Archetypes in Movies – The Rebel

True to his name, the rebel is the opposing force in a film. He stands up against a flawed system, providing a better solution or alternative. The rebel is usually a victim of certain injustices, which motivate him to take up arms against the regime of the day. 

He achieves that quite literally or through more figurative means. His past drives him to change the status quo. He is not afraid to speak out and, initially unpopular, the rebel rises to stardom during his plot journey and character development.

How the rebel operates 🏍️

The rebel isn’t the first-choice leader people think about at the start. He typically begins as an underdog and his efforts in the film set him apart.

The rebel, more often than not, comes from a position of little power. In a way, he’s a bit of an underdog in the story.

Without the means or resources to enact change, they often rely on the kindness of others and their charm. They make the most out of a position of inferiority in the lower realms of society, eventually rising to a position of power.

They seek change not for themselves, but for others that they care about. They’re willing to challenge societal norms to do what they believe is right.

Selfless and brave, the rebel inspires a following because of his morals. The rebel says things most are afraid to, he is raw and uncensored.

He is willing to take risks, isn’t very trusting, and carries out his business in a distinctly different fashion from others. 

3 rebel archetypes in modern cinema

Robin Hood from the similarly titled movie

The 2010 adventure film Robin Hood reignites the legend of fairytale’s most popular hero, who has been a symbol of rebellion since time immemorial. Robin Longstride was a skilled archer in King Richard’s army. Tired of battle and not a fan of the king’s way of ruling, he speaks out against the regime’s conduct without mincing words. 

At a time when one man ruled in dictatorship, Robin stood up to challenge the system. No one would dare defy the king, let alone reveal his wrongdoings to his face. 

Rob the rich, give to the poor

As a rebel archetype, Robin Hood wasn’t afraid to speak up against injustices. He wasn’t afraid of the consequences, and the king sends him to the stocks for his “crimes.”

Robin escapes during an attack by enemy forces on the castle which resulted in King Richard’s death. King John takes over the family hierarchy, stepping into power with a raft of harsh new measures including hefty taxes.

He carries on the injustices of the system before, and Robin once again moves to challenge his reign. Robin incites others to take up arms against the kingdom. He is the voice of change, spearheading legislation to safeguard the rights of citizens.

When he fails to convince King John, Robin resorts to vigilantism. He and friends retreat to a forest, coming out at night to take from the rich and give to the poor.

Robin Hood embodies the backbone traits that make him an epitome of the rebel archetype. He is brave and selfless, dueling corruption and tyranny when the majority would stand by and do nothing. 

Harry Callahan as the rebel cop in Dirty Harry

Criminals sometimes go unpunished for their crimes due to red tapes and legal technicalities.” Dirty Harry” from the movie of the same name is keen to rectify those wrongs.

The controversial officer upholds his version of the law, always defending the common man when he cannot defend himself. 

Harry rebels against a flawed judicial system, commonly taking the law into his hands like an antihero. He hates criminals and there is no line he wouldn’t cross in search of that which he believes to be true justice.

Big heart, big gun

Harry is a rebel in that he goes against what we would expect of a police officer. He is not afraid of putting down the bad guy. In the famous bank robbery scene where he taunts a robber to push his luck, it becomes clear what kind of person he is. 

He dares the robber to pick up his fallen shotgun and take his chances whether Harry’s revolver had run out of ammo in the shootout. When the robber says “he gats to known” after he decides against picking up the gun, Harry pulls the vacant trigger, smiling and walking away.

Did he know it was empty? Harry himself wasn’t sure. He wasn’t afraid of the implications of his actions. He was ready to shoot a criminal in cold blood, indicating this tough cop is not an everyday working stiff that simply falls in line.

In the end, he even murders the defenseless serial killer he chases after throughout the movie after he had surrendered. 

The defiant disc jockey in Good Morning, Vietnam

Charismatic disc jockey Adrian always sticks it to his superiors at the Armed Forces Radio Service, much to the pleasure of the troops. He isn’t a stickler for rules, regularly disobeying those up the chain of command.

When his bosses ask him to do one thing, he does the opposite. 

When they request to steer clear of a topic, the more he talks about it. The defiant DJ is a rebel in every sense. And he doesn’t just do it for kicks.

Adrian is a hero in his own right. He does more than simply offer stress relief and entertainment during the Vietnam war.

When Adrian Cronauer steps into his new role at the AFRS, he finds a strict system in place. Edward Garlick, the private who takes him around on his first day, is representative of the majority under its influence. The news on the show is heavily censored and superiors generally constrict the kind of music that airs. 

A rebel finds his voice

Adrian revitalizes the DJ role, angering superiors and pleasing coworkers and listeners with his unconventional brand of music and humor. He is even fired at one point before public outcry sees him reinstated.

The rebel archetype often speaks up against some form of injustice. The conflict resolution wouldn’t have been possible without their rebellious efforts chipping in one way or the other.

DJ Adrian regularly defies the authorities, even locking himself up in a studio at one point, to deliver news that those higher above wanted silenced. 

His actions aren’t for personal gain.

He champions the cause of American soldiers and the innocent Vietnamese caught in the crossfire. Protection Status