The lovable rogue is a literary trope in the form of a character, often from a dysfunctional or working-class upbringing, who tends to recklessly defy norms and social conventions but who still evokes empathy from the audience or other characters. The lovable rogue is generally male and is often trying to “beat the system” and better himself, though not by ordinary or widely accepted means. If the protagonist of a story is also a lovable rogue, he is frequently deemed an antihero.
Lovable rogues are not the standard paragons of virtue because they frequently break the law or seem to act for their own personal profit; however, they are charming or sympathetic enough to convince the audience to root for them. Although they appear at first to act only for personal gain or to break the law needlessly, lovable rogues are often justified in these actions later on due to some ethical motivation that had not yet been revealed at the time or, at least, have the capacity to atone for their wrongdoings. Many lovable rogues are simply prone to being misled when making ethical decisions while others who appear to act unethically actually maintain a flexible and complicated but legitimate code of ethics.
The lovable rogue's wild disposition is viewed not as repulsive and alarming so much as exciting and adventurous. He is generally regarded as handsome or attractive and his daredevil attitude further makes him sexually desirable to other characters. He often has a fiery temper and is streetwise—possessing practical knowledge—usually having never been educated in a formal setting.
Despite his common external appearance of selfishness, foolhardiness, or emotional detachment, the lovable rogue may in fact strongly associate with a highly idealistic belief system and understand the concept of a code of honor so highly valued that it transcends normal social constraints such as conformity, tradition, or the law. This sense of an internalized, personal code is usually what makes the lovable rogue lovable, since it serves to confirm that he is moral whereas he may have appeared at first glance to be immoral. The lovable rogue, thus, is not a villain, because he has either a sincere, strong sense of morality (though he may be unwilling to expose it) or has the definite potential for establishing such a moral sense. In addition, his tendency to violate norms may be regarded as a positive trait—having a highly individualistic, creative, or self-reliant personality.
- Han Solo from the Star Wars franchise; along with Lando Calrissian.
- Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series.
- Claude Greengrass from the TV series Heartbeat (UK TV series).
- James "Sawyer" Ford from the TV series Lost.
- Malcolm (Mal) Reynolds from Firefly/Serenity.
- Luke Spencer from the daytime soap opera General Hospital.
- Jack (from the "Fables", published by Vertigo Comics) is described in the Dramatis Personae of his "Jack of Fables" spinn-off as a "hero [who] embodies the archetype of the lovable rogue (minus, according to many, the lovability)."
- Arthur Daley from the UK TV series Minder
- Jack. T. Collins from the film Romancing the Stone, and its sequel Jewel of the Nile.
- Del Boy from the UK TV comedy series Only Fools and Horses.
- Puss in Boots in a 2011 movie with the same title, from Shrek series.
- Nathan Drake from the hit video game series Uncharted.
- Shawn Spencer from the USA Network's long running series Psych.
- Spike from TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel.
- Jack Burton from John Carpenter's cult classic Big Trouble in Little China.
- Ash Williams from Sam Raimi's cult film series Evil Dead; in particular the second sequel Army of Darkness.
- Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the protagonist from Ubisoft's hit video game Assassin's Creed 2, and its two direct sequels Brotherhood and Revelations.