Started Out as a Reluctant & Selfish Jerk
Wikus van de Merwe, “District 9” (2009)
Starts as the Aliens’ Enemy and Becomes Their Savior
Rocket, “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)
A Selfish Bounty Hunter Who Becomes a World Saver
#1: Ebenezer Scrooge
"A Christmas Carol" (Various)
The ultimate Christmas story is also the ultimate story about human redemption. Reading “A Christmas Carol” and watching its countless movie adaptations, we realize that anyone has the capacity to change. Even the nastiest people amongst us. Scrooge is the quintessential jerk - he’s greedy, selfish, and mean. He’s London’s biggest slimeball, and everyone knows it. However, his experiences with the Ghosts generate a great change within his character. Scrooge learns to be a much better person, and he redeems himself in many notable ways. He learns to embrace love and family, and it's endlessly heartwarming to see (no matter how many adaptations we get).