13 Most Dastardly Movie Traitors

This week, spy thriller Traitor is released on to shiny disc and equally shiny Blu-Ray.

The pic sees Don Cheadle as Samir Horn, a former US Special Ops soldier accused of turning to the other side of the war against terror.

Soon the FBI's Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) is hunting him down, but what's really going on?

The twisty treat got us thinking about traitors in the movies - either played as "gotcha" plot reveals or as inevitable betrayals by dodgy types.

Watch out for this lot - and be aware of spoilers for any of the movies you may not have seen...

The Film: The Passion Of The Christ (2004)

The Traitor: Judas Iscariot (Luca Lionello)

Who Do They Betray?
Jesus Christ (James Caviezel)

Surely the most famous traitor in history, Judas' tale is one of the oldest ever written about and is brought to life by Mel Gibson in his bloody biblical epic.

After a payment of 30 pieces of silver (such an iconic transaction that it's become shorthand for treachery throughout the years), apostle Judas betrays Jesus to the local temple guards with a peck on the cheek and ruins Easter for him.

Well, after being taunted by demons for ages (a little detail added by Gibbo since it doesn't appear in the gospels), Judas commits suicide and we're led to believe he's flung into the deepest level of Hell.

So, er, yes, he does suffer.

Next: Lando Calrissian & Cypher


The Film: Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The Traitor: Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams)

Who Do They Betray? Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and co.

Probably the second-most famous cine-switcher of all time pops up as the overseer of the cloud city of Bespin, and the source of some uncomfortable criticism for George Lucas early on, since one of the few black characters is quickly revealed to be a wrong 'un.

We're led to believe he was a huckster and a crook even before he took the job, but in reality, he's simply under pressure from the Empire and you could argue that he's just looking out for his citizens.

But as the mighty Spaced puts it, he's long since become a go-to for anyone who betrays you - "you Lando!"

Comeuppance? Lando sees the error of his ways after A) Darth Vader changes the conditions of the deal and B) he's nearly strangled by an enraged Chewbacca.

And Calrissian more than proves himself when he agrees to join up with the rebel alliance, having a hand in rescuing Han from Jabba's palace and blowing up the second Death Star in Jedi.

The Film: The Matrix (1999)

The Traitor: Cypher (Joe Pantoliano)

Who Do They Betray?
Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Neo (Keanu Reeves), among others.

Sick of living in the brutal, post-apocalyptic "real world" Cypher has a hankering to be re-inserted into the fake universe of the mind created by the evil machine overlords to keep us all subdued.

So he strikes a deal with the snarky Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and gives them the whereabouts of Morpheus and his team during one of their incursions into the virtual world.

Oh, and then he takes an electro-gun to Tank (Marcus Chong) and Dozer (Anthony Ray Parker) before he starts unplugging the rest of the gang.

Comeuppance? Tank manages to recover enough to give Cypher a little of his own medicine - and by "medicine" we of course mean "singes a massive hole through his chest with the electro-weapon."

Ouch! But he had it coming - and his team should've known that anyone played by Joey Pants usually turns out to be dodgy.

Next: Carter Burke & Captain Dudley Smith


The Film: Aliens (1986)

The Traitor:
Carter Burke (Paul Reiser)

Who Do They Betray? Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the colonial marines sent to LV-426.

Okay, so Ripley and co had him fingered for a smooth-talking shyster almost from the start - after all, he works for The Company.

But none of them quite suspect his true motives - it was he who ordered the colonists to investigate the derelict spaceship that housed the xenomorph eggs in the hopes that living specimens could be found.

Oh, and he wants to smuggle implanted aliens back within Ripley and colony survivor Newt (Carrie Henn).

His company overlords are in need of a bioweapon and the slavering, acid-drooling monstoids could be it. Shame no-one told the marines that...

Comeuppance? In a remarkable example of irony that even Alanis Morisette could appreciate, Burke ends up killed by the very creatures he set out to harvest.

Plus he's played by smug comic/thesp Reiser, so we're all glad he gets his.

The Film:
LA Confidential (1997)

The Traitor: Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell)

Who Do They Betray?
Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey)

But he was Babe's dad! How could kind farmer Hoggett shoot one of his own officers?

Yes, the sudden reveal of Cromwell's Captain Smith as a man cruel and cunning enough to shoot one of his own men when he gets too close to the truth is one of the more stunning reveals in Curtis Hanson's film.

That said, Smith isn't exactly a paragon of virtue - he encourages men like Bud White (Russell Crowe) and Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) to routinely break the law if it'll bring wrongdoers to justice.

In the movie's big final shoot-out, he's gunned down by Exley.

What goes around, comes around, Dud...

Next: Benny & Fredo


The Film: Total Recall (1990)

The Traitor: Benny (Mel Johnson Jr)

Who Do They Betray? Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Melina (Rachel Ticotin).

Oh, Benny, Benny, Benny. A jive-talking, fast-living mutant cabbie who claims to be a member of the Mars resistance, he initially offers to help out Quaid on his mission to stop Cohagan (Ronny Cox) from killing the rebels by cutting off their air.

Turns out he was working with Cohagen all along! Bastard!

Comeuppance? After the nasty Benny chases Quaid and Melina with a massive drilling rig through the tunnels of the planet, he makes a fatal mistake by thinking that Quaid's handheld drill can't hurt him.

But Quaid drills through one of the machine's oil lines, knocking it out, then shoves the bit into the cabin, spearing Benny with the classic line, "Screw you!"

The Film: The Godfather Part II (1974)

The Traitor: Fredo Corleone (John Cazale)

Who Do They Betray? Michael Corleone (Al Pacino)

Clearly pissed at being treated as the muppet of the Corleone family, Fredo makes some very bad choices when he decides to betray Michael and switch his allegiance to gangster Hyman Roth.

Sadly, Fredo can't hold his drink and spills crucial secrets that let Mike know he's the big traitor in the clan.

When Michael confronts him, Fredo chooses to flee - bad move.

Comeuppance? Michael signals to top aide Al Neri that Fredo's protection from harm - requested by their mother - is now over.

Our last sight of the man is while he's fishing on Lake Tahoe with Neri, who puts a bullet in his brain as Michael quietly watches from his house on the shore.

Talk about sleeping with the fishes...

Next: Obadiah Stane & Peter Pettigrew


The Film: Iron Man (2008)

The Traitor: Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges)

Who Do They Betray? Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr)

It seems few cigar-chomping businessmen in cinema ever get to be shown in a positive light.

Take Stane - he's jealous of Tony's success at the head of his father's company and even more nervous when he decides that Stark Industries should stop making weapons.

So after one terrorist-flavoured attempt on Tony's life fails, Stane takes matters into his own hands, literally rips the life force (AKA his miniature arc reactor) from Tone's chest and uses it to power his own suit for a rampage of destruction.

Comeuppance? Tony's able to crawl to his old arc unit and use its dwindling power to suit up as Iron Man and battle Stane's Iron Monger.

Stane ends up electrocuted and plummets to his death in the large-scale arc reactor at the Stark building. Undone by the very technology he craved! Fitting...

The Film:
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004)

The Traitor:
Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall)

Who Do They Betray?
Sirius Black (Gary Oldman)

It's always the squirrelly (or in this case, ratty), misunderstood types, isn't it? Pettigrew is your classic cowed character - afraid to chart his own course and happy to fall in with any group no matter how evil.

Someone should have spotted that he was dangerous when his animal form was revealed as a rat, but he still managed to pull off framing Sirius for 13 murders and having him slung into Azkaban prison.

He hasn't met his fate in the films yet - but chances are his ultimate end will come in The Deathly Hallows when, after trying to strangle Harry with magical weapon the silver hand, finds the device turning on him when he hesitates over killing the boy who once spared his life.

A quick end for an indecisive little git.

Next: Elsa & Saruman


The Film: Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)

The Traitor: Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody)

Who Do They Betray? Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Henry Jones Sr (Sean Connery).

Yes, surely no one would suspect the Austrian ice queen and art professor of being a villain.

But her striking beauty and clear sexual interest (it's revealed she seduced both of the Jones men) blind them to her true intent - to get hold of the Holy Grail for both her own ends and the good of the Nazis.

She and Walter Donavan are revealed to be in cahoots and end up leaving Joneses Junior and Senior tied up and bickering in a castle.

Comeuppance? Elsa dies when she greedily tries to take the Grail out of its temple, causing the place to collapse.

In her attempt to flee, she falls into a huge chasm, never to be seen again.

The Film: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)

The Traitor: Saruman (Christopher Lee)

Who Do They Betray?
Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the whole of Middle Earth.

Christopher Lee character in Actually Evil Shocker! Okay, okay... He's the respected leader of Gandalf's wizard order, so you can forgive the big G for thinking that Saruman might be able to intercede in the fight against Sauron.

Sadly, Saruman has long been corrupted, convinced that he can spearhead a new age and driven to created an improved race of orcs known as the Uruk-hai, while destroying the local forests to forge weapons of war.

Comeuppance? Imprisoning Gandalf? Destroying the environment? Is it any wonder he ends up on the losing side?

It's not in the theatrical cut, but in the extended Return Of The King, he ends up stranded on his tower at Isengard, stabbed by Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) and plummets to his death on one of his own water wheels.

If only he hadn't had it installed in the first place...

Next: Miranda Frost & Frank Mercer


The Film: Die Another Day (2002)

The Traitor: Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike)

Who Do They Betray?
James Bond (Pierce Brosnan)

The name alone should spell trouble - particularly when villain Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) is revealed to have an ice palace as set up for his big laser weapon demonstration - but Bond is fooled into thinking she's a loyal fellow MI6 agent.

He's taken in enough to shag her (well, it is Bond, let's not forget), but soon realises his error when she shows up to support Graves.

Frost ends up in a cat fight with Halle Berry's NSA Agent Jinx, and is soon bested with a knife to the chest.

Girl power!

The Film:
Matchstick Men (2003)

The Traitor: Frank Mercer (Sam Rockwell)

Who Do They Betray? Roy Walter (Nicolas Cage)

In a movie where identities shift and the art of the con is exposed, it's perhaps not surprising that someone in the film would turn out to be cheating someone else.

Frank ends up pulling a major switcheroo on Roy by using Angela (Alison Lohman) to pretend to be his long-lost daughter and swindling him out of all his money in a complex plot.

Actually, he gets away with it - Angela later returns to talk to Roy and admits Frank even cut her out of the deal.

So cheats sometimes prosper? Where do we sign up? Oh, wait... bad moral message...

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Freelance Journalist

James White is a freelance journalist who has been covering film and TV for over two decades. In that time, James has written for a wide variety of publications including Total Film and SFX. He has also worked for BAFTA and on ODEON's in-cinema magazine.