Everybody loves a heroic protagonist. They keep the plot moving and provide the audience with a relatable character to connect to the material. At least, that’s what most stories aim to accomplish. But sometimes, just sometimes, a villain will emerge from the shadows and steal our hearts with their charming accents, intellectual mind, and general badass demeanour.
This is such a rare occurrence, though, that when it does happen it’s difficult not to root for the bad guy, or at least pray he or she will survive the ordeal. Or perhaps we just have a soft spot for villains. Because when evildoers are properly developed and fleshed out, they become much more than a simple plot device or one-dimensional stand-in.
See, if we look back on classic movies, video games or anything in print, you’ll be hard pressed to find a lousy story that includes a likeable villain. It’s typically a good indicator that the writers of the material have a strong grasp on makes a classic story, well, classic.
Sure, we can look up to the traditional good guys like Superman and Luke Skywalker, and that’s fine, but the process stales after a while. Villains are an integral part of any story, and ones who are likeable just add depth to the viewing or reading experience.
So with that in mind, it’s time to unveil 10 villains who are more likeable than the heroes. That’s not to say the heroes in the subject matter are boring, in fact that’s rarely the case, but that just speaks volumes of the villains’ cool factor.
10 Venom, Spider-Man
9 Liquid Snake, Metal Gear Solid
8 Magneto, X-Men
Magneto has always been an intriguing character in comic books and on-screen. He blurs the line between hero and villain and he’s not a traditional anti-hero either. So how exactly do we label Magneto? Well, he’s Magneto. He’s in a class of his own. His troubled and tragic past led him on a path of self-worth, anger and triumph, ideals that frankly make him a relatable character. His lust for revenge is fueled by his desire to see the human race supplanted by mutants, who he perceives to be superior as the next step in evolution. While Magneto may draw uncomfortable comparisons to real life dictators, it’s difficult not to pander to his natural charm and conflicted emotions. What makes him such a special character is that you truly believe there’s indeed a beating heart somewhere underneath his red and purple attire.
7 Vergil, Devil May Cry
Look, there aren’t many protagonists in gaming, let alone popular culture that can stand toe-to-toe with Dante. The white-haired, silver-tongued weapons specialist dazzles and entertains whenever he graces the screen. That’s why we’re not fooling around when we proclaim Vergil to be one of the most badass characters ever, never mind villains. He’s so popular among the Devil May Cry fandom that Capcom continue to include the spiky-haired twin brother in the series. Hell, Vergil even has his own game modes now. He’s a cool, mild-tempered, katana wielding, bullet slicing, and blue trench coat wearing badass. His role in Devil May Cry 3 remains an integral part in why that game is among the best video games ever made.
6 Albert Wesker, Resident Evil
5 Vegeta, Dragon Ball Z
Vegeta may have transitioned from villain to anti-hero to hero, but he was still a villain at some point. He blew up planets and uttered such comical and famous lines like “It’s over nine thhoouussannddd!” in reference to protagonist Goku’s power level. Here’s the thing, I’ve never found Goku to be an interesting character, and I’m a Dragon Ball zealot. He’s a passable protagonist for a series that mainly focuses on high-octane fight scenes that span dozens of episodes, but he simply never compares to Vegeta on any level—which is ironic given the latter continuously attempts to emerge from the hero’s shadow. He’s one of the more interesting characters in anime period, so there’s no doubt he’s more likeable than any hero within the DBZ universe.
4 Agent Kruger, Elysium
3 Darth Vader, Star Wars
2 The Joker, The Dark Knight
1 Pennywise the Dancing Clown, It
Whether you’re a fan of the book or film or both, Pennywise the Dancing Clown is bursting at the seams with classic quotes—“They float, they float, Georgie, and when you’re down here with me, you’ll float, too.” Truth be told, I can barely recall the names of the protagonists in Stephen King’s It. And that’s because they take a backseat to the eccentric and maniacal clown as he murders his way through the town of Derry. The sheer lunacy of Pennywise is his greatest trait, as you never want to see him leave the screen. And when his eyes glow orange and his red stained teeth are exposed, you know you’re in for a scare.
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