Top 10 Fictional Villains (Part 2)
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Welcome back to Part 2 of my Top 10 Fictional Villains series! If you missed Part 1, check it out here: Top 10 Villains (Part 1).
Otherwise, prepare thyself for another batch of villainous insight as to what makes these baddies the best at being the worst.
6. Thanos of Avengers (Movies)
First off, is there anything creepier than a giant purple dude who's convinced he knows what's best for everyone? Something tells me that's why we're afraid of Barney the dinosaur.
Anywho, the trait that stands out to me about Thanos is his compassion. You heard me: compassion. The man who wants to wipe half of Earth's population considers the act a necessary evil to save the world from destruction and humans from themselves. He's the ultimate conservation champion who's figured out what many humans admit to themselves: we're the disease.
Though he's angry at humans for destroying their planet, he's not without sympathy for them. He's not some heartless genocidal maniac—he's a genocidal maniac who feels genuine guilt and grief at what he must do, but his determination to "save" everyone far outweighs his sorrow over lives lost. In his mind, those who disappear are making the ultimate sacrifice for the good of mankind.
Except . . . who is Thanos to decide who lives or dies? Who is he to rip apart families for a course of action he, as an outsider to Earth, decided on? Who is he to make himself ruler of all he has vanquished?
The scary part? Earth would no doubt thrive under his careful touch. The remaining humans would enjoy a higher quality of life, full of clean air, plants and animals returned to the world, and plenty for all.
Takeaway: Some of the most terrifying villains are ones we can, on some level, agree with. They may have even been heroes if their positive traits didn't cross those murky lines of right and wrong.
5. Light Yagami of Death Note (Anime Series/Manga)
Just look at this kid with his shaggy Bieber hair and doe eyes. Why the hell is he number 5 on a villains list? Why is he even on it?
I will tell you, padawan . . .
Light Yagami is indeed just a high schooler. Honor student, firstborn to a cop, popular and charming, shows respect for authority. Nice kid, really.
Until he picks up the Death Note.
The Death Note allows its owner to write any name (first and last) while picturing a face, and that person will die in a manner specified by the writer. You could make someone you didn't like have a heart attack without being anywhere near them.
Light, smart lad that he is, knows this carries significant weight. He's not stupid or cruel. He doesn't even have enemies he wishes dead. It's not until he catches a snippet of news about a murderous convict that Light considers . . . couldn't he kill a murderer who's on death row anyway?
From here, Light discovers the Death Note's potential for good. He saves a woman from rapists by using the notebook to drop them dead. He cleans up the criminal system by dispatching infamous convicts who are already set to die or who are about to walk free. The Japanese citizens start to praise this mysterious, god-like figure.
But the legal system isn't impressed. Murder is still murder, and they must hunt this person down.
This is where Light crosses that final threshold, stepping out of the gray and into the darkness. Now it's not just major criminals he's after. He's drunk on power and his own justice, and he's out for the blood of every minor criminal—in addition to the "necessary evil" of killing those who get too close to discovering him.
The best part is, you start out rooting for Light. He's the protagonist. His heart's in the right place, and he's a goddamn genius at hiding his identity. Even when he joins the Dark Side, you're fascinated with how complex his plans are.
Takeaway: Villains have their own moral code, and it may even be one the heroes share. It's interesting to see how something objectively good can be twisted into something monstrous.
4. Klaus Mikaelson of The Vampire Diaries (TV Series)
Ah, Klaus. Where do I even begin with this sappy marshmallow of a maniac?
You want to talk about complex, watch this show or The Originals, which follows Klaus and his family more closely.
Niklaus Mikaelson is one of the Original Vampires. He and his siblings were the first vampires in history, cursed by their witch mother to live eternally but always with a thirst for blood. Every vampire in existence can be traced back to this family line.
If cursing your own children isn't messed up enough, their mother also turned their father Mikael into a supernaturally-gifted hunter with one intent: murdering her immortal children, whom she considers a mistake and a plague on this earth. Mikael especially has it out for Klaus, a werewolf-vampire "abomination" who will always remind Mikael his wife was unfaithful.
Klaus's fatal flaw is his craving for familial love. He will kill anyone, do anything, to remove his hybrid curse and win the affection of his parents. He wants nothing more than to stop being hunted and be loved by his family. And since vampire emotions are heightened, his anger and propensity to act in the moment cause more damage than his quest for acceptance.
Klaus harms so many people in the process, but each time he makes the wrong decision, you hurt with him. You can see the intense love and affection for his family, his longing to belong with someone. You see him struggle to do the right thing. Each time someone he loves is on the line, he always comes through.
It's odd to see someone capable of such cruelty and selfishness also capable of such love and compassion. At the end of his tale, he does redeem himself for love of his daughter—yet he also redeems himself time and again for love of Caroline, one of the heroes in The Vampire Diaries.
Takeaway: The holes in people can drive them to do terrible things, which easily make them villains in someone else's story. But if we saw the other side to them, would they actually be an antihero?
Thanks for sticking around for my second batch of villains! Be sure to tune in next week for the third and final installment! If you liked this post, share with other villain-lovers on social media or comment your favorite villains below :D