5 Types Of Heroes Everyone Loves


Ideas For Crafting (Or Improving) Your Heroes

Writers rarely stop to categorize the many different variations of characters out there. But categories can be useful if you are at the conception stage and unsure which way to go, or stuck in the middle of draft and wondering what your hero ought to do next.

We all write heroes and we all can improve our game, so let’s take a look at few kinds of heroes that are popular with movie-going audiences.

Rocky (1976) Photo courtesy: MGM

Rocky (1976) Photo courtesy: MGM

No 1 – The Underdog

There are few variations on a hero as popular as the underdog. Watching a hero struggle to overcome nearly insurmountable odds is one of the purest narrative pleasures ever conceived. Absolutely everyone loves an underdog. Perhaps the greatest underdog film of all time is Rocky (1976). It tells the story of a small-time boxer who ends up fighting World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed.

At the start, Rocky can hardly make it through a single practice, but by the end he’s able to go the fifteen rounds — proving once and for all he’s not “just another bum from the neighborhood.”

Hunger Games (2012) Photo courtesy: Lionsgate

Hunger Games (2012) Photo courtesy: Lionsgate

No 2 – The Suffering Hero

The movie The Hunger Games (2012) takes suffering to the extreme. The story features a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world called Panem that demands two children from each district must fight to the death in a yearly event.

The film takes hard choices and gives them a knife’s edge — it’s kill or get killed. The thrill of watching our hero Katniss suffer through anguished decisions made the movie a box office smash and inspired a fevered following among teen viewers.

Black Swan (2010) Photo courtesy: 20th Century Fox

Black Swan (2010) Photo courtesy: 20th Century Fox

No 3 – The Flawed Hero

Nominated for no fewer than five Academy Awards, Black Swan (2010) tells the story of Nina (Natalie Portman), a young dancer with the New York City ballet, who wins the coveted part of the Swan Queen.

As we soon learn, however, Nina is plagued by crippling perfectionism. The more she pushes herself, the more her mental health deteriorates. In the final sequence, Nina’s weak spot consumes her: she gives a spectacular performance, but it ends with her death. “I just wanted it to be perfect,” she says.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Photo courtesy:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Photo courtesy:

No 4 – The Haunted Hero

Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) is a scavenging loner with a dark past. As a child, she was abandoned by her parents on the desert planet of Jakku. When she receives the call to action, she hesitates — not because she’s unsure of her capabilities but rather because she wants to go back to Jakku and wait for her parents. Only time (and a sequel or two) will tell if Rey is able to overcome her haunted past and become whoever she’s meant to be.

Silence of the Lambs (1991) Photo courtesy: Orion Pictures

Silence of the Lambs (1991) Photo courtesy: Orion Pictures

No 5 – The Untested Hero

The character of Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) is both untested and untried at the beginning of the story. When she begins work on the Buffalo Bill case, she’s not even a full-fledged agent yet — she’s still a student. Clarice gets a crash course in criminal psychology from one of the most heinous villains ever portrayed on screen, and by the end, she proves she hold her own. By the end of the movie, she has more than earned her stripes as one of the most remarkable heroes committed to film.

Who are some of your favorite types of heroes, and why? We’d love to hear.


Jennie Evenson is the author of "Shakespeare for Screenwriters" (Michael Wiese, 2013) as well as short fiction, essays, and a children's fantasy novel "Dalya & the Magic Ink Bottle" (Capstone, 2020). As a writer in LA, Evenson worked as a consultant for Netflix and developed ideas at production houses from DreamWorks to Focus Features. You can follow her on Twitter: @JM_Evenson

9 Replies to "5 Types Of Heroes Everyone Loves"

  • comment-avatar
    Lilia F July 25, 2016 (11:21 am)

    That was great! I love how 4 out of 5 of these heroes were women, tweeting now!

    I also liked William Wallace. Yes, he was a blood thirsty warlord, but he didn’t rape women on their wedding night, proving that you only have to be a little bit better than the other guy/gal for people to root for you.

    • comment-avatar
      Jack July 25, 2016 (7:16 pm)

      Understand the need for equality, but they were your heroes because they were best or just because they were women? If so, then it’s more of the same discrimination.

  • comment-avatar
    Rich Turgeon July 25, 2016 (11:27 am)

    Your articles are always clear, simple, and informative. Thanks for the post!

  • comment-avatar
    Roci July 25, 2016 (1:18 pm)

    An adequate list of archetypes, but nary a word about the other things in the various stories that make the heroes work, beyond the broadest outlines. Nice, but it’s sort of like Thanksgiving with a nice big photo of a turkey at the center of the table. I was expecting a little more meat on the bones. Was this just an online article, or is the print version more informative?

  • comment-avatar
    TemplarScribe July 25, 2016 (1:26 pm)

    It’s interesting that four of your five Heroes are actually Heroines. That shows that Hollywood (and elsewhere) are willing to put nontraditional characters into leading roles. But for more traditional films, especially big-budget action films, it’s more common to see more traditional heroes.

    When it comes to action films, like the James Bond or Jason Bourne franchises, or the Marvel Universe, or the Fast and Furious series, heroes are much more action-focused. Sure, we’re right there with them when they get the girl, or laugh when their words make the bad guys look dumb. But what we’re really doing is seeing ourselves in their shoes: driving like maniacs through urban traffic, leaping like a gymnast from rooftop to rooftop, or best of all, defeating the baddies with little more than our bare fists and great-looking hair.

    Make no mistake: it’s necessary for heroes to be well-rounded characters, as the maturity of James Bind through the decades has show. But what puts people in the seats (or in this day and age, fills the couch) is the vicarious thrill we get as we watch our favorite hero do all the things we secretly wish we could do ourselves. And the closer to a real-life person a hero approach — with real-world weaknesses — the closer to ourselves they become. That heightens the tension and makes the payoff even more satisfying.

  • comment-avatar
    PI Barrington July 25, 2016 (6:09 pm)

    There’s always the Archetype of the Antihero; the seemingly bad guy with a secret sense of justice and a sucker heart for children, animals and females or males depending. In the end he/she’s warm heart gets exposed when they save everything and or everyone who needs to be saved. In my last novel, I wanted a real anti-anti hero, someone who’s bad because he can be and who most readers can hate. His cold, unforgiving personality goes through a big, extended twist to get him where people might like him. But that’s just me…

  • comment-avatar
    MadMadMadamMiM July 25, 2016 (8:09 pm)

    I sort of like the Antihero themes…when you think someone just is too bad to be good, then they have a soft spot..those are fun movies. Many of the X-men movies have this theme. Many of the new Disney Live action remakes have this theme to an extent, Maleficent for one. When the reader or viewer sometimes doesn’t know if Maleficent, Magneto or Wolverine are going to be good or bad, make a good decision or a bad decision or what to expect them to do in some situations it set ups suspense. The on thing the audience can depend on is that they are going to do what they need to survive. I would have to say these types of hero situations set up some good grounds for plot twists. Having hero’s with real world weakness always make them more believable in the long run and draws the audience into the action a little faster.

  • comment-avatar
    Roland Jefferson July 25, 2016 (8:13 pm)

    The antihero is the most conflicting , because you get blindsided by his/her callous disregard for human emotion. Audiences want a reason to root for the antihero. But antihero behavior is often so disturbing and outrageous, it takes an equally disturbing and outrageous act to reveal the antihero’s deep-rooted sense of moral injustice before we can like them. And it is often just a single act, without any major shift in the antihero’s personality or thought process. Bogart said it best in the Maltese Falcon….”Don’t be too sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be.”

  • comment-avatar
    Anton S.Jayaraj October 8, 2016 (9:28 am)

    Thought provoking nice article. Thanks a lot.

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