Hero & Villain Archetypes in Film: The King

Hero & Villain Archetypes in Film: The King

A Chapter by Keaton S. Ziem

Analysis of specific character archetypes in film, citing examples. In this case; we examine The King.




“I always thought that when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the strings.”

Vito Corleone, The Godfather


“There's only one person in the world who's going to decide what I'm going to do and that's me...” Charles Foster Kane, Citizen Kane


The King rules their domain, controlling the lives of the people who populate their  world. Their power can either be earned or inherited, and in most cases The King rules for life until power is usurped from them, or until they die. The degree of power The King wields varies as some are more influential than others. Nor are two Kings held in equal esteem; some Kings are loved and honored while others are despised. The King is responsible for the lives of the people who surround them; the pressure to always make the right decision can weigh heavily on their conscience, leading to troubling dilemmas. Yet if successful, The King becomes worthy of renown and adoration from everyone whose lives they effect.


Kings in Film:


Kings in film range from literal Kings & Queens to Presidents, politicians, gangsters and businessmen. The people who hold these titles in film are usually in varying stages of altruism or corruption, which is what makes The King’s story in film so compelling to watch. In dealing with the lives of many individuals who rely on them, The King’s own soul is up for grabs, and there are many ways to test and tempt The King. The differences between Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) and his son and heir Michael (Al Pacino) from The Godfather Trilogy are tremendous, though in essence the two men are both Kings; it could even be argued that the two men are both intrinsically evil. However, in Vito’s case, the title Godfather (aka King) comes with it a sense of nobility, honor, patience and care. Yet, in Michael’s case, the Godfather title means ruthlessness, stoicism and unforgiving vengeance to anyone who seeks to thwart his plans; thus demonstrating two entirely different types of the same King.


Examples of Kings in Film:


Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) Gandhi (1982): He was a humble man who strove constantly for two things; peace and an independent India. He led people of all nations, religious creeds and political backgrounds to free both the nation of India and the fatal human urge toward violence. “A private man without wealth, property, official title or office. Not a commander of armies nor ruler of lands. He could boast no scientific achievement or artistic gift. Yet men, governments and dignitaries from all over the world have joined to pay homage to this man in loincloth who led his country to freedom.”


Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003): Aragorn, Tolkien’s regal wanderer throughout the entire Lord Of The Rings trilogy, finally assumes his title as the titular King in the trilogy’s final installment, though not without earning it beyond any doubt. Through courage, passion and benevolence, Aragorn becomes the King that negates Sauron’s evil.


Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) The Aviator (2004): Paranoid, mentally unstable, misunderstood and reclusive wouldn’t appear to be behaviors a King could possibly have, yet the conflict that arises because these characteristics are combined result in a fascinating portrayal of a King. Billionaire Howard Hughes struggles with his demons every day, as did everyone who relied on him for their livelihood. Watching Hughes cower, recover and overcome every single obstacle he encounters demonstrates the pressure The King character must endure in order to be King.

© 2011 Keaton S. Ziem

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Added on October 2, 2011
Last Updated on October 2, 2011


Keaton S. Ziem
Keaton S. Ziem

Los Angeles, CA

I was raised in a cabin in one of the largest Ponderosa Pine forests in the continental United States. I had nothing to do with the amount of trees that grew there. I am an only child with two brot.. more..