Twists and turns in movies are necessary to keep the audience hooked, and while there are a lot of ways to deliver an unexpected plot development in films, the idea of sneaking in deceitful characters in the protagonist’s team never gets old. Though villains disguised as good guys are common in almost all genres of fiction, the revelation of their true identities is always shocking and heartbreaking to some degree. Below are 25 of the most popular benevolent movie characters that are actually evil all along.
Alexander Marcus in Star Trek Into Darkness
When Starfleet Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) reinstated fan-favorite Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) after a bungled mission on the planet Nibiru, viewers of 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness immediately assumed that the former is one of the good guys. But later in the film, Admiral Marcus was revealed to be the mastermind of a conspiracy that awakened the despicable Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), which subsequently initiated a war with the Klingon Empire.
At the end of the movie, Admiral Marcus was dispatched by Khan before the latter was ultimately turned back to his frozen stage. The film producers said that the conclusion of the film was inspired by a Hong Kong cinema trope where heroes and villains team up to take on a greater evil.
Alexander Pierce in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Played by Robert Redford, Alexander Pierce was introduced in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a respected high-ranking member of S.H.I.E.L.D. Alexander gained that respect by his decades of fighting for and promoting international stability and worldwide peace, so it was really shocking when it was revealed that he was actually a loyal agent of HYDRA.
Alexander secretly led HYDRA forces within S.H.I.E.L.D. to work on Project Insight, which they planned to use to give HYDRA absolute control over the world. Fortunately, Alexander’s plan was thwarted by Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) during the Battle at the Triskelion, in which Alexander was ultimately killed by his S.H.I.E.L.D. subordinate Fury.
Ash in Alien
One of the many villains disguised as good guys in the realm of science fiction is Ash (Ian Holm) from the 1979 film Alien. In the Ridley Scott-directed movie, Ash was introduced as a by-the-book science officer of the ship Nostromo. But when Ash broke quarantine by allowing crew member Kane (John Hurt) back on board after the latter was infected by an alien life form, some viewers felt that there’s something off about Holm’s character.
In the third act of the movie, it was revealed that Ash is not a human, but actually a Hyperdyne Systems 120-A/2 android, a sleeper agent who is acting upon secret orders to bring back the alien lifeform and to consider the crew and the cargo as expendable.
Charles F. Muntz in Up
The 2009 Disney/Pixar movie Up introduced Charles F. Muntz (Christopher Plummer) as a famous explorer admired by Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) and his late wife, Ellie (Elie Docter) as children. But when Carl and his new friend Russell (Jordan Nagai) finally met Charles in person, they found out that the latter wasn’t the kindly old adventurer they were expecting.
In the film, Charles found the bones of a tropical bird in South America but the scientific community claimed they were fake. Insulted, Charles searched the South American wilderness for a live member of the same bird species. His obsession, however, made him a heartless man consumed by bitterness. Paranoid to the extreme, Charles was convinced that anyone who comes across him is after the bird. It’s even implied that he killed two explorers already, and was intending to do the same with Carl and Russell.
Dawn Bellwether in Zootopia
Taking place in the titular city where anthropomorphic mammals coexist, Zootopia tells a story of an unlikely partnership between a rabbit police officer, Judy Hoops, (Ginnifer Goodwin) and a red fox con artist, Nick Wilde, (Jason Bateman) as they uncover a criminal conspiracy involving the disappearance of predators. In a surprising plot twist, the meek and overworked little lamb named Dawn Bellwether (Jenny Slate) serving as the city’s assistant mayor turns out to be the mastermind of the conspiracy.
Before the big reveal, a lot of viewers were actually rooting for Dawn because of the numerous indignities she had suffered from her giant lion boss Mayor Lionheart (J.K. Simmons). So things really got more exciting when Dawn was revealed to be the main antagonist of the animated feature film.
Edwin in Predators
For most of the 2010 sci-fi action film Predators, Edwin (Topher Grace) seemed fairly ordinary compared to the rest of the characters. In fact, at some point in the movie, the main protagonist Royce (Adrien Brody) commented that Edwin didn’t seem to belong. However, near the end, Edwin revealed himself to be a serial killer.
Embodying the traits of a true psychopath, Edwin disguised himself as an innocent and kind man to lull his peers into a state of security while masking his true colors as a cold, merciless serial killer. As a result, he was duplicitous and manipulative, only revealing his true character in moments where nobody beyond his victims could see him for what he was.
Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
A lot of MCU fans instantly found Ego likable the moment he was introduced in 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 not only because he’s the father of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill, who is the main protagonist of the movie, but also because he’s played by the beloved actor, Kurt Russell.
But true to his name, Ego was eventually revealed to be a self-serving megalomaniac who’s willing to kill the myriad women he’s seduced and the children he’s sired to achieve his ultimate despicable goal: remake the entire universe via an omnicidal extinction-level event that would eradicate all life in the universe but himself.
Elijah Price in Unbreakable
Samuel Jackson’s Elijah Price of the 2000 superhero thriller Unbreakable is one of the perfect examples of movie villains disguised as good guys. Introduced as an unfortunate comic book geek diagnosed with a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, Elijah appeared pretty harmless at the beginning of the M. Night Shyamalan film. A respectable member of society, the highly intelligent Elijah was anxious to see the world improved by the presence of a superhero, even serving as a mentor of sorts to the film’s protagonist David Dunn (Bruce Willis).
But in the latter part of the film, it was revealed that Elijah’s obsessions were far more dangerous and violent than his initial actions suggested. Suffering from an intense inferiority complex due to his disability, Elijah vowed to find his heroic antithesis by any means necessary, believing it to be the only means of justifying his existence. In the end, Elijah made no apologies for his actions, nor did he ever believe that his crimes were anything but justified.
Ellie Staple in Glass
Portrayed by Sarah Paulson in the 2019 superhero film Glass, Dr. Ellie Staple was initially presented as a caring individual who helps delusional patients. But in the third act of the movie, it was revealed that her kind and thoughtful personality was just a front.
A member of The Clover Organization, Dr. Staple was actually a manipulative, cold, and condescending, individual with hatred and fear of anything supernatural. Like all members of the group, Dr. Staple had dedicated her life to the suppression, pacification, and genocide of all superhuman heroes and villains.
Emma Russell in Godzilla: King of the Monsters
In 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Vera Farmiga’s Dr. Emma Russell initially appeared as a well-meaning scientist who is forced against her will to aid Alan Jonah’s (Charles Dance) Eco-Terrorist goals in forcibly releasing the Titans contained by Monarch.
But when she had a chance to leave Jonah’s side, Dr. Russell instead picked up the detonator and frees Ghidorah from its icy prison herself, revealing that she was actually the mole inside Monarch aiding Jonah’s forces for quite some time.
Ernesto de la Cruz in Coco
One of the popular villains disguised as good guys in the realm of animation is Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) from the 2017 movie Coco. A famous singer and musician who dazzled audiences with his good looks and charm, Ernesto presented himself as a suave, friendly, and sensible individual who encouraged others to follow their dreams no matter what.
Though considered as a positive role model by many, including the film’s protagonist Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), Ernesto was later revealed to be the one responsible for the death of Héctor Rivera (Gael García Bernal), whom he had murdered so he could take the credit for his music and be a famous musician. Héctor was Miguel’s true great-great-grandfather.
Frank Butterman in Hot Fuzz
Directed by Edgar Wright, Hot Fuzz follows police officers Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) and Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) as they investigate a series of mysterious and gruesome deaths in the West Country village of Sanford. Danny’s father, Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), is Sanford’s police inspector, so it’s a huge shock for the main characters and the viewers as well when it’s revealed that Frank is actually the one who’s been killing people all along.
Frank was a good man who followed the law religiously. But after the tragic loss of his wife, he was driven to the point of insanity and secretly began the Neighborhood Watch Alliance to eradicate all those he deemed imperfect for Sanford to win the Village of the Year contest.
Henri Ducard in Batman Begins
When Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) first appeared in 2005’s Batman Begins, a lot of viewers assumed that he’s one of the good guys. Cultured, sophisticated, and eloquent, Henri served as a friendly trainer and mentor to Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). But in the latter part of the film, it was revealed that Herni was actually a terrorist mastermind that goes by the alias Ra’s al Ghul.
Believing that Gotham was beyond saving, Henri founded the League of Shadows to jeopardize the city. As a fiercely devoted member of the League, Henri was convinced that the faction’s purpose of checking against humanity before it overdevelops is justified. Because of this, Henri did not have a single qualm about taking another person’s life if their existence stood against his beliefs.
James Kent in Paul Blart: Mall Cop
One of the popular movie villains disguised as good guys in the comedy genre is James Kent from 2009’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop. In the Steve Carr-directed film, Santa’s little helpers, who turn out to be a gang of organized terrorists, shut down the mall and take hostages, including Paul Blart’s (Kevin James) daughter and girlfriend. Realizing that no one knows the place better than he does, Paul mounts a rescue mission.
SWAT Commander James Kent (Bobby Cannavale) appeared to help Paul stop the terrorist in the mall and even teamed up with the titular character to catch the film’s primary villain, Veck Simms (Keir O’Donnell). But when Paul finally caught Veck, James pulled a gun on Paul and revealed himself to be the true leader of the terrorists.
John Milton in The Devil’s Advocate
Portrayed by Al Pacino, John Milton was introduced as a representative of a New York law firm in the 1997 film The Devil’s Advocate. Initially portrayed as a shrewd, calm and charismatic man, John was later revealed to be Satan himself, which explains his ability to manipulate people and his hedonistic lifestyle that involves promiscuity and drugs.
While some viewers might have guessed John’s deceitful nature early in the film, protagonist Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) was shocked when he ultimately discovered that his mysterious boss is actually an evil incarnate.
Katharine Parker in Working Girl
Directed by Mike Nichols, Working Girl stars Melanie Griffith as Tess McGill, a frustrated secretary struggling to forge ahead in the world of big business in New York. Co-starring with Griffith is Sigourney Weaver, who plays the role of Katharine Parker. Katharine was introduced as a supportive boss to Tess at the beginning of the movie but was later revealed to be a Machiavellian character.
In the 1988 romantic dramedy film, Tess gives Katharine an excellent business tip, but Katharine simply steals the idea without giving due credit to her secretary. In the end, Katharine is fired for fraud, while Tess is promoted to a new job as a junior executive.
King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph
In 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, King Candy (Alan Tudyk) presented himself as someone with a bubbly yet posh personality. Since he genuinely enjoyed his job as king, he gave off the impression that he was a benevolent, jolly, and fun-loving ruler. The truth, however, was that King Candy was vain and corrupt.
Extremely possessive of Sugar Rush, King Candy flaunted his status as king by having his insignia and likeness plastered throughout the game. He also had a fondness for locking people in his “fungeon,” which later revealed to be a sign of sadism. When threatened in the latter part of the movie, King Candy’s cheerful demeanor completely disappeared, revealing his ruthless and violent underlying nature.
Lotso in Toys Story 3
One of the villains disguised as good guys in the realm of animated movies is Lotso, a large, magenta pink strawberry-scented teddy bear who presents himself as a caring, welcoming, and friendly character at the beginning of 2010’s Toys Story 3. But beneath this compassionate guise, Lotso is actually a cruel, cunning, and rage-driven dictator who rules Sunnyside Daycare with an iron fist. Voiced by Ned Beatty, Lotso unsympathetically imprisons new toys in the Caterpillar Room where they suffer the reckless young toddlers there, while he sits comfortably in the Butterfly Room.
But according to Chuckles the Clown (Bud Luckey/Bob Peterson), Lotso was previously a good toy before both of them were accidentally abandoned by their former owner, Daisy. Apparently, losing Daisy broke Lotso, who now makes other toys feel the same pain by telling them that they are all destined to be discarded with no redemption.
Miranda Tate in The Dark Knight Rises
When Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) appeared for the first time in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises as a wealthy businesswoman and philanthropist, many viewers assumed that she was just a supporting character whose sole purpose was to give Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) some pep talk. But tables were turned when her true identity was revealed.
Miranda is actually Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, the main villain in the Dark Knight trilogy’s first instalment. Following the death of her father, Miranda took up his mantle as his heir and patiently sought Gotham City’s destruction with the aid of her equally malevolent Bane (Tom Hardy).
Obadiah Stane in Iron Man
MCU fans who didn’t read the comics were probably shocked when it was revealed that Obadiah Stane was actually a villain in 2008’s Iron Man. Portrayed by Jeff Bridges, Obadiah was introduced in the movie as a dependable business partner of Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and a good friend of his father, Howard Stark. Following Howard’s death, Obadiah served as the interim CEO of Stark Industries until Tony took over officially shortly after.
But unbeknown to many, Obadiah cunningly joined forces with the terrorist organization Ten Rings to assassinate the younger Stark so he could become CEO once again. To facilitate their campaign in the war-torn Gulmira, Obadiah armed the Ten Rings with Stark Industries weapons. And when his involvement with terrorists was exposed by Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Obadiah created the Iron Monger Armor and attempted to kill Stark himself. That, however, led to his own death.
Patrick Morgan in Wonder Woman
Played by David Thewlis, Patrick Morgan was introduced in 2017’s Wonder Woman as a member of the Imperial War Cabinet who avidly advocated for peace in front of the Supreme War Council. But later in the Patty Jenkins-directed movie, Patrick was revealed to be Ares, the titular character’s (Gal Gadot) deceiving half-brother and the Greek god of war, who just assumed a human guise to bring about his ultimate plan of global annihilation.
The reveal of Patrick’s true identity worked really well, as the character was depicted as an unassuming British politician at the beginning of the film. His expansive and suspicious-looking mustache, however, should have been an indication of his evil nature.
Prince Hans in Frozen
Since Prince Hans of the Southern Isles (Santino Fontana) was introduced as a love interest to Anna (Kristen Bell) at the start of 2013’s Frozen, a lot of viewers were shocked when he turned out to be the main antagonist of the Disney flick.
With a noble demeanor, Hans cunningly presented himself as someone that others could trust and confide in. Apparently, those false impressions won over Anna, and the rest of Arendelle, thus allowing Hans to seize the throne of the kingdom without giving any premonition of regicide. Hans’ hunger for power and recognition, however, was caused by his troubled upbringing. After becoming a victim of severe abuse at the hands of his brothers, Hans vowed to better his life by trying to gain power and respect that comes along with it.
Quentin Beck in Spider-Man: Far From Home
Tom Holland’s Peter Parker thought that Quentin Beck was a much-needed ally from another universe when the flashy new character made his MCU debut at the beginning of the 2019 movie Spider-Man: Far From Home. The fact that Quentin was played by the beloved actor Jake Gyllenhaal also didn’t help, as it immediately led casual fans to believe that the new character was one of the good guys.
However, long-time Spider-Man fans knew from the very start that the name Quentin Beck spells trouble, as it belongs to the supervillain called Mysterio. In the latter part of the film, it was revealed that Quentin was actually a former employee at Stark Industries who became embittered after Tony Stark disregarded his entire life’s work, resulting in Beck losing his job. Fueled by revenge, Beck teamed up with other former Stark employees to create Mysterio using their combat drones and his own hologram technology to create an illusion of his own superpowers.
Stinky Pete in Toy Story 2
In the first half of the 1999 film Toy Story 2, Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer) was depicted as a kind, wise, and grandfatherly figure who gave support and advice to Woody (Tom Hanks), Jessie (Mary Kay Bergman), and Bullseye. But in the middle of the movie, Stinky Pete was revealed to be a sneaky and embittered character who would do anything to foil Woody’s attempts to return to his child owner Andy.
Unlike other toys, Stinky Pete would rather live in a museum than with children. This was most likely caused by the years of emotional pain he had endured during a lifetime in a dime-store shelf and not being sold to any children due to their preference of space toys following the launch of Sputnik.
Thomas Griffin in Rush Hour
The 1998 buddy action-comedy film Rush Hour stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker as mismatched police officers who are assigned to rescue the abducted daughter of Chinese diplomat Consul Solon Han (Tzi Ma). When Tom Wilkinson’s Thomas Griffin first shows up in the movie, he is introduced as a supportive colleague of Han, so it’s a huge surprise when the former is revealed to be the mastermind of the kidnapping.
Thomas is actually Juntao, the top crime lord in Hong Kong and head of the Juntao Criminal Organization. As the head of the said underworld syndicate, Thomas supplements his bureaucrat’s stipend by swiping cultural treasures and some kidnapping on the side.