10 of the Most Memorable Betrayals in Movies


Of all the heinous, immoral acts a person can commit during his or her lifetime, perhaps none is frowned upon as much as the act of betrayal.  We always tend to list loyalty, honesty, and integrity as virtues that we value in others, so it follows that betrayal disgusts almost everyone. 

I suppose that for that reason – specifically, that it evokes strong feelings in people – it’s often used as a plot device or character trait in movies.  Of course, there’s plenty of source material to choose from when it comes to betrayal; millions of people believe that the son of God was betrayed.

Religious beliefs aside, here are 10 of the most memorable betrayals in movies.  If there are any you think I left off and deserve to be mentioned, let me know in the comments section.

1. Cypher – The Matrix

If Neo is a Christ figure, then Cypher is truly a Judas figure.  Cypher betrays Morpheus, Neo, Trinity, and the rest of the Zionites (Zionists?) in exchange for the Agents plugging him into the Matrix and treating him like a king, steak dinners, fine wines and all. 

You can’t blame Cypher that much; the food on the Nebuchadnezzar looks like it really sucks.

2. Satipo – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Alfred Molina plays Satipo in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy’s assistant early in the movie.  Satipo isn’t on screen for a very long time, but he makes the most of it by trying to steal away the gold idol from Indy by tricking him into throwing him the whip in exhange.  “You throw me the idol, I throw you the whip.”  He also sets a record for receiving the quickest comeuppance in film history.

3. Ephialtes – 300

Ephialtes tips off Xerxes as to how to approach King Leonidas via a secret path and, like Cypher in The Matrix, I can’t totally blame him.  After all, all he wanted to do was fight alongside Leonidas, but Leonidas basically spit in his face and called him worthless.  So when Xerxes comes rolling by on his awesome throne and starts throwing naked babes his way, whose side do you expect Ephialtes to take?

4. Lando Calrissian – The Empire Strikes Back

You could argue that Lando more than made up for his betrayal of Han by joining the Rebel Alliance and getting deep into the sh*t when it got real, and you could also argue that he probably didn’t have too much choice in the matter – but the fact remains, he did at least have a choice, and he chose to sell out his buddy Han.  Forgivable, I guess, but betrayal is betrayal.

5. Fredo Corleone – The Godfather: Part II

I believe the picture above says it all.  “I know it was you, Fredo.  You broke my heart.”  This one gets my vote for the most significant betrayal in movie history.

6. Saruman – The Fellowship of the Ring

Maybe Saruman, like Lando, didn’t have much choice in the matter, but he still caved in to the evil of Sauron and raised an entire army of Uruk-hai and tried to kill Gandalf.

7. Benny – Total Recall

“Hey man, I got five kids to feed!”  Benny spends most of the movie driving Quaid/Howser around Mars in a taxicab and earning his trust, only to later reveal that he is a mole working for the evil Cohagen.  His comeuppance is rather quick, but it’s also dirty – a giant drill through the torso courtesy of Quaid/Howser.  He also elicits a wonderful Arnie one-liner, no small feat for any villain.

8. Sonny – You Got Served

I take pride in the fact that this may be the only list on the Internet that contains both The Godfather: Part II and You Got Served. Anyway, I’ve written about Sonny before – he was sick and tired of David and Elgin taking a larger portion of the money the crew would win in dance battles and, being a filthy dancer, felt he was entitled to more.  David and Elgin didn’t budge, so Sonny defected to Max and Wade’s crew and taught them all of his old crew’s dance moves.  David commented that Sonny was gonna get his, but that never happened.

This is a cinematic masterpiece.

9. Brutus – Julius Caesar

The Roman politician was a major player in the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar and while he’s been portrayed by many actors in many films and plays about Julius Caesar, the most memorable is probably the 1970 movie with Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee, and Jason Robards as Brutus.

10. Judas – The Passion of the Christ

Uh, yeah.  This.  Thought it was pretty obvious, but it would have been a sin not to include it.

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  1. I always wonder why Leonidas didn’t let Ephialtes just fight like behind the “phalynx”…

    Like yea, stab up the stranglers that we leave behind, but dont bring your ogre ass into our “phalynx”… sp?

    But if someone was throwing a uniform and half naked men at me… I might cave in as well.

  2. A couple of great cinema betrayal additions for your list here:

    The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
    The Count of Monte Cristo
    The Departed (and the original film in which it was based ‘Infernal Affairs’)

  3. The first ones that come into mind for me are brian o’connor/spillner in the fast and the furious betraying dom and his crew, even though it mostly all worked out in the end. And sam rockwell’s character in matchstick men been a while since I’ve seen that movie so I forget character names but one thing I do remember was how shocked I was at the ending

  4. Yes, Edmund being betrayed in the Count of Monte Cristo was pretty bad.

    Also, Anakin in episode 3. While he had good intentions, he did betray the entire Republic and all of his friends.

    Also I think Dances with Wolves and Avatar could be put in as well. While the protagonists obviously switch to the “good guy” team, they do betray their original side. The Last Samurai would fit as well.

  5. I am surprised “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace” wasn’t mentioned, although that is more of a betrayal to the fans than anything 😀

    Although, “Episode 3 Revenge Of The Sith” does have both Anakin and Palpatine betraying everyone.

  6. Trevelayan betraying Queen and country and turning into the Janus syndicate and threatening to fire a devastating EMP weapon on London, just after stealing all the money from the banks.

  7. Entertaining list. Gotta say I’m thorougly enjoying this site in general.

    One I do really miss here though is (Spoiler if you haven’t seen the 6th Harry Potter) Severus Snape.

    His betrayal was so briliant. You very much distrust him in the first movie, then it suddenly appears he was actually helping Harry. Then you see him in the Order of the Phoenix etc, so much implying that he very much is a good guy. I never saw it coming, the fact that he was actually indeed bad. And also to finally reveal it by killing off Dumbledore. It was quite a shocker.

  8. Laura’s (Charlotte Rampling) betrayal of Frank (Paul Newman) in The Verdict was a very nasty blow but she got away with only Newman’s backhand.

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