Sometimes what makes a film special is watching the transformation of a certain character (spoilers follow).
We get to see them go through trials and tribulations and see how they’ve changed when coming out the other side. Sometimes we get to see amazing growth, whereas other times we see the opposite. Occasionally a character doesn’t change at all even though we really want them to. I personally love to watch a movie that depicts a character come into their own and become a stronger or kinder person at the end. Here are five of some of the greatest character transformations throughout movie history.
Scarlett O’Hara – Gone with the Wind (1939)
One of the most complex characters in history is Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) in Gone with the Wind. We see Scarlett at the beginning of the film as a spoiled, selfish and petulant girl. When she must leave her home, she begins to see and feel the effects of war first hand. We see her come to terms with death, become a mother and struggle with complicated relationships. During the film we see her partake in selfless acts, however some doubt her motivations for doing these things. At the end of the film, we get to finally see her let go of an obsession with a man whom she thought she was in love with from the start. The ending is bittersweet but the transformation of Scarlett is an amazing one to watch.
Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader – The Star Wars (1977-2005) Franchise
I have to admit I didn’t watch any of the Star Wars films until later in my life. I thought I knew the whole story based on what other people had told me, so I thought I didn’t need to see them. I was so wrong. We get to see Anakin (Jake Lloyd/Hayden Christensen) struggle with being taken away from his home and mother so young, and then becoming a moody and love-obsessed teenager. We see him experience a mental break that leads him to becoming Darth Vader (James Earl Jones). What I didn’t know was that Darth Vader turned good again at the very end, and saved his son Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). This is one of my favourite film moments to watch.
Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver (1976)
In Taxi Driver, we get an inside look at a deranged taxi driver who becomes more and more disgusted with the city he resides in. Bickle is convinced he is going to assassinate a presidential candidate, only to instead kill a bouncer of a brothel. He is praised for this in the press and experiences no retribution. The end scene is the same as the beginning scene of Bickle driving in his Taxi. We can only assume that this character has learned nothing throughout the film, and will continue with his delusional thoughts and actions.
See our throwback classic film review of Taxi Driver here!
Sarah Connor – Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
In The Terminator (1984) we see Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) as a naïve damsel in distress who easily falls in love with the film’s protagonist Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), and has no skills whatsoever to protect herself from the Terminator. In the second film however, we get to see Connor break out of a mental institution, hold her own against the new and improved liquid-metal Terminator and be an all-around badass. This has to be one of my favourite character transformations of all time.
Harvey Dent/ Two Face – The Dark Knight (2008)
In The Dark Knight, we get to see Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) play a respectable politician and a loving partner. By the end of the film, we see Harvey lose everything he loves and turn into the villain that the Joker (Heath Ledger) wanted him to become. While we don’t want to see Harvey turn into a monster, it can easily be seen how he got there, and while he doesn’t become an unexpecting bad guy, it is an interesting transformation to watch none the less.
Check out our review of The Dark Knight from way back when here!
Special Mention: Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in The Godfather (1972-1990) films, pictured top of page.