Willpower is widely considered a virtuous and heroic trait. It’s one that’s often exaggerated in the media, as most heroic wins have odds heavily against heroes. As such, there are plenty of movie heroes who don’t give up even when it seems like they have no chance of succeeding.
However, there are characters who go even further, characters whose defining trait is their determination or who carry on despite injury or horrific consequences. Some characters insist on never giving up, no matter how difficult the situation they find themselves in, and often win for that reason alone.
ten Rocky Balboa is defined by his granite jawbone
In the Rocky franchise, protagonist Rocky Balboa doesn’t owe his boxing success to great strength or incredible skill. Although he’s perfectly strong and skilled, he’s no better than Apollo Creed, or Clubber Lang, or Ivan Drago, or any number of antagonists. Instead, Rocky’s strength is resilience.
Although he begins to hesitate to fight Creed in Rocky, his main hope is to “go the distance”, and last the whole game. Throughout the franchise, this becomes more and more pronounced, until even the lethally strong Ivan Drago has to admit that he’s “like a piece of iron.”
9 The T-800 is a relentless killer
Often the unstoppable will is presented as a heroic attribute. However, some movies – especially horror movies – flip the script and show how terrifying it can be from the opposite perspective. In The Terminatorthe defining trait of the antagonist is that he cannot and will not stop until he or Sarah Connor is dead.
That’s what makes the Terminator so effective. It cannot be frightened or weakened beyond combat. Even after being mutilated and torn apart, his metallic skeleton drags itself towards Sarah. In Terminator 2: Judgment Daythis is cropped heroically, as the T-800 suffers greatly in its quest to protect John Connor.
8 John McClane’s injuries slow him down, but they don’t stop him
Part of the reason John McClane of die hard fame is one of the greatest protagonists of the 80s is that he is human. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he suffers while fighting his enemies and shows great fear and pain. However, the key is that he doesn’t let them stop him. Even though he suffers huge injuries, he continues to fight.
Whether it’s cutting his feet into ribbons, being beaten for no reason, or shooting himself in the shoulder to punch an enemy, John McClane will suffer if that’s what he has to do. Even if it hurts, John McClane won’t back down until the day is saved.
seven Mark Watney takes it all in his stride
Astronauts are chosen for a nebulous attribute called “the good stuff”, a combination of ingenuity and composure that sees them through even major crises. It is this, more than anything else, that allows Mark Watney to survive his long ordeal in The Martianhelping him survive and return home from the least hospitable environment known to mankind.
Watney shows his resolve early on when he performs amateur surgery on himself moments after waking up. For the rest of the film, he takes the same approach to any problem. Whether it’s a lack of communications, the destruction of most of his supplies, or the inability to reach his rocket home, Watney indulges in a moment of panic or profanity, and then he solves the problem at hand.
6 Steve Rogers can do this all day
Captain America is the first superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for several reasons. He is one of the most generous people in the world, and he has the strength and the drive to do what is right. However, his determination and stubbornness are his main qualities.
When Steve Rogers decides to do something, he sticks to it, no matter what stands in his way. Taking a beating from the Red Skull, fighting half his team to save his best friend, or preparing to take on Thanos’ entire army with a broken shield, Steve does them all because he allows no other possibility.
5 The resulting being is literally a force of nature
The titular antagonist of It follows takes the relentlessness and relentlessness of many horror movie villains and turns them into eleven. It is not so much an individual as a force of nature or a curse, existing only to stalk those to whom it has been passed on through sexual encounters.
His defining traits are his slow pace, his ability to sound like anyone, and the fact that he never needs to stop or rest. He tracks down his targets, wherever they are, kills them, then moves on to the next one. The film’s ending even suggests that a shot to the head does little more than slow him down.
4 Maximus Decimus Meridius won’t back down until he gets his revenge
Besides his martial skill, Maximus Decimus Meridius of Gladiator benefits greatly from his discipline and willpower. Having survived a horrific wrong, he lives only to avenge his family by killing the Emperor Commodus, and being enslaved and forced into the gladiatorial arena does nothing to deter him from that goal.
Commodus goes out of his way to kill Maximus, who overcomes obstacles out of sheer stubbornness. Forced into several games designed only to kill him, he holds on until he can see a solution and accepts it. Even being stabbed in the side before his fight with Commodus doesn’t stop him, as he overpowers the Emperor before he dies.
3 Samwise Gamgee is the only one who can get the ring to ride Doom
The Hobbits are chosen to wear the One Ring in the Lord of the Rings due to their incorruptibility, but that doesn’t turn out to be Samwise Gamgee’s most prominent trait. Instead, it’s Sam’s loyalty and the determination it inspires in him that saves the day, with him alone being the one who walked all the way from Rivendell to the Crack of Doom.
Overcoming many threats to which he is not well suited, Sam does well over the course of three the Lord of the Rings films based solely on his devotion to Frodo. However, its best moment comes at the height of The king’s returnwhen he musters the will to carry Frodo the last few miles up Mount Doom so they can complete their quest.
2 Leia Organa is a born rebel
Will and desire to do what is right are traits emphasized by Jedi in star wars, and yet it is Princess Leia – who never completed her Jedi training – who best embodies them. Among many other virtuous traits, Leia is incredibly stubborn. It affects him both in minor ways – such as his arguments with Han Solo – and in major ways – such as his lifelong affiliation with the Rebellion.
Although she is considered nothing more than a princess, Leia proves her mettle time and time again. She resists imperial interrogation in A new hopebides his time to kill Jabba in Return of the Jediand once again becomes an outstanding rebel in the force awakens when another dark side threat looms.
1 Neo chooses to keep fighting
One of Neo’s few well-defined traits in The matrix is his desire to do what is right, no matter what it might cost him. The only time he really gives up is at the start of the first movie, when he lets Smith capture him, and it hurts a lot. From this point on, he shows incredible willpower, including launching a mission to save Morpheus despite the belief that he is certain to die in the process.
It only grows throughout the movies, until the climax of The Matrix Resurrections sees him take on Smith, who is equally powerful but lacks human weakness. When Smith demands to know why Neo continues to fight regardless, Neo simply says “Because I chose to”.
NEXT: 10 Movies Where The Villain Is The Best Character