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In the trailer of "The Foreigner", is Jackie Chan considered to be an anti-hero?

My friend said that an anti-hero does not care about anything and would kill innocent people. Anti-heroes are only in as comic book heroes. However, in "Law Abiding Citizen" my friend said that he is not an anti-hero, hero, nor a villain because he has a reason, which was revenge, to do what he does.

I'm pretty much confused because I believe that every character has a title or role that are given to them even if they are not even a comic heroes.

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    You seem to be asking about a few different things here, could you edit the question to clarify exactly what you want to know? – F1Krazy Jul 6 '17 at 9:48
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    Your friend's definition is wrong. An anti-hero is defined as "a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes." The main character in most action movies - a guy who goes around killing bad guys left & right while breaking every law in the book - would be an anti-hero. – Omegacron Jul 6 '17 at 14:35
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    @Luciano and Larme, this is a Q&A site. At the end of the day, you can Google pretty much anything that's been asked for on here. The rules do not include "Don't ask something if you could find the answer elsewhere on the internet." And since the network has happily answered the question (with the top answer with 37 upvotes at the time of this comment), clearly the community has decided it was a very good question with some nice information available for the readers, which is the goal of every site on stackexchange. Be polite and have good faith for the question askers. – The Anathema Jul 8 '17 at 5:01
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    @Omegacron I would omit "bad guys" after the word "killing". Antiheros kill good guys and bystanders also, sometimes even more so than bad guys. Walter White. – Todd Wilcox Jul 8 '17 at 17:08
  • @TheAnathema the question is currently on HNQ where it adds the visibility of the question to all SE sites. Of all those visitors, only few can downvote because they only have enough rep to upvote the post due to association bonus (100 rep). It's a common problem when the question gets into HNQ. (I'm not judging whether the question is good, so-so, or bad) – Andrew T. Jul 8 '17 at 19:44
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My friend said that an anti-hero does not care about anything and would kill innocent people.

No, someone who kills innocent people is a villain. With the exception of the innocent casualties being collateral, but this could apply to a hero as well and is not the definition of an antihero.

However, it would be correct to say that an antihero is not averse to killing those who deserve it (in the antihero's opinion).


A hero is defined by the following traits

  • Actively fights the bad guys.
  • They do what they do because it is the right thing to do.
  • Holds themselves to the moral standard of the good guys.

A great example is Batman. He refuses to kill anyone, because he considered it a bad solution to the problem of fighting crime. Even when it would help, e.g. killing the Joker to prevent many future deaths; Batman sticks to this principle.

An antihero is defined by the following traits:

  • Fights the bad guys.
  • They do what they do because they feel it needs to be done.
  • Tends to hold themselves to their own moral standard, not those of others.

Let's look at the Punisher. He's a classic antihero. The enemies he fights are objectively bad people. In the same plot, Batman (or any protagonist hero) would fight these bad guys as well.

However, the Punisher does not fight the bad guys because it is the right thing to do. He fights them because he has a personal score to settle. He went after Howard Saint because Saint had killed his entire family (an assassination which the Punisher himself miraculously survived).

The Punisher also does not necessarily align himself with the moral code of the good guys. More often than not, they go by their own moral code. An antihero hero defines a 'bad guy' by their own moral code, not the moral code of "good people" in general.

If you see a story in which the Punisher fights the same enemy that a hero is fighting, you will see that in most cases, the Punisher and the other hero will coincidentally be fighting the same enemy, each for their own reason.

Antiheroes can be swayed to fight for good if it is really necessary; but they consider it as doing a favor for someone; not as doing their duty. And it will definitely not become a habit.


Some examples to highlight the differences:

  • Frank Underwood, as much as he tries to present himself as an antihero, is a villain. He kills innocents for his own gain.
  • Mr. Freeze is most often considered a villain. However, I see him as an antihero in most cases. He does what he does because he needs to cure his wife and keep her alive until the cure is made. He breaks the law because he does what he feels is necessary. If there were a legal way for him to save his wife, he would pursue it. He only became Mr Freeze in absence of a legal way to continue his research, not for evil's sake. He is also not averse to helping Batman from time to time. Although I do have to note here that Mr Freeze is an antihero who comes very close to being a villain. But I can't remember him ever killing innocents, so his villainy is very minor. He steals and causes mayhem, but then again, the Punisher kills and causes mayhem and we do not consider him a villain.
  • Wolverine is the opposite of Mr Freeze. He is an antihero who comes very close to being a hero. He does not fight to "do good", he fights those who oppose him. Although this can also mean protecting those who he cares about (e.g. Xavier's students), Logan rarely does anything he really does not want to do. There are cases where he actively chooses to not engage the "villain of the plot", because Logan thinks there is some merit to the villain's line of thinking. This shows that he follows his own moral code over that of others.
  • Colonel Nathan R Jessup is not a villain (although many people seem to think he is the villain of the movie). He is not an evil man. His goal is protecting his country. However, his methods have crossed moral boundaries. Why did he cross these boundaries? I quote the man himself: "I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom". In other words, he is arguing the necessity of the questionable deeds he has undertaken, because it suits his goal. Regardless of whether it is considered immoral or not.
  • Jack Bauer starts off as a hero. But as the season's plot progresses, his actions are morally grey, e.g. using torture to extract information from someone. The intention (avoiding a mass terrorist attack) is good, but his methods are questionable. 24 very much revolves around the slippery slope that Jack finds himself on, and whether he turns into an antihero or not.
  • In Watchmen, most of the Watchmen try to adhere to the hero stereotype. They are who they are because they want to help society. Rorschach is an exception to this. He has no remorse about killing a serial killer, for example. Because Rorschach decides who gets to live based on whether they broke his moral code or not.
  • Many villains, when justifying their actions, will portray themselves as antiheroes. It almost always boils down to "I do what is necessary, the world has forced my hand". This is driven by their own morals, rather than those of society. Especially in origin stories, some villains start off as antiheroes, and it is only when they cross the line (kill innocents) that the hero will actually take them down.

TL;DR

  • You are a hero if you try to do good, and hold yourself to the highest moral standard (no revenge, no killing where avoidable, save everyone's life)
  • You are a villain if you do evil for evil's sake, kill innocents, or cause societal mayhem.
  • You are an antihero if you have a personal agenda and do not hold yourself to any moral code other than your own. If you can describe someone's actions as being part of an ongoing vendetta, then he is an antihero (or a villain, of other villain traits apply to this person).

Forgot something

I forgot to specifically comment on Law Abiding Citizen.

Clyde Shelton, like you said, has a reason, which was revenge, to do what he does.
This makes him a textbook antihero. He fights corruption, in a way that is morally questionable (straight up murder). However, he only exacts punishment on those who he deems worthy of punishment. He is not a loose cannon, nor does he harm innocents.

However, as the movie progresses, Clyde's argument for the necessity of fighting corruption falls apart. Maybe you would agree with his first few victims, as these are people who intentionally acted selfishly and illegally for personal gain.

However, consider the judge. While she is an absolute cunt of a woman, who presided over the corrupt trial; she is not actually guilty of any crime.

As far as I can remember the movie, the judge is the first victim who can be considered an innocent. Even by Clyde Shelton's argument of the necessity of fighting corruption, the judge should not have been considered guilty.

This is why Shelton dies in the end. He has fallen down the slippery slope of being an antihero, and has let his anger devolve himself into becoming a villain.

Also, his methods became more and more reckless. The first murders were targeted strikes, that only harmed the intended target. But the last attempted murder is plain old bomb That is not a targeted strike.
This highlights that Clyde has stopped caring about innocent collateral casualties. He has chosen to forgo any form of morality about killing innocents, because he is blinded by his personal agenda.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Napoleon Wilson Jul 6 '17 at 21:03
  • They do good deeds, but can be jerks while doing it. +1 for the researched detail. – PoloHoleSet Oct 2 '18 at 16:26
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From wikipedia:

An antihero, or anti-heroine, is a protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, or morality. These characters are usually considered "conspicuously contrary to an archetypal hero". Although antiheroes may sometimes do the "right thing", it is often for the "wrong reasons" and because it serves their self-interest rather than being driven by moral convictions.

Answering about Jackie Chan's role, I'm not sure that from just that trailer, We can't say for sure what his role would be.

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    Antiheroes lacking courage is arguable. Though he has little or nothing to lose, the Punisher throws himself into the fray (occasionally to rescue someone, which argues in favor of courage) on pretty much any occasion he gets. And could you consider Superman courageous, if he is practically immortal anyway? (I do agree about morality and idealism, though antiheroes could be idealists about their own ideas on justice) – Flater Jul 6 '17 at 14:00
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    @Flater - I don't think Vishwa is saying that an anti-hero lacks ALL of those qualities, but is rather giving examples of heroic qualities that might be lacked. – Omegacron Jul 6 '17 at 18:09
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    Cite your sources when directly quoting. – OhBeWise Jul 6 '17 at 18:34
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    @Flater Off-topic, but Superman IS courageous. He is not Immortal, as he has died several times and you must see that even though he is extremely tough, he doesn't usually fight everyday guys. He often fights extremely overpowered beings such as himself. – LeonX Jul 6 '17 at 19:00
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    I have edited to add the source of your text you used but from next time onward kindly mention source of the text you take form external links, read here for details. – Ankit Sharma Jul 7 '17 at 6:41
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By that trailer alone, it's hard to know whether or not Jackie Chan would be considered as an antihero or not. His goal in the long run is arguably good - stop a terrorist. Also his means are by no stretch of the imagination moral or ethical. I think he might be technically fit into the definition, but considering he spends more time fighting the "good guys" he's a lot closer to a sympathetic villain.

An antihero is essentially a bad guy that accomplishes good things in the long run. Or it could be a good guy, so to speak, that is entirely uninterested in morals and ethics in the process of accomplishing heroic ends. So yes, Jackie Chan could plausibly fit into this category.

Deadpool, in my mind, is the quintessential antihero. He has no problem in killing, He's not terribly interested in being the good guy, and he's still a mercenary at heart. But he does often team up with good guys to accomplish positive ends. Suicide Squad is also a good example as they're really villains but occasionally get used for a positive end. In the movie Dark Knight Rises, Catwoman plays the role of an antihero towards the end. She's in it for herself, but she does save Batman and help Gotham.

Colossus' speech to Deadpool at the end of the Deadpool movie is golden. He talks about what it means to be a hero, and Wade is just like, "nah man, not interested in the hero business, I just want to kill this evil dude."

  • He's not terribly interested in being the good guy Deadpool's entire comic history since getting his own comic is "i want to be a hero". Suicide squad is not anti-heroic, they are villains being blackmailed and used as weapons. – cde Jul 8 '17 at 23:18
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A Hero is probably Lawful Good, Neutral Good or possibly Lawful Neutral in the D&D Alignment Chart. An Anti-Hero will be Lawful Evil (at a push), True Neautral (at a push) or more likely Chaotic Good. Villains are usually Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil.

The exact alignment puts different strains on their good, neutral or bad actions. If you need more reference material there are scores of alignment memes that show various fictional characters and their alignments.

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    What has D&D to do with the film? – Paharet Jul 7 '17 at 11:44
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    It is a well documented set of rules for characterising characters, that just happened to originate in a dice game. The opening question is "What exactly is an Anti-Hero?" to which I have supplied an answer. If we want I can refer to the D&D film and characters in it but it is no more or less applicable if I do so. The categorisations of characters are a broad topic and I felt the existing alignment system does a reasonable job of covering them and pointing out their differences. – TafT Jul 7 '17 at 13:10
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    Except antiheroes are evil but we like them anyway. They are just as likely to be chaotic evil. Isn't Walter White chaotic? – Todd Wilcox Jul 8 '17 at 17:14
  • @ToddWilcox Walter's character (and alignment) change throughout the story. At the very beginning he is very straight laced with no signs of any evil but he is driven further into it. By the end little good is left. I do not feel that anti-hero's have to be evil, they just have to not be very good, pious or just. Judge Dread is something of an anti-hero in his strict adherence to the law but that would make him True Neutral not at all evil. He is not the guy we want to be saved by but he maybe the guy that saves us. – TafT Jul 10 '17 at 14:10
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    Judge Dredd is an antihero but in no way is he True Neutral, he's Lawful Neutral enforcing the rules of Megacity One with a ruthless efficiency. he is even cited in that guide as one of their examples. That does not mean he does not save the city and its citizens but not because he 's a good person. Vienna is possibly the one exception to that rule. A Neutral character cannot adhere to the letter of the law, they must choose to ignore it if natural justice or a sense of compassion would override the law. – Sarriesfan Jul 11 '17 at 23:02
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Typically, an anti-hero is someone whose deeds are heroic, but who themselves are morally ambiguous.

And notably, the anti-hero is not a paragon of virtue, may possess questionable motives, and does not avail themselves as a suitable role model for children.

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Note: I can't find any documentation in the meta or help center on how to do spoiler markup and I suggest something be added somewhere. I know what it is, but I can't figure out how to do it. There are unhidden spoilers below.

Anti-heroes are characters that are essentially villainous but that we "root for" or sympathize with anyway. They usually have a trait or situation that encourages us to sympathize with them when we would otherwise be horrified by their actions. If the main character in a story who you like dies at the end, and you're not sad about that, then it's likely you were watching an anti-hero.

Walter White

Right now I can't think of a better example of an anti-hero. He does horrible things but we are content and even happy to follow him into evil and we hope he prevails in some ways.

We are made to sympathize with him at first, because he has a terminal illness and no money to leave to his family when he dies. The first people he kills are at least partly in self-defense. Later on in the series, his cancer is in remission and he has killed many people for all kinds of questionable or clearly selfish reasons. The end of the series provides closure that is common for anti-heroes: he "wins" but does not survive (similar to Hamlet).

Dexter Morgan

In Dexter the writers have done nothing to hide the methods they use to help us sympathize with a character who is essentially a remorseless vigilante. We are constantly reminded that he works for the Police helping to catch many criminals, and that he only kills by The Code Of Harry, lending a kind of non-traditional justice to his actions. He also exhibits a trope of sorts in the area of being able to bring a brand of justice to criminals who have escaped traditional justice due to "failures of the system".

There is a juxtaposition in almost every episode of Dexter being human and caring with his sister and Rita and her children, while also coldly and brutally killing people in horrific ways. The inevitable conflicts and collisions that occur between the anti- and hero parts of his character make up the bulk of the story. Many were less satisfied with the ending of the series and it's interesting to note how differently it played out from Breaking Bad.

Kyser Söze? (epic level semi-spoilers here)

Is Kyser Söze an anti-hero, or merely a protagonist? In a way, we are made to sympathize with Söze for almost the entire movie, we just don't realize the nature of how we have been manipulated. We certainly "root for" Söze for the whole movie, but we are tricked into doing it, and we simultaneously want Söze to "lose".

Dean Keaton is a more classic anti-hero. We definitely sympathize with him and he definitely does evil. We are made to sympathize because he is trying to "go straight" and has an honest enough love for his girlfriend that her well-being is successfully used as leverage against him.

It seems like most analyses divide Söze and his alter-ego into two characters, one antagonist and one anti-hero (albeit probably the least villainous of the anti-heroes in the story). Keaton is the true anti-hero of the story, and the end of the story for him has a kind of sad justice.

But still we have this feeling at the very end that we are glad in a way that evil has triumphed. Perhaps it is because the greatest evil in Söze has visited a kind of justice on the lesser evil of the anti-heroes, tempered only by the injustice visited on at least one innocent at the same time.

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An anti-hero is a charismatic jerk. If they kill the innocent, steal, cause collateral damage, and help the bad guys, but you still find yourself rooting for them, they're an anti-hero. Think of Mister White in "Reservoir Dogs": he's a thief and a murderer who nonchalantly recommends cutting off someone's finger to get them to talk, but you like him, anyway. Even Mister Orange, the undercover police officer who betrays the group of thieves, feels terrible about betraying this anti-hero who has become his friend.

If the character "only kills bad guys" or helps the innocent they're more likely a "dark hero" like Batman or Deadpool. As @cde mentioned below, they also have to be the main character, otherwise they're just a good villain.

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    People rooting for the villain does not make the villain an antihero. – cde Jul 8 '17 at 23:23
  • You're right, @cde, they also have to be the main character. – Russell Fox Jul 10 '17 at 18:33
  • You do not need to be the protagonist to be an anti hero either. Plenty of secondary characters are ant hero. – cde Jul 10 '17 at 22:13
  • An anti-hero may be a charismatic jerk — or maybe they lack the typical charisma of a hero entirely. This is one possible version of the concept, but is not comprehensive. – mattdm Jul 11 '17 at 0:29
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Many of the other answers here are very, very wrong. They give examples of certain characters who may be anti-heroes and attempt to extrapolate the definition from the way those characters behave or are portrayed. This leads these answers astray when trying to answer what an anti-hero is exactly. Pecan pie may be a delicious dessert, but it would be wrong to conclude that the definition of desert involves crust and a nutty filling. Likewise, some anti-heros may be described as following their own moral compass, or kill the bad guys instead of arresting them, or whatever — but that's not the definition of anti-hero at all.

TV Tropes has an a good general definition. From their article Anti-Hero:

An Archetypal Character who is almost as common in modern fiction as the Ideal Hero, an antihero is a protagonist who has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero. They 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. Not to be confused with the Villain or the Big Bad, who is the opponent of Heroes (and Anti-Heroes, for that matter).

That article goes on and has a great understanding of the depth involved. There's even a discussion of D&D alignment (spoiler: all over the place, tending towards neutral). Also, there's this bit which I think is key to understanding some of the confusion over the topic overall:

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.

That links to Classical Anti-Hero, which has more discussion of the change in common meaning -- but a key point is that both meanings still fit the standard dictionary definition:

a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities -- Merriam-Webster

... even though which "heroic qualities" are emphasized differs.

From the trailer, it seems likely that Chan's character is not particularly in line with this trope. He's a trained solider (ex-special forces, it says) who loves his daughter, and while "motivated by vengeance" isn't particularly heroic, it seems actually to be more of "looking for justice in the face of a corrupt government". But it's really hard to do a definitive analysis without more to go on.

Also: warning! So many TV Tropes links. There goes your evening!

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A hero and anti-hero achieve the same outcomes in a story. They both achieve the end goal of saving people from an evil plot or outcome.

The difference between the two can be simplified down to the fact that a hero is selfless and an anti-hero is selfish.

What can add to confusion is that stories are about the transformation of characters, and often anti-heroes over the course of a film become heroes and vise-versa.

You can spot an anti-hero when they're looking out for themselves or motivated by revenge, greed, anger or fear. These are all selfish motivations.

When a person saves another person we call them a hero. This is true for the anti-hero as well. Anti-heroes have moments of heroism because that's what makes them heroic. We like to watch stories about the anti-hero because they are motivated by things we can relate too, and we like stories about heroes because we all want to be saved.

The problem with the anti-hero is that being selfish isn't healthy and makes for poor role models, and what we often see is how the anti-hero suffers for this.

The best anti-hero is the one that challenges us to ask questions about our own motivations, and the best hero is one that challenges us to help others.

William Shakespeare liked to use the anti-hero in a lot of his plays. It's easier to accept the anti-hero than the hero, and that's what makes a good hero so hard to define. A good writer knows that a good hero is a hard thing to sell.

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