The origin of tragic heroes roots in Greek dramas by Sophocles, Euripedes, and Aeschylus and has been a constant part of literature throughout the world. With the advent of storytelling on the screen, movies had also tried to portray such tragic heroes in movies.
When we talk about tragic characters, we are not necessarily talking about any protagonist who goes through a tough trial in life but one who matches the criteria of a tragic hero, to which we shall come very soon. Similarly, tragic heroes are not anti-heroes for anti-heroes are characters with dominating dark shades but the audience roots for them. Now, without further ado, let us clear our concept of the tragic hero before we get into our list of tragic heroes in movies.
What Is a Tragic Hero?
According to Aristotle, a tragic hero should invoke a feeling of pity and fear among the audience resulting in catharsis. The characteristics of a classic tragic hero are:
● He must be a noble and not one of the commoners.
● He must have extraordinary virtues.
● Must have a tragic flaw like pride or have made a fatally wrong decision
● Must be tortured by his conscience
● Must meet with a tragic end due to his flaw.
● Some of the greatest examples of tragic heroes in literature – Macbeth, Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, Medea, and Antigone among others.
Why Do Students Study Literature about Tragic Heroes?
All college students who are pursuing literature must read about tragedies in their papers. It helps them read and analyze texts better. Some even include tragic hero examples in movies. Reading such tragic hero essay examples to understand the matter is even better. Several students choose essay topics for their assignments and class dissertation and the ones who take an interest in drama will always do better at their tasks if they know what a tragedy is and all its essential elements.
Thus, having knowledge about the matter will also aid you in understanding cinema and modern-day tragic hero example from movies.
Most Famous Tragic Heroes in Movies
There have been several books, essays, and research papers on tragic heroes and dramas after Aristotle. All have talked about tragic heroes and how they have changed over time. Here is a list of the most famous movies:
Lee Chandler in Manchester by the Sea
Lee Chandler’s character in Manchester by the Sea is perhaps among the most loved characters in modern cinema. His struggle through life after the death of his brother is heart-wrenching and from the very first half, the audience begins to feel with him. The tragic accident and his inner battle with grief and guilt make him the perfect tragic hero.
Anakin Skywalker in The Star Wars Saga
Anakin Skywalker will be known in the history of cinema as one of the greatest tragic hero examples. His desperation to save his wife from death and friend over his mother’s demise attracted him to the terrain of the dark side that made him think he could save her using dark powers and by controlling her fate with it. But it only gave rise to Darth Vader.
Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Randle McMurphy is one of the beads in the rosary of great characters that Nickolson played in his lifetime. This particular character received a lot of love from the audience and for the right reasons. He becomes the face of hope to several patients who are villainously tortured by Nurse Ratched at the mental institution. However, his fatal flaw lies in his ego. He futilely believes that he can escape the consequences of standing up against authority. After trying to flee the entire ward, he is caught and lobotomized, and smothered to death by his friend as an act of mercy. His death, however, opens the way for ‘Chief’ to escape.
Jay Gatsby in Great Gatsby
Jay Gatsby is an extremely successful man who lives his Great American Dream and exposes the corruption of the same through his own tragic flaw. The base of his life centers only on materialistic things and his blind love for Daisy is no redemption. His death at the end teaches the audience a lesson much needed.
The tragic characters in movies are as much loved and pitied upon as they are in books. They are examples of why we should not neglect our flaws and try to correct them.