Toxic men are an epidemic both in the real world and in the movies. Just as we are in regular life, audiences are sometimes asked to identify with toxic men on the screen, as proven by these
29 toxic male movie protagonists. Not only are all of these male characters the leads in their films, they are also often the characters that the audience is meant to empathize with the most. Thus, these films force audiences to find common ground with toxic men, whether we want to or not.
Pop icon Britney Spears said it best when she sang, "A guy like you should wear a warning" on her iconic track "Toxic." Toxic men — men who bring darkness, cruelty, and negativity into the lives of those they encounter — should definitely be forced to walk around with giant signs on their foreheads. But, since that doesn't look like it will be happening any time soon, the best we can do right now is identify some of the toxic men you might encounter on the big screen.
To be clear, these are
toxic male movie protagonists, not toxic male actors. Behind-the-scenes behavior doesn't apply here, just good, old fashioned, horrifying acts on screen that gave you nightmares and taught you what kind of men to avoid in the future. Note: If you see any of these toxic male characters IRL, run, don't walk, in the opposite direction.
Aside from being a crazy serial killer, Norman Bates is just your average, introverted mama's boy when we meet him in
Psycho. But even without his killer tendencies, you can tell there's something not quite right with Norman, a strange aura of toxicity that cannot be ignored.
Noah Calhoun — 'The Notebook'
Romantic? Yes. Adorable? Double yes. But, let us never forget that Noah threatened to kill himself if Allie didn't go on a date with him in
Benjamin Braddock — 'The Graduate'
Benjamin Braddock is so toxic in
The Graduate, he actually helps destroy a family and ruin a marriage before it has even had the chance to begin.
Sebastian — 'Cruel Intentions'
Cruel Intentions' Sebastian was selfish, callous, and manipulative, so much so he caused heartbreak and pain practically everywhere he looked.
Thomas Sharpe — 'Crimson Peak'
Thomas Sharpe is almost literally toxic in
Crimson Peak — spoiler alert — as he helps poison his innocent new bride. He also marries her only for her money and tricks her into falling in love with him, so he fails on two fronts.
Charles Foster Kane — 'Citizen Kane'
Charles Foster Kane is the definition of a toxic man. Hellbent on his own success to the point of ruin, the
Citizen Kane protagonist is downright abusive to everyone in his life.
The time has come to accept an uncomfortable truth: Han Solo from
Star Wars invented the space bro and he constantly talked down to Leia (his superior in every way possible). Next.
Jordan Belfort — 'The Wolf Of Wall Street'
Selfish, greedy, and entitled, the only way
The Wolf of Wall Street's Jordan Belfort could be more toxic is if he covered himself in nuclear waste.
Daniel Plainview — 'There Will Be Blood'
Not only does Daniel delight in drinking other people's milkshakes, he also holds grudges and has no problem going after his very own family. Toxic level: oil spill.
Chris Wilton — 'Match Point'
Chris Wilton from
Match Point is nothing but toxic. Everyone he touches seems to end up heartbroken or forced into a life they didn't want. He's also very quick to murder, which, you know, isn't a great sign.
Sutter — 'The Spectacular Now'
Sutter might be the sympathetic protagonist of
The Spectacular Now, but there's no denying his toxicity. During his relationship with Aimee, he introduces her to alcohol and endangers her life by drunk driving. Not cool, dude.
What makes Troy so toxic in
Fences is that he truly believes he's doing the best he can do, all while belittling his wife and tearing apart his family with his own self doubt and ego.
Mark Zuckerberg — 'The Social Network'
Mark Zuckerberg, as he's portrayed in
The Social Network, isn't just toxic, he's dangerous, as proven by how he treats his BFF in the film.
Louis Bloom — 'Nightcrawler'
Nightcrawler, Louis Bloom is a con artist and master manipulator. It doesn't really get any more toxic than that.
Patrick Bateman — 'American Psycho'
American Psycho is, for lack of a better term, completely insane. But even if you took the whole murder thing out of his personality, he'd still be an image-obsessed fool desperate to put others down to raise himself up.
Frodo — 'The Lord Of The Rings'
Frodo isn't exactly toxic on his own, but the more time he spent with the Ring, the more toxic he became, specifically when it came to Sam, his one faithful companion.
John 'Scottie' Ferguson — 'Vertigo'
Vertigo is about a man who is so obsessed with a certain woman, he preys on an innocent woman and manipulates her exactly to his liking. He doesn't actually love a woman, he loves the idea of a woman, and his obsession leads him to hurt himself and others.
Michael Corleone — 'The Godfather'
Michael Corleone started out sweet, only to end up a terrifying threat to his own wife in The Godfather series.
Jerry Maguire — 'Jerry Maguire'
No, Jerry Maguire isn't as toxic as a mob boss, but he is extremely emotionally toxic. One minute, he's head over heels in love with Dorothy, the next he's out the door.
Yet another obsessive toxic protagonist, Theodore in
Her becomes consumed in what he views as an ideal love: isolated, one-sided, and taken for granted.
Jim Preston — 'Passengers'
Jim Preston from
Passengers is the definition of a toxic protagonist. He legitimately sentences a stranger to death because he thinks she's pretty and doesn't want to be alone. Shame's Brandon is toxic for anybody looking for emotional support or any kind of loving relationship. It's not that he's addicted to sex or that he has baggage that makes him toxic, it's his refusal to deal with his problems.
Edward Cullen — 'Twilight'
Edward Cullen is obsessive, possessive, and a borderline stalker in
Twilight. Sure he sparkles, but is that really worth the emotional abuse?
Gatsby — 'The Great Gatsby'
Gatsby isn't happy unless he's messing everything up for everyone, including the so-called love of his life, Daisy. Sure, he means well (most of the time), but his inability to see anything beyond his own problems inevitably results in the demise of those around him.
Colin Sullivan — 'The Departed'
Colin Sullivan is a rat, a mobster, and a pretty crappy boyfriend in
The Departed. His illegal activities coupled with his selfish nature makes him toxic and dangerous.
Anakin Skywalker — 'Star Wars'
I can't think of any adjective that more accurately describes Anakin Skywalker other than "toxic." Who would have guessed that pre-Darth Vader would be so toxic, he'd drive his mentor into exile and his lover to her grave?
Melvin Udall — 'As Good As It Gets'
Yes, Melvin Udall grows over the course of
As Good as It Gets, but his unique brand of cruelty and selfishness is truly insufferable.
Quincy — 'Love & Basketball'
Quincy's single-mindedness might be an asset on the basketball court, but his inability to support the ambitions of Monica, his girlfriend, in
Love & Basketball makes him pretty toxic, especially when it comes to her growth and independence.
Stanley — 'A Streetcar Named Desire'
Stanley is a drunk domestic abuser, toxic to the point of sucking the life from his wife, Stella, and others around her.
In the decades of film history, there is no shortage of toxic male protagonists. And there's nothing wrong with that — sometimes anti-heroes are exactly what the world needs — unless you decide to bring them to life via some kind of sorcery. Then you might have a problem.