My Top Ten Villain Types
Look out; it’s an adolsecent monster obstructing unadorability!
Over the last couple of weeks, I spent at least two hours a day writing in my novel. When I haven’t been writing or going to work, I read The Help, Seraphina, and The Secret Garden. I’ve also been playing my video games and watching wrestling. Novels, video games, and wrestling – though all three are different mediums, they have something in common.
They all have villains.
Villains, as we all know, serve as the default opposition to every story’s hero. It allows us a clean chance to focus all of our hatred and fear into one single point.
But are all villains created equal?
I had some time on my hands, so I did a little bit of research and created my own list of the most common villain archetypes in literature, comics, games, and film.
1. The Guilt Tripper
It’s the villain who is always right—and even if they’re not, they make us feel bad for telling them otherwise. In fact, there is no win-win situation with this one, at least not directly. If it’s not a family member, it’s a best friend or a guardian or someone else close to the hero who knows exactly what to say or how to act to get him right back under their manipulative, emotionally damaging fingers. The best way to defeat them is to have a stranger (or a natural disaster) do it for us.
Examples: Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest,” Gothel in “Tangled,” Margaret White in “Carrie”—pretty much almost every mother figure in film and literature.
2. The Traitor
This person isn’t just evil, they’re meanies, too. Out for their own personal gain, they can and will throw the hero, the hero’s friends, and their own mother under the bus. From professional sabotage to murder, the Traitor will look their so-called friend in the eye as they twist the knife in deeper and longer. Et tu, Brute?
Examples: Scar in “The Lion King,” Hamlet’s uncle in “Hamlet,” Saruman from “Lord of the Rings”
3. The Anti-Villain
This villain can be hard to hate, especially since they may not even see themselves as a villain. They tend to have a complex, troubled history and, through the conniving hands of a greater evil or grander scheme, become a victim of his own society. If the Anti-Villain does manage to come to his senses, it is a bittersweet victory—for he is never allowed to last for much longer afterwards.
Example: Darth Vader, the Witch of the Waste from Hiyou Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle”, Kane from “Citizen Kane,” Sephiroth from “Final Fantasy VII”
4. Religious Fanatic
It might be easy to see this archetype as a cousin to the Anti-Villain. Trust me—he’s not. Just because he claims to be on a mission from a higher power does not stop this monster from killing, maiming, raping, discriminating, and persecuting anyone who makes him itch. If you try to tell him he’s wrong, who does he place between you? That’s right: the Divine One. By the end of the movie, you can only pray (no pun intended) that this villain meets his ends in the most ironic means possible. Act of God, anyone?
Example: Frollo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, WWE’s The Undertaker as the Lord of Darkness, Bishop Aringarosa in “The Da Vinci Code”
5. Mr. Fun
It’s the villain you love to love—seriously. I’m mean, sure he’s slaughtered innocent bystanders or outwitted the entire police force, but come on. Who hasn’t? They’re especially fun when the hero is just so sickeningly stupid or two steps behind the entire plot. The world around him is crumbling, and all we can think is, “Oh, you got us again!” as we clap Mr. Fun on the back and offer to buy him a drink. And if Mr. Fun is defeated, you and I both know that the fun in everything…is gone.
Examples: The Joker, Hannibal Lector, Bill from “Kill Bill,” Captain Barbossa from “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
6. The Back-Away-Slowly
Okay, let’s all just calm down now. The Back-Away-Slowly Villain is something you really don’t want to talk to—that is, if there is any indication that this villain even speaks your language. You don’t want to look at it funny. You don’t know how this thing will react from one moment to the next. You don’t care. Just get out of the room, the city, the universe, before it gets wind that you exist. It’s not human, it’s not alive, it’s not sane—and why am I still talking? Just get out. Get out while you still can!
Examples: Twister, Jaws, Jason, Mike Myers, the Alien, The Agents from “The Matrix”, Leatherface
7. Evil Is As Evil Does
This villain just has a bad attitude from the moment you see them. They seem to appear out of nowhere and have made it their duty to destroy the hero, mind, body and soul. Their name says evil, their clothes say evil—even that constant sneer says evil. Though you don’t fear them and you know they’re gonna get it good in the end, that doesn’t stop you from hating their guts and just wishing you could bite their shoulders off.
Examples: Maleficant from “Sleeping Beauty”; Cruella DeVille from “101 Dalmatians”; Fernand, Danglars, and Caderrouse from “The Count of Monte Cristo”
8. Villain By Default
This villain could be the Evil Is As Evil Does Villain’s identical cousin—that is, if we cared enough about them to check. This token villain doesn’t really instill much of anything in us, other than a chance to see someone get beat up over and over again. Now, a Villain By Default can blossom into a villain that reaches us deep, but it’s gonna take something really harsh and really unexpected to slap the hate into us. Good luck with that.
Examples: Gaston from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (before Belle’s rejection), Nexus from “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest” (before the first defeat), Mr. Big from “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka”
9. That’s the Villain?!
We never saw this coming. We never would have guessed. This villain was too kind or innocent or clumsy or stupid to be the ultimate mastermind. The uncovering of this one can garnish joy, depression, rage, or an awestruck revelation as we review the events that let up to the moment of realization. Once the cat’s out of the bag, though, we’ll never be the same.
Examples: Keyser Soze from “The Usual Suspects,” Villefort from “The Count of Monte Cristo,” Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
10. Honorable Mention: The Side-Punt
The villain’s equivalent of a sidekick. This creature can be funny, annoying, disgusting, or any and all of the combinations. Too pitiful to take as a serious threat, the Side-Punt is often underestimated by the hero and allowed access to steal important items or lead the troupe of good right into its master’s trap. He may not even be associated with the main villain, but he’s still a pain in the butt who can quickly become a problem due to his overall inconvenient nature.
Examples: Golem from “Lord of the Rings,” Beni Gabor from “The Mummy,” The Hyenas from “The Lion King”
Did I miss any villain types? If so, just let me know!