What makes a good villain? Evil corporations are always fun, of course, but they often lack the personal touch that a single bad guy brings. But then with a single villain, the temptation is to give them a mental illness or make them irredeemably evil (J.K. Rowling, I’m looking at you). My favourite villains are the ‘shades of grey’ bad guys – those who are just doing their job, or who are heroes from their side’s point of view.
There are also the sympathetic villains and the empathetic villains, the villains you love to hate, and the villains you just feel pity for. And let’s not forget those who start off as Good Guys and fall down the Slippery Slope of Evil, and their opposites, Bad Guys who either redeem themselves or are revealed to have some kind of justification for their actions.
And then there are some obviously bad Bad Guys who are just plain fun.
It seems to be more difficult to produce a likeable or empathetic villain in literature than it is in movies or television shows; a T.V. series obviously gives much more room for character development, but why movies and not books? Or am I just not reading the right books?
My favourites would have to include Al from Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, Batiatus from Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Darth Vader from Star Wars, Grendel’s mother from Beowulf, Magneto from X-Men, Mayor Wilkins from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mayor Wilkins from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scar from The Lion King, and the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Who are your favourite villains?