It’s rare for a villain to gain success on a large scale alone. Some truly gifted criminal masterminds, like John Doe from Se7en, can operate alone, but most rely on well-organized organizations or at least a hardworking henchman.
There are few archetypes as underappreciated as the henchman, who has neither the respect of command nor the morality of being on the right side. It’s no wonder that, like many mistreated workers, these characters can sometimes break out of their roles and advocate for themselves, creating some of the most compelling, and cathartic conflicts in film. These workers may not be on the top, but they refuse to let themselves be forgotten.
10 Finn’s Rebellion Is His Best Aspect
In 1977, Star Wars premiered and established stormtroopers as the visage of faceless oppression. For decades this held true, though Finn’s rebellion in The Force Awakens reframes their role in the films.
When Finn removes his helmet and reveals his face, the implication of identity is given to every stormtrooper featured. Though his role in the series diminishes severely in Rise of Skywalker, Finn spends his time in the Resistance searching for his identity, not a lost family name, but who he will be. His epic introduction and characterization are sadly abandoned as the series shifts its focus back to more conventional good vs. evil.
9 Gisele Provides Aid Despite Rejection
Fans of the Fast and Furious films define Gisele by her final sacrifice, but she was heroic far before then. In her first appearance in the franchise’s fourth film, Fast and Furious, she is introduced as a top aide for Braga, an infamous drug lord, and the film’s villain.
Gisele spends much of the film flirting with Dom, though he is still deep in mourning for Letty at that point. While he is not uninterested, Dom ultimately rebuffs her advances. Gisele could have written him off at that point, but she decides to stick with the film’s heroes, securing herself a spot in their future crew.
8 Sweets’ Gang Reclaim Their Neighborhood
In movies, criminal organizations often seize and keep power through fear, bribes, and outright violence. Four Brothers takes place in a neighborhood run by one such gang, headed up by the sadistic Sweets, though he tends to err on the side of murder.
Though the main characters are a force that Sweets was never really prepared for, his own men are his ultimate demise. They have had enough, thanks to years of ruling his employees like a feudalistic baron. Sweets learns the lesson that fear only compels loyalty up to a point, though he is far too late.
7 Jaws’ Redemption Makes More Sense Than Moonraker’s Plot
There are a few reoccurring characters in the James Bond franchise, but few are like Jaws, who was so popular that he appears as a henchman to two separate villains. After his introduction in The Spy Who Loved Me, where the character gained instant popularity, Jaws reappears in Moonraker.
At the end of Moonraker, James Bond is on a hostile satellite defending the Earth from an extinction level even when his life is saved by Jaws, who seems to have seen the error of his ways. After almost two movies as a henchman, Jaws sees the errors of his ways and saves 007 from the elitist villain Drax.
6 Francis Has One Of The Funniest Exchanges In The John Wick Franchise
Even more than the sequels, the original John Wick is filled with the frightened reactions of hardened criminals learning they have earned John Wick’s anger. The funniest example takes place in the darkness outside a nightclub and features a guard named Francis.
Francis is just doing his job when he feels the cold steal of a gun to his head and hears the familiar voice of John Wick, the underworld’s greatest killer. After some pleasant conversation, John offers for him to leave, no questions asked; Francis doesn’t even hesitate. He pulls out his earpiece, thanks the man, and disappears. After all, with John after his boss, who could possibly punish the guard?
5 May Day Sacrifices Herself Out Of Spite
The only thing more convoluted than A View To A Kill‘s title is its plot, which pits James Bond against a criminal organization run by an American businessman Zorin. Zorin is joined in his plot to flood Silicon Valley by his aide/muscle/lover May Day.
Though the pair seem close for most of the film, Zorin is quick to abandon his ally in an attempt to kill Bond leading to May Day sacrificing her own life to halt Zorin’s plans. May Day is not motivated by some newfound morality or connection with Bond, but rather just the relatable rage at being betrayed by one’s lover.
4 Furiosa Brings Down A Despot
Mad Max: Fury Road is often praised for its excellent practical effects and simple story structure, but the film’s deep characterizations tie it all together. At the true center is Imperator Furiosa, Immortan Joe’s War Rig driver.
Furiosa sets off the events of Fury Road when she escapes Immortan Joe’s clutches with a shipment of his precious water and all of his young wives. Furiosa’s act of rebellion may not lead to the paradise of her dreams, but it does set off a chain of events that leads to the deaths of multiple warlords in an era without hope.
3 Mirage Draws The Line With Children
When Syndrome, the primary villain of The Incredibles, recruited Mirage, his femme fatale chief aide, she clearly was comfortable operating in a morally gray area. Mirage functions as the face of his plans to take down the remaining Supers.
Syndrome’s plans involve the murder of dozens of Supers, followed by a large confrontation in a dense metropolitan area that would undoubtedly cause civilian casualties. When Syndrome specifically targets children, however, Mirage draws the line. She abandons her plots for ungodly amounts of money and power, all to save the kids of a man she was planning on watching die regardless.
2 Quintus Eventually Regains Some Of His Honor
Gladiator, like many sword and sandal stories, is ultimately about the honor of a warrior. This idea is told through the film’s hero, Maximus, and the redemption of a secondary figure, Quintus. Quintus begins the film as a friend and subordinate of Maximus, but quickly betrays him for Commodus.
By the film’s end, Commodus has proven himself worthless, even less powerful than a man condemned to die a second death. Quintus loses his little respect for the Emperor when Commodus is left bleeding, openly losing a fixed fight with an already dying foe. Rather than give Commodus a new weapon, he orders the guards to stand down, and later honors his fallen friend.
1 Letty Has A Classic Amnesia Storyline
Sometimes a storyline is repeated so often that it must be removed from circulation for fear of becoming a cliché. Storylines involving amnesia used to be everywhere, from action movies to romantic thrillers. The device is an easy trick for characters to comb through their memories without too much exposition.
Letty, one of the leads of the Fast and Furious franchise, was believed to have died before the events of the fourth film, but is revealed to have developed amnesia and joined an international criminal team in Fast and Furious 6. She goes through all the hits of amnesia stories, but she still has her skill and falls in love with Dom all over again while drifting through London.
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