Monday, May 10, 2010

I Love To Hate You!

There's nothing like a good villain. Not good as in "morally excellent," but good as in really bad. It's so rewarding to follow the journey of a hero who overcomes the obstacles of a villain we love to hate.

So what makes a good villain?

I'm going to borrow from Jeff Savage and his workshop, "Creating Believable Villains" from LDStorymakers. He said, "The best villains are like the hero if the hero had taken a different path." Now this isn't the only exclusively good thing about a bad villain, but it's something that made me think.

Let's take Darth Vader vs. Emperor Palpatine. I would say on a whole, Emperor Palpatine is more evil, heinous and icky than Darth Vader. If I had to meet up with one of them in a dark alley, I'd pray for Vader. However, Vader is a much better villain. Why? Is it because of the huge marketing potential of black helmets and voice changers. Maybe. But I think it's because we can sympathize with him, and see his motivations. And all through it we know that if he only had taken a different path, he would be the hero.

That makes a really good villain.

One of my very favorite villains is from the show, "Lost." You're never quite sure what side Ben is on, what he's going to do, or how he may react. He ranges from sympathetic to completely evil. I have many others that I could add, but I'd like to hear from you instead. What do you think makes a good villain? Who are your favorite villains in books or movies? Let's get this evil post going!

And on a completely unrelated side note, check out Graham's blog about helping Nashville:


  1. Hmmmm . . . I'm going to stew on this one. There was a villian that I loved/hated but I can't remember it right now . . . ugh. I'll be back later today with an answer.

    (By the way, I threw my head back and laughed at the marketability of Vader.)

  2. My favorite bad guy is Vic Mackey from The Shield. It's a cop drama and Vic is the head of the strike team. He's corrupt, but he still gets the job done and puts the bad guys away. He helps crack whores get off drugs and get their kids back, and he steals money at every turn and even commits a few murders. I'm always conflicted when he does something bad because he's a family man just trying to keep it together and do right by his kids. One of which has autism and needs special care. If you don't mind a bit of violence it's worth watching.

  3. Mmm....really good villains:

    President Snow from The Hunger Games ("smells like roses and blood")

    The Sphinx from Fablehaven (very, very complex villain)

    The Operative from Serenity (I had to mention Serenity :-)

    The Warden from Shawshank Redemption (that dude had it coming, I'll tell you what)

  4. You know I love Lost, so I totally agree on Ben. He has done such heinous things and yet you still feel sorry for him at times.

    A few others that come to mind as good multi-dimensional villains are Voldemort, Smeagol/Gollum, Miranda from The Devil Wears Prada, and Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb.

    You may mock me, but Phineas and Ferb is one of the best written shows on TV. :)

  5. To prove my point re: Phineas and Ferb, you must read this -

  6. As long as we're going the tv route, I'm putting a plug in for Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Other favorite baddies of mine are...okay, I'm having an alarming blank at the moment. Of course, there are the Jane Austen's like Willoughby and Wickham. And Vader and Voldemort have already been mentioned. I'm coming to realize that quite often the opposition in stories that I love are less tangible than your average "bad-guy-plotting-to-rule-the-world". For instance, Val Jean in the story, "Les Mis", faced many challenges in which his only struggle was a personal one. But his choices and how he comes to those choices is what make that story priceless. Or, another example is in "The Count of Monte Cristo". In some ways both the good and bad guy are represented in the Count himself, which is completely brilliant because I find that to be the case in real life more often than not.

  7. I wrote this very clever long response yesterday and my computer spit it out somewhere into the universe and I didn't have the heart to do it over.
    Here is my list of great villains:
    Snape, Trust is key here he is a villain because we could never truly trust him.
    Ditto on Prince Zuko, he is a fantastic, complex, tormented villain and his choices are heartbreaking.
    Guy of Guisborne in BBC Robin Hood...worse TV series ending ever and not worth watching 3 seasons to be so disappointed but Guy was a fabulous villain who killed out of hand when he had to or when he was angry but also could be kind when moved upon. Making him pretty unpredicatable.
    Instability in a villain is interesting because it keeps us guessing.