Rutger Hauer did not believe that his character in Ridley Scott’s landmark science fiction movie Blade Runner was a villain. In the movie, Hauer played the replicant Roy Batty who the leader of a group of escaped replicants.
Hauer’s Roy Batty is credited as being one of the best movie villains of all time. The character is an antagonist in the strictest sense, because he acts as the main obstacle to the movie’s protagonist, Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard.
However, Hauer disagreed with the label. In an interview from the year of Blade Runner’s release, 1982, the actor gave his thoughts about the ethics of his character. He said “I don’t think this is a villain. What is wrong with a man — from the point where they start chasing him, he just wants to live a little longer.”
Hauer then continues “He hasn’t done so much harm. You don’t see him do any harm, and then they start chasing him down. He has to fight once in a while because that’s survival.”
We’d potentially disagree with Hauer, given that Roy Batty does crush Eldon Tyrell’s skull. However, there is certainly a lot of merit in Hauer’s argument. Roy Batty’s main motivation in the movie is to be treated like a human, despite being a replicant which is a motivation that the audience sympathises with. And, the actor is right that Roy Batty only turns to violence when that humanity is denied.
Even after his descent into violence, against Tyrell and Deckard, the character is intentionally complex avoiding the typical clichés that come with being an antagonist. For example Roy Batty is known for having one of the most affecting, poignant monologues in cinematic history. The tears in rain monologue, as it has subsequently come to be known as, is short coming in at only 42 words. Nonetheless, it shows the replicant’s humanity, which is an essential component for the moral issue at the centre of the movie.
Partly, it is Hauer’s performance and the character of Roy Batty that gives Blade Runner its status as one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. That remains true whether you consider his character a villain, or not.
If you fancy a lighter look into some of the cinema’s strongest antagonists, check out our guide to Disney villains ranked.