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The Most Fascinating Self-Destructive Characters in Film

Not all movies have happen endings, especially with characters that exhibit self-destructive behavior.

Self-destructive behavior can closely be associated to a state of paranoia wherein a person becomes a victim of their wrongdoings. Film has a way of imitating people who struggle with this, and it allows audiences to have a look into how destructive acts can easily turn against you.

On this list put together for you by ExploreTalent, you will find the most famous and fascinating self-destructive characters in the history of cinema:

1. The Joker (The Dark Knight)

The late Heath Ledger left the world heartbroken after his shocking death, but his legacy was forever cemented by his portrayal of the most notorious super villains of all time.

As The Joker in Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight, Ledger stepped into the shoes of the role made famous by Jack Nicholson. His take was a darker and sinister antagonist who causes an immediate feeling of dread whenever he shows up onscreen.

Ultimately, The Joker had been playing out his tricks and mind games but bringing the destruction all to himself in the end. His violent tendencies lead to his own demise as even Batman realizes that all he wants to do is inflict harm and test the world without ever thinking of the consequences.

2. Lisa Rowe (Girl Interrupted)


As soon as Winona Ryder‘s character Sussana from Girl Interrupted was placed in the mental health facility, the last thing she expected to feel was admiration for fellow patient Lisa Rowe (Angelina Jolie). Rowe is charismatic, brass, and is proud of her ability to manipulate other people to follow what she says. She was branded as a dangerous sociopath and it leads to her being admitted to the facility she hates so much over and over again. As the movie comes to and end, Sussana is able to overcome her own demons, but Rowe stays behind.

3. Nina Sayers (Black Swan)


There was always something so dark and unsettling about the movie Black Swan. It has given audiences a look into the competitive and unmerciful world of ballet amid fabulous costumes and admirable routines. The film’s protagonist, Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), will do anything to play the White Swan, even if it means resorting to drastic measures in doing so.

Naturally, Nina gets threatened when another woman named Lily (Mila Kunis) is considered for the role as she possesses more alluring qualities than her. So she does everything in her power to stop that from happening and this results in Nina losing her mind—and her life as well.

4. Jack Torrance (The Shining)


No one has quite captured madness like Jack Nicholson‘s character Jack Torrance in The Shining.

Torrance, who was an alcoholic with a temper, gets a caretaker job in a remote hotel to get his mind off his strained marriage and his dream to finish a book. But there is apparently inhuman guests in the hotel that have continued to haunt its premises over the years.

Torrance finally loses his mind in a climactic scene where he chases his own wife and child with an ax in attempt to murder them. This particular scene gave birth to the “Here’s Johnny!” scene, which has notably gone down in horror film history.

5. Lester Burnham (American Beauty)

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Every American living in a suburb has their own set of secrets and broken dreams that they won’t share to anyone. For Lester Burnham, he is just sick of his routine existence, and for matters that he somehow cannot control. He starts to fantasize about his teenage daughter’s friend. His series of hallucinations involve her being scantily clad and filled with roses, and it is enough to inspire him to pursue her altogether.

Burnham does everything from working out to even doing some “hip” yet destructive behavior like smoking pot and blackmailing his own boss in an attempt to escape his existential crisis. But Burnham finds out that his actions have been backfiring and that the girl he has been hoping to make him feel young again is not what she seems. While he does not die like most of the characters on this list, Burnham’s own action led to his destruction because of the impact it made on his family.

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