Most bad guys are bad right to the very end: they set out to make the world a worse place, and they either succeed or fail. But every now and then a bad guy comes along who redeems themselves when it really matters. He or she sees the error in their ways and pulls a flip-flop. It is to these flip-flopping bastards that we pay homage today.
7. Jeanie Bueller – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Jeanie Bueller is kind of the sister from hell. She’s angry, bitter, and out to get her brother Ferris right from the start. She’s one of those siblings who spends her whole life being mad because everyone out there – including her brother – is having more fun than she is.
But she comes around in the end. Right when it looks like Principal Ed Rooney is going to nab Bueller for missing a zillion days of school, Jeanie lightens up and takes Ferris’s side. When was the last time your uptight sister put the smackdown on the principal on your behalf? Still, credit must be given to Charlie Sheen, seeing as he infused a little bit of bad-boy life into her soulless being.
6. Francis X. Hummel – The Rock
Brigadier General Francis X. Hummel seems like a pretty bad egg, even if the domestic terrorism he’s committing is in the name of patriots who lost their lives for their country. He aims fifteen rockets armed with a chemical weapon called VX.
It’s true, a lot of Navy SEALs get killed because of Hummel and company, but when the poop hits the fan, it turns out Hummel doesn’t have the heart to kill a bunch of innocent civilians attending an Oakland Raiders game. Even when he’s on his deathbed, Hummel shows he’s turned over a new leaf and tells the good guys where the last rocket is. Guess we shouldn’t be surprised Ed Harris winds up being a good guy, but Hummel is still one of the classic examples of the heel-face turn.
5. Ogre – Revenge of the Nerds II
Here’s a frat guy who made his name by beating on every nerd he could get his huge hands on. But something happens deep inside Ogre (Donald Gibb) that makes him turn against the preppy pricks who used him as their go-to muscle guy and stand with the dorks at the end of the day. Sure, the nerds commandeered a submersible tank and literally bulldozed a caucus of the cocks, but it took real backbone to turn away from his bullying ways. Ogre is one of the bad guys that learned a lesson most bad guys don’t: when the other side gets a tank, you team up with them.
4. Frank Cross – Scrooged
Sure, Scrooged is basically Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, but Bill Murray brings a certain insanity to his role. When Frank Cross finally returns to the land of the living, he does more than buy a goose or give alms, he loses his mind on national television. It’s hard to say whether this is because of some serious mood enhancers or the various spirits that visited him throughout the night, but whatever inspired his role-reversal, it’s one of the funniest in the history of role-reversals.
3. Tyrannosaurus Rex – Jurassic Park
Some cynical moviegoers might attribute the heroes getting saved at the end of Jurassic Park to the literary device deus ex machina, but it’s really much more than that. The Tyrannosaurus rex spends most of the movie tormenting (and eating) people (and lawyers), so it’s a pretty big surprise when it crashes through the wall at the end of the movie and eats the nasty velociraptors that are about to kill Drs. Grant and Sattler and the little brats.
“But it’s just a big, stupid animal,” I hear the critics dissenting. And that’s where they’re wrong. This is a legitimate change of heart in the T-rex, a genuine turning over of a new leaf. Three hundred dollars says that T-rex never touched another human for the rest of its reptilian life (prove us wrong). The T-rex is, hands down, one of the largest onscreen bad guys to ever change sides at the end. After all, what was keeping it from eating the rest of the crew once it finished with the raptors? I’ll tell you what: an abiding love for scientists and annoying, spoiled children everywhere.
2. Roy Batty – Blade Runner
Of the replicants, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) is by far the most frightening. He encompasses in one replicant more intelligence, cunning, and ferocity than all his buddies combined. I mean, the man crushes a dude’s skull with his bare hands, so he’s not super sentimental.
So when he’s on top of the apartment building with Deckard, what happens then? Why save his life?
My contention is that, in those last fleeting moments of life, Roy has an epiphany. He’s spent so much of his time killing and maiming his way through people in search of the elixir of life that he doesn’t enjoy any of the life he’s got left. And it’s not until he’s at the very end of his own life that he realizes killing Deckard is in direct opposition to his life’s ambition.
This deathbed conversion is not half-hearted, but rather a necessary outlet for his final enlightenment. And from this enlightenment comes one of the best lines in all of science fiction:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.”
1. Darth Vader – Return of the Jedi
At this point, we already know Darth was Luke’s father, and we already knew that Darth was pink and soft on the inside. But we didn’t know that once he witnessed the ultimate defiance of good over evil, this would make the atomic heart in his vinyl chest beat in the name of righteousness again. This role-reversal is so satisfying because no one ever suspected there was a drop of good left in his mechanical body, and then he goes and dumps the Emperor like he was a bag of trash.
Here’s food for thought: what if Vader had lived after that scene? Could he have been the next great leader of the alliance? Would the rebels have needed him at that point if they didn’t need to fight him? Would Vader have gotten sick and tired of sleeping in barracks and eating with the rest of the runts? At what point would he have gotten cabin fever and started making plans for the Death Star III?
Alas, we will never know the answers to these questions, so we must take his conversion away from the dark side at face value. It does make you wonder, though, if Darth can go bad, what happens when Luke hits his midlife crisis?