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In the vast majority of movies, there’s a hero and there’s a villain. This classic struggle between good and evil, between virtue and vice, between courage and cruelty, is a trope that can be seen in most stories told throughout the course of human history, and it’s a particularly fun one to watch in films.
You’d think that a face-off between the hero and villain would be a guarantee in any movie, but you’d be mistaken. In a very rare few films, these two characters actually never meet. Whether they know about each other’s existence, like in Star Wars, or not even that, like in The Fifth Element, these kinds of stories are always a blast.
10 ‘Gremlins 2: The New Batch’ (1990)
Not many people were expecting the children’s Christmas horror classic Gremlins to get a sequel—And certainly not one as flamboyant, mordant, and hilarious as Gremlins 2: The New Batch, where the titular monsters take control of a New York City media mogul’s high-tech skyscraper.
In this biting satire about consumerist culture and the contemporary state of the media, the human hero Billy (Zach Galligan) never crosses paths with either Brain Gremlin (Tony Randall) or Mohawk (Frank Welker), who are instead taken on by other characters.
9 ‘True Romance’ (1993)
The first movie that Quentin Tarantino wrote but didn’t direct, Tony Scott‘s True Romance is an oddball crime romance about a nerd who steals cocaine from his new wife’s pimp and tries to sell it in Hollywood, causing the mobsters who own the drugs to pursue the couple.
The film, delightfully funny and violent, is a cult classic for good reason. But while its story does hit a few familiar story beats, by the time the credits roll, protagonist Clarence (Christian Slater) doesn’t even know who Vincenzo (Christopher Walken), the main antagonist, is.
8 ‘The Fifth Element’ (1997)
Luc Besson is responsible for some of the best action movies of the ’90s, and his The Fifth Element is a worthy fan-favorite. In its colorful future, a cab driver accidentally becomes a key player in the search for a legendary weapon.
There are many things that the movie is famous for: Its stunning visuals, entertaining story full of humor and sci-fi thrills, and Bruce Willis and Gary Oldman‘s charming performances as the hero and villain, respectively. Interestingly enough, these two characters never come face-to-face at any point during the story, and in fact don’t really know who each other is.
7 ‘Braveheart’ (1995)
Known for his gritty and emotionally stirring historical epics, Mel Gibson certainly knows how to make an engaging war drama. The Best Picture Oscar-winning Braveheart, universally considered one of his best films, is about Scottish warrior William Wallace and his struggle to lead his countrymen in a battle to free their homeland.
At all points, audiences can feel the looming threat of the movie’s antagonist: King Edward I of England (Patrick McGoohan). Despite that, his sword never clashes with that of Wallace (Gibson), although that isn’t necessary for the hero to stumble upon mighty obstacles and meet a tragic end.
6 ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015)
Hailed as one of the greatest action films of the past decade, Mad Max: Fury Road is a hell of a blast from start to finish. Its plot is as simple as they come: A group of rebels and a drifter named Max escape from a tyrant in a post-apocalyptic world.
Fury Road doesn’t need any more complexity, as it takes all sorts of fun twists throughout its breezy runtime. In the midst of the mayhem, though, it may be easy to overlook the fact that Max (Tom Hardy) never truly meets the man that he’s escaping from, the mysterious Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).
5 ‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007)
The Coen brothers have achieved a variety of admirable filmmaking feats over the course of their career, but few as exceptional as their neo-Western/neo-noir hybrid No Country for Old Men, about a hunter who, after stumbling upon two million dollars in cash in the desert, unknowingly sparks a chain of violence and death.
Javier Bardem won an Oscar for his performance as villain Anton Chigurh—and for good reason, since it’s one of the most terrifying villains from non-horror movies ever conceived. In a story so full of morally gray characters, it’s hard to pinpoint a proper hero, but Tommy Lee Jones‘s Ed Tom Bell certainly fits the bill. It just so happens that despite his relentless pursuit of Chigurh, the two never actually meet.
4 ‘The Great Dictator’ (1940)
Amid World War II, yet at a time when the full extent of the cruelty of Hitler, Mussolini, and fascism wasn’t yet common knowledge, Charles Chaplin made the quasi-prophetical The Great Dictator, where a dictator tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution from the villain’s regime.
Chaplin’s jump from silent cinema to talkies was a seamless one, as The Great Dictator is just as hilarious as his non-speaking work. The presence of sound allows for a more complex narrative, though, in which the dictator and the barber (both played by Chaplin) share a huge link, but never see each other face-to-face.
3 ‘Memories of Murder’ (2003)
Even though he’s best-known for his international phenomenon Parasite, Bong Joon-ho has made several outstanding masterpieces. One of his best is undoubtedly Memories of Murder, a crime thriller inspired by true events about two detectives in a small Korean province struggling with a ghastly murder case.
Slow-burning yet fascinating, and haunting beyond measure, Memories of Murder is a phenomenal introduction if you’re looking to get into South Korean cinema. It’s not a feel-good thriller, though, since in the film’s gut-wrenching ending, the mysterious killer is still on the loose.
2 ‘Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope’ (1977)
Also known as Episode IV — A New Hope, Star Wars is easily one of the most popular and well-known movies ever made. Its story, closely following the Hero’s Journey story archetype, is a space opera about a young farmer thrown into an intergalactic adventure far greater than anything he’d ever hoped for.
Anyone even the slightest bit familiar with the Star Wars franchise knows about the link between Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones), which is so crucial to the narrative that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that, although they share a couple of interactions, the hero and villain never genuinely meet or face off in the franchise’s first installment.
1 The ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy
Often lauded as the single best fantasy film trilogy of all time—for plenty of good reasons—, Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a riveting epic set in a world of magic, elves, and dwarves, where a team of courageous heroes sets off to destroy the greatest weapon of a tyrant ever-growing in power.
Over the course of their odyssey, the Fellowship of the Ring faces many foes and obstacles. However, none of them (including protagonist Frodo, played by Elijah Wood) have to face the main antagonist Sauron… Largely because he doesn’t have a physical form, and is instead a force of pure evil watching over Middle-earth in pursuit of his former glory.
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