Everyone knows that a good villain can be the best character in a series. A truly good villain has qualities that make them compelling, admirable, or even straight-up likable or sympathetic. It’s often said that the best villains are the ones you understand. There’s a reason people love dressing up as bad guys. They frequently get the best costumes, the best lines, the most memorable scenes, and are often much more interesting than the heroes. The more interesting the villain, the better the story.
Popular entertainment is riddled with villains and antagonists who supposedly represent all that is soulless and evil. Yet sometimes, if you take a step back and really think about it, you might find that they have some valid points after all. You might even find that their goals are noble, but their means of getting there are evil. Or maybe that they were never evil to begin with, and their chosen ends and means simply conflict with those of the protagonist. Some of the greatest and most memorable villains are the one where you can see things from their point of view, see their feelings as justified, their actions as understandable, and maybe even wonder if you would’ve made the same decisions in their place. Even irredeemably wicked villains can make a valid point once in a while.
Here are 17 bad guys who had a point, when you really think about it. Be warned, there will be major spoilers for the movies, comics and video games ahead.
Loki is a fan favorite and often cited as the only memorable villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s clear that Marvel knew they had something special after he was played to icy perfection by Tom Hiddleston in the first Thor, and has been doing everything they can to include him, including making him the main antagonist in 2012’s The Avengers and adding extra scenes with him during reshoots for Thor: The Dark World.
But if we are facing facts, Loki has some legitimate gripes. For starters, he was stolen at birth, lied to his whole life, and played off by his adopted father Odin (who never wanted him to rule because of his Jotun heritage) against his tank-brain older brother Thor, to whom he was always second fiddle despite clearly being smarter, more cunning, and more worthy to rule.
16. Prince Nuada
Prince Nuada is the primary antagonist in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and he is responsible for unleashing the titular indestructible mechanical soldiers against mankind. Though his response was violent, Nuada’s motives are to preserve the beauty of the Earth and to save his people from extinction. In his mind, it’s either humans wipe out the magical creatures or the other way around. His family takes the suicidal “if our days have ended, let us all fade” position, while Nuada insists that an ancient and advanced civilization should not fade, and instead strikes back at the humans.
It’s worth noting that the humans did not keep their treaty with the Elves, and over thousands of years took more territory. He tries to recruit Hellboy during their first fight and his last act is to warn Hellboy that the humans will turn on him.
I know what you’re thinking. “Gaston? Really? They’re not about to defend the biggest jock in all cinema, are they?” Well, buckle up. What if I told you that in any other fairy tale, Gaston would be the hero of the story?
Despite some creepy behavior early in the film and a clear problem with boundaries, Gaston wasn’t the one who kidnapped a girl, imprisoned her sickly father, screamed at them, threatened them both with starvation and held them hostage until the woman fell in love with him– that was the Beast. The villagers turn to Gaston, the “greatest hunter in the whole world” and he bravely leads a force to try and free her from the Beast’s clutches, for which he pays with his own life. Gaston was really the hero all along and Belle was just suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
14. General Hummel
Hummel may be classed as the villain of the 1996 movie The Rock, but most fans see him as more of an anti-hero. A renegade military commander in charge of rogue US Force Recon Marines who occupy Alcatraz, Hummel demanded $100 million from a military slush fund (where the Pentagon kept money from illegal covert weapons deals) to be paid to the families of Marines who had died on clandestine missions under his command, but whose families had not been compensated.
Aside from having pretty much the least evil villain motivation ever, he went out of his way to not kill hostages and evacuate children from Alcatraz during the occupation. Hummel even sabotaged his own nerve gas rocket, revealing the entire plot was a bluff and he never had any intention of using the gas on the city of San Francisco.
13. Mr. Freeze
Who didn’t shed cold tears the first time they watched the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Heart of Ice?” Dr. Fries, better known as Mr. Freeze, was a generic ice villain in the league of Captain Cold before his re-imagining in that Emmy-winning episode. Instead of world domination or personal gain, the character became defined by his sorrow and anger over the company he worked for withdrawing funding for his studies to cure his wife (and the seizure of his lab that led to his accident).
Freeze is without a doubt Batman’s most sympathetic villain. If he wasn’t fought by Batman every step of the way, it’s possible he would have had his revenge by now and the viewer is left to wonder if that would really be a bad thing.
Syndrome was a very harsh villain, killing many retired superheroes to perfect his armored Omnidroid robots and trying to murder Mr. Incredible’s family on multiple occasions. No doubt his tactics were brutal. However, it should be said that his sociopathy and callous disregard for others seems to go back to Mr. Incredible crushing his dreams, being a jerk to him, and making him believe he could not trust anyone, especially his heroes. Mr. Incredible refusing to guide the young Buddy was what sent him on the path to becoming the supervillain Syndrome.
In addition, Syndrome planned to sell his inventions so that everyone could be super, instead of just those born with those abilities; a vision which is treated with extreme negativity. Though really, what’s wrong with believing that everyone should be given the benefits of superpowers and not just the “chosen few?”
Magneto is really more of an anti-villain than anything else. A survivor of the Holocaust who lost his family and his home, his goals are ultimately to protect mutants from persecution.Magneto witnessed genocide born of racial hatred growing up, and given the well-established hatred of mutants, who could blame him for worrying that they could suffer the same fate?
What makes Magneto compelling is that his motives are not selfish but pragmatic, sympathetic, and valid. He clashes with Charles Xavier’s vision of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants because he’s seen the true depths of the horrors human beings can commit when the oppressed “inferior.” Magneto is the realist to Professor X’s idealist dreams; he just wants to protect his people from decimation and is willing to do so by any means necessary.
10. Director Krennic
In many ways, Director Krennic from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is deserving of some sympathy. Sure, he’s an Imperial officer who ordered thousands of innocents killed on Jedha, had his entire research team murdered, and so forth. But Krennic was a middle manager who had to deal with horrible bosses, internal treason, and nearly impossible deadlines, and ultimately was screwed over for it. In many ways he was a more “working class” Imperial officer.
He created a planet-destroying battle station and got it up and running on time and under enormous pressure, only to have his boss Grand Moff Tarkin step in and take all the credit for his accomplishments. Not to mention he had the guts to stand up to Vader face-to-face.Perhaps worst of all, he was ultimately forgotten by history as he was overshadowed by figures such as Tarkin, Vader, and Palpatine.
9. Raoul Silva
The former MI6 agent operative turned rogue had some good points. Namely, that maybe it wasn’t the kindest thing in the world for M to turn him over to the Chinese government to be imprisoned and tortured, and leaving him to die. Now, before you say he should have known what he was getting into with the spy game and all, we need to remember that in his own mind he was utterly betrayed by M and MI6 and left to a fate worse than death.
Silva was a loyal agent who only gave up on being rescued when he realized his own side had traded him for other agents.Ultimately, Silva even wins the day against Mr. Bond, becoming one of the few villains to have had an indelible effect on the Bond Universe.
8. General Zod
This entry specifically refers to the version of Zod in 2013’s Man of Steel. In this incarnation, it’s easy to understand Zod’s motives and his rage at Superman’s actions. Zod originally rebelled against the planet Krypton’s complacent rulers because they were leading the Kryptonian race to disaster (as even Jor-El noted) and even tried to recruit Jor-Elto his cause.
Later, his plan was to use the Codex and terraforming machine to try and repopulate Earth with Kryptonians, and when Superman destroys the ship and the Codex with it to save humanity, he saw Kal-El as a mass murderer who destroyed his dreams of bringing back the world he loved. Everything that Zod did was out his sense of duty to restore the people of Krypton, and in his shoes, many humans would have done the same thing.
Bane from The Dark Knight Rises is thought of as a pseudo-revolutionary demagogue who manipulated the people with great oratory, all the while his real goals were to destroy Gotham City for the League of Shadows. While this may be true, the reason so many people listened to his speeches is that they were full of truth and Bane’s rhetoric about the sad state of the city is undeniable.
It’s pretty obvious that Gotham City really is exploited by the rich and powerful, that the police are horrendously corrupt, that many prisoners are in jail because of the Gotham elite, and that while Batman has done an excellent job taking down supervillains, he has consistently failed to address the social problems and rotten institutions behind Gotham’s crime problem in the first place.
6. Mr. Hector
Tim Curry‘s character in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is the concierge at the Plaza Hotel in New York City where Kevin McCallister stays. He antagonizes, stalks and spies on Kevin the whole movie trying to ruin his fun – or at least, that’s how the movie presents it. Really, Mr. Hector was just doing his job.
Why wouldn’t he be suspicious of Kevin? After all, a 10-year-old kid was using a credit card reported stolen to check into a hotel all alone, and then was promptly chased by two criminals. The concierge then contacts the authorities and tries to hold Kevin until they get there (which could have solved the entire plot), but instead, Kevin escapes and foolishly runs out alone into the city. Kevin’s mother later repays him for his concern by slapping him across the face.
5. Big Boss
The antagonist of the Metal Gear games going back decades, Big Boss has transformed from a villain in the first two games into more of an anti-hero or even anti-villain in later incarnations, particularly since Metal Gear Solid 2. His first two appearances in Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 portray him as a megalomaniacal madman wanting a world of perpetual war who needs to be stopped by Solid Snake
Through the series and especially in 2, we learn of the shadowy cabal of the Patriots and that Big Boss’ only crime was rebelling against them and trying to create a nation for soldiers where they would not be used as tools by world governments. In this sense, Solid Snake was manipulated into defeating him over and over which makes Snake the pawn and Big Boss the hero.
4. Pagan Min
Before Min arrived, Kyrat was a country torn apart by a civil war between royalist and nationalist factions. After a violent coup, he appointed himself as the king and immediately the rebellion of a group known as the Golden Path began. While his regime is heavy-handed, anyone who has played to the end of the game knows that the rebels are hardly better. One leader that you can side with turns Kyrat into a religious fundamentalist theocracy that plans to execute “sinners,” and the other one transforms the country into an authoritarian drug state that uses child soldiers to protect its drug fields.
In fact, Min himself admits he shouldn’t be in power and is actively trying to step down. At one point in the story, he even offers it to you! And if you’ve ever gotten the secret ending, he’s actually quite personable.
Jerry who, you ask? Well, it’s Cary Elwes‘ character in the 90s Jim Carrey film Liar Liar, where scumbag lawyer Fletcher Reed (played by Carrey) has to go 24 hours without telling a single lie thanks to his son’s birthday wish. His ex-wife Audrey, with whom he wants to reconnect, dates Jerry and is about to move from L.A. to Boston to be with him, thus making Jerry the “competition” for the main character.
Let’s be clear: Jerry did nothing wrong. Not once in the whole film. He’s portrayed as a kind, caring, positive male role model, and most importantly someone who doesn’t constantly lie and disappoint his son all the time. The only reason we’re given not to root for him is that he can’t do “the Claw” as well as Carrey.
2. Handsome Jack
Borderlands 2‘s Handsome Jack is a villain you can’t help but love. He seems to come out of nowhere in the game, and his arrogant and condescending voice is everywhere, taunting you from the radio every few minutes and mocking your progress. But it was really Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel that made us realize that Jack is the most moral person on Pandora.
In the game, you find out Jack was abandoned and abused by everyone he ever cared about, including his abusive grandmother. He was also betrayed by Moxxi, Nisha, and Lilith in turn, disfigured by the vault symbol forever and left for dead. Jack is a broken man who is trying his best to bring peace and order to the Borderlands, which is in desperate need of it. And let’s be honest, he’s totally right about your characters being mercenary scum.
1. Doctor Doom
The ultimate “anti-villain,” Victor von Doom is the perfect example of a villain who truly believes he’s the hero of the story. Appropriately called “the Good Doctor” by the people of Latveria, all Doom really wants to do is make the world a better place by conquering it, and frankly, Doomworld doesn’t sound like too bad of a place. In one instance he saw into the future and out of all the possible futures for Earth, the only one in which humanity does not destroy itself is the one where he rules.
After all, he can’t be all bad if he takes a down-on-its-luck country like Latveria and turns it into a clean, happy, and well-behaved home for the Roma in Eastern Europe, not to mention the whole reason he became a supervillain was to save his mother’s soul from hell.
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