5. “Pasha” Antipov in Doctor Zhivago
Pasha seems like an afterthought the moment you meet him in this film – a passive protester on the side of democracy, Anitpov is brought to extremism after being shown that peaceful resistance is useless. He marries Lara, Zhivago’s love interest in the film, early on – so we know this guy pretty much has to die. That’s really all you see him as at first – he’s just this little dude who is in the way. And after having a kid with Lara he goes off to volunteer to fight in WWI – problem solved! He is promptly forgotten and later said to have died doing something or other. It really feels like the last we’ll see of him. But it ain’t.
Next thing you know this cat is chilling on the back of an armored train with a scar down his face like a goddamn bond villain with the new title and name of the People’s Commissar Strelnikov. Zhivago cross paths with him as a prisoner on said armored train, making for some awkward conversation. In the end he is let go, a rarity, as a guard lets slide that most people who are questioned by this once peaceful protestor usually get their asses shot off.
What makes this change great is that Pasha himself doesn’t really hold Zhivago or Lara back in any direct way – it’s just that suddenly he’s a very powerful man, and Lara – still married to him – is now a target. It kind of sucks.
4. Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy
Luke was raised but a simple moisture farmer at the beginning of the series. Moisture farming being, of course, the farming of water – which is probably the stupidest kind of farming ever conceived. Not that there isn’t a need for aquatic farming on Tatooine, it’s just that there really isn’t a stupider sounding occupation out there. “So what do you do?” – “Oh, I farm water.”
Now Jedi Knight, on the other hand – that’s something to take that’ll impress the ol’ sister. When the tool of your trade is a glowing scepter, you know you’re on to something. Of course it takes a whole lot of whining along the way for Luke to become anywhere close to awesome, which is what makes the transformation so satisfying – it’s hard to put fresh eyes on the series, but frankly he is a real twerp for most of these movies. I don’t care what kind of galaxy far, far away you’re in – when someone tells you that they can train you to make stuff float around in the air you listen to everything they say without any question at all times.
Luckily by the second film he’s gained enough badass points to laze yeti limbs, but of course it’s only after Yoda’s albeit brief training does he really shine – claiming himself some Rancor meat and of course saving the day and all that later on. In the end he’s sitting pretty good with his newly liberated rebel pals and all those delicious Ewoks to eat. Good times.
3. Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy
In terms of skin tone, Ash is the John McClane of the horror genre in that he only gets redder and redder throughout. Blood does that to you.
What’s great is that any single one of these films would be enough to be on this list – he starts the first film as a real cowardly little guy, leaving most of the heavy lifting to his blonde friend. It’s only after that guy gets taken down does Ash step up – and in the end he’s bloody, crazy, and awesome. Then the second film pretty much starts him out in the exact same weak way that the first started him, but luckily a guy tends to harden pretty quick after cutting off his girlfriend’s head, burying her, and then fighting her undead corpse. In the horror genre that’s practically a rite of passage anyway.
Oh, and chainsaw hand. Can’t forget Ash’s hand becoming possessed, beating him up, getting cut off, beating him up some more, and being replaced with logging equipment. Then they go ahead and top off the second film with Mr. Chainsaw-Hand being worshiped as a savior after going back in time to the Crusades. Yikes. And that’s only the end of the second film!
By the end of the third he has successfully lead an entire army against hoards of the undead lead by a guy who for some reason split off him like a dividing cell. It’s all very confusing, but Ash makes it out on top and is able to get back to modern times and continue to fight deadites on his own turf. So basically he goes from wimpy college dude to saw-handed time traveler in three movies. And all that’s without even mentioning his boomstick.
2. Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter series
Poor Neville. The kid’s had a hard life before we really even first see him in the films. Right after his birth his parents were freaking tortured to insanity – that was his starting point in life and then things didn’t really get all that better afterward. He spends the first few movies as a painfully forgettable character – usually the butt of jokes and at best being paralyzed by his friends. I mean – the dude studies plants, how badass could that possibly be?
Neville is the perfect example of a talented, kind-hearted kid living under the shadow of a much more popular and praised child – Harry. But Neville isn’t resentful – he’s better than that. And slowly as the films progress he sneaks up on us – joining Harry’s cause, taking a stand, helping when possible, and next thing we know he’s covered in ash hacking a snake’s head off like some kind of slayer of beasts.
You can tell this kid is going to be stonecold just from the scene in Goblet Of Fire where Moody is showing the class each unforgivable curse by subjecting an innocent creature to them as an example, and when Neville is asked to name a curse he actually names the one that was used to torture his parents. He sits there and he watches Moody use this very curse in front of him just building up that crazy rage inside. Kid’s a mad dog.
1. Sarah Connor in Terminator 1 & 2
No matter how many times you watch these movies back-to-back the transition is still startling. For the first movie she’s a sobbing, running, screaming waitress being ushered to safety by her future son’s buddy from the future whose been sent to protect her by her son who also needs him to have sex with her so he can father her baby that will eventually be his friend who sent him back I think I got mixed up there…point is that Sarah Connor’s womb must look like an M.C. Escher drawing on the inside, and in the first film she is as helpless as the baby that Kyle Reese has been sent to protect/make.
Then we get to the second film and boy did this gal prepare. It only makes sense; if your family has a history of heart disease or diabetes you take care of yourself early on so as to avoid future problems. If, in Connor’s case, your family has a history of time-traveling robots with a human flesh coating then you’re going to want to bulk up and perhaps learn how to shoot a grenade launcher or two. It’s just good sense.
What really makes Sarah the ultimate badass is that not only is she strong, smart, and capable, but she’s also crazy like a foxy fox. She’s not to toy with because human life is meaningless to her, after all, everyone’s going to die anyway so who cares, right? It’s that lack of compassion that really brings her to the next level. In the first movie she has friends, and a boss, and she cares about life the way any of us would – but now, all she sees are walking corpses. Hard. Core.
Also there’s pretty much nothing more badass than carving “no fate” into a picnic table while dreaming about nuclear holocaust. Try doing that in the park and see if anyone approaches you.