The line between good and evil has always been a thin one, but it has gotten straight-up blurry over the course of the past 20 years or so—both in comic books and on the silver screen. One-time epic villains are increasingly displaying softer sides, even veering towards heroism, albeit briefly (Magneto in the X-Men anyone?). Others are celebrated simply due to their over-the-top antics to the point that they almost come off as the hero (definitely the star), which is really kinda scary (just what is DC doing with The Joker, anyway?). But here are 10 characters who shed their villain skin for the role of hero.
1. The Punisher: Comic book geeks prefer to throw around words like vigilante and even the comical "anti-hero" when it comes to Frank Castle, whose first appearance in a 1974 Amazing Spider-Man comic saw him positioned as a new bad guy for the web slinger. He became popular immediately, thanks in large part to the thriving mid-'70s vigilante mindset on display in movies like Death Wish. And Marvel would slowly reveal a backstory that certainly did manage to make fans feel for Frank Castle, a guy whose wife and kids were murdered, thus beginning his one-man war on mobs.
2. Deadpool: Deadpool (aka Wade Wilson) was a stone-cold "super-villain" when he was first introduced in the early '90s in an issue of The New Mutants. But he won over comic book fans worldwide thanks to the dialogue Marvel writers gave him to deliver. While a lethal adversary, he doesn't seem capable, or even interested, in ever shutting up; he's known as the "merc with the mouth" (short for mercenary), after all. Ryan Reynolds will not be turning back on Deadpool now either, and he has a sequel to his blockbuster film due early 2018.
3. Gambit: Interestingly, this character made his first appearance on the big screen alongside Ryan Reynolds the first time Reynolds played Deadpool, way back in Hugh Jackman's first lone Wolverine flick. Cut from the same cloth, Gambit is another mutant constantly at odds with doing the right thing versus doing the wrong, first introduced in the comics as part of a "thieves guild." Resonating in the same way that Deadpool did, though at a slower pace, he'll get his own shot at the title in theaters on Valentine's Day 2019, with Channing Tatum in the lead role. That's just something else he shares with Deadpool, whose blockbuster R-Rated record-breaker was released on a Valentine's Day, too.
4. Mystique: This is a tricky one, and pilfering the X-Men roster is getting tired, too. But it must be mentioned that this second-tier mutant baddie was never conceived as even remotely heroic, nor was that in the cards when she first found her way into one of the many X-Men movies over the years. It wasn't until then-newbie Jennifer Lawrence took on the role, in X-Men: First Class, that screenwriters—as opposed to the gang writing the comics—decided to make her the ultimate mutant hero. The comic book scribes had that in mind for Emma Frost, an even lesser-known character, who January Jones played in the same flick Lawrence first turned up in.
5. Catwoman: Even back when the late Adam West was running around in tights every week on TV I couldn't figure out what Catwoman was exactly. She showed up and wreaked havoc, that was for sure, but they'd flirt, he'd more often than not allow her to escape, and even now on the Fox hit Gotham, the character is cheered far more than she is jeered. Young Selena Kyle enjoys a first love with young Bruce Wayne, even if we all know she'll go off the rails down the road. But, hell, what was Catwoman in the movie starring Halle Berry if not a hero?
6. Elektra: Daredevil's one-time nemesis, then lover, then dead lover, became the ultimate ass-kicking, sexy ninja heroine right before our very eyes. Again, much like with The Punisher, the fans basically demanded this. The skilled assassin and, now that she's back from the dead, occasional Matt Murdock-lover (see: Daredevil on Netflix, and even the more recent The Defenders) continues to play with that line between right and wrong, but in a way few characters have been able to pull off. You root for her, and don't feel badly about it, like you do with, say, a Joker or Two-Face.
7. Harley Quinn: She's positively maniacal, both in the comic books where she was given life, and in the hands of the ridiculously sexy Margot Robbie, who played her to perfection in Suicide Squad. Harley Quinn truly is the female version of The Joker—just not as full-tilt. Suicide Squad can ultimately be viewed as the catalyst for this piece, as the storyline is about a bunch of incarcerated villains who are released to work together to save the world, and then they get their asses right back in jail. Part-time good guys? Hell, it worked. Despite downright awful reviews, it went on to make big bucks in theaters and, not only is a sequel coming, but a Harley Quinn spin-off is, too.
8. Deathstroke: Dating back to the early '80s, DC Comics knew exactly what they had in Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke (both names eerily similar to Wade Wilson, Deadpool, no?): He's a no-nonsense villain that might just give the "Teen Titans" some credibility. Though he did steal their thunder. They tried him solo, with his own series flirting with the assassin life, until they realized they had a hero in their midst. Rumor has it that he could show up in a big-screen DC flick any day now.
9. Dominic Toretto: Let's get away from comic books, shall we? It seems lost on everyone that when Vin Diesel first played the now-legendary Toretto in 2001's The Fast and the Furious, he was the bad guy. Sure, the bad guy with the heart of gold, who is a fantastic host, says grace before every meal and serves a heck of a meal at the same time, but the bad guy nonetheless. The late Paul Walker was the good guy, here, playing a cop whose job it was to bring Toretto in. Their chemistry (and the box office bonanza), however, just ultimately overlooked that fact.
10. Deckard Shaw: Jason Statham's character is complex in the Fast and the Furious series; he made his debut in Furious 7, where he seemed to be... well... pulling a Toretto. He was brought on as the villain in that installment, ostensibly to add star power like when they brought on Dwayne Johnson two movies prior (who came on, comically, to bring down Toretto, too). But Statham fought alongside the gang in Furious 8, and doesn't look to be going anywhere any time soon. Fine by me but, I mean, he was the villain at one point and now we root for him.