Some movies are so well-constructed, they don’t even need their hero and villain to be anywhere close to each other to create lots of suspense and conflict. They might talk with each other over the phone, but they never have a face-to-face encounter.
Let’s get right to the point and explore 10 movies whose hero and villain never actually meet!
In this classic Disney animated film, Bambi is a young buck who lives a carefree life with his mother until one fateful day when an unseen attacker, simply referred to as “Man,” shoots and kills his mother off screen. Bambi never seeks revenge on the one responsible for this tragedy, nor does he ever come face to face with a man. He simply grieves for his loss and moves on with his life. Family movies sometimes teach really tough life lessons.
William Wallace, a Scottish commoner turned revolutionary, spends the whole film defying the will of the evil English King Longshanks. He burns the king’s fort, sacks his city, and defeats his army in open battle. But by the time Wallace is captured by the king’s men, Longshanks is too old and feeble to gloat over him. They never share a scene together, but their actions are all shaped by each other.
3. From Russia with Love/Thunderball
In From Russia with Love and Thunderball James Bond fights a number of SPECTRE operatives, but the head of SPECTRE, Ernst Blofeld, always remains shrouded in mystery. He’s the one pulling the strings, but he sends others to do his dirty work. Bond (and the audience) never gets a chance to see his face in those two films. That reveal would have to wait until You Only Live Twice and a few subsequent films in the series when Blofeld finally takes center stage.
4. The Hunt for Red October
The Hunt for Red October has the challenge of creating an interesting villain without ever giving him a chance to interact with the hero. It solves this problem by giving Tupolev (captain of a Soviet submarine hunting for Red October) a backstory as a student of the hero, Marko Ramius. When the two finally face off in their submarines, it turns into a battle of wits, pitting similar skill sets against each other.
5. The Last Starfighter
Alex Rogan is an Earthling who gets caught up in a galactic conflict against the oppressive forces of Xur, Kril, and the Ko-Dan Armada. While the villainous aliens fret and scheme aboard the bridge of their command ship, Alex manages to singlehandedly destroy their entire fleet of spaceships. He never gets to give them a clever one-liner over the radio, a la John McClane in Die Hard. He just gets down to business defeating them.
6. No Country for Old Men
Tommy Lee Jones’ sheriff character (I know he has a name, but I always just see the actor and never the character he’s playing) is always one step behind the action. He never gets to go toe to toe against hitman Anton Chigurh, which is probably for the best because then there most likely would have been one less old man there would be no country for.
General George S. Patton is constantly fighting the Nazis – as well as his own self-defeating tendencies. The Nazis study Patton from their central base where they try to find ways to defeat him on the battlefield. But we never get the satisfaction of seeing these two powerful foes butt heads. Patton never storms their headquarters and takes the men prisoners. Instead, he outwits them and forces them to destroy their own facility.
Early in the film, Patton says he would gladly engage in a one-on-one duel with Nazi General Erwin Rommel to decide the outcome of the war. That’s not realistic, though. When their armies meet and Patton’s crushes Rommel’s, Rommel isn’t even present at the battle, robbing Patton of a total victory. I guess it’s true that glory is fleeting.
8. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
This is probably the most famous example of a hero and villain never actually coming face to face. Sure, James T. Kirk and Khan Noonien Singh speak on a viewscreen once and over the radio a few times, but they are never in the same place at the same time.
It’s a wonderful example of “less is more.” By keeping the main combatants apart and mostly having them fight each other through proxies, such as Chekov and Spock, they come across more as high-level generals than average foot soldiers.
9. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Luke Skywalker is the main hero of this film and the other films in the Original Trilogy. But this is the only one in which he never confronts Darth Vader. He closes a blast door from a distance to prevent Vader from attacking him, and he survives a Death Star trench run with Vader’s TIE Advanced spaceship in hot pursuit. But the two never talk or fight the way they do later.
Princess Leia has several encounters with Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi meets his destiny at Vader’s hands, but Luke would have to wait his turn.
10. The Truman Show
Truman Burbank is a likable everyman who just so happens to be the unwitting star of a TV show created by a control freak named Christof. When Truman discovers the truth about his existence and sets off on a journey to free himself, Christof does everything in his power to stop Truman from leaving, even speaking to him from the sky. Truman survives everything Christof throws at him and refuses to give in to Christof’s demands. Looks like he won’t get to meet his maker.
None of these films cheated us out of anything by not showing the hero have a one-on-one confrontation with his foe. It just goes to show that there’s more than one way to present heroes as powerful and villains as threatening while adding plenty of conflict to a story.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
All images are the copyright of their respective owners.
Excellent article, I love thinking about stuff like this. Also want to add to the list: The Fifth Element. Technically, Bruce Willis’ hero and Gary Oldman’s villain have one scene “together” (one walks into an elevator as the other comes out of another elevator, missing each other by a second), but they never meet, interact, or (I think) even know of each other’s existence. Pretty weird for a big summer movie starring two Hollywood heavyweights famous for playing hero and villain.
Thank you very much. That’s a great example, too. The Fifth Element is a pretty cool movie, and I’ve always found it so funny how it uses Gary Oldman’s character. He never does what I expect him to do, especially when he gets killed off before the film’s climax. Definitely a unique film.
SPOILER ALERT! Yeeesh! Just kidding, movie’s over 15 years old already.
T5E is one of my all time favs, and I’ve been searching for another situation as unique as Luc Besson’s scifi action flick. Dallas (Willis) starts off the film working for a cab company., Zorg (Oldman) later makes large budget cuts from “one of the cab companies” We know that Dallas worked for Zorg’s corporation as he receives a letter of termination on Zorg letterhead, but we can’t say for certain his earlier fare hadn’t caused his firing already.
Lengths are taken to make it so these two have no idea that the other exists. They are oblivious to each others’ mission. Cornelius is the link between the two, but he only refers to Zorg as the “art dealer” to Dallas.
I like to think that Zorg fires Dallas in his layoffs anyways, because Dallas ends up taking Zorg’s ride to escape the cruise ship bomb at the end. Lulz, irony.
Reblogged this on Further Annotations and commented:
We love distant villains. Especially those whose villainous power reaches beyond any need to be physically present. #Leeland
Robert, LOVE the site! I’m always excited when I find someone as interested in chiasmus and story structure as I am. Do you have an email address I can write you at? Or do you ever use Twitter anymore? I’ve been trying to reach you for a little while now–sent you something on Twitter–and wasn’t sure if you got the message yet. Just wondering. Thanks, Mike.
Yeah, I’m not so great at social media. I just sent you an email, though, so I can’t wait to speak with you more through that channel. 🙂
When I first saw Star Wars it amazed me, but those kinds of movies where the enemies never meet is interesting.
Thank you. I agree, in some of these movies the lack of a face-to-face confrontation between rivals seems a little more obvious, like with the early James Bond films and Star Wars. But that’s because they were building up to awesome reveals and dramatic fights later on in their series.
Excellent idea! Very good choice!
OFF TOPIC: Did you see the sequel of “Dumb and Dumber” w Carrey and Daniels? This and the original are exactly the same movie, just changing some characters and elements.
Thank you very much. 🙂
One of my friends saw Dumb and Dumber To this weekend, and he said the same thing. It’s just the same movie all over again. That’s too bad. It’s really hard for filmmakers to take a chance and break from the formula they set up in the first film a bit, especially when it comes to comedies.
On a positive note, I saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 for the first time yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. That’s how to make a strong sequel.
i disagree. For me, it’s better do the same thing adding new elements than make a movie that disrespect the fans like the remake of “Nightmare on elm street” (unless you’re remading or making a sequel of an obscure movie)
I can definitely see that. You want to be true to what came before while still offering something interesting in the sequel. Otherwise, you just end up with The Hangover Part II and III or Airplane II: The Sequel or Blues Brothers 2000 or any number of other sequels that tried to mimic the first film’s success.
On the other hand, Evan Almighty was a terrible follow-up to Bruce Almighty, and that took a completely different course than the first film, which was to its detriment. I guess it’s just really, really hard to make a good comedy sequel. Maybe that’s a topic that would be worthy of an article in the future.
LikeLiked by 1 person
you know that’s crazy to think about… you tend to think about heroes and villains having to have a one on one when it comes down to it… after all how else is the hero supposed to defeat them… but you’re right… the movies of these I’ve seen were still just as awesome and perhaps more realistic because it just didn’t work out that way… definitely an interesting list…
Thank you. Yeah, in life we don’t always get a great moment of triumph over our enemies. In fact, there are usually not many enemies to begin with who actively seek our destruction. I love movies that go against the grain a little and succeed brilliantly.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Very interesting article, I think I read somewhere that Ricardo Montoban (spelling) really wanted to have a scene between Khan and Kirk where they fight ala mano a mano. One of the greatest movies of all time.
Pingback: The Many Attempts to Recreate the Magic of 1982 | Deja Reviewer