Protagonist and antagonist: meaning and origin of the terms

Protagonist and antagonist face each other not only in film. We have found out everything behind these terms for you.

In literature and also in film, the protagonist is the main character around whom the story revolves. Most of them are heroes who want to save the world or defeat evil. Evil is often depicted with dark figures, the so-called antagonists. The protagonists often have special powers and sometimes sacrifice themselves for the weaker people. This makes them heroes. The antagonists are usually portrayed as frightening and unsympathetic. They want to prevent the heroes from being able to save the world. But that’s just one type of protagonist and antagonist. You can find out where the terms come from and what other examples there are in the following article.

A great story needs a compelling antagonist, such as the evil Uncle Scar from The Lion King. You can find more exciting fights between protagonists and antagonists in our video on the ten best cartoons.

What does protagonist and antagonist mean?

To put it very simply, these terms can be described as for and against, pro and contra, or in literature and in the film business with acting persons and opponents. Protagonist is an ancient Greek term and means something like first fighter or first fighter, the leader or main actor. Antagonist is also a Greek term and means opponent, adversary, opponent. These terms are also used in films. There, for example, Batman (Christian Bale) from Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, the hero who stands for good, is a protagonist and Joker (Heath Ledger), who wants to throw Gotham into chaos, an antagonist.

We show villains who also have their good sides in our photo gallery:

Examples of protagonists and antagonists:

But there are also situations in which the protagonists become antagonists or the antagonists become protagonists. Sometimes both parties are treated equally. In crime novels it is often the case that initially the well-portrayed person becomes the culprit. The supposed culprit can also change for the better. The acting person can also be an antihero. This means a person who does terrible things, for example, but is still the focus of the story and is therefore a protagonist. An example of this is Walter White (Bryan Cranston) from “Breaking Bad”. We have put together more examples for you here:

  • Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is in the film as well as in the books a good sorcerer’s apprentice who wants to prevent the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) gains power over the magical world. So Harry is the protagonist and Voldemort is the antagonist.
  • In the classic fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, the siblings are Hansel and Gretel the protagonists and the witch, which lures her into a trap, the antagonist.
  • Im Cartoon Tom and Jerry both can be called protagonists and antagonists because both cat and mouse have good and bad intentions.
  • In “Joker” this time it’s the villain Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) the protagonist to whom the society some stones are put in the way. Thus, even a rather abstract idea like a merciless society or a system can serve as an antagonist.

Do you recognize these movie villains? Test your knowledge in the quiz:

MCU Quiz: Can You Match The Villain To The Correct Movie?

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