10 Most Unlikable TV and Movie Characters Who Aren’t the Villains
The hero-versus-villain dynamic is a time-tested formula that prepares us viewers at home to root for our beloved protagonist — but it doesn't always quite turn out that way. Sometimes it’s a case of bad writing, in which the heroes aren’t all they cracked up to be; in fact, they're downright annoying.
Other times, it’s the writers’ intentions to create complex, compelling characters we want to root for, but they fail to meet viewer expectations again and again. Whatever the case, sometimes there are protagonists who are just as frustrating as their antagonist counterparts, and we've selected some of the most unlikable ones below.
When ‘How I Met Your Mother’ ended its nine-season run recently, fans were outraged by its conclusion, and understandably so. The entire premise on which the show was based — wherein Ted Mosby regales his kids with the story of how he met their mother — was essentially a bait and switch. Dedicated fans put up with Ted’s sullen moping and near-obsession with finding “The One” in anticipation of the big reveal only for the titular mother to pass away, after which some time later, Ted remarries the girl who’s been turning him down for nine seasons. By the end of it, fans were more exasperated than resolved in him finally finding the love — er, loves — of his life.
Between despicable Anakin and whiney Luke Skywalker, it’s surprising that another ‘Star Wars’ character takes the title for most unlikable; yet the beloved series managed with Jar Jar Binks. Talk about comic relief gone awry. We seriously question the judgment of whoever thought creating a frog-like creature and throwing in a Jamaican accent was a good idea. Instead of bringing levity to the classic trilogy’s first reboot, Jar Jar was annoying, stereotypical, and downright offensive.
There's just nothing redeeming about a character who has zero agency. Such is the case with Bella Swan, whose entire existence is dedicated to falling in love with the equally mopey vampire of her affection and having his superhuman baby. Granted, Kristen Stewart’s unbearable portrayal (see video below), doesn’t help the character’s cause either.
Wunderkind Lena Dunham’s HBO series featuring four twentysomethings (barely), making their way through post-collegiate life in the city has had its fair share of accolades and criticism — to put it lightly. You really can’t navigate the Internet without stumbling upon some thinkpiece about ‘Girls’ and race, sex, body image and more. But some of the driving force behind all the criticism is the fact that ‘Girls’’ four protagonists are some of the most insufferable heroines imaginable, and Dunham’s own portrayal of Hannah Horvath takes the cake. Between her lack of accountability to her utter self-absorption, some of her antics are more than cringe-worthy -- they're borderline unwatchable.
You know something’s gone terribly wrong when the guy the creek’s named after doesn’t get the girl after six excruciating seasons. In the case of Dawson Leery, it’s almost as if the ‘Dawson’s Creek’ writers realized the monster they had created mid-series. That would explain why the much more likeable Pacey wins the affection of the only slightly more tolerable Joey in Dawson’s stead. Who can blame them, though? Dawson was obsessed with living out some movie fantasy instead of real life, which led him to treat the women in his life like objects rather than real, breathing humans. And God forbid they didn’t meet his expectations, because when they didn't, he went into whiney or full-blown sobbing terrible-ness.
As Jay Cutler said on a recent ‘Mad Men’ episode — admittedly addressing Harry Crane, not Pete — “You have stiff competition, but I believe you to be the most dishonest man I’ve ever met.” If Crane’s title is in jeopardy, his runner-up is none other than Pete Campbell. The Sterling Cooper account exec is one of the slimiest dudes in a company full of slimy dudes. From leveraging his own father’s death to manipulating Joan into sleeping with a Jaguar board member -- all to land accounts -- this guy isn’t above doing anything to make his way to the top.
Are you hungry, Samwise? We couldn’t tell from all your whining during the epic ‘LOTR’ trilogy. Sam redeems himself when he saves Frodo, but ugh, we spent most of their fraught journey wishing he'd go back to the Shire. Chalk this unlikable character up to another instance of comic relief gone wrong.
Diablo Cody’s refreshingly honest depiction of teenage pregnancy earned plenty of acclaim — in the form of three Oscar nominations and one win for best screenplay. But it’s that very screenplay that makes the title protagonist kind of intolerable. The fast-talking teen is executed perfectly by Ellen Page, but man, the overwrought script makes her sarcasm more annoying than charming or smart.
Sure, ‘Gone with the Wind’ is a classic, but Scarlett O’Hara is a complete drag. Despite all the death and violence she endures, we couldn’t really sympathize with homegirl’s near chronic inability to make up her mind. So, we certainly can’t blame Rhett Butler’s “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” because by the end of the movie, neither did we.
OK, so the ‘Harry Potter’ series spent the better part of seven books (and eight movies), making fans grapple with whether or not Snape was the villain. Of course, he makes our list because not only was he not a villain, but after his moving “Always” admission, we discover he’s been protecting Harry all along. But the reason there was always an element of uncertainty regarding Snape's allegiance was because — until the very end — he was a jerk to Harry, his friends and just about everyone, really.