There's a reason action movies don't zoom in on the awesome explosions close enough to see the dozens of innocent burn victims in the vicinity. Nobody wants to get dragged down by the plight of these nobodies.
But still, some action heroes take the collateral damage (and lack of concern for it) to a level that blurs the line between hero and villain, and probably wouldn't have looked so good in a court of law.
#6. Neo from The Matrix
If you ask any Matrix fan about their favorite part of the film, their answer will invariably involve Keanu Reeves's breathtaking performance as Neo. From the inspiring "I know kung fu" speech to his tender and heartfelt "whoa" monologue, his brilliant and multifaceted portrayal made Neo a compelling symbol of humanity at its best, alive and vibrant in a world dominated by oppressive machines.
Also, it was totally awesome when he killed all those guys in slow-motion.
So What's the Problem?
So when Neo's mentor Morpheus gets captured by the bad guys, Neo responds by arming himself with an arsenal larger than that of most developing nations, slaughtering a cluster of security guards before they can even draw their guns, before dropping a bomb on the ground floor of the building just in case there were a few errant cockroaches that weren't killed in the earlier carnage.
Wachowski brothers fans have noted the deliberate parallels between the messianic Neo and the Biblical story of the moneychangers in the temple, in which Christ pulled out a Beretta and killed about 50 security guards.
The thing is, it's explained early in the movie that there are bad guys who are entirely computer-generated (the "Agents") and then there are regular people who, when they get shot in the Matrix, die in real life. And those security guards were the latter.
Yet, for some reason it's played so that Neo is totally free from any guilt over killing a bunch of people, instead of just generating a helicopter and grabbing Morpheus from the top floor. You know, like they wind up doing anyway.
Or, if that wasn't an option, instead of walking in with machine guns, show up with canisters of gas that would render everyone unconscious. Sure it wouldn't have looked nearly as awesome as the guns, but at least it wouldn't have felt as wasteful (of both human life and ammo). So at the end of the day the lesson is apparently that it doesn't matter how many civilians you kill as long as you make sure that you look as cool as possible while doing it.
Of course, there's also the rationale that Neo was fighting for the greater good of freeing humanity from the Matrix. And thanks to the sacrifice he forced those security guards to make, their families could now be free to starve in a filthy underground city while being relentlessly pursued by killer robots.
#5. The Fantastic Four from Fantastic Four
They're superheroes, they're in a summer action movie, it's sort of assumed we in the audience are going to be on their side. It helps that Jessica Alba is on that side too.
So What's the Problem?
Literally every single problem in this entire movie can be traced directly to the Fantastic Four's general incompetence. Don't believe us? Just take the scene when the Thing, in a bold act of heroism, saves a man from being hit by a car by causing a massive car accident that almost certainly killed the driver, and killed him in a way that his widow will never be able to adequately explain.
It gets better. In order to distract the crowd that has gathered at the accident site, the Four decide to spark a huge explosion. Amazingly, this well thought-out plan turns out catastrophically and the resulting blast nearly kills everyone on the bridge.
There's probably a deleted scene in which Mr. Fantastic attempts to pull a kitten out of a tree and winds up causing a nuclear meltdown.
You know, you never see Batman doing stuff like this, and he doesn't even have three superpowered teammates to pitch in. And at least when the Hulk damages property, he's doing it on purpose.
When the Fantastic Four finally confront their nemesis Doctor Doom for the heroic cause of saving their own asses, the only reason they prevail is that these heroic underdogs outnumber the villain 4-1.
The Fantastic Four do learn their lesson though, and in the sequel they basically step back and let the Silver Surfer save the world for them, probably saving countless innocent lives in the process, though not as many as they'd have saved if they'd just stayed home from the beginning.
#4. Ellen Ripley from Alien Resurrection
By the time of Alien Resurrection's release, Ellen Ripley was already one of the most beloved characters in science fiction history, following an epic arc from an escape from the first vicious alien, to her fierce battle with an alien army and their queen, all the way to her final confrontation with a single alien puppy.
So What's the Problem?
In a revolutionary new direction for the alien series, in part four Ripley and her unruly crew of extras are trapped in outer space with a swarm of aliens. When confronted with the problem of how to destroy them, our heroes carefully consider their options and decide that the best course of action would be to crash the ship into earth. After all, if you have to die, you might as well take out as many innocent bystanders as possible.
Of course, they manage to kill the main alien by blasting it into the vacuum of space (didn't see that coming did you?) which means that they basically blew up who knows how many people on the ground for no reason at all, other than maybe to justify a special effects budget.
Joss Whedon's script doesn't exactly help make Ripley more sympathetic. While excessively clever dialog might be tolerable coming from the teenagers on Buffy, glib one-liners probably aren't the best way to inform someone that they have been infected with a horrific parasite that will soon burrow its way out of their chest, killing them in the most agonizing way possible.