Movies have the amazing ability to capture all sorts of human actions and the emotions and motivations that drive them. Not all of those actions are good which leads to this particular Phenomenal 5. Today I’m looking at movie betrayals and there certainly have been a ton of them. The sheer number of characters who have stabbed another in the back was hard to narrow down. I decided to skip some of the obvious choices and go for more variety. So considering how many there were to choose from I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but there’s no denying that these five movie betrayals are phenomenal (ummm, but not in a good way).
Obviously spoilers will follow!
#5 – “Total Recall” (1990)
Call this the “I would betray anybody for a dollar” betrayal. In “Total Recall” (the fun original sci-fi actioner, not the unwatchable 2012 mess) . Schwarzenegger finds himself fighting with an underground mutant rebellion against a wicked and oppressive governor on Mars. Along the way he meets Benny, a good-natured taxicab driver who inadvertently joins Arnie in the fight. The problem is Benny is actually working for the tyrannical governor and he turns his back on the rebellion at the worst possible time. And not only has he lied about one thing after another, but it’s revealed that he’s a mutant and has turned on his own kind. It’s a pretty rotten betrayal.
#4 – “Goodfellas”
Call this the “betraying isn’t always a bad thing” betrayal. Martin Scorsese’s quintessential gangster movie features a betrayal that is distinctly memorable. And while it is most certainly a betrayal, it can easily be argued that it was a good one. Henry Hill made a good life for himself along with his wise-guy pals. But once the law comes down on their illegal activities Henry is offered an opportunity to leave his criminal life. But to do so would require him to turn on his buddies. That’s a pretty unsavory thing to do and living straight may be his biggest challenge. But turning from crime is a good thing even if turning on your friends is a bit shady.
#3 – “Dial M for Murder”
Call this one the “cheating never pays” betrayal. In Alfred Hitchcock’s wonderful 1954 thriller we see a pretty ugly deviation from holy matrimony. In fact it features two different betrayals. First you have a socialite wife (played by the stunning Grave Kelly) who cheats on her husband. That’s bad. But then the husband, who has secretly found out about his wife’s infidelity, devises a brutal betrayal of his own. He devises a plan to have his wife murdered. That’s bad too. Both husband and wife are flawed people and they both seem content to betray the other, just in wildly different but equally vile ways.
#2 – “Social Network”
Call this the “business over friendship” betrayal. I was surprised by how enthralling and effective a story about social media could be. David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin teamed up to tell the story of friendship, Facebook, and ultimately a shameful betrayal. It shows the creation of Facebook by two close college friends Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin. But Zuckerberg is lured by his lust for greed and success which leads to him deceiving and ultimately cutting the financial throat of his one time close friend. Conniving, self-centered, and shameful. Just a few of the many words that could describe this pathetic betrayal.
#1 – “The Empire Strikes Back”
This could be called the “saving your own butt” betrayal. I mean Lando, how could you do it? Now to be fair the powerful and evil Darth Vader had Lando by the throat (quite literally). And as the head honcho of Cloud City, Lando had to worry about Vader blowing Bespin out of the sky. But I still remember the first time I saw Lando lure Han, Leia, and Chewie into Vader’s trap. As a kid I was absolutely furious. It really does set up one of the original trilogy’s best story angles and it should be said Lando was between a rock and a hard place. But it’s still a betrayal of epic proportions and it stands out as my easy #1.
So what do you think of my picks? See something I missed? What would’ve made your list? Please take time to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Lando deserves to be #1, but he did end up redeeming himself moments later 🙂
Oh great call on Lando Keith! That one still hurts. I’d say Fredo in Godfather 2 is a pretty bad betrayal too.
Freda is a really good one. Nice call there. But Lando… How could he do it? But Han did say he didn’t trust him.
Great picks! The first one that came to my mind was Atonement, with Briony telling that lie. She definitely betrayed everyone’s trust there. Evie throwing Tracy under the bus at the end of Thirteen is a big one for me too.
Nice mentions! I don’t think I have seen Thirteen. Sounds like it fits this particular list!
Excellent and varied list! That Dial M for Murder is an inspired choice. It’s funny, because when I read your theme that was the first film I thought of, for some reason.
Really??? Very cool. I love that movie. Betrayal is certainly woven in and out if that film, wouldn’t you say? For me it is an underrated Hitchcock picture. It isn’t perfect but I love it. And Grace Kelly…my gosh!
Kelly really surprised me in the film, because I never took her for this great actress, but she nailed that film. Milland is also really, really great.
Fun post, Keith. How about Dr. Elsa Schneider from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? Or, Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco?
I thought about Elsa. She definitely turned on Indy and his dad. Oh and what a beauty! How could she do it??? Sigh….
Good calls! Even after the turnaround in Jedi I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven that snake Lando! I’ll throw in Ian Holm’s Ash from the original Alien but I also think Fredo Corleone is a great shout.
Good calls! I was actually thinking about Burke from Aliens. Talk about a snake in the grass!!! But Aliens has found its way on so many Phenomenal 5 lists lately.
Wonderful set, Keith. For me, Captain Dudley Smith’s in L.A. Confidential is also high up there.
Another good one. He completely slipped by me. Nice mention!
Great list. I would add Cypher from The Matrix. Watching the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar get taken out one by one by his cruelty is always hard to watch.
He was #6! Constantly went back-and-forth between Cypher and Benny. I think I ended up going with Benny simply because he betrayed his entire race. Of course it could be argued that Cypher’s betrayal was just a serious.
Nice list! Fredo would definitely be up there for me. I’d also add Mr. Orange from Reservoir Dogs.
Good mentions. I expected people to bring up Mr. Orange!
Great idea for a list! The Social Network was a great choice.
Thanks! It was one of the very first betrayals to come to mind. Talk about stabbing an old friend in the back.
Had to be tough to narrow it down to five. I imagine there are fewer movies that don’t have betrayal. Lots of good suggestions in the comments already. Some I haven’t seen mentioned: Selena Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, Nino Brown in New Jack City, Tony Montana and/or Minolo in Scarface, the Hunchback in 300.
Wendell it was a lot tougher than I expected. That’s why I decided to go for variety instead of the five best. You mention some really good ones. I thought about the hunchback myself. Forgot about Selena though!
Great picks! You have such awesome ideas. I would also go with Saruman betraying Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Oooooh that’s a really good one!!! I totally missed that one!
Really interesting read mate. Cool idea for a post too, I enjoyed it. Good stuff! 🙂
Thanks so much! Appreciate the encouragement.
No worries mate. The more movie blogs I find the more I learn and gain new perspectives on film. And ideas, like I said, the topic for this post is a really cool idea. 🙂
Great choices, betrayal really brings some electrifying moments to cinema.
So true! And there are so many if them!
I think it’s such a lacerating thing for someone to betrayed, so devastating.
True. And from a movie perspective a good writer and director can pull the rug out from under you when a betrayal is done right.
Precisely, a combination of directing, writing and effective acting can really make that sense of betrayal hit home.
What a great Phenomenal 5 list dude. One of my personal favorites is Trevelyn and James Bond. The friendship between those two was dear to me and watching how that relationship played out is heartbreaking. Plus, I really loved Sean Bean in that flick.
Good mention Tom. I’ll be honest, I like Sean Bean in everything. He is such a good actor who deserves a lot more quality material.
Yes! Dial M and Empire are inspired picks for this list, Keith. I remember my jaw hitting the floor with these 2 betrayals. Kelly and Milland are indeed so vile in this film, like you mentioned, that it almost felt like a “who can out-betray the other” sort of game, no? As far as Empire, I wanted to really jump through the screen and throttle Lando. Awesome P5, man!
Thanks Vic. I literally left the theater after watching Empire literally mad as a hornet. I couldn’t believe what my young eyes had just seen. My favorite Star Wars character betrayed!!!!
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