The antihero. The bad guy. The minister of evil you cannot help but root for. Despite their cruel and questionable deeds we’re constantly in awe of their charm, cunning and smarts.
The antihero is an interesting phenomenon. Why do we love them so? Villainous drug lords, chilling serial killers, and narcissistic radio DJs are among some of the modern age’s best-loved TV and movie protagonists.
Joel Draba-Mann takes a look at some of the most iconic antiheroes available for your viewing pleasure on Netflix right now.
(Warning: Spoilers, NSFW videos and conflicted morals follow)
Where: Breaking Bad
Why: Arguably the antihero. A humble high-school chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer, and desperate to provide for his family in the event of his passing, Walter White turns to the production and sale of crystal meth – ostensibly to procure a future for those he loves. However, as this acclaimed series progresses, Walter spirals more and more out of control.
Where: There Will Be Blood
Why: Misanthropic, greedy, selfish and wholly incapable of loving anyone that doesn’t serve a purpose to him, Daniel Plainview is also a magnetic businessman, powerful oil tycoon and utterly riveting individual. “DRAAINAAAAAGE!”
Why: An everyman just trying to get by in life, Jerry has to deal with the things we all hate: the commute, the boss, the bills. Except, in order to combat his lack of wealth, Jerry has his wife kidnapped and plans to demand a ransom from her esteemed father, double-crossing her captors in the process.
Where: The Tudors
Why: The enigmatic and infamous king, Henry Tudor. Arguably the greatest male monarch in British history, Henry was also a self-centered egoist with no qualms ordering the deaths of his friends and multiple wives – as well as abolishing the state religion in favour of his own.
Why: A patriotic US Army sniper, loving father and doting husband, Brody is also a brainwashed terrorist intent on masterminding a series of brutal attacks on US soil. Captured and sold to Al-Qaeda while serving in Iraq, Brody was tortured for eight years, until he finally broke and joined the ranks of his militant captors.
Why: He’s a brutal serial killer with horrific methods of dispatching his victims, often by letting them bleed out slowly. But he clearly cares about his family and – crucially – has a code that means he only ever targets the world’s bad guys. So, that’s fine, right? He’s like the lovechild of Batman and Jack the Ripper…
Where: The Godfather
Why: The head of the Corleone mafia clan, Michael is a dangerous criminal who’ll stop at nothing to protect his family and their legacy. Smart, cunning and ruthless, Michael originally never wanted to be involved in his family’s crime industry and enrolled at Dartmouth College – and then became a war hero – to escape them. But when his father comes under attack, all bets are off.
Where: The Thick of It
Why: A short-tempered and excessively threatening Scotsman, political spin doctor Malcolm Tucker isn’t half-bad at his job. Competent and calculated, his reputation precedes him – and he is rightly feared throughout the halls of British Parliament. Let’s be fair: he also possesses the best insults and one-liners in the business.
Where: House of Cards
Why: A sly and cunning politician who’ll do whatever it takes to progress to the top of the ladder, he’s “a lion amongst wolves” as dear, old Frank would say. For all his underhand deals and backstabbing, though, we can’t help but admire the ingenuity of his craft.
Why: A renowned spy set on defending the free world from global threats and forever throwing himself into the (ahem)…danger zone, Sterling Archer is also a narcissistic, arrogant racist with serious alcohol issues. He later left the spy industry to pursue a career as a cocaine-baron. We still love him though.
Where: Firefly & Serenity
Why: When he isn’t smuggling fugitives and drugs across the galaxy or kicking bounty hunters into engine turbines, Captain Mal can be found loyally defending his friends and stubbornly standing up for the little man in a harsh and dangerous universe.
Where: Arrested Development
Why: George Oscar Bluth (nicknamed ‘Jobe’) is a deluded, selfish magician with a singular drive to improve his own fortunes. However, behind the womanizing facade is an insecure man who only wishes to be loved by his family and start one of his own. Awww.
Where: I’m Alan Partridge
Why: AHA! The deluded, insecure radio host of BBC Radio Norwich, Alan is a man concerned only with his own societal status and failing sexual experiences. Behind the mask however is a lonely man looking to forge genuine friendships, in a world where he is viewed with utter disdain.
Why: A sex-addicted, drug-addled former novelist cursed with a case of chronic alcoholism to boot, he tries to do good by his estranged family – even if he flat out refuses to change his lifestyle.
The Ice King
Where: Adventure Time
Why: The evil king and former antagonist of the Adventure Time series, The Ice King is a victim of mental illness. Once he was Simon Petrikov, a loving husband and esteemed scientist who happened upon an ancient artifact; a crown that gifted him great powers but steadily wiped his memories and led him to insanity. Abandoned by the love of his life, The Ice King now feels obligated to kidnap princesses and force them to love him – although he has no idea why he must continually commit this crime.