Crafting Villains Series #1 Who’s Your Ultimate Villain?

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April brings the start of another series, as I start to look at the villains in my novel, I thought I would share with you the things I learn. But first: Audience Participation Required…

I want to run a poll, to see who your favourite villains are? Comments below. There are no rules your villains could be from literature, TV, Film, Theatre or anywhere else for that matter, and you can have more than one if you like.

The Telegraph has a list of the 50 Best Villains if you need some inspiration.

It’s not something that I have thought about very often. Don’t we usually have a favourite hero? Not a favourite villain. But villains are the characters that linger, that you love to hate, so why haven’t I thought about this before?

I had a little look at the list and picked out my faves from it.

Captain Hook is on there at 40

Hook

The Joker from Batman is at 23

joker-hands-wait-so-now-the-joker-s-immortal

Patrick Bateman from American Psycho is at 17

patrick bateman

Hannibal Lecter at 14

Hannibal_2

Lord Voldemort came in at 5

voldemort

Cruella de Ville came in at 2

Live-movies_cruella

Not on the list, but one I had to add is, Ursula

Ursula

She had to make the list, partly because I have a strange obsession with Octopuses, but also because I loved the Little Mermaid, until I watched it on maternity leave, and realised the absolute horror of the contents, cue a feminist rant on The Abomination That is Disney.

I asked the wife who her favourite villains were and she said the joker, but specifically Heath Ledger’s joker, we both agreed there was something special about the way he played it, neither of us have actually figured out what that ‘special’ was yet, but I’ll come back to you! I find it interesting that most of the villains on the list were male, and that as a result most of the villains on my list are male. But I will write another post about that later. Suggestions on good female villains?

So who else can you add to my list of ultimate villains? I would love a big old list to be able to deconstruct and study, so if you have a moment, please do comment. 🙂

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58 comments

  1. Interesting concepts, but I’d hesitate to call Lecter a villain; he does, after all, help Starling and Graham solve their respective cases, and comes to Starling’s aid in Hannibal; not that I’d put him in the “good guy” bin, but… XD

    So far as my own contributions, I’d nominate Lee Harvey Oswald from 11/22/63: he’s an excellent example of petulant spoiled brat in precisely the wrong place for maximum damage, which I found entertaining; Vergil from DmC: Devil May Cry for being an excellently done “good guy gone wrong” with his descent into extremist behavior and final god complex-motivated betrayal(even though you know it’s coming, if you’ve played other games in the series, his attitude, style and performance during the reveal were excellent); Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer: he’s honestly the only competent villain in the series, who has plans and generally stays away from the “Let me stand around and mock you instead of getting down to business, oh, and did I explain my evil plot yet?” trope; he also has a great and believable character arc that eventually leads him to true heroism (which may be a cheat, but at least he’s a more interesting hero, who feels like he actually earned and accomplished something, than all the good guys who were just given “Hero!” post-its and let loose).

    Oh, and since you wanted a female villain… Bellatrix LeStrange. She tortured the Longbottoms, she murdered Sirius, she’s generally utterly bonkers but has a fractured goal in sight and her creepy fangirl adoration of Voldemort (along with the semi-flirtatiousness-while-talking-of-murder conversations with Snape and the odd incest vibe she gives off around Sirius) is suitably disturbing.

    1. Hi Kaine, thanks for such a thoughtful comment. Now, I am going to definitely put Lecter what with his cannibalistic ways into the bad guy category, BUT I take you point. It’s well made, he did do some good stuff, I guess he’s a bit of an anti villain….Harvey Oswald is a good one 🙂 thanks. Not heard of devil may cry, have I understood you right in that its a video game? Now Spike I adored, I really loved Buffy as a series, and Spike was one of my fave characters. I had completely forgotten about him. Now how on Earth did I not think of Bellatrix? Shame on me, she really is a fantastic bad guy. Thanks for all your fabulous villains 😀

      1. Sure he was a baddy by the end; good motives gone bad. When Hank is murdered Walter is well over to the dark side. Other women? None spring to mind. Is that odd or just symptomatic of the stuff I read and watch… far too much saccharine!

        1. saccharine? isn’t that sugar? lol. Yeah you’re right, he definitely goes bad at the end. Great point. Ok, i’ll roll over on this one. Walter is a bad guy!

  2. I love half the villians you just mentioned: Hook, Joker, Voldemort, Cruella… lately my favorite villian is Rumpelstiltskin from the TV show Once Upon A Time. He’s on his own agenda and the writers write him (and all the other characters) beautifully.

    1. OMGGGGG I LOVE once upon a time. and i had totally forgotten about rumple. GREAT villain. How far through the series are you? Season 4 isn’t out over here yet : * (

      1. I’ve been keeping up with it on TV. It’s almost done with season four… about six more episodes, I think? That sucks you don’t have it, yet. 🙁 We’ll have to discuss when you see it!

  3. I didn’t look at the list, but one of my favourite villains is Sigmund Freud. Despite attempting to turn his theories into a religion and abandoning his sisters to die in concentration camps while taking his servants and dog with him, he predicted that one day science would devise a molecular theory of causation regarding the brain and behaviour. It’s odd that, given this premonition, he nonetheless went on to devise psychoanalysis, a school of thought that seems outré to me. Let’s just say that I admire his chutzpah in promoting his bizarre theories at all costs.

      1. Alas, although I prefer Jung, he was no superhero. Despite his greater imagination about what the human mind is capable of–I love his theory of the collective unconscious and the human brain being genetically wired to respond to certain symbols and hero figures–he did cheat on his wife, who was of great support to him both in his career and as a wife and mother. 🙁

    1. Ok, this is interesting…. an actual real life villain. I hadn’t thought to think of real people, in that case Hilter has to go on the list, with Gengis Khan… i will have a rifle through my brain to think of others. ‘Chuzpah’ lol. he definitely had an ego thats for sure…. ‘ego’ lol. ok ok, I will stop!

  4. If you want the ultimate villain, it has to be Sauron from Lord of the Rings, but I don’t think he’s the most interesting.
    For a pure villain, Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes is one that springs to mind. Highly intelligent but incredibly ruthless. For an anti-hero I would go for Flashman, just a horrible person you love to loath. The one that scared me the most, though, wasn’t from a book but from a film, and that’s the Child Snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Beats pinhead, Jason or Freddy Krueger hands down for sheer terror.

    1. ooh flashman? not heard of him….will go investigate. I did think of Sauron, but i’ve not read LOTRs and I have only seen one or two of the movies I think, so wasn’t really able to use him much with so little knowledge… I feel ashamed admitting that! LOTR is a bit of an institution, I should have jumped on the bandwagon ages ago :s OMGGGGGGGGG the child snatcher YES YES. now that was terrifying as a child! good thinking, must add him to my list! thanks Dylan 🙂

  5. When I was a teenager (way back in the 1950’s) I saw The Prisoner of Zenda and my favorite villain became Rupert of Hentzau as played by James Mason. That caused James Mason to become my favorite actor! But now my favorite villain is Mo’gri’ta’tu, the evil chamberlain to the Queen in my book The Termite Queen (he is a giant winged termite, btw). You will have to read the book to appreciate that!

      1. I was thinking more of Anthony Perkins in the 1960 version of the movie. Hitchcock was a master when it came to making these kind of movies. It still chills me to this day when ever I watch it, especially that shower scene.

  6. When I think of favorite villains, my mind turns to vampires — Dracula, Eric Northman, Lestat. Yet, what’s odd about that is I really don’t like the whole vampire culture at all. So why do those villains captivate me when what they are disgusts me? I think, at the heart of the attraction, is a character so bold in his villainy and anti-humanity that he transcends what he is.

    A modern female villain that come to mind is Miranda Priestly (played by Meryle Streep) in “The Devil wears Prada.” She’s so wicked, yet so powerful in what is typically a man’s corporate world. She owns her villainy! My all-time favorite classic villain is Medea. She’s so full of angst for being spurned that she’d kill her own children (yikes!) yet she embodies the pain and rage that suppressed women can feel and she is not satisfied to stay home and weep, thus committing the greatest atrocity a woman could commit.

    Villains are complex. It’s their traits and how they balance their emotions and reactions or let them get out-of-balance that makes them interesting characters. Often they are the characters that do and say the bold things we wish we could do or say if not confined by morals or societal correctness. The best villains are deep and complex. The best villains are ones we almost love.

    Great post! Sending you good writerly vibes for Camp NaNoWriMo!

    1. I read that Mel Blancs (I think) of Looney Toons fame once said that Bugs Bunny is who we all want to be, but Daffy Duck is who we all fear we are! Lol. Bugs Bunny makes for an odd villain because we tend to see him as the hero, but he was actually very antagonistic, baiting his enemies. As Charli points out, however, he is the one we love, saying and doing outrageous things.

        1. I’m sorry, it was a long time ago that I read it. Probably before the internet. I found this one on a site with quotes by Chuck Jones, though: “‘Bugs talks, and Daffy talks too much,’ said film teacher Richard Thompson. Most of us know when we should stop, and so does Daffy, but his where to stop is way beyond ours, and he repeatedly lands himself in trouble by going too far.” (Source: http://www.chuckjones.com/about-chuck-jones/quotes/).

    2. ok, I LOVE vampire stories, its my biggest guilty pleasure! But sadly, I have read very few. I’ve read the true blood series, so Eric Northman probably has to be my fave, but maybe thats more about how handsome the TV character is?! thats such an interesting thought. which made me think about what I like so much about them. But I think for me its their Immortality that appeals. But oddly, what they have to do for it is a kind of juxtaposition… which makes me wish I had thought of this sooner and written about it for my juxta piece! sigh.

      OHHHH I love that film, I would NEVER have thought of her as a villain either so I am really grateful you mentioned her, and its so true she really is.

      Yep, the best villains really are the ones we almost love. your psychic too, thats my next post! lol.

  7. I hated Ursula from the Little Mermaid, but not for the reasons you’d think. I grew up in the 90s, so many kids associated my name with hers. The first response I’d get when they learned my name was: “Oh, like Ursula the sea witch from Little Mermaid.” I hated the comparison. I like her as a villain though, except for all the looks stuff. I think she was the only one in the movie that was giving society the middle finger, and I was always interested to learn the back story between her and Ariel’s father.
    My favorite male villains: Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates (Psycho), Magneto (X-Men), John Doe (Se7en), Keyser Soze (The Usual Suspects), Agent Smith (Matrix)
    Favorite female villains: Miss Havisham (Great Expectations), Catwoman (Batman), Mystique (X-Men), Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Queen of Hearts (Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland), Jadis the White Witch (Chronicles of Narnia), Snow Queen, Delores Umbridge (Harry Potter), Veruca Salt (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Morgan la Fay (Arthurian legends)

    1. Ohh boy can I sympathise. My real name is Pannonica (Nica is what everyone calls me) but I got Pinocchio and Pocahontas at school. Used to drive me up the bloody wall. Kids can be so cruel. I have to say though I love ursula from the little mermaid! Lol. Thanks for all the bad guys. I am going to pull them all together for everyone with useful links 🙂

  8. The Artful Dodger is definitely my favourite villain, and apparently for many others in view of the number of books continuing his story that have come out this century. For female villains there is less choice, but Cat Ballou certainly deserves a mention. I don’t usua;;y go for westerns, but her story is the ultimate woman finds her strength as a result of adversity tale.

  9. I have realised this is fairly old now, but I would like to suggest Darquesse from Skulduggery Pleasant as an amazing female villain- the whole Jekyll and Hyde vibe she has is what really makes her so terrifying (other than the fact that she re-attached her head when it was ripped of my one of the other villains, and has a habit of grabbing people’s hearts from their chests)

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