As it has been said, there is duality in all things. Yin and yang, good and evil. That goes for people, too. It is true that there is good and bad in every person; no person is all good or all bad. Even Mother Theresa and Gandhi were not perfect, and as you will see on this list, some of the worst villains throughout history were not 100% evil, either.
We like to think that bad guys are all bad, or our heroes are perfect, but that is just not the case. People are inherently good, with a few bad seeds thrown in there. It is the exception and not the rule that humans are more bad than good, like the 14 following people. Because you cannot take the humanity out of humans, nor can you expect them to be wholly and completely good or bad, one or the other. This is why even the most evil people the world has ever known still need some good in their lives, however that may manifest for each of them.
Good deeds are the least these men and women could do for the world, when they took so much from it. In no way do their pleasantly surprising good deeds even begin to make up for their atrocities, but at the end of the day, at least the fact remains that one cannot be solely and without exception bad. To me, that is a small comfort to know.
16. Pablo Escobar, the City Hero
Pablo Escobar, Colombian drug lord and the main character of the popular Netflix series Narcos, was undoubtedly a bad guy. After all, he was responsible for the deaths of over 600 police officers who were killed under his watch. He had them murdered by young boys he would pay to get the job done, therefore turning them into violent psychos. He murdered more than just policemen, too, and escaped prison to murder even more. He was a ruthless kingpin who at one time controlled more than 80% of the cocaine shipped to the U.S. Additionally, he was the mastermind behind the bombing of a Colombian jetliner that killed 100 people in 1989.
Basically, he was a pretty damned bad dude. But that being said… that same bad dude also did a lot of good, if you can believe it. Somehow, the same murdering drug dealer also had a project called “Medellin Without Slums”, which built houses for over 400 people that had literally lived on piles of garbage. He created clean water and sewer systems, built new airports and schools, funded churches and sports arenas, constructed a free zoo, and gave everyone a personal budget for medical care. Kind of shocking, isn’t it?
15. Ted Bundy Helped Suicidal People
This is a really strange one: Ted Bundy, one of the most famous serial killers in history, once worked for a suicide prevention hotline. Weird, right? But strange as it may be, it is true. This murdering but suave ladies man went out of his way to prevent death, even though he also went out of his way to cause it. During his time at the University of Washington, he helped troubled callers at a suicide crisis center in Seattle by convincing them not to kill themselves. While there, he befriended crime writer Ann Rule, who later declared that he saved more lives than he took. He also volunteered for the Republican party, saved a drowning toddler, wrote a pamphlet instructing women how to prevent rape, and chased down a thief who had stolen a woman’s purse- and even returned it to her! Given his charm, and the fact that many women deemed him “hot”, all of the above make it more difficult to picture him as a man who raped and murdered between 30-100 women.
14. Saddam Hussein’s Not-So-Awful Pluses
Known as the “Butcher of Baghdad”, the former president of Iraq (whose rule more closely resembled a dictator’s) was Saddam Hussein. It is a name everyone knows, and that most people associate with fear, for good reason. The tyrant oppressed the country of Iraq for more than 30 years, and committed crimes against humanity for which he was tried and ultimately executed in 2006. The thousands of deaths he was responsible for aside, the guy had decent qualities, as well. Just as he was to blame for so many lives cut short, he was also to credit for education reform in his country. He started a free and compulsory education campaign to eradicate illiteracy, instituted a free public health system that guaranteed free hospitalization, and Iraq’s entire agricultural industry was mechanized and modernized. Most people do not remember that the Butcher of Baghdad also earned an award from UNESCO for these projects.
13. General Butt Naked Turns a New Leaf
Yes, this is the name people know him by, although his real name is Joshua Milton Blahyi. But what is that compared to General Butt Naked? In case you haven’t heard of him, he is a former commander of forces in Liberia. He was once a warlord, war criminal, and child murderer whose actions resulted in the deaths of thousands. But as if he woke up one day a changed man, he is now known around the world just as much for his good deeds and reformed life as he is his transgressions. There was a time when he was doing heroin, raping women, slitting the bellies of pregnant women, practicing human sacrifice and cannibalism, drinking people’s blood, and using severed heads as soccer balls. But those days are long gone for Butt Naked, who by the way, is called that because he led his troops into battle naked since, according to him, nudity is a source of protection from bullets. They did have shoes and guns, though. Anyway, in 1996, for some reason Butt Naked converted to Christianity, and ever since he is a totally different man. He travels as a preacher, facing those he has wronged by asking their forgiveness and offering compensation. Once called the most evil man in the world, and a self-proclaimed murderer of “not less than 20,000”, Butt Naked is now 45 and spends his time rehabilitating child soldiers, and caring for his three adopted children. He has never been charged with his crimes because Liberia is so tumultuous and unstable, but Butt Naked says he would gladly go to prison and be executed for the wickedness he said was the fault of Satan.
12. Donald Trump
United States President Donald Trump has been president for half a month, but already he is extremely controversial in America and around the world. Unlike the rest of the people on this list, he is not guilty of mass murder or other such atrocities. However, people do not like him and they have their reasons. Some of them are as follows: he has bigoted values, he is cocky, unintelligent, uninformed, is a greed-monger, is racist and a misogynist, has questionable morality, and is far too impulsive to be POTUS. Additionally, he has insulted all politicians, bragged shamelessly about his wealth, implied all Mexicans in the U.S. are bad people, is rumored to have a strange inclination toward his own daughter, questioned Barack Obama while he was still President, and the list goes on. The guy may be president, but he is completely unlikable. Anyway, he has actually done a few good things in has time.
In the early 90’s he flew 200 stranded Marines home from Operation Desert Storm at no cost to them. He gave sanctuary to Grammy Award winning singer Jennifer Hudson after three of her family members were murdered (she stayed in Trump Tower for free). He offered his private jet to a little boy when the airline would not accommodate his medical equipment. He helped save a family’s farm that was going into foreclosure. He gave $10,000 to a bus driver who talked someone about to commit suicide off the bridge. Donald Trump’s “crimes” are on a smaller scale than all the others’ on this list, as are his good deeds. Still, they should be noted.
11. Muammar Gaddafi, the Giver
The Libyan dictator and tyrant Muammar Gaddafi is a monster in the eyes of the world. The world saw, of course, what the media allowed them to see. But in reality, there was a side to him that few knew about. Did that take away or lessen the evil things he did? No, of course not. But it should be noted that this feared man who ruled Libya for 42 years also made his country and the lives of its citizens monumentally better in several ways. Colonel Gaddafi, among other things, made education and medical treatment free, carried out the world’s largest irrigation project, gave every woman who had a baby $5000, provided free electricity and cheap gas, gave newlyweds $50,000 to start their home and family, gave a portion of all Libyan oil sales directly to the bank accounts of Libyan citizens, and deemed a home a basic human right. It is interesting, as it is for all of the people on this list, that someone so evil that is considered a terrorist worldwide, also did so much good in his own little corner of the world.
10. Al Capone’s Soup Kitchen
Would it surprise you to learn that gangster Al Capone ran a soup kitchen during America’s Prohibition era? In fact, he started one of the first-ever soup kitchens that for some people back then, was the only food they ever got to eat. Al Capone was more notorious, of course, for being a bootlegger, murdering his enemies, extorting businesses, bribing public officials, and intimidating witnesses. Even now, as we approach 100 years past the Great Depression, he is infamous for his crime legacy. Not so much for his mission to help the poor, though. He did it to boost his public image, but the reasons are not important; he still did it. At least we know, though, that it was not out of the kindness of his heart. The Capone Free Soup Kitchen was demolished in the 1950’s, and the New York City site is now a parking lot.
9. Genghis Khan, the Kind Warrior
Genghis Khan, the 13th century warrior who founded the Mongol Empire, has gone down in history as a ruthless man of boundless ambition. His was one of the largest empires in world history, but it, of course, came at a price. 40 million deaths are attributed to his wars (more than Stalin and Hitler combined!), and he left ruins of cities in his wake. It is said that two-thirds of the population of China died because of him! But this man who started out life as an orphan and rose to such power did have a gentler side. He was not greedy by any means, wanting to share his wealth with his people. He aimed to raise literacy among them, as well. Finally, he brought Chinese medicine to his people. It is a big debate over whether he was a monster or a good ruler, a debate that will probably never be resolved. Genghis Khan can be seen in many different lights, depending on who is telling the story. Either way, this man (of whom eight percent of Asian men are descended from) is a fascinating historical figure.
8. Lizzie Borden, Outcast Animal Lover
Usually when people hear the name Lizzie Borden, nothing good comes to mind. The woman was notorious for being an axe murderer, after all. She infamously butchered her own parents with an axe in 1892, and even after a highly-publicized trial and most people thinking she was guilty, she was somehow acquitted and became an outcast in society. But axe murderer stuff aside, Lizzie seemed like an actually decent person. For example, she was a big animal lover, and donated $30,000 to a local animal shelter (and one of the only places that hadn’t essentially shunned her). It is said that she did this not only for her love of the animals but to repay the shelter for their kindness to her. Furthermore, using some of the money she had inherited from her wealthy parents, she gave away various amounts of money and pieces of jewelry to family, friends, and servants. To one servant, she gave a whopping $3,000! Back then, that was a lot more than it is even today. So in the end, was Lizzie Borden a heartless killer who happened to do random good deeds, or a wrongly-accused, kind-hearted woman? We will likely never know.
7. Christopher Columbus, Bad But Brave
It is arguable if the man who “discovered” America was a hero or a villain. In school, Americans are taught all throughout their school years about him, but the truth is that he was not a good person. The Italian explorer who has his own rhyme (“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”) was courageous on his expeditions of uncharted oceans, but he never even set foot in North America, as he landed in the Caribbean. His transgressions include forcing natives into slavery and mutilating them, executing people without trial, literally working people to death, and having his victims butchered and sold as dog food. He was, in most ways, a reprehensible human being, even though he is generally not remembered that way. That being said, like everyone else in the world, he too is a mix of good and bad. He may have been a psychopath motivated only by greed, but he did cross an ocean in three wooden boats, bridging two worlds and changing the course of history. Perhaps his bravery should not outweigh his greed, but even Ronald Reagan, as president, commemorated Columbus as the inventor of the American dream.
6. Emperor Hirohito, Marine Biology Extraordinaire
Japan’s longest-reigning Emperor, Hirohito, ruled from 1926-1989. He is best known around the world for his decision to surrender to Allied Forces in 1945 after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Under his rule, the Japanese army became very aggressive, and events such as the Nanking Massacre and Pearl Harbor took place. He is on several lists of the most evil people throughout history, for these and other reasons. Over two million Japanese soldiers and over 800,000 civilians were killed during World War II, and many people thought Hirohito, Japan’s 124th Emperor, should be tried as a war criminal. But something many people do not know about him is that his passion was with marine biology, something he took very seriously and made an impact on. He wrote several books on the subject and aided in classification work. Over 128,000 species of marine life were sent to him for classification, and he employed two marine biologists at his laboratory. His contributions to marine biology, despite his evil actions, were priceless.
5. The Free Aceh Movement Ends War to Help Tsunami Victims
The Free Aceh Movement was a separatist group seeking independence for Sumatra from Indonesia. In the insurgency, 15,000 lives are thought to have been lost between 1976-2004 because of their mission to free the area of Aceh from Indonesia. Many of these were assassinations. But when the Indonesian tsunami hit and 230,000 people were killed there, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM for short) responded quite unexpectedly. They dropped all arms and joined the relief efforts. They were on the ground not in battle, but helping civilians to rebuild their homes, surprising the government and everyone else. The GAM never did return to terrorism, but remained peaceful from there on out. This led to the GAM breaking up, peace negotiations, and eventually, Aceh was declared a special province, so everyone got what they wanted and many lives were saved from the fighting having been stopped.
4. Jim Jones Fights Racism
The name Jim Jones may not ring a bell as quickly for you as some of history’s villains like Hitler or Castro, but make no mistake, he is pretty damn awful. Jim Jones was the leader of an American cult called the People’s Temple, which moved to Jonestown, Guyana. It was there in 1978 that under his leadership, more than 900 cult members (300 of whom were children and infants) committed mass suicide. The children and infants were killed mostly by cyanide poisoning, making their deaths homicides. Jones, himself, was killed by a bullet to the head that was thought to be by his own hand. But before all of this, Jones spent much of his life fighting for civil rights, and against the discrimination of African Americans. It was a cause close to his heart, as his father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and that turned him off to racism. Nearly two decades before he became responsible for the deaths of almost 1,000, Jones was appointed Director of the Human Rights Commission of Indianapolis, a position he used to establish churches, hospitals, and a police department.
3. Amin, Both Good and Evil
Idi Amin was the third president of Uganda, from 1971-1979. His rule was rife with human rights violations, ethnic persecution, the slaughter of many without trial, and corruption. It is estimated that 100,000-500,000 people were killed under his rule. After the Uganda-Tanzania War, he went into exile in Libya and Saudi Arabia, where he lived until his 2003 death. But President Amin was not only a single-faceted, power-hungry madman. In fact, he did many positive things for his country during his eight-year reign. These include expanding the Ugandan Railway Corporation, establishing satellite links that connected Uganda to the rest of the world, appointing the first female foreign minister in 1972, providing moral and financial support for athletics, and establishing many government schools, colleges, and institutions which are still in operation today.
2. Adolf Hitler, Animal Lover
I know; I, too, was surprised to find that there was an ounce of goodness in the man most people would deem the most evil in history. But nonetheless, as terrible as he was, there were a few things Adolf Hitler did in his lifetime that, while they could never begin to make up for the horrors he caused, shed a different (if meaningless) light on the Nazi dictator. As Chancellor of Germany, he set up a public banking system, created a thriving economy with no unemployment, emphasized respect for women, funded research into free energy technology, and his Nazis were the first to create environmental protection laws in history. Hitler was the first person in modern history to start an anti-tobacco and smoking campaign, although it was only because he believed smoking would corrupt the pure Aryan race. But mostly, he was such an animal lover that it was forbidden under his rule to harm an animal (his laws were also the first in the world to ban experimentation on live animals). If you were found to be harming animals, Nazi or not, you would be sent to the concentration camps. Too bad he didn’t feel this strongly about the well-being of humans.
1. Al Qaeda Saves the Planet
America (and the rest of the world) hates the terrorist group, Al Qaeda, and for good reason. They are (officially) behind the worst terrorist attacks on American soil in history, 9/11. Although many theorize that actually it is the American government itself that is responsible for the events of that day, the fact remains that Al Qaeda members carried them out, as well as plenty of other atrocities around the globe. However, even though that is what they are known for, that is not all that they do. Surprisingly, besides bombings, beheadings, executions, and assassinations, Al Qaeda is also deeply concerned about climate change. In fact, documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound urged members not to cut down trees, to contribute to relief efforts in areas affected by climate change (unless the victims are Christian or Hindu, of course), and even outlined step-by-step instructions on how to combat climate change in a video by Bin Laden himself, to other governments around the world.