Who is Your Favourite Villain in Fiction?

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Written by Frankie Cameron

Who is your favourite villain? A few weeks ago I wrote about heroes, so I thought this week I would give villains their turn. The hero gets all the glory, but what would a story be like without a villain. Could you imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader or 101 Dalmatians without Cruella De Vil.

Merriam-Webster defines a villain as a character in a story or play who opposes the hero; a deliberate scoundrel or criminal; one blamed for a particular evil or difficulty.

Villian

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Types of Villains in Fiction

There are many types of scoundrels in fiction:

1. Evil Incarnate

The title evil incarnate tells the story of this villain. They stand in opposition to the hero with no other incentive than doing evil things. In contrast to other villains, they are flat characters, who only exist as a simple obstacle for the protagonist.

Examples include Darth Vader (Star Wars), The Emperor (Return of the Jedi), The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz), Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians), and Sauron (Lord of the Rings).

2. The Mastermind

The mastermind is sometimes a hidden character who pulls the strings from behind the scenes. An evil genius who usually has a henchman to do their dirty work. They are normally one step ahead of the hero.

Examples include Lex Luthor (Superman), Dr. Evil (Austin Powers), Hans Gruber (Die Hard), and Loki (Thor).

3. The Anti-Villain

The anti-hero isn’t necessarily a villain, they are more like a hindrance. They are normally only interested in self-preservation. They can even have a good side. An anti-hero may need to do a lot of wrong things before doing the right thing, or they may do the right thing for the wrong reason.

Examples are Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs), Patrick Bateman (American Psycho), and Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter).

4. The Bully

The bully stands in opposition to the protagonist. They are just mean for no reason other than they can be.

Examples include Johnny Lawrence (Karate Kid), Biff Tannen (Back to the Future), The Socs (The Outsiders), Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Fletcher (Whiplash), and Dudley Dursley (Harry Potter).

5. The Henchman

Normally the henchman is an underling of the mastermind. Savage, relentless and unforgiving, they live to serve the mastermind.

Examples include Boba Fett (The Empire Strikes Back), Agent Smith (The Matrix), Mr. Joshua (Lethal Weapon), and the monkeys (The Wizard of Oz).

6. The Fanatic

The fanatic is often a disturbed individual. In general, they frequently have psychological problems with internal struggles or an irrational ideology.

Examples include Norman Bates (Psycho), Annie Wilkes (Misery), the Joker (Batman), and John Doe (Seven).

7. The Corrupted

The corrupted were once respectable, but through circumstances turned bad.

Think Michael Corleone (The Godfather), Alonzo Harris (Training Day), Jack Torrance (The Shining), Gordon Gekko (Wall Street), and Captain Bligh (Mutiny on the Bounty).

Image by Pawel Janiak on Unsplash

Is the Antagonist Always the Villain?

The words villain and antagonist aren’t synonymous. A villain is always at odds with the protagonist, while an antagonist doesn’t have to be a person, just something that impedes the character’s goals.

According to the website DIY MFA the six types of antagonist forces are another person (like the seven villains list noted above), mother nature, society, technology, supernatural force, and a character can also be his/her own antagonist.

Mother Nature

Mother nature is a powerful adversary. Examples include the twister (Twister), the storm (Perfect Storm), the tsunami (The Impossible), the iceberg (Titanic), and the mountain (Everest).

Society

Society can be an antagonist when a person struggles against societal forces. This is a commonly used theme in dystopia. Examples include John (A Brave New World – more utopian), Katniss (The Hunger Games), and Offred (The Handmaids Tale).

Technology

Machines are a frightening enemy because they are emotionless, they don’t feel pain; they are never afraid. They follow their programming and never deviate. Ultimately, it is impossible to reason with Machines. Examples include Terminator (The Terminator), Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron), and Roy Batty (Blade Runner).

Supernatural Forces/Extraterrestrial/The Beast

We can combine these types of antagonists together. They are monsters, literally. They need to feed through instinct or necessity. Examples include the alien (Alien), the shark (Jaws), the whale (Moby Dick), and the bear (the Edge).

The Top 10 Villains

According to The Insider, these are the top 10 movie villains (click the link to read the entire list of 50)

  1. Darth Vader (Star Wars)
  2. The Joker (The Dark Knight)
  3. Anton Chigurh (No Country For Old Men)
  4. Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)
  5. The Shark (Jaws)
  6. Amon Goeth (Schindler’s List)
  7. Terminator (Terminator)
  8. Alex Forrest (Fatal Attraction)
  9. Norman Bates (Psycho)
  10. Mr. Potter (It’s a Wonderful Life)

I would have had Annie Wilkes (Misery), Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter), and Gollum (Lord of the Rings) higher on the list.

Favourite Villains in Dystopia

There are many villains in Dystopia. Some of my favourite characters are:

  • President Snow (Hunger Games)
  • Eric (Divergent)
  • Aunt Lydia (The Handmaid’s Tale)
  • Mustapha Mond (Brave New World)
  • Agent Smith (The Matrix)
  • Dr. Cable (Uglies)
  • The Maze (The Maze Runner)

Final Thoughts

Society is the antagonist in my novel Hollow Edge, although there are a couple of anti-villains. What is your favourite type of villain? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time

Frankie

Feature image by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.

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