Antihero: A protagonist, particularly in a modern literary work, who does not exhibit the qualities of the traditional hero. Instead of being a grand and/or admirable figure — brave, honest, and magnanimous, for example — an antihero is all too ordinary and may even be petty or criminal.
The term antihero should not be confused with antagonist, which refers to the character pitted against the protagonist in the work, or villain, which refers to an evil or cruel antagonist.
EXAMPLES: Willy Loman, the salesman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1948); Jim Stark, the character played by James Dean in the movie Rebel Without a Cause (1955); and the rival murderesses in the musical Chicago (1975; adapted to film 2002), Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. More contemporary antiheroes include Ben Sanderson, the suicidal alcoholic in the movie Leaving Las Vegas (1995); Nick Guest, the gay postgraduate student in Alan Hollinghurst’s novel The Line of Beauty (2004); the brooding Batman depicted in the movie Batman Begins (2005); mob boss Tony Soprano from The Sopranos (1999—2007); and pirate captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series (2003—17).