You’ve gotta love a villain! All the best movies, books, television series or whatever else was always made better if the bad guy was…erm, good.
The protagonist is always the one you root for, but many a time it’s been the antagonist that’s had me loving whatever it is I’m watching or reading. It might be their look; it might be their power; it might be their motive to be a bad guy; it could be a combination of the lot. I enjoy watching the villain at work. Whether it’s a love to hate scenario or a straight up love to love one, if the bad guy in anything is well put together it can make the whole thing infinitely more enjoyable.
I’m fairly certain most all Star Wars fans love Darth Vader in one way or another. Super Mario was nothing without King Koopa (or whatever he’s called nowadays – I always knew him as Bowser myself). I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was a little crestfallen when Macduff killed Macbeth; the latter was obviously much more interesting a personality even if he was a touch evil.
Bad guys rule! Just ask Razor Ramon! We all feel something about the person we’re supposed to hate by design. So I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about five of my favourite villains in fiction across all genres.
Agent Smith (The Matrix) – Many will argue, but I think Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith in The Matrix is perhaps the coolest bad guy that cinema has ever known. He’s a massively believable arsehole! The way he talks and the way he goes about his business is just so sneaky and underhanded, but is then backed up by being harder than nails. Not that he needs to be hard after the first movie because he can just copy himself by slipping his hand inside people (sounds ruder than it is). Like the trilogy itself, Smith gets progressively less cool as it goes along, but that’s not to say he wasn’t still cool by the third. He most certainly was. Still delivering his ass-whooping’s and great monologues. Still looking as cool as the surface of Enceladus. Still Agent Smith through and through. Very few monologues beat the one he had in The Matrix where he talks about humans being a cancer of the earth and I love the dialogue between he and Neo in The Matrix Reloaded when they encounter one another for the first time in it just before Neo has to fight about a hundred Agent Smith’s. He’s the full package for me where villains are concerned.
Hector Barbossa (Pirates of the Caribbean) – I like Barbossa more than Cap’n Jack Sparrow. Yup! I just said it. Geoffrey Rush was born to play a stereotypical pirate and he does it so, so well. Jonny Depp is brilliant; don’t get me wrong, but he’s nothing on Rush. Barbossa looks better, sounds better, is infinitely more despicable and owns the screen no matter what scene he’s in. Unlike the aforementioned Agent Smith, Hector Barbossa doesn’t get less good with each movie. He’s as brilliant when he’s a privateer in On Stranger Tides as he is a cursed undead buccaneer in The Curse of the Black Pearl. Admittedly, to say he’s a villain is a little inaccurate. He certainly has been a villain during the series, but has also been a protagonist as well so I guess that makes him a ‘tweener’ strictly speaking. Whatever he is, he’s bloody brilliant! While you only need read one of my first posts; Shiver Me Timbers…Said No Pirate Ever; to realise that Barbossa meets a fair few of the untrue stereotypes portrayed in popular fiction, it just doesn’t matter. He’s a fantastic character and one of the best villains in fiction.
Negan (The Walking Dead) – You can count the number of episodes Negan has appeared in The Walking Dead on one hand, but I decided within three appearances that he’s one of my favourite villains ever. He’s just awful in every sense of the word, all the while wrapped up in a very physically appealing package (man crush city). Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, is fucking awesome! Every ingredient you look for in a sadistic, twisted antagonist is right there in that one man. Every time he opens his mouth to speak you expect there to be some kind of false nicety; a veiled insult or threat. He delivers them often and they never get boring. He delivers his punishment with wide and toothy smiles and a glint in his dark eyes. The hilarious thing is that Morgan insists Negan isn’t a bad guy in interviews and he’s just merely acting harsh because of Rick Grimes’ actions. Either he’s deluded or taking the piss! Negan is a straight up bad guy! I’d probably go as far as to say he’s evil. But he’s also impossible to dislike because of just how much impact he’s had on The Walking Dead series. More than any other that’s preceded him I’d say.
Chris Jericho (WWE) – This guy is, for me, the best heel that WWE has ever had. He’s so easy to hate because of his underhanded deeds that, ironically, millions love him and I’m of that number. He plays the smug, smarmy narcissist so well that you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s the archetype of all of those qualities. And yet when he isn’t hitting Codebreakers, performing breath-taking moonsaults off the middle rope or putting people in the Walls of Jericho, he’s allegedly one of the nicest blokes you’ll ever meet. He’s a member of a band and always has time for his fans. Then he heads out into that ring and becomes Y2J; an absolutely despicable piece of shit! His cheating and lying make you so mad, yet so exhilarated too. Fans of wrestling will argue that Ric Flair is the ultimate wrestling heel, but I’m afraid I must disagree (I often do disagree with popular opinion in wrestling. I like Roman Reigns and John Cena for example). Flair is an utter legend and he was certainly the biggest cheater of his day, but I think Jericho has so much more charisma and he delivers it in a more stylish way than Flair did. I hope Jericho is around for much longer and has another title run in him, but he’s getting on a bit now and I can’t see him having too long left. That saddens me.
Haytham Kenway (Assassin’s Creed III) – Of all the Assassin’s Creed games I’ve played thus far, AC3 is arguably the worst. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the game, but it was lacking compared to the others. The two things it did have though were the swerve where you’re playing as Haytham Kenway one minute and it turns out he’s a Templar (the sworn enemies of the Assassin’s) and Haytham Kenway himself who’s better in every way than the game’s protagonist, Ratonhnhaké:ton; known more commonly as Connor; who’s Haytham’s son. Connor is about the worst Assassin’s Creed protagonist there’s ever been. After three consecutive games where the awesome Ezio Auditore da Firenze was the main man, it was a real blow to the senses when his successor was a half English, half Mohawk man who had the makings of being somebody really interesting, but was just a whining little turd with no personality. I liked his father Haytham; the baddie; so much more. He was tough and uncompromising with a great level of ruthlessness. The fact that he didn’t do what I expected and turn to the side of good in the end made me like him all the more. He remained a Templar and an enemy of Connor’s until the bitter end. You get an even greater insight into Haytham’s character and the reason he became a Templar in the book Assassin’s Creed: Forsaken and it only serves to endear me to this epic villain all the more.
So there you have it. I daresay there are a few in there you weren’t expecting or never even heard of before; always my intention when doing these things. I like to try and be unpredictable as much as I like unpredictable people myself. I could probably raise a few more villains I like. In fact I think I will.
I thought Officer Tenpenny (voiced by Samuel.L.Jackson) in the game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas was a great antagonist. He was a thorn in CJ’s side from beginning to end and so easy to dislike in a good way. Dustin Hoffman as Hook in Hook (believe it or not) was scintillating. He looked absolutely resplendent and was such a cracking bad guy. In literature, I was captivated by Silas in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code who sounded as scary in appearance as he did as a person. Silas was cast well in the movie adaptation too with Paul Bettany playing the albino Catholic monk villain to ungodly perfection. Then of course there’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld from the early James Bond films; a character I absolutely adore. Charles Gray definitely hit the jackpot when he played the head of SPECTRE in Diamonds Are Forever. He’s easily my favourite Blofeld ahead of Donald Pleasance (You Only Live Twice) and Telly Savalas (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).
We all love villains for better or worse. You can’t have a good hero without a good villain. The story is always absent meaning without a good one of either. Perhaps next time I’ll go the other way and talk about my favourite protagonists instead.
I’d love to know who your favourite fictional villains are and why. What did you think of my list? Any you’d take out and replace with others? How important do you think a great villain is to a story? As important as the hero/protagonist? Leave your comments below. They’re always appreciated and always, always responded to if you didn’t know by now. Thanks for reading.