I have always loved villains. They’re ruthless, creative, out of the box thinkers willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals. So what if their goals include taking over the world, or toying with a certain character’s emotions, or even just trying to gain recognition for their acts.
There is something about the characters that make up the antagonist that intrigue humanity. Plus, they’re very fun to write. You get to dig into the deepest parts of your soul that you would never let out in your every day to day life and show the world that anyone, even the sweetest person, can have a dark side. The catch is that in writing, you aren’t actually committing any crimes, and if you want to rule the world, well, you can actually make that happen.
Let me be clear: I do not condone taking over the world. Also, some of these characters are downright creepy. But that’s what makes them such good bad guys, right?
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my top ten favorite villains, either because of their evil acts or because of how well the character was crafted. The remainder of this post will contain spoilers, so beware if you care about those.
Loki Laufeyson from the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Anyone who knows me knows I love Loki. And, if you dig into the Loki fandom just a little, you’ll start to understand why he has such a large fandom, an army, some would say. Throughout the years Loki has been seen as the misunderstood little brother trying to please his father (as seen in Thor), a villain looking for a nation to rule (as seen in The Avengers), and a criminal informant who is willing to risk it all to help his brother (as seen in Thor: The Dark World). I’m very excited to see what they will do with Loki’s character in Thor: Ragnarok, but I digress.
For the duration of this discussion, I’ll be referring to the version of Loki seen in The Avengers. After an unknown period of time in which all manner of things could have happened to him, Loki makes his way to Earth. His proposed goal? To rule the humans as a god. His actual goal? To find a way back to Asgard. I’ve come to this conclusion by looking at various fan theories and interpretations of the minute details of the film. Loki killed at least 80 people in the duration of his time on earth, and for what purpose? He’s not stupid, he knew how his brother felt about the humans. Therefore, I can conclude that his “attack on the Earth” was more of a flare for his brother saying, “Hey, I’m over here, come take me home.”
Just look at his face in one of his last moments on screen. Does his expression look like he didn’t accomplish everything he desired to do, despite being thwarted in world domination? I don’t think so. I think he looks pleased, as if this had been his plan all along, to get back to Asgard, even if he returned as a prisoner.
The Winter Soldier from the Marvel Cinematic Universe
The Winter Soldier is first introduced (as the Winter Soldier) in the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier is in fact James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger, however Bucky Barnes, in my opinion, is no villain. The Winter Soldier, however, in all Bucky’s brainwashed glory, is a fabulous villain. His goal? Survive. He is a highly trained, yet completely expendable, hit man created by the fictional criminal organization Hydra. He knows that if something happens to him and he can’t exfiltrate himself from his dangerous missions, he will die. So, he does what he’s told, kills whoever he has to, so that he can live another day.
Amanda from Nikita
This woman makes this list because of pure creepiness. She was experimented on by her father when she was a young girl, eventually killing him and her privileged twin sister before changing her identity and going on the run. She went on to work in an illegal government facility that, according to all records, didn’t exist. There, she became known as the Inquisitor. She taught the agents how to look fabulous while they kicked butt, while also managing internal affairs.
Her goals shifted throughout the series, as she accomplished one and moved onto the next, but despite her plans to run both Russia and America, or even just run a single criminal organization, she was determined to prove to Nikita that Niki couldn’t defeat Amanda without becoming just like her.
She also loves performing lobotomies and finds joy in torturing people. Did I mention she’d do it all in stiletto heels and a perfectly made up face? If you don’t believe me, watch the show. Amanda is one of the best villains I’ve ever seen, so props to the show’s writers.
Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls
Anyone who has seen Gravity Falls knows of the frightening triangle known as Bill Cipher. There are quite a few debates about what, exactly, Bill is, however it is agreed upon that he is known in the show as a “dream demon.” That sounds bad as is, but then you add in Bill’s goal to expand into the human dimension and rule it, followed by destroying the entire galaxy and partying for eternity, and it sounds much worse. Who knew a one eyed triangle with arms, legs, a top hat, bowtie, and cane could be so scary? I think the worst part of Bill (and by worst I mean best, since we’re talking about villains) is the fact that he can possess people. No triangle should have that much power.
Rothbart from The Swan Princess
Growing up, The Swan Princess was one of my favorite movies. However, it wouldn’t be complete, or even possible, without the wonderful villain Rothbart. As the younger brother of the crowned prince, Rothbart never had the opportunity to become king. So, rather than be disappointed, he poured his energy into learning the “Dark Arts.” There are three parts to these magical abilities: the power to create, the power to destroy, and the power to change. Of these, only the destroying really sounds that bad. That is, until you realize that with the power to change, he turned the main character into a swan and turned himself into a fearsome winged beast. His goal? Get the princess to marry him so he could legally become king. Hey, at least he tried the legal route.
Dr. Horrible from Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog
Oh, Billy. This wannabe super villain runs a vlog (video blog) about his endeavors. His accomplishments include creating a freeze ray capable of pausing time. Everything would have been fine for him, except that his crush ended up dating his nemesis. So, his goal: kill his nemesis, become part of the Evil League of Evil, and get the girl. It sounded like a good plan until his weapon exploded and shrapnel killed his crush, his nemesis survived, and he was left standing in the wreckage.
On the bright side, he did end up joining the Evil League of Evil. That’s what makes him a good villain. Rather than turning his back on his goals to grieve his crush, he used her death to advance his own status. He had a goal, and he followed through with it, whatever the cost.
Pitch Black from Rise of the Guardians
What better villain for Santa, Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Mr. Sandman to face but a manifestation of one of the most common fears of humanity? Pitch is darkness and fear incarnate, taking the happy sand Mr. Sandman uses to give children good dreams and turning them into nightmares, black horses that terrify their targets. (I love that pun. Mares that come in the night, made of fear. Nightmares.) Pitch’s goal? To either, option A: join the guardians. Or, if that can’t happen, option B: destroy the guardians. He is a suave and smooth talking villain, who takes his plans as far as he can.
The Master from Doctor Who
The Doctors only remaining Time Lord friend, The Master, ranks high on the creepy scale. (Maybe not as high as Amanda, but pretty far up there.) He is desperate and convinced that he is insane. In the show, he worked his way up through the ranks of the British Government in an attempt to take over the Earth. Surprise, he succeeds and allows an alien invasion to occur. After The Doctor stops him, The Master is shot and, supposedly, killed. He refuses to regenerate, and The Doctor is alone again.
Then, as if one attempt at world domination wasn’t enough, The Master (Surprise! Not dead.) goes and tries again. Using some complicated alien technology, he changes everyone on Earth into a copy of himself. As if one weren’t enough, here’s approximately 7 billion more. Once again, the Doctor is forced to stop his friend.
As any good antagonist does, The Master brings out aspects of The Doctor fans of New Who had never seen before, such as how desperate he really is for friendship. Honestly, who can blame him? He’s the last of his kind. Without The Master, he’s the only Time Lord. And no matter what he does, humans lifespans are unfortunately short in comparison to his own. So, the most diabolical thing The Master has done? In my opinion, it’s forcing The Doctor to be alone yet again.
Jim Moriarty from BBC’s Sherlock
While in Britain, it would be a shame not to mention the amazingly creepy Jim Moriarty, a modern reincarnation of the classic villain from Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery novels. It is no secret that Moriarty is a criminal. He calls himself a “consulting criminal” for pete’s sake, the perfect opposite to Sherlock Holmes’s “consulting detective.” Moriarty’s goal: not be bored.
If that doesn’t send a shiver down your spine, I don’t know what will. Most people, when faced with boredom, will turn on the TV, pick up a good book, or go out and enjoy the beauty of life. Moriarty? He’d rather break into the Tower of London and try on the Crown Jewels, just because he can. That, or dredge up some long closed case and leave it on Sherlock’s doorstep, simply because Moriarty thinks that Sherlock is the only one who can play his mind games with him. He is such a good villain that when he was canonically killed off, the fanbase refuses to believe it and insists that he somehow didn’t bite the bullet. Suffice it to say, he successfully got in all of our heads.
Crowley from Supernatural
Crowley, the King of Hell, a simple crossroads demon who had the guts to overthrow the devil and take his throne. He’s the only monster in the show Supernatural that doesn’t underestimate the Winchester brothers. That’s probably why he’s survived for so long, and even works with them occasionally. Regardless, Crowley is a great villain. He tried for world domination once, but eventually decided ruling his little corner of existence was good enough for him.
Another thing I admire about Crowley is that he knows when to book it out of town. When things don’t go quite as planned, he doesn’t hesitate to leave. That’s probably another reason he’s survived so long. He’d rather stay alive to fight another day than die in the midst of a mistake now. It’s admirable, really, if a little cowardly. But that’s why he’s not the hero, right? A hero might foolishly charge into battle despite the odds of success. Crowley would rather run now, make a good plan with a 90% success rate, and then return to the fight.
Who are your favorite villains? Either because you love the character or you have to admit they’re relentless and good at their chosen profession? Let me know via comments on my social media or through the Contact Me tab.
J. J. Hanna is attending Taylor University for a degree in Professional Writing. She has published multiple devotions and book reviews and is a beginning comic artist. She published her first book Existence in 2015. Look for it on Amazon.
Buy Existence here: Amazon.com