Everyone loves a good story of redemption and the movies have given us plenty of them. Through almost every film genre you can find stories involving characters who redeem themselves in a wide variety of ways. That’s what this list is all about. I’m listing five of my favorite movie character redemptions. Now since this list is dealing with redemption, there will be a few spoilers. Now anyone who loves movies know that there are a countless number of choices so it would be insane to call this the definitive list. But there is no doubting that these five movie redemptions are absolutely phenomenal.
#5 – BEN WADE – “3:10 to Yuma”
I really appreciated the 1957 film “3:10 to Yuma”. But I loved the 2007 remake even more and one reason is because of Russell Crowe’s great performance as Ben Wade, an outlaw and killer who has been captured by the authorities. He’s being escorted to the train station in Contention where he will be put on the 3:10 train to Yuma prison. The problem is his gang is there waiting and only a poor rancher named Dan (Christian Bale) and his son are willing to take him to the station. We get hints to Wade’s inner conflict especially as he grows closer to Dan and his struggles. And in the end when his gang comes bearing down with guns blazing, it’s Wade who stands up and in his own way puts an end to things. Crowe is fantastic and Ben Wade’s redemption is one reason this underappreciated movie works so well.
#4 – EBENEZER SCROOGE – “Scrooge”
Everybody knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol”. There have been many versions of this Christmas classic but my personal favorite is the 1970 British film simply titled “Scrooge”. In it the great Albert Finney plays the cantankerous old miser who is visited by three ghosts who wake him up to the joy of Christmas and more importantly life. Scrooge is a mean old cuss who hordes his money, scares little children, bullies his one employee, and hurts the poor and needy through his greed. But the ghosts do their job and Scrooge’s life is forever changed. He stuns the town on Christmas morning buying toys, tearing up debts, donating to the poor, and especially blessing the family of his employee Bob Cratchit. It’s a unique story of redemption but a wonderful one nonetheless. Finney is superb and even though I’m not a fan of musicals, this one works perfectly.
#3 – BOROMIR – “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”
While far from the main character, Boromir from the first film in Peter Jackson’s epic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is a key character. I loved Boromir and a lot of that had to do with Sean Bean’s great performance. From the early moments of Boromir, we are immediately suspicious of him. The way he eyes the ring at the center of the fellowship’s quest and his questions about its destiny show a weakness that the ring can exploit. The seduction of the ring proves too powerful and once alone with Frodo he tries to take the ring for himself. Frodo escapes and Boromir realizes what he has done but it’s too late. The army of orcs and Urak-Hai arrive. In an effort to save Merry and Pippin, Boromir draws the attention to himself and does everything in his power to save the Hobbits. He loses his life in the struggle but not before sharing one of the most emotional scenes in the entire trilogy with Aragorn. Boromir gets a bad wrap. He was consumed by the ring but gave his life to correct his mistake. It’s a great, great moment in the series.
#2 – OSKAR SCHINDLER – “Schindler’s List”
Throughout the first half of Steven Spielberg’s gripping classic “Schindler’s List”, Oskar Schindler is all about making money and being successful. He’s exploiting the war through his shady business tactics and kissing up to the Nazi’s who are occupying Poland. He buys a factory and hires Jewish workers because they are cheaper and things are going well. But Schindler comes face to face with the brutal horror of the Nazi’s and their death camps. It’s here that he makes the decision to use his acquired status to try to help as many of the Jewish people as he can. Schindler’s transformation is a key part of the story and we watch him turn from a despicable opportunist to a true hero of the Jewish people. Schindler’s plans don’t work out perfectly and he never shakes the poor decisions of his past, but his work to save the Jews is powerful and he’s a wonderful picture of redemption.
#1 – DARTH VADER/ANAKIN SKYWALKER – The “Star Wars” series
We all know “Star Wars” and its even more in the news with Disney’s recent aquasition of the property. It’s a series filled with fantastic worlds, cool space ships, wild alien races, and plenty of iconic characters and scenes. But at its core, the “Star Wars” series is really the story of Anakin Skywalker (a.k.a. Darth Vader) and his story of redemption. Counting the three prequel films, we follow Anakin from his life as a young slave boy to his rise of power as Darth Vader, second in command of the Galactic Empire. But in episodes 5 and 6 we begin to see internal struggles within him mainly brought on by the reconnection with his son Luke. All of this comes to a head when Luke is about to die at the hands of the Emperor, Vader’s superior. Feeling the good in him once again, Vader sacrifices himself to kill the Emperor, save his son, and in turn save the galaxy. It’s a story than spans six pictures but when put together it’s redemption at its finest.
So, there you have them my young padawans – 5 Phenomenal Movie Redemptions. I know of several others that could have made this list. How about you? What do you say is the greatest movie redemption?