To celebrate I’m going to take a look at what makes a good (or is that bad) villain. While not every story features a villain, many good stories have one. A villain keeps the story moving, throws all sorts of challenges at the heroes, and sometimes, completely steals the show.
It seems to me there’s several sorts of villains. Some of them are despicable, others pitiable, and some even sympathetic. Some are nearly all powerful, others weak and paltry. Yet they all have one thing in common, they’re out to stop the main characters from getting what they want.
Here’s some my favorites in a few of my mental categories:
Distant All-evil and Powerful Villains
These guys are big, bad, and often ugly. They lurk like an evil force throughout the book spurring everyone on to save the world from their evil plans. Usually these guys are set on world/universe domination, but sometimes they’re just making everyone miserable for the fun of it. You don’t know why they’re evil, they just ARE. And they’re out to get you.
Some of my favorites include Sauron (Lord of the Rings), Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars), Arawn Death Lord (Prydian Cronicles), Maleficent (Disney Sleeping Beauty), Shan Yu (Disney Mulan) and the White Witch (Naria).
Beleaguered Villains with Entitlement Issues
These guys are trying hard to belong to the first category. They desperately want to be all evil and all powerful, but whether they’re beset by incompetent minions, stumble into some bad plans, or just have bad luck, things keep not going their way, no matter how evil they are. They continually have to prove they deserve their villainous title, all the while smacking the idiots they’ve surrounded themselves by. Yet, even if they are really at heart, evil, you can’t help but sort of like them and admire their determination to get what they feel like they deserve. My favorites in this category include: Cluny the Scourage (Redwall), Jafar (Disney Aladin), Scar (Disney The Lion King), and Darth Vader (Star Wars).
These guys are are convinced they’re doing the Right Thing. The trouble is, they’re wrong. Sometimes they figure that out, sometimes they don’t. These villains end up in a gray area, because sometimes evil isn’t straightforward. Are they justified or not? They make the argument they’re just doing their job, or working for something that’s also good. Some prime examples include: Prince Ramses (Dreamworks Prince of Egypt), Attolia (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia), Ratcliffe (Disney Pocahontas) and Mother Gothel (Disney Tangled).
These guys are pitiful in their misery, but they can’t let go of what they think they want and be happy. They’re struggling, and you normally would feel sorry for them, except they then turn around and do nasty stuff to other people you like more. They just can’t let go of what’s ruining their lives, often their pride. Some of my favorites here include: Gollum (Lord of the Rings), Prince Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender), and Captain Hook (Peter Pan).
Oh, and just for fun, here’s the Disney Villain Kombat.
Who’s your favorite villain?