Wealthy Antagonists Rarely Get Away with Things on Screen

Inherent Bias  
Table Of Contents

Main Description

Most every movie with a wealthy antagonist, they get what they deserve. Even with expensive high-powered lawyers. But that often doesn’t happen in real life where wealthy individuals are able to get away with a lot more than your average citizen. Wealthy people benefit when people believe they don't get away with things. And Republicans love to kowtow to their wealthy donors with laws that benefit them more than average citizens.

It will almost always be the case in movies where wealthy antagonists get what they deserve as nobody wants to see a movie where the bad guy wins. Non-wealthy antagonists will also almost always get what they deserve on screen, but that is more in line with real life. Conservatives will also often go on crazy rants anytime a wealthy person is depicted negatively on screen ignoring the countless more everyday people depicted as antagonists on screen or times when wealthy people are depicted as charitable.

In addition, financial white-collar crimes are more difficult to successfully prosecute in real life, but you wouldn’t know that watching movies or TV shows where antagonists usually get what they deserve at the hands of protagonists.

Conservative Trope Examples

  • The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
    Jordan Belfort and his entire crew including Donnie, Nicky, Chester and lone woman Kimmie get arrested by the FBI at the Stratton Oakmont office.
    Staff Aside
    This is based on a true story so they did get caught in real life too, but we rarely see stories of white collar crimes that were gotten away with.
  • The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
    The son of a wealthy family, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), goes to prison for a crime he would have cleverly gotten away with if his defense attorney, Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey), hadn't acted unethically risking disbarment to ensure he faces the justice he deserves at the end.
  • Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
    Bretton James (Josh Brolin) does a lot of dodgy financial stuff in secret, but the story goes public, he gets fired from his board and the movie ends with him in legal peril.
  • Iron Man (2008)
    The CEO of Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane, goes rogue after taking over for Tony Stark and engages in dangerous, illegal behavior out of greed. Tony Stark thwarts the plot and Obadiah gets what he deserves. Tony then retakes over Stark Industries and has a change of heart in their mission. He focuses the company on maintaining higher ethical standards than before he left and using it be a force for good over profit.
  • Wall Street (1987)
    Stockbroker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) has a change of heart and loses out on millions by choosing to save Blue Star airlines and its employees' pension fund from being raided by Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas).
    Staff Aside
    In real life, pension funds do get successfully raided by exploitative companies who don't care about the impact it has on their workers. But in the movie, the workers all keep their pension funds and the airline survives.
  • Wall Street (1987)
    Gordon Gekko engages in insider trading and securities fraud to help make him rich and elicits the help of stockbroker Bud Fox to find new schemes. In the end, they both get caught and serve time in prison, and Bud gets a lighter sentence by wearing a wire to catch Gordon incriminating himself on tape.
    Staff Aside
    It is revealed in the sequel that Gekko serves nearly 8 years in prison which was depicted as an inordinately large sentence for his crimes. In real-life, financial crimes often get lighter sentences. But here, Bud and Gordon both get jail time for the illicit things they did. Even testifying against his boss, Bud still has to serve some time.

How Trope is Biased


  • The formula for movies is for antagonists to lose at the end. Audiences don't like it when it's the other way around. So, whenever there is a wealthy antagonist, they are going to get what they deserve no matter how good their legal team is. But in real-life, that legal team often gets deals where wealthy people get away with things or get far less punishment than they deserve (e.g. Jeffrey Epstein's original very lenient plea deal with Republican Alex Acosta).

Conservative Biases

  • This helps promote a narrative that wealthy people always get caught and are justly punished which makes it less likely that average citizens will care about laws that balance the legal playing field between disadvantaged poor defendants and wealthy ones with ample legal resources.