The Reluctant Hero Theme

Someone who has the skill to save the day, make a change or make an impact but is reluctant to do so for any reason. The theme, if broken down into steps:

  • The hero does not initially know his destiny and/or heritage
  • Discovers it sometime on his path to adulthood
  • Tries to fight it/deny it
  • Finally accepts (and presumably fulfills) his destiny.

Here are some example from popular movies/books

Harry Potter

harry potter.jpg


Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker.png





Neo (Matrix)



Good Will Hunting (Matt Damon)

Good Will Hunting (Matt Damon).jpg


In a brand story the founder is usually the reluctant hero, maybe the founder is an amazing programmer that used to sleep on this friends couch and would help him ace his exams in return.

The Loss and Redemption Theme

The Loss and Redemption theme is one that usually tugs at the heart, here’s how the theme goes:

  • The hero has something (position, status, item, person)
  • Something happens
  • The hero losses that thing
  • The hero is damaged or broken (generally blames himself)
  • The hero redeems himself
  • The hero gets that thing back and appreciates it much more

Some example of this theme are:

The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)



The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption.jpg


Good Will Hunting (Robert Williams)

Good Will Hunting (Matt Damon).jpg


The Green Mile

The Green Mile.jpg


Cinderella Man

Cinderella Man.jpg


The Underdog Theme

The underdog usually needs no introduction, we love rooting for the underdog. This is the opposite of the Reluctant Hero theme. Where the reluctant hero has a skill but is reluctant to do something, the underdog usually has a passion and a drive to do something but does not have the skill, or ability to do it. This theme usually goes like this;

  • Hero has a dream or a passion to do something
  • Hero does not have the skill or ability to do the thing
  • Hero does not let that stop them
  • Hero works hard to obtain his dream or passion
  • Hero usually eventually obtains that the or passion

Some examples are:

Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump)

Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump).jpg


The Karate Kid (Daniel Larusso)

The Karate Kid (Daniel Larusso).jpg


Pretty Woman (Vivian Ward)

Pretty Woman (Vivian Ward).jpg


Rudy (Daniel Ruettiger)

Rudy (Daniel Ruettiger).jpg


The Rookie (Jim Morris)

The Rookie (Jim Morris)-1.jpg


Rocky (Rocky Balboa)

Rocky (Rocky Balboa).jpg


The Discovery Theme

The discovery theme is usually about self-discovery. Here’s how the theme usually goes.

  • The hero has a relatively normal life, at least in their eyes, there is usually a negative connotation to it though, like they don’t appreciate what they have or they’re mean to others, or this could be internal like they don’t have any confidence.
  • Something happens, good or bad that changes their day to day.
  • A sequence of events conspire
  • With each new sequence, the hero gets closer and closer to self-discovery
  • By the end of the story, the hero is back to their old routine but the routine feels different. Because they’re now different.
  • The hero does something with his new realization.

Some examples are:

Rain Man (Tom Cruz)

Rain Man (Tom Cruz).jpg


A Christmas Carol (Scrooge)

A Christmas Carol (Scrooge)-1.jpg


Almost Famous

Almost Famous.jpg


The Last Samurai

The Last Samurai.jpg


The Curation Theme

The curation story is similar to the discover story in that both have the same journey and realization aspect, however, the difference is that in the discovery theme the hero unintentionally learns something new where as in the curation story, the hero intentionally embarks on a mission to discover something new. This can be through researching, and investigating. This theme work great in business because it automatically positions your brand as an authority. If you went out and conducted research on 500 companies in your industry and discover that something everyone thought to be true was actually not, or you developed a system from the research that makes your prospects work much more efficient, cost effective and easier, than your business can become a thought leader. Here’s how the theme goes.

  • Hero has a hunch, theory or is curious just about something.
  • Hero tells people but they don’t believe.
  • Hero obsesses about that thing and is determined to prove it
  • Hero does research and discovers that he was right
  • After the hero proves himself everyone looks to the hero for answers

Some example are:

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park.jpg


Stranger Things

Stranger Things.jpg


Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones.jpg


The Revenge Theme

If you grow up in the 80’s then you know this one well, this is pretty much every action movie. Revenge is similar to Loss and Redemption, but the difference is that the hero is not broken or damaged. If anything the thing that happens usually hardens them, whereas in the Loss and Redemption theme it softens or breaks them. It also usually needs to include an underdog story to be believable. Here’s how the Revenge story works;

  • The hero has something that they appreciate, this could be a nice life, usually a normal one, at least in the eyes of the hero. Whatever the case the hero usually starts as a nice happy person.
  • That thing was taken from them. Usually from something bigger than them, like an evil organization, something that causes them to be the underdog in a fight for revenge.
  • Hero knows he’s outnumbered or simply the underdog in the fight and it’s not realistic for him to accomplish his mission but he feels too passionately about it that he does it anyway.
  • He get revenge or dies tryingSome examples

Some examples:









Kill Bill



Die Hard

Die Hard.jpg





Total Recall

Total Recall.jpg


Steve Jobs (NeXt)

Steve Jobs (NeXt).png


The Ascension Theme

The Ascension theme is the classic rags to riches story that so many entrepreneurs are fascinated about. This theme is usually used with either the Reluctant Hero theme or the Underdog theme, but not always. Here’s how the Ascension story works:

  • Hero has less than everyone else has of something.
  • Hero is generally a nice person and over everyone else is most deserving of that thing
  • Hero might or might not work to get that thing, however, they are aware that they don’t have it and most of the time, they’re ok with it.
  • Something happens and they get more than everyone else of that thing.

Some example:

Pretty Women

Pretty Woman (Vivian Ward).jpg


Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.jpg


The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness.jpg





A Knight’s Tale

A Knight’s Tale.jpg


Storytelling can be a powerful way to connect people with your brand, and this is by far not an exhaustive list, but use these as a template for inspiration or direction or to shortcut the process, furthermore, you might have noticed that a lot of these themes mishmash with one another, try using two or even three of these themes with one another to make your brand story compelling.

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