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Movie Mentors Who Ended Up Fighting Their Protégés

The souring of a relationship between a mentor and their protégé is a trope as old as storytelling itself. We've seen it countless times on the big screen: A wise mentor guides their eager student to heights they never imagined possible, only for things to go horribly wrong. Maybe it's the mentor who betrays their protégé, or vice versa. One way or another, the situation forces the former allies to come to blows, leading to fights filled with emotion and despair. The dissolution of what should have been an enduring, positive relationship is never pretty, but it's often highly entertaining for the viewers.

Whether it be superheroes who learn terrible things about the teachers they thought they could rely on or "Star Wars" characters who rise up against their masters after being corrupted by the dark side, some of the most beloved films of all time have explored this trope and the emotional fallout that comes with it. While there are plenty of examples of mentors fighting their protégés throughout movie history, these 12 are among the most memorable.

Bruce Wayne vs. Ra's al Ghul (Batman Begins)

The first film in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" trilogy, "Batman Begins" is an origin story that hinges on what Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) learns — and the lessons he rejects — from the man he knows as Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). Ducard offers Wayne the opportunity to join the League of Shadows, where he trains him to fight. Yet, when Ducard and the man that Wayne believes to be Ra's al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) inform him that the League intends to destroy Gotham, he burns their headquarters down. Wayne makes it crystal clear that he disagrees with the League's evil plot, but he's still loyal to his mentor, so he saves Ducard from the destruction.

That decision comes back to haunt Wayne when Ducard shows up in Gotham. He reveals that he's the real Ra's al Ghul and that he still plans on tearing down the crime-ridden city, despite the objections of his appalled protégé. Of course, Wayne is unwilling to give up on Gotham. The two engage in their final confrontation on a train, where a confident Ra's seems to be sure he'll win. That confidence is misplaced — he has grossly underestimated Batman, who is willing to let the train crash instead of stopping it as Ra's had wrongly assumed. Just as Ra's realizes what's about to happen, the Caped Crusader flies off the train, leaving his former mentor to his fate.

Kylo Ren vs. Luke Skywalker (Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi)

The "Star Wars" franchise contains numerous examples of mentors at odds with their protégés. A prime example takes place during "The Last Jedi," in which Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his uncle, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), face off. Kylo was known as Ben Solo when he got sent to train with Luke to become a Jedi. Sadly, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) had gotten into his head, luring him to the dark side. When Ben woke up one night to find Luke standing over him with a lightsaber, he lashed out in fear and confusion, officially giving up on the light side of the Force.

By the time he meets Luke again, Ben (now Kylo Ren) has killed Snoke and taken over as Supreme Leader of the First Order. He initially tries to use the First Order's weapons to kill his one-time master, and his intense hatred is demonstrated by the brutality of the attack. When Luke emerges unscathed, Kylo engages him in a lightsaber duel made all the more intense by their fractured relationship. At first, the crazed Kylo struggles to land a blow on the wise Jedi. When he eventually manages to run his weapon through him, he realizes that Luke isn't really there — he's projecting himself to give the Resistance time to escape. With his ruse uncovered, Luke disappears and passes away from the effort, confident that the Resistance lives on.

The Bride vs. Bill (Kill Bill Vol. 2)

Quentin Tarantino's two-part tour de force "Kill Bill" centers on a woman (Uma Thurman), known for most of the story as the Bride, who leaves the assassination squad she was a member of when she learns she's pregnant. When Bill (David Carradine), the squad's leader, discovers she's getting married and starting over, he and the other assassins crash the wedding and kill everyone apart from her. It's not through lack of trying, however — Bill shoots her in the head just as she tells him that the baby she's carrying is his.

Four years later, the Bride wakes up from a coma and goes after everyone involved in what happened that day, with Tarantino saving the most important target for last. When the Bride eventually comes face to face with her former lover and mentor in "Kill Bill Vol. 2," Bill reveals that their daughter survived and that he's been raising her, but this isn't enough to gain her forgiveness. Recognizing that she won't be talked down, Bill attacks the Bride. The two engage in a brief but thrilling battle in which the Bride sheathes Bill's sword and then performs the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on him. This ends their duel, as Bill knows he will now only be able to take five more steps before he dies. Bill's death doesn't come as a shock, but it's still an immensely satisfying showdown.

Tony Stark vs. Obadiah Stane (Iron Man)

Several mentors have clashed with their protégés over the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a trend that started with 2008's "Iron Man," the first MCU film. The movie begins with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the CEO of weapons manufacturer Stark Industries, being kidnapped during an ambush in Afghanistan. The rich American is subsequently held captive in a cave for months on end. During this time, Stark invents the first Iron Man suit as well as the miniature arc reactor that powers it, enabling his escape. Upon returning home, he's relieved to be reunited with his friends, including Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), his father's former business partner and Tony's mentor.

What Stark doesn't know is that Stane has been plotting to have him murdered. When that doesn't work out and Stane learns that Stark has miniaturized the arc reactor, he takes that from Tony instead — right out of his chest. Knowing that Stane plans to murder his love interest (Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts) and use his invention to make weapons, he powers his Iron Man suit with the first miniature arc reactor he made and goes after Stane. Unfortunately, Stane has created his own, far larger suit, making it an uneven fight from the start. So, when Stark realizes he can't physically beat Stane, he orders Pepper to overload Stark Industries' large arc reactor to create a surge, which overloads Stane's suit and kills the treacherous man inside.

Rocky Balboa vs. Tommy Gunn (Rocky V)

"Rocky V" starts with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) reveling in his win over Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) from the previous "Rocky" film, but he and his family soon fall on hard times. The head trauma he suffered in the ring has forced him to retire from boxing, and, to make matters worse, his accountant has squandered his money. He decides to move back to his old rough-and-tumble Philadelphia neighborhood, where he reopens his deceased trainer Mickey's (Burgess Meredith) gym. It's here that Rocky meets Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison), a boxer who all but begs Rocky to train and manage him.

Inspired by his memories of Mickey, Rocky agrees and quickly becomes preoccupied with Tommy's career. He ushers Tommy to success, but Tommy grows resentful when he realizes that he's seen as an avatar for Rocky. At the same time, slimy promoter George Washington Duke (Richard Gant) starts bending Tommy's ear about the riches he could amass if George took over his management. Tommy goes for the deal, but after winning the championship and being told it means nothing because he didn't beat Rocky, he goes to Rocky's gym and calls him out. When Tommy refuses to back down, Rocky challenges him to a street fight. While Rocky easily beats his protégé at first, Tommy attacks from behind and practically knocks his former mentor out. Demonstrating his grit, Rocky comes back and eventually triumphs, proving to everyone that he's the real champion.

The Ancient One vs. Kaecilius (Doctor Strange)

While the title character is the focus of "Doctor Strange," his pursuit of magic puts him in the middle of a struggle between his mentor, the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), and her former student, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). Kaecilius has already rejected the Ancient One when Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) starts his training. While Strange is told that Kaecilius wants to bring Dormammu from the Dark Dimension to Earth in a bid to give everyone eternal life, he isn't told why Kaecilius turned against the Ancient One. He's shocked when he learns Kaecilius became disenchanted with the Ancient One because she is doing exactly what she warns her protégés not to: She has been drawing power from the Dark Dimension to extend her life.

Because of this betrayal, when the Ancient One tells Kaecilius that bringing Dormammu to Earth will end in pain, he doesn't believe her. Eventually, Strange and his ally, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), are forced to fight Kaecilius in the Mirror Dimension. Just when it seems as though they're outmatched, the Ancient One appears, pushing her current protégés to the side and taking on Kaecilius and his followers alone. She gets the upper hand at first, but before she can triumph, Kaecilius stabs her in the abdomen and kicks her through a portal into the real world, where she falls to the ground from several stories up. Strange attempts to save her, but there's nothing he can do.

Alonzo Harris vs. Jake Hoyt (Training Day)

No movie mentor-protégé relationship goes south faster than the one depicted in "Training Day." Denzel Washington delivers an Oscar-winning performance as Alonzo Harris, an accomplished narcotics officer who's supposed to be training a rookie named Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke). Right from the start, things go wrong for Jake. Alonzo tricks him into smoking PCP, uses a fake warrant to steal money, pays off a trio of high-level officials, and even frames Jake for killing a drug dealer. Then, when Alonzo realizes the upstanding Jake won't embrace his corrupt ways, he abandons him at a gangster's home with the expectation that Jake will be killed there.

Luckily, the gangster realizes that Jake saved his cousin from being sexually assaulted earlier in the day and lets him go. Determined to do the right thing, Jake decides he needs to bring Alonzo down. He tries to arrest his crooked mentor, but, unsurprisingly, Alonzo won't come quietly. The two engage in an epic fight: They go at it in the apartment of Alonzo's mistress, over rooftops, in a car, and, ultimately, in the street. Jake finally gets the drop on Alonzo, who calls on the residents of the neighborhood he's been terrorizing to take Jake out on his behalf. No one is willing to comply, though, as they all hate the way Alonzo uses his position to take advantage of them. Instead, they allow Jake to leave with the evidence he needs to prove Alonzo's corruption.

Shang-Chi vs. Xu Wenwu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings)

When we meet the main character of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," he is going by the name Shaun. Nobody in his adopted home of San Francisco is aware that Shaun (Simu Liu) is actually Shang-Chi, the son of Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), owner of the titular rings. His reasons for keeping his family a secret are understandable: After his mother was killed, his dad started to treat him like a member of his army, training him to be a killer. When the opportunity arose, the traumatized Shang-Chi ran away from home.

A decade later, Wenwu finds Shang-Chi and takes him back to his compound by force. Shang-Chi doesn't believe his father when he tells him that he's been hearing his mother's voice and that she's being held captive in her homeland of Ta-Lo. Concerned, Shang-Chi goes to Ta-Lo ahead of Wenwu and learns that his father is being fooled by the soul-eating Dweller-in-Darkness, who the community is keeping sealed behind a gate. When Wenwu arrives and attempts to break the gate, Shang-Chi stands in his way. The powerful Wenwu gets the better of his son to begin with, but Shang-Chi reengages him and they have a dramatic one-on-one battle. Wenwu manages to breach the gate, and the evil Dweller-in-Darkness is released. Realizing that he was wrong all along, Wenwu sacrifices his life for his son, passing on the Rings before he dies.

Master Shifu vs. Tai Lung (Kung Fu Panda)

Perhaps the most adorable confrontation between a movie mentor and their protégé takes place in "Kung Fu Panda," an animated film full of martial arts experts who happen to be animals. The most accomplished Kung Fu masters in the film, the Furious Five, were trained by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), a humorless red panda who keeps his students at a distance. We soon discover that heartbreak drives Shifu's standoffish behavior. He originally trained a snow leopard named Tai Lung (Ian McShane), his adoptive son. Tai Lung is arrogant and becomes furious when Shifu's master, a tortoise named Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), denies him the title of Dragon Warrior.

Tai Lung gets thrown in prison after taking his rage out on the valley around Shifu's temple. When he finally escapes after two decades behind bars, he comes for the Furious Five, Master Shifu, and the scroll of the Dragon Warrior, which he still believes is rightfully his. The Furious Five fail to hold him off, leaving Shifu with no choice but to go paw-to-paw with his former protégé himself. Shifu puts up a good fight, but his sorrow at what happened to his longtime student combined with Tai Lung's fury at his former mentor leads to Tai Lung overpowering Shifu. However, when Shifu later learns that the panda Po (Jack Black) has defeated Tai Lung, he makes peace with everything that's happened.

The Narrator vs. Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

When the unnamed main character (Edward Norton) of "Fight Club" meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), he's feeling smothered by a society that prizes material possessions over more primal urges. Tyler, a compulsive man who rails against the institutions that bind, becomes his guru by offering him a way to rid himself of society's shackles. Together they create the titular club, which gives the Narrator — and, before long, many other like-minded men — the cathartic opportunity to get his aggressions out. It isn't until well into the movie, when the Narrator finally starts to question Tyler's motives, that he realizes his mentor is actually a dissociated personality he created to deal with his disillusionment.

When the Narrator wakes up after a blackout and discovers that Tyler has made plans to blow up a series of buildings, he attempts to stop it from happening. However, since Tyler is always right there with him, he inevitably fights back against the Narrator — and the fight gets extremely savage. To everyone else, it looks like the Narrator is beating himself to a bloody pulp (he jumps through windows, throws himself down stairs, and even ties himself up), but to the Narrator, Tyler is doing it all. It's an attempt on Tyler's part to put his disciple back in his place. When the Narrator comes to the realization that he has power over Tyler, he gains control of Tyler's gun and shoots himself in the cheek, eradicating his other personality.

Louis vs. Lestat (Interview with the Vampire)

Stories about vampires are ripe for strife between mentors and their protégés — between their deadly natures and their long lives, one party is bound to do something to betray the other. In the film "Interview with the Vampire," Louis (Brad Pitt) despises his creator and mentor, Lestat (Tom Cruise), yet he only fights him because he has no choice.

Lestat tries to mold Louis in his image, but Louis is uninterested in becoming a cold-blooded killer, vampire or not. Lestat realizes that Louis is likely to leave him, so when Louis feeds on a little girl named Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) in a moment of weakness, Lestat turns her into a vampire in a bid to make Louis stay. Louis loves Claudia even though she's vicious, so when she slits Lestat's throat in retribution for ensuring she'll never grow up, he helps her get rid of the body.

They think their cruel leader is gone, so the pair is horrified when a disfigured but very much alive Lestat returns to take revenge on Claudia several weeks later. Claudia is no match for Lestat, so Louis steps between them. In a brief but brutal showdown, Louis runs from Lestat with Claudia, but Lestat pushes him away from her. Then, as Lestat runs at her, Louis throws a candle at him. As Lestat goes up in flames, Louis and Claudia flee, once again leaving their former mentor for dead.

Anakin Skywalker vs. Obi Wan-Kenobi (Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith)

Before the 2005 "Star Wars" prequel "Revenge of the Sith" was released, there may have been no single event in movie history more anticipated than the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. "Star Wars" fans learned Vader's backstory in the original trilogy, but it took over 20 years to see the moment play out on screen. The incident that precipitates Anakin's (Hayden Christensen) final transformation involves a fight with his mentor, the Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).

Anakin falls to the dark side and is dubbed Darth Vader earlier in the film, but it's not until he fights Obi-Wan on the fiery planet Mustafar that he becomes the black-suit clad baddie that fans love to hate. Learning of Anakin's embrace of the dark side, Obi-Wan enlists his wife Padmé (Natalie Portman) to help him. When they reach Mustafar, Padmé tries to reason with Anakin, but when he sees Obi-Wan, he concludes she's betrayed him, demonstrating he's beyond saving.

Anakin Force-chokes Padmé and then battles Obi-Wan in a knock-down-drag-out lightsaber duel across the lava and uneven terrain of the planet. He is blind with rage, but Obi-Wan still manages to beat him, eventually cutting off Anakin's legs as well as one of his arms, leaving him broken and consumed by flames. Despite this, Vader survives, and as fans already saw in 1977's "A New Hope," he eventually kills his one-time master in another lightsaber duel.