Warning: Spoilers ahead for movies that are mostly at least two years old. And one that just came out. Also, stop being concerned about spoilers. Knowing what’s going to happen makes the movie more enjoyable.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I went with my wife and in-laws to see Inferno. While I haven’t read the Dan Brown book by the same name, my wife and father-in-law were both very excited as they enjoy Dan Brown’s writing. I’m always up for seeing Tom Hanks in a film, so I had pretty high hopes. While the ending of the movie and the book apparently weren’t even close, there was one moment in the film that caught my attention.
Late in the film, as Hanks and Felicity Jones are running away from a bad guy who seems to be hellbent on stopping them from saving the world from an outbreak of a deadly disease, they find themselves climbing out of a basement of a building and onto street level. Jones pays a street merchant to let her out of the basement, but then double-crosses Hanks and slams the grating shut, allowing Hanks to be captured.
Film twists rarely catch me off guard, however this Face-Heel Turn was beautifully executed. While I’ve seen Inferno too recently to place it on this list, I was inspired to write about the ten best movie turns I’ve ever seen. These turns can be of the Face-Heel variety like Felicity Jones in Inferno, or they can be a Heel-Face version, wherein a bad guy becomes a good guy. That said, here’s my top ten.
10. Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) in Black Swan
This isn’t a turn in the truest sense, particularly once you realize Sayer’s attempted murder is actually an attempted suicide. But the fact that she goes from this demure, sweet character at the beginning of the film to an unhinged and violent character at the end as she descends into madness is wonderfully written.
9. Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) in Side Effects
While I really enjoyed Side Effects, I had a hard time debating between whether Mara’s character or Catherine Zeta-Jones’ character deserved the spot on the list. While Zeta-Jones’ character’s turn is more surprising, the fact that Emily Taylor is faking a mental illness to get away with murder is truly despicable…and really well-written.
8. Felonious Gru in Despicable Me
The first bad guy to good guy turn on this list features a movie that spawned a ton of characters that the majority of the internet hates. But Gru — the main character of the Despicable Me series before Pixar decided that minions were made of money — goes through a tale of super-villain becomes family man. Okay, it’s not all that common, but it’s touching all the same.
7. Fletcher Reed (Jim Carrey) in Liar Liar
As much as I love Jim Carrey when he does serious roles, I still enjoy a good Carrey comedy every now and again. What makes Fletcher Reed’s turn from a crappy father and skeezy businessman into a good father and husband great is that it’s so relatable despite being unrealistic. Everyone tries to make their own lives better and fix their mistakes in some way, and Reed is able to do so. It’s formulaic, but it works.
6. Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) in The Empire Strikes Back
This won’t be the only appearance by a Star Wars film on this list. You KNOW it’s coming. You know Lando is going to backstab Han Solo. And yet, it has to happen and is written perfectly to boot. Lando eventually turns back into being a good guy, which feels forced, particularly when his backstabbing was just business. But sometimes business is evil.
5. Arthur (Michael Caine) in Kingsman: The Secret Service
Michael Caine has spent an inordinate amount of time in the 2010s playing evil guys named Arthur. But what makes this turn beautiful is the respect that all of the other Kingsmen have for him as their leader. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, which means we should have seen this turn coming. But you’re still caught off guard more by his turn to the dark side than by his death a few minutes later.
4. Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) in Now You See Me
Can we all pretend Now You See Me 2 didn’t happen? Thanks.
While Rhodes isn’t a particularly unlikable character, the fact that for the majority of the movie he’s chasing the main protagonists of the film, only to reveal that he’s actually been helping orchestrate their plan the whole time is a pretty cool twist. The only reason that this turn doesn’t rank higher is because of how convoluted the whole twist is. I mean NO ONE at the FBI realized he was working with the Four Horsemen? Seriously?
3. Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) in Die Another Day
One of the worst Bond films of all time had one of the best evil characters of the series. Too bad she was relegated to second fiddle as Gustav Graves‘ personal assistant. Frost was a chameleon throughout the film, making herself fit in to whatever situation she was in. You could make a strong argument that Frost when from villain to protagonist and back again at least twice in the film. It’s too bad she dies in the end. Frost would have been a great main villain in a sequel.
2. The Grinch in How The Grinch Stole Christmas
While entries 3 through 10 on this list could be debated, particularly in terms of their order and movie preferences, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any list of great changes in movie characters that doesn’t include my top two entries. The change in The Grinch is so drastic that his heart literally grows three sizes. I get that this was originally a book, but the film adaptations of the book — both animated and not — sell the change in The Grinch just as well, if not better, than Seuss’s original classic.
1. Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) in Return of the Jedi
One of the most evil villains in movie history kills his boss to save his son just before he suffers his own death. Is there really any other turn capable of being number one? I think not.