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20 One-Time Heroes Who Saw Themselves Become Real-Life Villains

"You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain" is a quote so powerful, it almost makes you forget that it came from a Batman movie.

But... it also has a lot of merit to it. Time and time again, you see people who were beloved by society, or known for doing great things, only to pull a complete 180 and become infamous at best, and downright evil at worst.

The people of Reddit took the time to share examples of people who really exemplify the last part of that famous quote. You might not agree with every example, and if not, let us know why in the comments!

"Jim Jones. He originally stood up for civil rights when it was really unpopular."

A monochrome image of Jim Jones standing in front of a hotel's sign, wearing a priest's collar and sunglasses
Wikimedia Commons | Nancy Wong

"Was hospitalized and accidentally placed in the black ward. When the doctors found out, they tried to move him, but he refused. Then he became a cult leader and used his power and influence to end the lives of a thousand people."

"Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, made up a bunch of untested uses for it... that he publicly talked up."

A person demonstrating the Heimlich maneuver.
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"Later, he funded an experiment that involved injecting people with malaria to see if it would treat other conditions. The experiment was found to be unethical by American review boards, so he conducted them in Ethiopia."

"Philippe Petain. In WW1 he led the French to victory at Verdun, one of the worst battles in human history."

Portrait of French Marshal Philippe Pétain
Wikimedia Commons | Daeger printing house

"In WW2, after France was beaten, Petain was the head of state of Vichy France. Guy went from the Lion of Verdun to the biggest Nazi collaborator in France."

"Conor McGregor. He had the whole country behind him here in Ireland at one point bar people who thought combat sport is grotesque."

Irish UFC fighter Conor McGregor after winning a championship belt.
Giphy | UFC

"He was witty, original, backing himself up and having a Hollywood like rise to stardom. Now he's some coke head who the whole country is ashamed of... just a walking caricature of himself. He didn't listen to his own advice. Get in. Get rich. Get out."

"Benedict Arnold."

Mob members restraining Krusty the Clown while calling him a Benedict Arnold.
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"Almost died during the revolutionary war, if I recall correctly, and if he had he would have been remembered a huge hero, and a martyr. Instead he lived and changed sides, and is remembered only for his being a traitor."

There's a reason why his name is synonymous for traitor, after all.

"English engineer and writer James P. Hogan."

Several books in a line, piled so that their covers are not visible.
Unsplash | Tom Hermans

"He wrote several really solid Sci-fi books that were hugely influential to me when I was growing up, and then towards the end of his life he became a Holocaust/AIDS/climate change denier."

"Amazon, for sure. About 22 years ago, it was a little known place where you could buy books online for cheaper than brick-and-mortar retail."

The Amazon logo displaying on a phone screen.
Unsplash | Christian Wiediger

"To watch it gradually grow and transform into an economic power that makes Omni Consumer Products seem less like satire and more like a prediction... It's been interesting, to say the least."

"Blizzard Entertainment (now Activision/Blizzard)."

"Used to be the darlings of the PC world with everything they creating being solid gold classics on launch. Now nothing but recycled trash, cash grabs, micro transactions, and sexual assault scandals. How the mighty have fallen."

"Rudy Giuliani. Dude was 'America’s mayor' just 20 years ago."

Rudy Giuliani reading messages off a tablet.
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"A brilliant, ballsy prosecutor who took down the mob then shepherded NY through 9/11. Now he’s just thought of as the increasingly unhinged Trump lackey that sweats hair dye in front of a landscaping company that shoulda been a hotel."

"Richard Nixon."

Richard Nixon saying the infamous line, "I am not a crook."
Giphy | GIPHY News

"Won the 1972 election by a landslide, with only Minnesota and DC voting for McGovern, on the back of a strong economy. Two years later resigns in disgrace over Watergate, in the midst of stagflation, and his reputation has never been rehabilitated."

"Elon Musk should serve as a reminder that literally 0 billionaires become billionaires by playing nice, by the rules, and not [expletive] a decent amount of people in order to get to the top."

Elon Musk looking around and shrugging awkwardly on the set of SNL.
Giphy | Saturday Night Live

"He used social media very well to craft a certain brand for himself and he came off looking competent, smart, a little sassy and genuine, which we now know was just for show."

"Dr. Oz is the perfect example."

Dr. Oz saying, "It's just gross incompetence."
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"He started out a legitimate talented accomplished cardiac surgeon. Then he started with his snake-oil peddling on TV and has now completely devolved into a pandering narcissistic Trump-loving politician."

"J.K. Rowling."

Various books and merch related to the Harry Potter series.
Unsplash | Allison Batley

"Seriously. Hell, she could’ve even kept milking HP for all it’s worth (and then some) if she wanted to stay in the public eye. Instead, she chose to use her platform to spew hate… towards part of a demographic that very much loved her books. It’s baffling (and yes, really upsetting to me as a queer person who grew up with HP)."

"Fritz Haber."

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Unsplash | Tim Mossholder

"Is the reason half the world's current population is alive by inventing ammonium nitrate fertilizer and solving the late 1800s-early 1900s global food crisis, later became a war criminal for inventing mustard gas for the German Army in WW1."

"Chris Benoit."

Professional wrestler Chris Benoit celebrating a championship by holding up a belt as confetti rains down around him
Wikimedia Commons | TheHellraiser

"This was terrible to see. I was a huge pro wrestling fan back in the day. To my knowledge, Benoit was actually a great person until he suddenly wasn't. That 'suddenly wasn't' though carried a hell of a consequence."

"Linus Pauling is an interesting one."

A model of different atoms coming together to form a molecule.
Unsplash | Terry Vlisidis

"He was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century - won the Nobel Prize twice. Later in life he went off the deep end and became convinced that Vitamin C could cure cancer and made him immortal - an idea that lives on in various forms today."

"Ellen Degeneres."

A selfie from Ellen DeGeneres and Adele
Facebook | Ellen DeGeneres

"It’s a shame it took so long. There were stories out there for years about what a horrible person she is. Just now coming main stream."

The world went from loving Ellen to hating her really quickly.

"Tony Blair. He was such a popular figure at one point. But it went so badly for him!"

A headshot of former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair
Wikimedia Commons | European Union/Pavel Golovkin

"Yeah he went from winning one of the biggest landslides in UK history to resigning in disgrace, tanking Labours reputation to the point where they lost 4 elections in a row."

"Bill Cosby was once nominated for a Nobel peace prize."

Monochrome headshot of a young Bill Cosby
Wikimedia Commons | NBC Television

"Also the EMMYs gave him a humanitarian award. Also the President medal of freedom."

I don't think I need to tell you why Bill Cosby is considered an evil man now...

"Neil Degrasse Tyson. Though he became less of a 'villain' and more 'buzzkill.'"

Neil deGrasse Tyson walking away from a model of a black hole.
Giphy |

"At first he seemed like the next Carl Sagan, celebrating the wonders of science and the universe. But somewhere along the line he turned into this smug, pseudo-nihilistic wet blanket who poo-pooed on anyone getting excited over solar eclipses and stuff."