Not all stories have villains, but the best stories are usually those that have the best villains. And what exactly is a good villain, you ask?
I like my villains dark and deliciously evil, naturally. But the best villains have depth when planning their dastardly plans. They may not always have a reason for doing what they do, but you can be sure they’ll get it done.
They may have been psychologically traumatised as children, or they might just be criminally insane. They might be foils for the hero, and may even enjoy playful banter with the hero, when not trying to kill them.
They’re definitely not good, but they’re good at what they do: being evil.
James Moriarty from Sherlock
Moriarty is probably my absolute favourite villain, especially after watching the BBC adaptation of Sherlock. Just like in Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic series, Moriarty is described as a “spider in his web” as he has spun a web, so intricate and large, that he alone knows what secrets linger in it’s depths. In the modern world, Moriarty is a criminal for hire, and he does what he does because he wants to. He doesn’t need the money or the recognition or the power. He’s just good at it.
As brilliant as Sherlock, Moriarty serves as a foil for the famous detective, except he’s not on the side of the angels, as he claims. He dwells in the world of criminals and thieves, where he reins king. His relationship with Sherlock is an interesting one, since it almost seems like both need the other to survive (a bit like Harry and Voldemort), especially in a world full of ordinary people.
Moriarty has no problem with sitting in Sherlock’s sitting room, sipping a hot cup of tea, helping himself to an apple, while telling Sherlock he’s going to destroy him. Going from being darkly witty in one minute to darkly dangerous in the next, Moriarty has only one rule: get Sherlock.
Adair from The Taker
I’ve gushed about this book a lot on this blog, and one of the reasons why I love it SO much is because the dastardly dangerous, yet handsome villain Adair. I don’t think I’ve ever read a character like him in literature, one who is so clever and manipulative and deceptive, yet also flawed and wanting to be loved.
Adair’s power comes from the ancient magic that he learned and stole hundreds of years ago, dark magic that he uses to bind others to him to do his bidding. Rich and handsome, Adair is charming and a pleasure to be around, that is until you do something to displease him. He is a man that strikes fear in the heart of others, even before they know of his hidden magic.
As dark and evil as Adair seems, there’s still a part of him that longs to be loved. He believes that he’s received a chance at redemption when Lanny enters his life, with whom he falls desperately in love. But Lanny turns out to be the one woman who beats the unbeatable Adair, who promises that he will get his revenge on her…love be damned.
Severus Snape from Harry Potter
So technically, Snape isn’t a villain, but I couldn’t not include him on this list! Sarcastic and brooding, Snape has it in for Harry from the minute he steps into the school. Known as The Dark Lord’s most trusted adviser, Snape is a slippery man to pin down to a particular side. Is he in the Order, but pretending to be a Death Eater? Or is he really a Death Eater and pretending to be in the Order? One thing’s for sure, Snape only has his own best interests at heart.
Tortured and lonely, Snape grew up being bullied by the same men that Harry looks up to, including his father, men who made Snape’s school experience into a living hell. Like his so-called master, Snape is a half-blood, but that doesn’t stop him from discriminating against the girl he’s in love with: Lily Evans. He persecutes Muggle-borns, along with Voldemort, and only reverts to the ‘right side’ when Voldemort kills Lily, proving that he is human after all.
While Snape makes no apologies for torturing Harry on a daily basis, he feels remorse over his choices and does his best to save Harry from meeting the same end as his mother, proving that even seventeen years later, his love for Lily still burns strong.
The Joker from The Dark Knight
The Joker is probably one of the creepiest, strangest villains of all time. He doesn’t really seem to have a plan, except create as much chaos as possible, and that’s exactly what he does. He doesn’t have any rules either, except try and get Batman to break his rules.
Fearless and brilliant, The Joker has no problem with blowing up a ship full of innocent people or dousing gasoline on a pile of money and putting a match to it. Like Moriarty, he isn’t in it for the money or the fame, but almost for the fun of it. He wants to draw Batman out by terrorising the world he’s sworn to protect, by showing him that people aren’t as good as they seem.
Even while sitting in an armed jail cell, The Joker is two steps ahead of everyone else, and manages to organize his minions almost seamlessly. But at the end of the day, he’s alone and nameless, without a real identity to explain why he is the way he is, or how he became that way. In the words of Alfred, “Some men just want to watch the world burn,” and that’s exactly what he does.
Taken from a combination of books, a movie, and a TV show, these four men have sent shivers down my spine as I’ve watched or read about them. Not exactly your typical antagonist, these four villains break all expectations of what is normal or what is expected. They’re not all doom and gloom though, but also enjoy exchanging casual conversation with the hero, while promising to blow their brains out in the same conversations.
These four men cause chaos in the heroes’ world, all the while proving that they’re human. They’re larger than life and haunting. They’re charming and clever and witty and want to destroy the world. That’s what makes them great characters.
Who are your favourite villains?! I would love to know 🙂
Thanks for reading,
Note: None of the above photos belong to me.