The “Chosen One” may be one of the most common plot devices in storytelling, but it’s also tricky. Writers must find a way to justify the hero’s role as the grand savior. More importantly, the characters themselves must struggle to live up to this nearly impossible standard. When a person is expected to be a messiah, disappointment is likely no matter what they do.
The majority of movies mostly ensure the Chosen Ones succeed in their quests, but some fail their prophesied role. This is often due to some scripting oversight by the writers. Alternatively, this failure could be a stepping stone for eventual redemption. Either way, these would-be legends mess up so badly that they irreparably damage those who propped them up in the first place.
7 Anakin Skywalker – The Star Wars Series
There’s nothing like needless sequels to render a story utterly meaningless. To explain his affinity as a Jedi, the Star Wars prequels made Anakin Skywalker the subject of an ancient prophecy. The legend said that he would bring balance to the Force by destroying the Sith. One would think turning into Darth Vader and reigning tyranny on the galaxy would dash that hope, but the prophecy did come true in the original trilogy. Redeemed by his son, Skywalker sacrifices himself to destroy the Emperor. This effectively eliminates the Sith.
That was until Disney ushered in a sequel trilogy. New villains Kylo Ren and Snoke still wield the Dark Side of the Force. Even if fans don’t count these two clowns as Sith, the Emperor himself later reappears at the eleventh hour. He somehow survives being blown up (twice), and the prophecy went unfulfilled. Anakin’s sacrifice — and his very presence — is rendered null and void in his own saga.
6 Aang – The Last Airbender
As terrible as The Last Airbender is as an adaptation, the basic setup remains the same as its animated original. In this world, every generation births an Avatar: a mythical figure capable of wielding all four elements through martial arts techniques known as “bending.” The Avatar’s destiny is always to bring balance to the world. Fate selects a humble airbender named Aang as the next Avatar, but the flighty little guy runs away to escape the pressure.
That pressure only mounts afterward. Aang is soon caught in a storm and frozen in ice. When he thaws out a hundred years later, the Fire Nation has slaughtered his people and declared a destructive war on the rest of the world. Making things worse, Aang knows nothing about the other three elements. He tries his best to learn and repel the imperialistic antagonists, but how much death and misery would have been avoided if he’d just sucked it up a century sooner?
5 John Connor – The Terminator Series
The Terminator series is another case of retroactive tampering. A horrific future of nuclear war and killer machines looms over all the films, but a man named John Connor is said to lead the human resistance to victory. Terminator 2 sees him fulfill that role in the present when he and his mother prevent the apocalypse. The future was changed, and the story was over. Sadly, Hollywood just couldn’t leave it alone.
It turns out Judgment Day is inevitable. Connor tries to prevent the destructive future again in Terminator 3, but he can only watch as the machines nuke the world. Though Terminator Genisys tries to reboot this, its method of doing so is to turn Connor into a nanotech villain. The savior is now the destroyer.
Dark Fate attempts to restart things again, but its strategy is to destroy everything that came before. Not only is the terrible future inevitable, but one of the Terminators finally blasts the teenage John Connor away with a shotgun. The filmmakers then replace him as the leader of humanity with a girl named Dani Reyes. Thus, the most pivotal character in the series is rendered useless. Why was it so important to save him in the earlier movies? Who knows?
4 Kovu – The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride
This animated subversion of Romeo & Juliet contains a rare positive example of a failed chosen one. Following the first Lion King film, Simba exiled those who remained loyal to Scar. The murderous Zira was among these despite grooming her son, Kovu, to be the next ruler. The young lion was handpicked by Scar to be his heir, so he’s ideal to infiltrate Simba’s pride and assassinate him. It’s a good plan in theory.
In practice, it all falls apart once Kovu gets to know Simba’s daughter, Kiara. He learns there’s more to life than training and killing, and he gains a new perspective on Scar and his deeds through this. He soon wants nothing to do with his mother’s plot. Years of preparation go down the tube, but Kovu won’t lose much sleep over it. If anything, he probably wishes he got out sooner.
3 Frodo Baggins – The Lord of the Rings Series
The eponymous ring of The Lord of the Rings corrupts the hearts of anyone in its presence. The humble Hobbits are more resilient than other races to its seductive power, but they do falter eventually. Fate brings the ring to one such Hobbit — Frodo — leading many to assume that he was meant to bear it and hopefully destroy it. Unfortunately, he reaches his breaking point at the very end of the journey. Just as he’s about to cast the cursed band into Mount Doom, he changes his mind and claims it for himself. Sauron detects this and sends his forces to overwhelm the little Halfling. This is where Gollum plays his part.
This emaciated creature was possessed by the ring long before, and he bites Frodo’s finger off to get it back. In the book, he’s so overjoyed that he tumbles off the volcano’s edge, destroying both himself and his “Precious.” In the movie, this occurs because he and Frodo start fighting over it. Either way, the pint-sized savior of Middle-earth almost doomed (pun intended) it at the last second. One wonders whether that part made it into the tales and songs that came after.
2 Ash Williams – The Evil Dead Series
Ash is just some college kid in a cabin with his friends. When the Book of the Dead brings the demonic Deadites, the unassuming guy must fight for his life, seemingly being the only one capable of keeping up with the madness of this supernatural menace. The third Evil Dead flick, Army of Darkness, sends Ash back in time to the Middle Ages, where the primitive denizens witness his gift for combating the undead (and slinging one-liners). Thus, they send him on a quest to find the unholy book and recite the spell to end its evil hold on the land.
The selfish fool doesn’t exactly have a good memory, though. He forgets the incantation and opens the door for a renewed invasion. Deadites swarm the kingdom, killing those in their path and possessing those they deem useful (or hot). To his credit, Ash stays to help in the resulting battle, but there wouldn’t have been a battle had it not been for his negligence. Despite this, the good guys win the day, and Ash lives to screw things up again in a TV series.
1 Superman – Man Of Steel
This grim reimagining of Superman desperately wants audiences to take it seriously. As such, it plays up the biblical undertones, treating its protagonist as a beacon and thematic plot device. The characters never stop going on about how Superman will change the world and help humanity strive toward a better tomorrow. In a bizarre addition, his alien dad even encodes Krypton’s entire genetic record into his DNA, effectively making him the future of his people. It’s just a shame no one taught him how to be Superman.
When the titular Man of Steel reveals himself to battle General Zod and his cronies, the result is cataclysmic. These super-powered thugs slam each other into cars, buildings, and power lines. It doesn’t take long for Smallville to go up in smoke, but that’s not enough.
They soon take their fight to the big city. Skyscrapers topple like dominoes, killing thousands of unsuspecting innocents, and the supposed hero makes virtually no effort to prevent such casualties. The final insult comes when he snaps Zod’s neck. His race is extinct, and Metropolis is gone. Needless to say, the puny Earthlings aren’t too happy with their extraterrestrial god. His presence results only in piles of rubble and bodies. It turns out the “better tomorrow” is rebuilding the damage of today.
MORE: Movie Heroes With The Coolest Last Lines
When facing a heroic death, these heroes punctuated their final moments with words that remained in the hearts of viewers forever.
About The Author