What is a Hero?

Heroes are one of the most common characters in books, movies, television, or pretty much any form of entertainment. Having a good hero is probably the most pivotal aspect of having a good story. Even if the main character is not the conventional “hero” most stories revolve around a protagonist that is enjoyable to watch. 

But I am wondering what makes a protagonist a hero? There are so many characters to choose from to use as case studies, it is hard to nail down one that is the perfect example. There are characters like Superman who are idealists and the shining beacons of all the is right and good. Then you have your darker, anti-heroes that are more in it for themselves or they use questionable means to accomplish their goals (e.g. Red  Hood.) 

This can lead to the question: is it right to do something bad if it will end in something good? I think Harvey Dent said it best in the Nolan Batman movies, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” So are the characters that do bad things to accomplish something they deem good really even heroes anymore? But then why is it only the goodie-goodies who can be good? It can be argued that those who are willing to go against what is right and do the hard work are even more heroic, right? 

So which is right? Are there gray areas? Or are they both heroes?

I guess I don’t have the answer, but hoping to spark the debate and offer a platform for discussion. If you have a thought or a hero you wish to nominate as the best example of a hero, comment below and state why they are a hero. 

What are your thoughts on what makes a character a hero?