It’s a High to Be Loathed | 14 of My Favourite Villains 😈
I made a Top 10 Villains post three years ago, but I wanted to make a new list for this year because obviously, I’ve come across characters that are new to me or ones that I’ve returned to. Also, we have different views as to what makes a character villainous because more and more characters are becoming more morally grey these days, and we’ve ended up with more anti-heroes than outright villains. Which is okay with me, because I like characters with all different kinds of moralities. Sometimes I like characters whose moral alignment is so bizarre that it’s difficult to fit them on a scale of good and evil. What I like are characters who are well-constructed. But anyways, I have a full discussion on this planned for later on in the month so I won’t get into it now.
Today I just want to share with you all my favourite villains. This post did take me a little time to think about because I wanted to make this list a mixture of my previous list, and a new one, so I really took some time to think about what characters should be mentioned, and a couple of them may be a little unconventional. Also, here’s a song you can enjoy too:
Mr Burns is probably a weird example to put on a list of villains because his moral alignment really depends on the episode and the writers. Also, he’s a character on a cartoon sitcom, which isn’t a genre that you usually see villains in. I’m assuming that everyone has seen The Simpsons at least once so I don’t really need to explain who Mr Burns is. What’s interesting about Burns is that he was originally written to be a one-dimensional nasty boss character but taken up to eleven, and then was fleshed out into being a more three-dimensional character who has his moments of goodness. Twisted goodness, but still goodness. Burns’ villainy comes from the fact that he is basically the embodiment of corporate America: everything he does is for himself and solely to increase his already vast fortune.
In Futurama, Mom is kind of like a female version of Mr Burns, but much, much, much eviler and cold. Everyone in Springfield knows that Mr Burns is evil because he doesn’t hide it, but in Futurama, not everyone knows that Mom is evil because she puts on a front of being a nice kindly old woman. In reality, Mom only cares about big business and in some episodes, taking over the world. Because it’s the future and Earth is unified, it’s possible. Mr Burns isn’t likely to turn every single one of his creations onto humanity and enslave everybody, but Mom would do that in a heartbeat. And has. More than once if you count the video game, but I don’t know if people do.
Surprisingly, Lex Luthor isn’t a character that I know a lot about outside of classic Superman comics, the Lois and Clark TV series, and the Christopher Reeve Superman movie, but I do still like him as a villain because he’s not exactly what you’d expect the antagonist of the most powerful man in the world to be. He doesn’t have any powers, or a secret identity, just a lot of intelligence and a lot of money. However, Superman is also incredibly smart so it makes them good adversaries for one another. What brings Lex down is that he’s completely power-mad and that can sometimes cloud his brain. It was enough to get him kicked out of the White House after being a competent President. Trying to kill an alien will do that. In a sense, Lex is kind of similar to Mom because he too has a very carefully constructed public persona that makes him appear much more charitable than he is which helps him avoid suspicion and getting arrested. Want an unpopular opinion: I liked Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Different isn’t always bad, and his more jittery and eccentric portrayal is still kind of true to the character because he’s still as power-mad as he is in the comics. Or you could look at it the way other people do in that he is the son of the comics version of Luthor. But that doesn’t make him any less the “real” Lex Luthor.
Most people these days are starting to really hate the Joker because of the way he treats Harley Quinn. It’s almost as if they’re coming to realise that he’s a villain and you’re not supposed to like him as a person. I’m not going to defend Joker’s relationship with Harley because it was always written to be terrible and abusive but I still stand that the Joker is not a character that you’d want to be friends with and go out for coffee with. He’s purely evil and will kill anybody if he finds it funny. Even children. Not somebody you’d want to be best buds with, trust me. But to me, that’s what makes the Joker a great villain. You want to see him get taken down because he’s so awful, but he can’t be completely taken down because he’s such a good villain. Also, another unpopular opinion: I didn’t think Jared Leto was that bad as Joker in Suicide Squad. He was only on screen for eight minutes and the characterisation was pretty much on point to me so I think people have him too much of a hard time.
Do you know what’s a good way to make a scary monster? Rip it straight from a nightmare you had. To me, the scariest monsters are monsters that are very rarely seen, which is why the Alien is so scary in the first Alien movie. It’s also why I didn’t like the second one as much, but that’s a topic for another time. The Xenomorphs are different to most movie aliens because instead of being parts of an intelligent society like Vulcans, or even Yautjas from Predator, Xenomorphs operate in colonies like bees where there’s one queen who lays all of the eggs which then hatch into workers who serve the queen. Also, fun fact: one time a toy company made a “King Alien” xenomorph action figure and it bugs me so much because king bees do not exist. Also, another thing that makes the Alien so cool is that you can play as a version of it in Mortal Kombat X even though if it was true to the original franchise, nobody would be able to have a fistfight with it without their skin melting off because Xenomorphs have acid blood. But you can summon the Queen in one of its fatalities, and it is brutal. You can watch off its finishing moves here, if you’d like, but be careful clicking that link if you’re sensitive to blood and gore, because it’s Mortal Kombat, after all.
Want to know what makes Alex such a disturbing character? In the book, he’s fifteen years old. Yeah, fifteen. In the movie, he was played by a then twenty-seven-year-old Malcolm McDowell. I don’t know what it is with Hollywood refusing to cast teenagers to play teenagers. Alex is another character that you’re really not supposed to like as a person because he’s just so awful. He takes joy in random acts of violence and even rape, which is pretty much horrifying. It’s actually kind of a relief to see him go to prison and see him go through the Ludovico treatment because he’s sort of getting what was coming to him anyway. I will admit that I haven’t read the book A Clockwork Orange but I have seen the movie, so I kind of have a grasp on the character and I definitely think he’s a villain in the movie.
Someone who declares themselves to be “the mistress of all evil” is bound to be a pretty nasty person, right? Maleficent is without a doubt my favourite Disney villain. She curses a baby to die because she wasn’t invited to its birthday party. That’s pretty damn cold. She shows up uninvited, with a crow on her shoulder and basically gives a huge middle finger to the King and Queen, purely out of spite, which is just cool. Also, she turns into a dragon at the end of the movie. How many other Disney characters have turned into dragons? Not many, that’s how many. I will admit that I was disappointed with the live-action Maleficent movie because it basically turned her into a heroic fairy godmother, which just did not do any favours for me at all. Her name is Maleficent, as in derived from malevolent which means evil, not ‘Heroicent’ or whatever. Gah.
Going back to what I said about the Xenomorph in Alien, sometimes the scariest monsters are the ones that are rarely seen. In the original Dracula novel, Dracula himself appears about four or five times, which makes him so much scarier than if he was in every single scene. Dracula may seem tame compared to more modern vampires, but I still think he’s scary and threatening because he’s not a romanticised character and also not a sympathetic one either. He does put on an air of sophistication, but he’s prone to fits of anger which shows that he can be animalistic at times. And that’s terrifying because there are real people who are like that.
Here’s a question for you all: who is the real monster in Frankenstein? Is it Frankenstein himself or is it the monster? Don’t worry, there’s no wrong answer. To me, Victor is the more villainous of the two, but he’s annoying, melodramatic, and totally bougie so he doesn’t go into my lists. The Monster, on the other hand, is a character who I think totally deserves the title of tragic villain. He’s thrown out onto the streets literally hours after he’s “born”, abused by strangers for his appearance, and ends up losing his only friend (who can’t physically see and therefore isn’t prejudiced against his appearance) after learning how to read and write. By himself. How does he react to this? By plotting revenge and killing a child. Like you do. Is that excusable? Of course not, but he initially has no idea what he’s doing or why people were treating him so badly because he was basically a giant baby. You can’t help but feel sorry for someone like that.
We can all agree that people who want to commit mass genocide are horrifying, right? Frieza here blew up an entire planet to get rid of an entire alien species, and then still tried to kill the four that were left. Why? Because. That’s why. And he enjoyed it. A lot. I have a few favourite villains in the Dragon Ball series, but Frieza stands out for two reasons: 1) his story arc feels really dragged out (even though it isn’t the longest saga) 2) he’s one of the most sadistic characters in this universe. Frieza is a character who takes a huge amount of joy in destruction and killing his opponents to the point that he pretty much tortures his victims before killing them, and is another megalomaniac because he has his own empire that involves buying and selling whole planets. Being a prince, however, he does manage to keep his cool (ha, get it, cool) most of the time, but his temper is horrendous. Plus, he can transform into different forms, which is cool but also kind of annoying because this being DBZ it just had to be dragged out over a million episodes.
I’m going to be a wee bit controversial and say that even though I do love Loki as a character, I don’t think that he’s just misunderstood. A tragic backstory is not an excuse for killing over 50 people in one day. I’m not even sorry about it because it isn’t. He knows exactly what he’s doing and can be blamed entirely for his own actions. I have a discussion about this line of thinking planned for later on in the month so I’ll leave it at that for now. Loki is actually the only Marvel character that I like because he’s written so well. One of the reasons why we’re so attracted towards villains these days is because they’re suave and intelligent, especially when compared to a hero that may as well be a huge pile of dumb muscle (especially in the first movie. thor is such an idiot but that’s what character development’s for.). It also doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous and played by Tom Hiddleston who is without a doubt the best actor in the MCU (don’t try to fight me. i know i’m right). Ahem. Please, Marvel, make your characters more than just snark and one-liners and then maybe, just maybe I’ll like them more. Maybe.
In my mind, the creepiest killers are based on real people. Norman Bates (as well as a number of fictional killers) was inspired by Wisconsin murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein, who is famous for keeping trophies of human bones and skin around his house. Nice. The only unfortunate thing about Norman’s characterisation is that he has dissociative identity disorder and the writing makes it look like his “split personality” is the reason why he kills. Which is something that is seen way too much in the horror genre if you ask me. And a few other people. I think it’s also worth noting that in the movie, Norman is made into a much more sympathetic character. How did they do this? By making him physically attractive. Yeah.
A chaotic villain is cool, but a villain with a strict personal code can be even cooler. In the Predator series, the Yautja culture revolves around hunting for sport but they have to be fair about it. Predators will only attack armed prey and not innocents or anybody who they consider to be weak. Armed marines obviously don’t fall under the categories of innocent or weak. What also makes the Predators cool to me is that they have the coolest biology. They’re freaking huge, they’re resilient to damage, incredibly strong, can see in infrared, and their blood glows. Remember, friends, if it bleeds, you can kill it.
I had to get a YA character in here somewhere. I finished the Lunar Chronicles early on this year so forgive me if I forget things. Even though Levana is pretty much the Evil Queen from Snow White as an alien, she is the essential fairytale villain and that’s what makes her so terrifying. Anybody who would willfully kill their own niece so that they can have a throne for themselves is obviously not a very nice person. What makes Levana so scary is the sheer amount of power she has. When you’ve got control of a whole planet (or a natural satellite, because the moon is not a planet) and you plan to take over another, you’re a person to watch out for.
Who are some of your favourite villains? Do you prefer them to be morally grey or just plain evil?
Louise is a bookworm, writer, and aspiring librarian from the North East of England. When she’s not reading or procrastinating writing, she can be found dreaming up story ideas, watching anime, movies, or trashy reality TV, and annoying her pets.