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Top Ten Heroes Turned Villains


It’s bound to happen sooner or later; not every good guy can stay good forever. Or, in some cases, even very long at all. Look at Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) in Kick-Ass. He was the son of a villain who genuinely wanted to do good… until his dad gets killed, that is. Now he’s all baddie (named Motherfucker) in Kick-Ass 2. This got us thinking – which are the best, or most shocking, transformations of good guy into bad guy? Which are the ones that made our mouths drop open or spit out the beverage of our choice? Here are a list of ten, a top ten, you might say. (Read with caution, there be spoilers if you’re way behind on things.)

Hal Jordan (AKA Parallax) – Green Lantern
He was the best Green Lantern of the bunch, and a true blue (or green) asset to the Justice League for decades, but even the most pure can be corrupted. For Hal, the Silver Age GL, it took the destruction of his beloved Coast City by that psycho-Cyborg-Superman, Hank Henshaw, to start the evil ball rolling. After an argument with the Guardians, who accused him of using his powers for personal gain, Hal decided to slaughter all of the Lanterns (even Kilowog!); eventually he absorbs all the power in the central battery and emerges Parallax. Sad and shocking in equal measure.

Anakin Skywalker (AKA Darth Vader) – Star Wars
This one isn’t quite the same since we knew Darth Vader was a bad guy, but in The Empire Strikes Back, when he reveals to Luke that HE is his father, the kind and noble Jedi Obi-Wan had told him about, Luke and the audience were sufficiently gobsmacked. The prequels and spinoff media show us the downfall of the once-great Jedi who became seduced and overtaken by the Dark Side. Man, that Dark Side’ll get you every time.

Jean Grey (AKA Dark Phoenix) – X-Men
Here’s another case of a hero, one of the purest of them all, being overtaken by a greater malevolent entity. Jean Grey’s telekinetic and psychic abilities expanded exponentially when she was exposed to fatal levels of radiation trying to help the other X-Men land their space shuttle safely. When she resurfaced, she was not merely Jean Grey; she was the Phoenix! This power is too much for her, though, and she lets the bad in when the Dark Phoenix casually causes the death of billions by eating a star. Not good times, there, Jean.

Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (AKA Locutus of Borg) – Star Trek: The Next Generation
Talk about a punch to the gut! By the end of the third season of TNG, the Enterprise had faced the Borg a few times and, while irritating, they never proved to be the enormous threat they became. That all changed in the season finale, “The Best of Both Worlds,” which had the mechanical hive abduct the beloved and peaceful Capt. Picard and assimilate him into the collective as the laser-pointer-faced Locutus. Sure, he got un-assimilated in the season four premiere, but there were months of sheer panic on the part of fans. Bedlam, you guys.

Bucky Barnes (AKA The Winter Soldier) – Captain America
He wasn’t the first sidekick to go down the dark path, but few were as squeaky clean as Captain America’s faithful masked and be-tuniced chum Bucky Barnes. While attempting to defuse a bomb planted by the evil Baron Zemo during WWII, Bucky is blown up, saving thousands of lives but apparently dying himself. OR SO WE THOUGHT. He is evidently saved from death and put into a series of suspended-animation comas in between which is he made to do a lot of bad things for bad people. And his hair got way more rock star.

Angel (AKA Angelus) – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
We’d always heard about how bad the vampire with a soul used to be prior to his gypsy curse, but boy howdy, were we unprepared. After getting a little TOO happy with Buffy, Angel’s soul is stripped away and he reverts to the sadistic Angelus about halfway through the second season. To say that things get real bad is an understatement as it becomes Murder Buffy’s Friends Time. This causes her to paraphrase Jim Gaffigan: “I can’t believe my boyfriend turned evil after sex on my birthday.”

Adrian Veidt (AKA Ozymandias) – Watchmen
Now, we can never truly be sure how long the smartest man on Earth had been doing bad things, but we can certainly tell you it was a lot longer than Rorschach and Nite Owl thought. As the least involved member of the group, in retrospect he seemed like the obvious candidate to be the baddie (made more obvious in the film), but we were still pretty aghast when the revelation hits our “heroes” like a ton of pseudo-alien guts that Veidt was willing to sacrifice millions to ensure peace. When do the ends justify the means? Why was Bubastis in the movie?

Rhinox (AKA Tankor) – Transformers: Beast Wars & Beast Machines
What’s worse: thinking a dear friend and comrade is dead or finding out he’s actually an evil person? Or robot in disguise, in this case. The saddest (and weirdest) thing about this fall from grace is it actually happened offscreen in between series. Beast Wars ended on a cliffhanger and when Beast Machines began, they were back on Cybertron and everything was different. Rhinox, the backbone of the Maximals, was gone, seemingly forever. Eventually, it’s discovered that he’d been turned into an evil Vehicon named Tankor, the scourge of good things. Unlike Silverbolt, though, who’d been turned into Jetstorm, Tankor didn’t want to be good again. Cold, Megatron.

Jason Todd (AKA Robin, AKA Red Hood) – Batman
We really have no one to blame but ourselves. Jason Todd was the second Robin in the early-80s and he had a hard time filling Dick Grayson’s green booties, both on the page and with fans. DC put it to a vote to decide Todd’s fate and overwhelmingly, the decision was made to off the youngster. In 2005, he resurfaced as the villain Red Hood, who was understandably miffed that he’d been left for dead by his supposed friend and mentor, Batman, who was taken aback all the way to Hackensack.

Rassilon (AKA The Narrator) – Doctor Who
For a long while, we’d heard rumblings of Rassilon, one of the oldest and most powerful of the Time Lords. He and Omega invented the process that allowed Gallifreyans to travel through time, even, and he was known to have many items that people could find and use for various ceremonies and things, the best being “The Rod of Rassilon” because it sounds the dirtiest. However, when we saw him (portrayed by Timothy Dalton) in “The End of Time,” having been brought back to life to fight in the Time War, he had clearly lost his mind and now thought destroying Earth to ensure his own survival was plenty okay. It wasn’t, of course. Also, that episode is dumb.

Surely we missed some of your favorite or most heartbreaking. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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  1. Michael T says:

    “Hulk Hogan” is the missing character. Every wrestling fan was shocked and emotionally destroyed when “The Hulkster” turned on “Macho man” Randy savage at “Bash at the beach”. His turn to bad guy revitalized his career and helped bring on one of the best eras of pro wrestling ever.

  2. Mike Ockham says:

    The best I’ve seen in the comments are Willow from Buffer the Vampire Slayer when she goes dark, and Harvey Dent/Two Face. Kyle, you said you were going for true heroes going full villain, and these two definitely fit that.

  3. Tony Krane says:

    Seriously? Nobody else with me in the Solo kid? Lames.

  4. michaelalexkawa says:

    Great list ,I love that you included Rhinox ,as it seems that most people have forgot how awesome a Transformers Series Beast Wars was .

  5. Peter Whitney says:

    True about Plutonian, I said his name though because it’s basically a “What if Superman went evil” comic. And yes, if we were to abide by those rules you’re right about Darth Vader, but also Ozy because he was “bad” all along.

    I still stand by Kid Miracleman though and even think him the #1 hero turned villain

    • Copper says:

      Funny you should call it that, but then, I’m guessing you’ve read through to the end of the run. I’m still working through Incorruptible, currently, and enjoying the hell out of that one a little more. Didn’t comment on Ozy because I haven’t read, so staying out of that one.

      Not familiar with Kid Miracleman, so, again, can neither agree nor disagree in that extent, but might take a look around and see what there is to see.

      • peter Whitney says:

        Kid Miracleman has been around since the 50’s, nothing memorable. But when Alan Moore took over writing Miracleman, he turned Kid Miracleman into a very violent and evil villain. If you do an image search for Kid Miracleman London you’ll get a taste. Or Kid Miracleman nurse.

  6. Copper says:

    Have to remark on the addition to the Plutonian to the list and can’t really say that I agree. True, he is a “hero-turned-villain” but as the books open, we already see him in the “villain” role, so it’s not a shocker when it happens. (With that criteria in mind, kind of kicks Darth Vader off the list if you think about it too hard, heh.)

    Also, agree with the correction regarding Dark Phoenix. She was corrupted by the Hellfire Club, although Jean did admit to not being able to control the Phoenix Force, which is why she chose the end that she did.

  7. Jimbo says:

    Warp Darkmatter — He looks like Buzz Lightyear with a beard

  8. Jeremy says:

    The Valeyard, from Season 23 of the “Classic” version of Doctor Who (Trial of a Time Lord). This is the original “Dark Doctor”–the one that put the Sixth on Trial to acquire the rest of his remaining lives.

  9. Ed says:

    What about Captain Aizen in Bleach? Supposedly a good guy until the big reveal. Or Captain Tosen, who was misguided into believing joining with Aizen was a good idea? Tragic to the end…

  10. Iván Barba says:

    Interesting selection, but poorly written article…

  11. Jim Taylor says:

    There was Zinda, Lady Blackhawk , who became Queen Killer Shark. There was also Spy Smasher, who was brainwashed to become an enemy of the original Captain Marvel back in the 40’s- as far as I know, the first hero-turned-villain.

  12. dmfarles says:

    Obvious omission; X-Men’s Angel to Archangel the Horseman of Apocalypse and then back again.

  13. SyberJedi says:

    Luke Skywalker himself, in the first Dark Empire comic series by Dark Horse. He comes close later on, after Mara is killed.

  14. The Brown Hornet says:

    What about Colossus joining Magneto’s Acolytes.

  15. X-MAN 2281 says:

    The author of this article (which has excellent choices, no doubt…and everyone’s comments that added examples are all right the hell on) neglected to mention that Jean Grey did not go Dark Phoenix because “the power is too much for her and she lets the bad in when Dark Phoenix casually causes the death of billions by eating a star”. Yes, that second part happened, but Mastermind and the Hellfire Club manipulated her, and stirred dark emotions within her.

    Then we go into the retcon that later happened, where the Fantastic Four find Jean Grey in a cocoon at the bottom of an ocean, at some point later after her ‘death’. It turns out that during the space shuttle incident, the Phoenix Entity replaced Jean, took on her appearance and memories, and deposited the real Jean Grey there.

    The Hellfire Club were able to help make the Phoenix Entity become evil because the Phoenix became addicted to experiencing human emotions.

  16. Smonkey says:

    I would respectfully disagree with your assessment of Ozymandias.
    He murdered people in cold blood just to keep his plan a secret. If you include the Before Watchmen stories, he’s a psychopath who’s only tactic is killing. Sure, he doesn’t kill as the costumed Ozymandias, but as Adrian he kills all the innocent people that could possibly know what he’s up to.
    He may not be “the villain” of the story but he’s definitely a villain. And if you include the Before Watchmen series, he was a psycho from birth.

  17. SteviFerg says:

    How about Dark Willow from Buffy?

  18. Wildride says:

    The only surprising thing about Anakin turning evil is it pretty much happened offscreen between Menace and Clones, and well before he started calling himself Vader. At the end of Menace he’s this sweet, compassionate, heroic kid. But when we meet him again, he’s this insolent and weird stalker dude, creeping Padme out, and he has murdered a village full of people by halfway into the movie. “Oh, I’m so upset about the mom I left in slavery for the past decade, despite my numerous rich and powerful friends that could have rescued her at any time.”

    The best part of the prequels is finding out the reason why Obi-Wan’s explanation of what happened to Luke’s dad is so nonsensical is he literally has no idea what happened to the guy he used to think of as his friend.

  19. Mel says:

    Harvey Dent/Two Face from Batman?

  20. Ian McNerdington says:

    The Hulk? In Peter David’s Days of Future Present, the Hulk became The Maestro, and ruled the Marvel Universe apocalyptic wasteland with an iron fist. In Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan, he raised an inbred family of brutal slum-lords with his cousin, Jennifer (She-Hulk).

  21. truckbannon says:

    Barack Obama

  22. cor2879 says:

    Also, how about goatee Spock? True, he’s from an alternate timeline, but that’s part of the fun! Evil Spock should definitely be on this list.

  23. cor2879 says:

    Dark Xena.

    Also there were a couple episodes of Transformers where Optimus Prime went pretty full on evil. That’s got to count.

  24. Jordan M says:

    I think that the Superior Spider-Man is going through that hero-to-villain transition RIGHT NOW. It certainly feel that way.

  25. Kyle Anderson says:

    Saruman’s a maybe. I was looking for people who were true heroes who went pure villain. Boromir never went full bad guy and Smeagol was never all that good.

  26. LeeTheAgent says:

    How about some LOTR love? Saruman and Boromir? Or even Smeagol?

  27. McDunno says:

    Andre the Giant!

  28. Z4RQUON says:

    If conservatives were consistent in their worldview, they would argue that characters like Lord Voldemort and The Galactic Emperor were good guys who got destroyed by a bunch of commie liberals.

  29. Bill Thomas says:

    Superboy Prime. Jim Phelps of Mission: Impossible. And don’t forget the pitiful climax of DC’s big event of 1991, in which Hawk became Monarch.

  30. Tony Krane says:

    Jacen Solo

  31. ImmortalPyro says:

    Slight nitpick: the Enterprise had only encountered the Borg once previous to Best of Both Worlds. That was one of the primary issues of the episode. They had only encountered the Borg once before and they were not ready.

  32. Z4RQUON says:

    Ozymandias may have been the antagonist but he was NOT the villain in “Watchmen”, the villain was “conservatism” and it is that which all the protagonists served. Evidence: Even the likeable main characters say, and do, some pretty deplorable things.

    The whole point of “Watchmen” is that, since they had Dr. Manhatten, the USA had gone completely unchecked and never had to learn anything. The universe we see is not merely an alternate one but a PERVERSION and, like the reader/audience, Ozymandias realized that it was untenable. The world itself was a character (a tragic one) with a story-arc, and it came down to it: the world either had to change or be destroyed.

  33. Jon Garcia says:

    I would add the character you play as during the game KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC. That does fall on the individual but if you take the dark side turn, things get real.

  34. Andrew says:

    The main character from Memento
    Michael Corleone

  35. Don B says:

    Hulk Hogan!

  36. Scott says:

    I don’t think anyone counts the Dark Knight Strikes Again.

  37. Leanne C says:

    This list is perfect.

  38. cor2879 says:

    Dark Xena?

  39. “Also, that episode is dumb.”

    Best line ever. 🙂

  40. Mary Styr says:

    I would go with Deadpool – hero to villain to hero to villain and back again about 400 times. Heartbreaking each time you learn something terrible about him because you love him so much.

  41. Kyle Anderson says:

    Walter White was never a hero.

  42. Jesse Denis says:

    For a moment I thought, “Vader is entirely too low on this list,” upon further thought, I guess the placement makes sense since he was only known as a villain for 20+ years.

  43. Peter Whitney says:

    Ummm. Where is Kid Miracleman? And the Plutonian from Irredeemable?

    And yeah, Red Mist was never truly a hero. It’s like saying Terra of the Teen Titans was a hero turned villain.

  44. Michaela says:

    Well… I feel like technically, The Master fits in this category too. Because the Doctor says continually that they were best friends as kids…

  45. Gonyo says:

    Don’t forget Dick Grayson in The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

  46. Keith says:

    Maybe I’m mis-remembering the movie but was Red Mist ever anything but a ruse to trap the heroes? His character did change from being shocked at what his father had planned for Kick-Ass and Big Daddy to wanting bloody revenge after his father’s death but I don’t remember his ever being heroic.

  47. Bre Bro says:

    Walter White