Not everyone is cut out to be the hero (or even stand next to the hero, except in publicity photographs). And yet somehow we love them ... love to hate them, that is. Here are 15 of sci-fi's greatest, most loathsome cowards, from C-3PO to Shaggy.
Played by Anthony Daniels
The Star Wars saga
No one complained more, whined more, or shuffled away more than 3PO. Okay, well, yes, he did play a marginally crucial role in overthrowing the Emperor—though I'm still not entirely sure how, beyond translating and giving the crappy odds—but there's a reason he's literally yellow.
LT. REGINALD BARCLAY
Played by Dwight Schultz
Star Trek: The Next Generation
If you're a dude living in the 24th century and you're afraid of teleportation, that's like someone today being afraid of stairs. And so we dub thee coward.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
This guy does spend a decent chunk of this story running away, or rather riding away, from the Headless Horseman. Rather than face the legendary marauder—or the townspeople whom he routinely chastised for moral lapses—Crane continued his escape right out of Sleepy Hollow, forever.
CARTER J. BURKE
Played by Paul Reiser
This company man did everything in his power to protect his, and his employer's, bottom line. He sent unwitting colonists to get infected by the Aliens, then rode in along with the Marines who were sent to rescue them, all to protect his investment. When it looked like Ripley was gonna screw it all up, he tried to kill her as well. Fittingly, the very creature he wanted to bring back to Earth to exploit is the very thing that killed him ... once he ran away to hide.
DR. GAIUS BALTAR
Played by James Callis
One of the first things we see the good Doctor do is steal a blind woman's ticket on the last transport off the nuclear surface of Cylon-occupied Caprica. And it only gets worse from there. Baltar stopped at nothing to get what he wanted—personal safety, the love of a good robot woman or two, a sex cult—until it became clear to him that everything he touch rotted under his fingertips.
DR. ZACHARY SMITH
Played by Jonathan Harris
Lost in Space
It is his fault that the Jupiter 2's mission—to take a family on a five-year voyage to a habitable planet orbiting Alpha Centauri—turns into a catastrophic failure, marooning the Robinsons on a distant planet. After all, he's the bloke who reprogrammed the Jupiter 2's onboard robot to start destroying stuff after launch. And he's the bloke who, at every turn, placed his own well-being over everyone and everything else.
SCOOBY-DOO AND SHAGGY
These two ran away from everything, including their own shadows, on more than one occasion. Okay, on every occasion. If anything even had a whiff of the supernatural, they were gone like bats out of hell.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Betrayal totally qualifies as an act of cowardice. Things were getting too hard in Narnia, what with all the talking animals and cool dudes and adventure, so poor Edmund threw in his lot with the White Queen. And what did he get in return? A promise of power and some pudding.
Played by Rick Moranis
In a movie where Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis are the heroes, it takes a special kind of wuss to come off as cowardly. And stifled NYC accountant Louis Tully is that kind of "flee wildly in the face of danger" wuss.
Played by Andrew Tiernan
Not everyone can be a Spartan warrior. Especially if that "everyone" is a hunchback who can't get his shield up. But that doesn't mean the appropriate action is to run into the arms of the enemy looking to wipe all that was special about Greece off the face of the earth.
Played by Christopher Guest
The Princess Bride
Oh, sure, he's really tough when scarring the face of the young Inigo Montoya, or operating a crazy-ass machine that sucks life from people like Westley (Cary Elwes), but when he's gotta face the grown-up, revenge-mad Inigo (Mandy Patinkin) ... he turns and runs.
Played by Chris Tucker
The Fifth Element
There's so much crying, screaming and crawling going on with Chris Tucker's futuristic DJ that he's either playing the biggest coward in space or an overdeveloped infant.
Played by Michael Keating
If a knack for self-preservation, a desire to "live forever, or die trying," a reluctance to put himself in any physical danger makes Vila a coward, well, then, so be it. This very talented thief will be in the corner, not getting shot at, drunk as a loon.
And don't forget ... THE COWARDLY LION
Played by Bert Lahr
The Wizard of Oz
The Cowardly Lion is, as his name implies, afraid of almost everything. It is only through his adventures with Dorothy, and some magical mojo juice from the Wizard (most likely booze), that the Lion learns that courage isn't the absence of fear, it's acting despite the fear. Lesson learned, it's time for another musical interlude.