5 movies that had us rooting for bad guys
Movies get us to believe all sorts of malarkey. We’ll suspend reality to a veil-thin spread and accept time travel, space travel, aliens, monsters, dodging bullets, impossible-to-build machines and on and on.
After all, it’s fun to escape and go for a ride, isn’t it?
Perhaps more revealing, though, is our tendency to buy into the idea that the “good guys” are always the good guys. It’s easy as pie to fall victim to this trap, with the whole movie centered around that belief.
But clearer heads prevail, and now we can review five movies where the good guys aren’t so good, after all. In fact, as we’ll see, they are downright bad.
Up first: But they make such a nice couple …
No. 5: “Entrapment” (1999)
There are a lot of examples of caper and heist films that build up the affections for the thief. “Entrapment” is a solid example of that.
Sean Connery plays a legendary art thief and Catherine Zeta-Jones is the insurance employee out to question him. However, she ends up joining in the fun and goes on a couple heists herself.
So we get this switcheroo action, some sexual tension, a little suspense and, of course, the brain-teaser methods they plan to pull off their heists.
There’s a lot of intrigue here and, watching all this drama from the viewpoint of Connery and Zeta-Jones, we almost forget that we’re watching a couple of thieves. (And, oh yeah, honest people are going to lose out big time because of their game.)
When it comes to our next selection, good is a relative term …
No. 4: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966)
The wool being pulled over our eyes in this legendary spaghetti Western is pretty transparent.
Heck, right there in the title we are told to believe that Clint Eastwood’s character is the one with, well, character. But no matter the title, the audience has no problem falling for Clint anyway. After all, as “The Man With No Name,” he carries himself so well as he coolly makes his way through life, going about his business.
And his business?
Oh, you know, scamming law enforcement officers out of their reward money and killing other bounty hunters. But hey, maybe when he makes off with a small fortune at the end of the movie, he decides to change his ways — building a shelter for runaway youth, perhaps?
Not likely; but no matter, it’s sort of ingrained in the American male psyche that this idea of a lonesome, cool cowboy is an endearing one.
Next, we ask the question, “Is there really honor among thieves?”
No. 3: “The Italian Job” (2003)
This film tries pretty hard to glorify these likeable heisters, offering a gem of a scene where every partner-in-crime is introduced with a short biography.
The explosives guy is shown in an “aw shucks” fashion when, as a youngster, he makes a toilet explode. (Oh, look, he’s all wet. Let’s just forget about his choice to enter a life of theft.)
The leader of the gang is shown as a boy stealing a wallet from another classmate. Oh, but it’s OK. In fact, it’s honorable, because it happens to be from a bully picking on a kid that very moment. How convenient.
The one gal in the gang is there to do the honorable deed of avenging her father’s death. He, however, was killed while committing robbery by the actual “bad” guy.
Our next selection shows that love can make it all better …
No. 2: “The Music Man” (1962)
“The Music Man” is a unique tale, because it has its star try to make good on his con, but in doing so still manages to twist the idea of who is really good.
The music man, played by Robert Preston, wants to go straight after falling in love — awwww. So the audience is quick to forgive his con-man ways. And oddly, when a co-conspirator comes a-walking into town threatening to reveal the con to the townspeople, and rescuing them from the scam, he’s the one made out to be a bad guy.
Shirley Jones’ librarian, the object of his affection, comes to his side to help him stay in the shadows, enabling his con. When the gig is finally up, the music man is saved by a miracle that legitimizes his con. No one was the wiser and deception prevails.
Lastly, handsome criminals can’t be all bad, right?
No. 1: “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001)
This film takes the cake because it’s so well made and the characters are so, well, likeable. So it goes the furthest to make bad look good.
The movie itself was shot and edited in a style all its own, featuring swift cuts, dual-screen action, and flashy Vegas colors. Throw in a nice soundtrack and you have pure eye/ear candy for an hour and half!
It offers an all-star group of Hollywood hunks — George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon — to play the thieves. And it naturally paints the “good guy” — the legitimate, hardworking casino owner — as a “bad” fella.
Finally, it has the female lead show preference for the lead thief. But just because she fell for it, doesn’t mean we have to.
These guys vandalize, con, and steal equipment, and then there’s the millions of dollars that the casino’s customers are going to have to absorb. Yeah, great guys.