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.
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