It’s refreshing when a film subverts expectations. For example, we usually expect an epic battle between good and evil at the end so that the hero will decisively triumph over his enemies. But sometimes that’s not necessary. Sometimes the hero’s best option is to ignore his foe and let him destroy himself. And today we’re going to examine 10 villains who were defeated by simply ignoring them.
I’m not saying that the heroes in these films did absolutely nothing to defeat the villains or that if they had ignored the villains from the very start they would have won. I’m just saying that after struggling against them time and time again they finally came to a climactic moment when they realized that the best course of action was to turn their back on their old rival.
1. 12 Angry Men – Juror 10
When the majority of the 12 jurors in 12 Angry Men begin to question their certainty that a young man is guilty of murder, Juror 10 launches into a tirade against him. He doesn’t use facts, but only feelings. He vomits a string of epithets and prejudice to the point that none of the other jurors will even look at him. They turn their backs on him and don’t return to the table until he stops talking and sits in a corner away from them. It’s a powerful scene that stands out in a film that’s just one powerful scene after another.
2. Back to the Future Part III – Needles
Marty McFly could have avoided numerous entanglements with the Tannen family during his time-travel adventures if he had just ignored their insults. Thankfully, he finally learns that lesson and puts it to use against his own school bully Needles at the end of Back to the Future Part III. When Needles challenges him to a race to prove he’s not chicken, Marty doesn’t just ignore him, he goes the complete opposite direction of the one he would have gone before his change of heart. And that proves to be a decisive moment in changing his future for the better.
3. A Beautiful Mind – Parcher, Charles, and Marcee
It’s an emotional experience for John Nash to completely ignore his old friends Parcher, Charles, and Marcee in A Beautiful Mind. He’s suffering from schizophrenia and imagining people who aren’t really there. He’s spent so many years with these three individuals that when it comes time to say goodbye to them, it’s truly gut wrenching. And it’s even harder because they’ll always be close by since he can’t escape his own mind. He just has to choose every single day to avoid speaking to them. And he does. His life only gets better as a result of this change in behavior.
4. Cars – Chick Hicks
The first Cars film builds up to the final race between Lightning McQueen, Chick Hicks, and the King. Just as McQueen takes the lead in the last lap and is heading for the finish line, Chick knocks the King off the track, seriously injuring him. McQueen decides to stop dead before crossing the finish line and not even bother beating Chick. He just turns around and helps the King finish his last race. And that turns out to be the right choice because it quickly becomes apparent that the Piston Cup is really just an empty cup when there’s no honor attached to it.
5. Merlin (1998) – Queen Mab
Merlin is a TV miniseries starring Sam Neill as Merlin. After facing his old nemesis Queen Mab in magical combat one last time, Merlin realizes that his best hope of defeating her once and for all is to simply turn away from her and forget she ever existed. Her power came from her ability to strike fear into men’s hearts. By taking that away, he and everyone else revealed her for what she truly was: a pitiful creature not worthy of their attention. The miniseries is 3 hours long, and I couldn’t find any short videos of just the scene I was looking for, so here’s a link that will take you to the exact moment when Merlin turns his back on Queen Mab.
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Freddy Krueger
After suffering so much loss and pain in the first Nightmare on Elm Street film, Nancy gives up on trying to fight Freddy Krueger on his terms. She shows him her back and reclaims the power she had given him by being afraid of him. And her gambit seems to work. Freddy disappears, and it looks like he is gone for good. To be fair, the next scene seems to negate Nancy’s victory, but it’s incredibly jarring because it’s basically four endings slammed together rather than a coherent finale. Also, Nancy shows up in the second sequel, so she clearly didn’t die and must have won her first battle with Freddy. For the life of me, I could not find a clip of this moment from the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, so enjoy this screen capture of the moment Freddy loses.
7. Raiders of the Lost Ark – Belloch
Don’t mess with the God of Israel. That’s the ultimate lesson of Raiders of the Lost Ark. When a group of unworthy men (headed by Indiana Jones’ rival Belloch) open the Ark of the Covenant and attempt to find the secrets of God Himself, all they find is death. Indy notices that God destroys all of the Nazis’ recording equipment before doing anything else because He doesn’t want anyone to have photographic evidence of what’s about to happen. Hoping that God will have mercy on him and Marion, Indy tells Marion to shut her eyes from that point on. Some things are not meant for mortal eyes.
8. Star Trek: The Next Generation – Admiral Satie
This comes from the season 4 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Drumhead.” Admiral Satie comes aboard the Enterprise to investigate a crime that appears to be part of a larger conspiracy. She begins to see conspiracies everywhere, and everyone is under suspicion. During an inquiry into Captain Picard, she keeps making insinuations and allegations against him without evidence. No matter how well he defends himself, she won’t listen to reason. It’s only when the admiral overseeing the whole process silently stands up and leaves the room does she finally close her mouth and start to listen to the evil of her own words. It’s enough to finally stop the witch hunt in its tracks.
9. The Truman Show – Christof
Once Truman realizes the truth about his fake existence at the end of The Truman Show, nothing can stop him from escaping his prison. Christof makes a desperate plea to try to get Truman to stay, but his words fall on deaf ears. After having his whole life play out on people’s TV screens around the world, Truman finally gets to step off the stage.
10. A Special Case
The Godfather Part II is a flawless film. It belongs on this list for a special reason. After Michael Corleone has outsmarted all of his enemies and he has them on the run or under his finger, he doesn’t have to do anything else. He could simply let his brother Fredo, his one-time business partner Hyman Roth, and his family friend Frank Pentangeli live out the rest of their days helpless and in fear of his wrath. But that’s not good enough for him. He is determined to kill all of them, no matter the cost. So, in this case, Michael could have won without losing his soul by simply ignoring his enemies after beating them, but he chose not to.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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Always so insightful, Robert! Great posts! Keep it up!
Great post as always! Not sure if it counts, but you could add The Fifth Element to this list. Gary Oldman basically defeats himself through his own stupidity, even though I’m not sure if Bruce Willis technically “ignores” him since they don’t have any interaction and it’s not really clear whether or not they even know of each other’s existence!
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