There are millions of villains out there. Some are awesome, some are… not so great. Here’s a few of the good ones, and what makes them awesome.
1. The Joker- The Dark Knight
You knew he’d make the list. The Joker is one of the best examples of a chaotic villain. He doesn’t want to rule the world, he wants to watch it burn. And yet, there’s a method to his madness: he doesn’t want chaos for chaos’s sake, he wants it to prove that he’s no worse than anyone else.
The Joker is one of the few ‘crazy’ villains who actually have motivation. He’s still unpredictable and terrifying. “They’re just crazy” does work to define a character (look at the success of other ones), to a certain extent. But as the Joker shows, that can be expanded into a full character with their own reasons for acting- without lessening their impact.
2. Count Olaf- A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
(Spoilers for the full book series). Count Olaf starts the series as a ludicrous, over the top villain, perfectly suited for the middle grade children’s genre. As the series progresses, though, his actions become more and more understandable to the Baudelaires, and by extent, the readers.
Olaf’s awfulness is never excused, but as the Baudelaires begin making their own morally ambiguous choices, they start to realize that they, too, could end up like him. And in the end in The End, Olaf does do one good deed in helping Kit Snicket. Although he’s never noble, Olaf isn’t completely villainous, either. Don’t be afraid to give some ambiguity to your villain, and never assume your audience is too young to handle it.
3. Joruus C’Baoth- Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
Yes, I know I’m a nerd, and that this trilogy isn’t canon anymore (he’s from the early ’90s Star Wars expanded universe novels). That being said, Joruus C’Baoth is one of the most interesting villains I’ve encountered. Rather than using his Force powers to try to control the world (or galaxy, in this case), he seeks to control people’s minds. It’s not enough for him to rule their actions, he has to rule their thoughts, as well.
Because of this, he’s initially content with controlling a single village. Although he wants Luke Skywalker on his side so they can eventually control the galaxy, he has no interest in mere physical power over it. It’s an interesting twist on the ‘I want power!’ type of villain (very Fe, MBTI fans). It’s harder to dictate a person’s thoughts than their actions, so if your bad guy wants a real challenge, they can shoot for that instead of ‘world domination.’
4. Loki- The Marvel Cinematic Universe
What can I say? He had to make the list. Now, there’s “some” debate on whether Loki is a villain or anti-hero, but I think he’s bad enough to count as a villain. Anyways, Loki has a certain drama to him that only people with capes have. Whether he’s shouting things like, “I am a god, you dull creature!” or remarking, “Oh dear, is she dead?” he has that air about him
that’s really fun to imitate when home alone.
Although most villains in a more realistic setting would seem forced if they acted that way, Loki grew up as a prince of the universe. Anyone from a place called ‘Asgard’ has a bit of a pass in the gritty realism department. As long as the character’s background supports it, this sass and style combo makes for a super fun villain, both to write and read about.
5. Jadis (the White Witch)- The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Jadis is a classic depiction of pure evil. She killed everyone in her world so she could rule it, tried to take over earth, and became the first evil to enter Narnia. She easily manipulates people, turns innocents to stone, and killed Aslan. She has no interest in redeeming herself and wants to drag everyone else down with her.
For some stories, the villain doesn’t need ambiguity- they are evil and that’s enough. This works especially well when they are symbols for something else, like wickedness or the devil. These types are rarer nowadays, but still have value.
Play around with which types of villain fit your story and you enjoy writing. You have tons of options!
Who are your favorite villains?