Rick Blaine from the 1942 film Casablanca is regarded as a classic example of an anti-hero. An anti-hero can be defined as a literacy character that does not conspicuously embody
and value system except his own private one. Throughout the film, Rick Blaine is portrayed as a relatable figure that is isolated, and makes a personal sacrifice. Although some of these are characteristics of a hero, these elements work together to stay true to the qualities of an effective anti-hero.
The audience is able to identify with Rick Blaine because of his inability to escape his past. An essential trait of a compelling protagonist as described in Creating Heroes and Villains Love, is that the audience must empathize with the protagonist. The audience is unable to do so until they learn about Rick’s backstory, allowing them to understand why he is so cynical. Through the use of a flashback, it is revealed that Rick was devastated when his former lover, Illsa Lund, stood him up at the train station in Paris. The song, “As Time Goes By,” is sentimental to Rick because he associates it with his heartbreak, something the audience may have experienced. The main character also used to fight on the side of the underdog by running guns to Ethiopia causing himself to be exiled from America. This alienation and being an outsider is a feeling the audience can relate to, but also an archetype of the anti-hero.
Throughout the film, Rick is portrayed as isolated from and uncaring towards society. This purposeful separation guards his heart from emotional wounds. He tries to push people away, avoids making personal connections with customers, and won’t commit to anything that will define him. Rick tries to remains politically neutral even though he is surrounded by controversial politics in his café. Ugarte, a Casablanca criminal, is captured and eventually dies because of Rick’s neutral stance when he says, “I stick my neck out for nobody." As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult for Rick to remain neutral demonstrated by his encouragement of the French anthem in his bar. Rick’s uncaring nature towards Laszlo initially causes him to deny the Letters of Transit to the freedom fighter, but after a self-realization Rick makes a personal sacrifice when he changes his mind.
The ultimate sacrifice is made by Rick when he decides to put aside his personal burdens and aid in continuing the fight for a valiant cause. According to the Hero's Journey reading, “The defining quality of a true hero is self-sacrifice and selflessness.” Despite Rick’s romantic attraction to Illsa, the decision to send her and Victor to America was driven by selfish motives because it’s what he deemed to be the best solution. Rick hopes that his self-sacrifice will be ultimately rewarding because he believes his individual contribution is essential to what’s best for the greater good. Rick had to overcome hardships and obstacles in order to see it was imperative for him to give up his neutrality and realize that the “problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans” in the grand scheme of things.
Casablanca is regarded as one of the most beloved movies of all time. The main character, anti-hero Rick Blaine, is someone the audience can identify with, is an isolationist and sacrifices his happiness for the greater good. These characteristics that Rick Blaine possesses is evidence that makes him a solid anti-hero. Rick’s transformation throughout the film from self-centered to idealist leaves the audience with a sense of hope for his uncertain future.