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VOICE OVER: Patrick Mealey WRITTEN BY: Joshua Garvin
Once a villain not always a villain! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the most notable instances when movie villains turned away from the dark side and redeemed themselves through the ultimate sacrifice. Our countdown includes Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Severus Snape from the "Harry Potter" franchise, Darth Vader from “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi”, Apollo Creed from the “Rocky” franchise, Boromir from “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, and more!

#10: Nux

“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)

“Mad Max: Fury Road” has a smorgasbord of colorful characters, and at first Nux gets lost in the shuffle. Played by Nicholas Hoult, Nux is just a minor henchman, one of many War Boys. All he wants is to die gloriously for his god-king Immortan Joe. The warlord has promised that those who do so will be witnessed and make it to Valhalla. However, as Nux embarks on a mission to recapture Joe’s wives, his inner humanity begins to surface. After traveling with the wives - who are all unwilling captives - Nux’s eyes become opened and he realizes just how desperately they want their freedom. When Joe’s convoy threatens them all, Nux chooses to sacrifice himself to save the women from his former lord.

#9: General Frank Hummel

“The Rock” (1996)

On the surface, Ed Harris’ General Hummel is a sad and sympathetic character. He is a Marine Corps general who passionately advocated on behalf of the families of his fallen soldiers, yet his pleas went unheeded. Things go off the rails when Hummel and his men steal a stockpile of rockets armed with nerve gas. They then take over Alcatraz, holding multiple tourists and guards hostage, while threatening to destroy San Francisco. Hummel never intended to actually use the rockets, but he made one fatal mistake: surrounding himself with a group of psychopaths. When he realizes that they do, indeed, plan to murder millions of Americans, he dies in his attempt to stop them.

#8: Apollo Creed

“Rocky” franchise (1976-85)

Apollo Creed of the “Rocky” franchise was loosely based on Muhammad Ali. He is big, strong, fast, charismatic, and a master of publicity. After almost losing to a ‘nobody’ named Rocky Balboa, he goes on a media blitz to set up a rematch. Apollo knows this will make him the villain in the public eye, but he doesn’t care. Nevertheless, Rocky beats him outright and becomes the world heavyweight champion. After eventually losing the title himself, Rocky turns to his former nemesis to get back on top. With all the bravado behind them, the pugilists form a deep friendship. Even after Apollo is killed in the ring, their bond continues into the next generation when Rocky helps Apollo’s son become champ.

#7: Hector Barbossa

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (2017)

Like all the freebooters in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, Hector Barbossa was a complicated man. His loyalties depended - sometimes literally - on which way the wind was blowing. He was a liar, a mutineer, a thief, a killer. All of that changes though in the 2017 installment, “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” After years of dealing with curses, sea gods, and even rising from the dead, Captain Barbossa comes face-to-face with his own flesh and blood. It turns out that he had a daughter, given up when she was a baby. Despite his lifetime of misdeeds, known as “a man so evil that hell itself spat him back out,” Hector Barbossa died, sacrificing himself to save his estranged daughter.

#6: Loki

Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-)

Unlike the other characters on this list, Loki was redeemed twice over. The adopted son of Odin, Loki started out as a bitter and ambitious man. However, his ambition dooms him to the service of Thanos, the Mad Titan. After failing to conquer earth and losing an Infinity Stone, Loki eventually hides out in Asgard. The death of his mother bitterly quenches Loki’s thirst for conquest, prompting him to help his brother Thor in rescuing their people from Hela, the Goddess of Death. When Thanos returns, Loki dies trying to save Thor. Later, a Loki variant spawned by the Avengers’ time heist is also redeemed. He transforms into the God of Stories, a lonely fate, and safeguards all life in the multiverse from oblivion.

#5: Roy Batty


“Blade Runner” (1982)

If we’re being honest with ourselves, Roy Batty is as much a tragic figure as he is a villain. He’s a replicant: an android enslaved by his human creators. Disillusioned by his violent servitude, Roy leads a small band of replicants in a rebellion and escapes. He travels to earth, seeking to beg his maker for longer, freer, and fuller lives for his people. When Tyrell, his maker, doesn’t give in, Roy kills him. Despite these actions - which by his own admission are evil - Roy spares the life of Deckard, the blade runner on his trail. Instead, he chooses to die a free man, making a rare moral choice, perhaps the first in his short, tragic life.

#4: Otto Octavius [aka Doctor Octopus]

“Spider-Man 2” (2004)

Like many baddies from Sam Rami’s “Spider-Man” rogues gallery, Doc Ock started out as a good man with noble ambitions. He is a brilliant, well-meaning scientist, and Peter Parker’s mentor. However, when one of his experiments goes awry, it results in the death of Octavius’ wife, and also causes his tentacles to fuse with his spine. What’s worse is that they have a mind of their own. It’s a case of the corrupting influence of power, as the tentacles drive Octavius into a psychotic rage. Ultimately, when his second attempt at harnessing the fusion energy threatens all of New York, Octavius regains control and sacrifices himself to save the city.

#3: Severus Snape

“Harry Potter” franchise (2001-11)

Severus Snape was never a good man. After all, he harbored a deep-seated animosity towards a child just because he didn’t like the boy’s dead father. Despite his casual cruelties, Snape saved Harry and his friends time and again. He instinctively put himself between them and danger, and spent years as a double agent. Despite the risks to his own life, he aligned with the most dangerous wizard of all time, waiting for when the moment was ripe for action. He did all of this in the memory of his one, true, unrequited love. The man isn’t without his many, many faults - a hefty dose of bitterness among them - but in the end, he died doing the right thing.

#2: Boromir

“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001)

Boromir is only a villain in the sense that he fell under the thrall of evil magic. The One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron corrupted virtually all who came near it. Even powerful figures like Gandalf and Galadriel feared its influence. Despite his strength and grit, the ring played on Boromir’s desperation. His kingdom, Gondor, was on the front line against the forces of darkness. Years of war had taken its toll on his people. Eager to protect Gondor, Boromir tries to steal the ring, chasing Frodo away. However, he quickly regains his senses, and is overwhelmed with regret. In a final act of valor, Boromir loses his life while defending Frodo’s kinsmen from a horde of powerful orcs.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Danny Archer, “Blood Diamond” (2006)
A Selfish Mercenary Sacrifices Himself to Save a Father & Son

Salim Malik, “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008)
In His Only Moment of Selflessness, a Gangster Saves His Brother’s True Love

Walt Kowalski, “Gran Torino” (2009)
A Bitter, Racist Loner Dies to Save His Hmong Neighbors

#1: Darth Vader


“Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” (1983)

In recent years, debate has raged around the validity of Darth Vader’s redemption. As the Star Wars universe has expanded, the full extent of his crimes have been laid bare. But, thanks to the influence of his son, Luke Skywalker, Vader was able to tap into the last vestiges of the Jedi he used to be: Anakin Skywalker. With the fate of the galaxy on the line, Vader died destroying the dictatorial emperor. A generation later, his grandson - Ben Solo - met a similar fate. Corrupted by the dark side, Ben became the Sith Kylo Ren. Kylo would also find his way back to the light. Like his grandfather before him, he died in a fight against the emperor.

Have we been a villain in your life, leaving off your favorite fatal redemption arc? Redeem us in the comments below!

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