Noteworthy Nemeses~ Villains In Film And Literature

Greetings, my bloggerly chums!

I must admit, I adore my fictional heroes. I am truly a sucker for good people, the tender hearts, the ones who would die for their friends without hesitation and who weep when they see someone else in pain. Present me with a Despereaux Tilling, a Samwise Gamgee or a Kate Nickleby and my heart will melt without fail.

But…this post is not going to be about such people.

I am not usually one to focus on the villains. In fact, a goodly number of my favorite stories don’t even have real villains. And for many of the ones that do, the villains aren’t one of my favorite parts of the story. They’re just there to be defeated. Basically.

That  being said, there are certain villains that do in fact intrigue me quite a bit. Enough to write a whole blog post about them.

Thus, this post.

The following is a list of villains, from movies/TV shows and books, that I find exceptional in one way or another.

Roscuro (The Tale of Despereaux)

Roscuro - The Tale of Despereaux - Wattles Elementary 4th Grade

Roscuro is a rat. He was born in darkness, but he has a strange fascination with the light.

(It is important to note, I think, that I refer exclusively to the book. Not that sorry excuse for a film, in which they butchered Roscuro- and all of the other characters as well- most pitifully. Very upsetting.)

In his quest for the light, Roscuro’s heart is broken. It is broken by a look, and when Roscuro tries to put his heart back together, it is much more crooked than it was before.

Roscuro’s villainy is fueled by want and pain. As the reader, one can sympathize with this. We all have desires that are strong enough to control us if we let them. We have all experienced pain. Roscuro is on a quest for something good, but in the process to get that good thing, he ends up doing some very twisted things.

Count Olaf (A Series of Unfortunate Events)

Watch Count Olaf take over the new trailer for season 2 of 'A Series Of  Unfortunate Events' | NME

The book and the show both apply for this one.

Olaf has found that the world is dark and cold. You don’t always get what you want. Good people do bad things. Good people accidentally die. Good people turn against you and turn out to not be very good people after all.

So Olaf decides to make the world (his world, at least) a better place…by illegally obtaining wealth. Sapphires make the world brighter, am I right? He wants revenge on the people who misused him, and to laugh in the faces of people who still think that good people are a thing.

Count Olaf has a very jaded view of the world, and he does his best to make sure everyone else shares this view by making their lives as miserable as possible. He was hurt in his youth, and instead of being healthy and working through that he chose to become bitter and resentful. Always a solid plan.

President Coriolanus Snow (The Hunger Games)

President Snow's Hunger Games backstory explained

President Snow is just trying to hold his country together, but those inconsiderate rebels just keep making life difficult for him. How dare they not understand how fragile the system is…or how important it is to keep the system intact?

He has kept his presidency for longer than one might consider decent. But it’s all for the greater good. He’s great at what he does. Panem needs him. He’s not trying to be malicious or anything. He’s very good at controlling people- but always with the best intentions. Of course.

The thing that I love about President Snow is that he isn’t looking for reasons to torment people. He’s just very good at tormenting people when he has reasons. And he has reasons. Terribly twisted reasons, perhaps, but reasons nonetheless.

President Snow tells Katniss that he’s not wasteful, which is I think an accurate summary of his character. He has decided that he needs to keep Panem in his control, and he does whatever is necessary for that to happen- no more. He is extremely calculating in what he does. The Hunger Games themselves, as appalling and brutal as they are, provide a controlled punishment without the messy ordeal of a war. Wars are extremely costly things, and President Snow wanted to avoid them.

He is willing to do whatever he needs to do to achieve his aims, and he is very intelligent, which makes him very dangerous indeed.

Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

Azula | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

Azula is a fire-bending prodigy, and first in line to the throne now that her brother has been banished. She has always been the favorite of her father and her grandfather, and she has worked her whole life to achieve excellence in whatever she does. She takes pleasure in toying with people, tormenting them, and using their fears to control them. She craves power. She always lies.

Standard psychopath, right? Well, maybe. But the thing about Azula that I find really interesting is the way it actually shows the brokenness of a person’s mind when the parts used for love are blacked out. It shows how so often what we perceive as strength is actually crippling weakness.

Azula’s relationships are all based on fear. She gains control of people by playing off of their fears, but she is not close to anybody.

A person who doesn’t need love could be extremely powerful, right? They wouldn’t fall into ordinary weaknesses like loneliness, needing another person or people to help them along. They would be totally independent. They could use other people ruthlessly, without any qualms about who they were hurting.

Azula always lies. She lies to other people constantly. But the person she lies to the most is herself. For all her show of power and strength, it was all just hiding the truth. Her lack of love literally tore her mind apart.

Colonel Graff (Ender’s Game)

The book. Please.

Colonel Graff is stuck in a war. A war against a terrifying alien species that almost destroyed earth once before. Now humans need to wipe out the aliens before they can come back. And Graff is trying to find the person to lead this invasion. It has to be a truly amazing person. The wrong person, and we all die. No pressure or anything.

You might argue that Graff isn’t really a villain. But I’m including him in this post anyway.

In a strange way, he’s a lot like President Snow. He knows what he needs to accomplish, and he’s rationalized that with everything he has to do to get there, no matter how brutal. It’s the whole ‘The ends justify the means’ scenario. The difference is that Graff is a lot more reluctant. He doesn’t necessarily want to do this. But he’s not going to stop either.

Brona (The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly)

Brona has experienced horrendous loss. She has seen children in pain. She has lost her own children. She wants to ease the suffering of others. Her heart breaks for all the love that was denied her, and she wants to give that love to the children who deserve so much better than what they got, and shield them from the horrors of the world.

Brona is something of a control freak. She was hurt by the world, and she wants to help others to escape it, but she is broken and her way of dealing with things is broken. She genuinely believes that what she is doing for the children is good for them, when in reality she’s imprisoning them and letting them be ruled by their guilt.

I am intrigued by the idea of a villain with the best intentions. She loves the children, but she won’t let them go. Love done wrong can be more hurtful than hate.

Miss Havisham (Great Expectations)

Miss Havisham was cruelly jilted as a young woman, on her wedding day no less, and thus decided to bring her life to a grinding halt. She stopped all the clocks in her house. She left the wedding table untouched. She remained in her wedding dress. For literal years. And then she thought it a good idea to train up a young girl to punish men for the wrongs done her. And to be fully guarded against their wicked charms.

Oh, look, another wounded-in-youth-turned-bitter one. That seems to be a bit of a theme here.

There is something fascinatingly macabre about Miss Havisham’s house, with the vermin infested cake and the shabby wedding dress and the still clocks. It’s such a perfect picture of decay that parallels what’s happening inside her head and heart. The way that bitterness eats away at us and creates so much rot and death is very real and shown beautifully (or disturbingly) in the character of Miss Havisham. She could not let go of the past. At all. And it hurt not only her, but the people she influenced as well.

Fagin (Oliver Twist)

Fagin is a kindly, friendly old man who gives shelter to children in London. In return, the boys work for him. It’s all a pleasant arrangement and everyone profits by it. He knows all sorts of figures in London and does business with them. He helps girls and boys find work. He is always very polite. What a nice man he is.

Fagin is…a creep. I don’t know how else to put it. He’s so nasty, but what I love about him as a villain is that he’s so nice and the boys like him, despite the fact that he’s using them for his own gain. No, he’s not violent and scary like Bill Sikes, and he wouldn’t beat you to death (he probably wouldn’t be physically capable of doing so), but he’s crafty and selfish and doesn’t really care about anyone but himself, no matter how much he smiles at you and calls you “my dear”.

Ledroptha Curtain (The Mysterious Benedict Society)

Mr. Curtain founded the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, a prestigious school for gifted youngsters on a private island. (It’s possible that the reason everyone thinks this school is so great has something to do with a less-than-legal marketing tactic, but we don’t talk about that.) He is brilliant, charismatic, and ambitious. (And also possibly trying to take over the whole world, but we don’t talk about THAT either.)

So the thing that makes Mr. Curtain interesting is the fact that he has a foil, Mr. Benedict. The two are alike and yet unlike. The key difference in the two men is that one can’t bear the idea of not being in total control, and the other has learned to let go. Take a wild guess as to which is which.

Everything about Mr. Curtain’s life is about control. I mean, even his obsession with taking over the world stems from his deep-set need to control everything. It all comes from his fear of not having control- which, ironically, is what controls him. He’s not really in control at all. His fear is.

Deep, isn’t it?

Gollum (The Lord of the Rings)

10 Things We Want From The Lord of the Rings: Gollum – GameSpew

Before Gollum was Gollum, he was basically a hobbit. A hobbit who let his desire for a ring of power overcome him very quickly.

He murdered his friend to get what he wanted. He let the Ring take him over, and worshiped it alone for hundreds of years. When he lost it, he was broken and consumed with the need to find it again.

We have choices in life. Many of these choices involve priorities. At some point we all have to decide what is more important: the lives of others or pursuing our personal inclinations.

Sometimes both are possible. But sometimes they are…not.

Gollum is a miserable creature who was fully consumed by his want for the Ring. At the detriment of relationships. At the detriment of life. At the detriment of his own sanity. Ultimately it didn’t make him happy. It destroyed him.

He is a pitiful character indeed, but also capable of causing untold harm in his pursuit of what he wants. Want is a powerful force when left unchecked.

Epilogue

There you have it. I kind of thought I was going to have super insightful things to say about all these villains, but it mostly turned into: “they had bad stuff happen to them. They turned bitter and resentful. They were obsessed with controlling everyone. The end.”

What are some of your favorite villains? I admit I came up with this list off the top of my head and I’m sure I missed some good ones! What are some of your favorite villain tropes? Do you prefer villains or heroes? Tell me in the comments!

27 thoughts on “Noteworthy Nemeses~ Villains In Film And Literature

      1. I hope people don’t think my antagonist is a villain.

        Sarge is the antagonist of Tale of the Cattail Forest. He is a bully- that came from a heartbreaking and tragic life. He really isn’t a villain- just got born into the wrong family

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I would say overall, I prefer heroes, but there are a few villains that are just so well done that you have to like them. Loki being one of my top favorites. Roscuro is such an interesting character, I remember liking him despite his flaws, maybe feeling a little sorry for him. Count Olaf, from the books, was just annoying and I just didn’t like him. Moriarty from Sherlock is another interesting villain who I found myself liking despite how horrible he is. Aw, I had forgotten about Mr. Curtain, he is very well-written as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, Loki is another good villain! I wish that his character had been better developed, but I think that it was a great concept and it was acted really well. Moriarty is a little too creepy and annoying for me to like, but I did find him to be an interesting villain, particularly since he was so mad. Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  2. I like your list, though I know about half of them. (Show, Graff, Havisham, Fagin, Gollum).

    I think the Joker is shockingly horrible. So much so that I probably would never include him and the word favorite in the same sentence. Still, he’s quite the intimidating villain.

    Madame Defarge from A Tale of Two Cities comes to mind. I love how Dickens reveals her backstory in the climax.

    Probably my most recent favorite villain is Kylo Ren. His complexity and conflict with himself as well as Rey is the ONLY thing that makes the sequel trilogy watchable for me. (Other than seeing Leia, Han, and Luke again of course.)

    Loki. I think enough said.

    Hmm… interesting that you pointed out Colonel Graff. I never quite viewed him as a villain xD But great points there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Joker is indeed horrifying. He’s so very mad. I am only familiar with The Dark Knight version of him, I haven’t seen the new movie.
      Ooh, Madame Defarge is an excellent example! I had forgotten about her, alas. But I love how she has a backstory. And the knitting. I love the knitting.
      I admit that I wanted to like Kylo Ren more than I did. I think it was an interesting concept, and he was very well acted, but his backstory never quite made sense to me. I was very glad for his redemption though.
      I feel similarly about Loki, though not to the same extent. I think that a lot more could have been done with his character. But brilliantly acted, and there was great potential there. I like the idea of Loki very much, but some of the execution was lacking for me.
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same here – I don’t really intend on seeing The Joker movie. (I mean, why do I want to subject myself to a two hour movie with a Joker and no Batman?!)

        Yes! So ominous about the knitting.

        I think we can all agree that movie characters are usually very poorly developed xD (I do agree about Ren, and Loki, wish I could see more of them and learn about them. But… screen time limit I think is keeping us. And – mostly I just wanted to emphasize that out of all the new SW characters, it seems to me the most interesting if not wholly done character must be Kylo Ren, and the most interesting dynamic we have is Kylo Ren and Rey together. Which brings to mind – what reason/s kept you to stay to watch the entire sequel trilogy? 🙂

        Oh, absolutely! I’m glad that I’m able to find some time to go through commenting on posts…

        (And also – I really admire your thorough comments and posts and responses!)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I feel the same way about the Joker movie- not planning on seeing it. It sounds very depressing.
        Hm, well, to an extent I would agree that movie characters are usually poorly developed, but they don’t have to be so I don’t think it’s an excuse per se- especially in multiple movie series’. I think that limited screen time is certainly an issue in many cases, but a masterful writer can get more across in an hour and a half than a less masterful writer in two and a half hours. Had the new Star Wars movies been written well at all, I think that a lot more could have been done in three movies, all of which were over two hours in length. There was a lot of wasted time.
        Haha, well, not much really kept me watching the entire sequel trilogy other than the fact that I’d started it, and my family wanted to watch it. I liked The Force Awakens well enough, hated The Last Jedi, and then watched The Rise of Skywalker since it was the LAST one, just to kind of see how it ended- but I wasn’t really invested in it at that point. I watch a lot of movies for no good reason. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well said, well said. *nodding*

        Which brings to mind a question: what are some characters you recall that are well developed on film/TV?

        At this point, I can’t think of too many: Sherlock from the BBC series, and I appreciate most of the character arcs from Poldark (which I recently finished the final season 5), and I know there are others but they’re not coming up at this moment.

        Yeah, I was quite bored while watching Rise of Skywalker… even though it was visually spectacular towards the end.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Excellent question. A few that I can think of from TV shows are Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender (who is similar to Kylo Ren but done so much better- in my opinion), Sokka and Iroh and…several other Avatar: The Last Airbender characters actually. But I’m thinking of it because I just watched it. Some others are Hopper and El and Joyce from Stranger Things, and I agree that Sherlock is well developed- as is John. In movies, there is Sully from Monsters Inc. (not MU), Bob and Helen Parr from The Incredibles (really just the first one), Lightning McQueen from Cars…but definitely just the first one, (okay, so I like old Pixar movies…a lot), Forrest and Jenny from Forrest Gump, P.L. Travers from Saving Mr. Banks, Del Spooner from I,Robot, Tony Stark from MCU, George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life… I’m sure that there are more, but those are the ones that come to mind at the moment. Obviously this is just my opinion, which is very biased, naturally. Honestly I think that Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove is better developed than Kylo Ren, which from on objective standpoint might not make sense. But anyway…I take animated movies very seriously.
        Indeed. We watched through the entire sequel trilogy recently when the Rise of Skywalker came out and I was bored the majority of the time.
        Thanks for your questions! It’s really fun to think about characters and try to decide if they are well-developed, and why or why not.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This was exceptionally interesting to read and I now have many thoughts regarding villains swirling in my mind.

    i. despise. Colonel Graff. The way he acts like he regrets doing what he does (but then why are you doing it?? if you actually regretted it, you would STOP doing it. you don’t regret it because you think it was all there was to be done.) and thinks he has such a noble reason for it that it kinda-sorta justifies it? Kinda? At least President Snow owns it. (They’re both extremely hateable. But in a weird way I have more respect for Snow. But Snow is also terrifying because he just…doesn’t…have morals. Or even villainous passions, really. He just wants to keep power and he is ENTIRELY, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT PRACTICAL in how he goes about it. That’s so scary because that’s not how normal humans are. *shudders*)

    Miss Havisham!!! I always think of her first off when someone says good villains!!! I’m so glad you included her. She is so sad and pitiable and metaphor-ridden and awful. Ugh.
    And Fagin truly is a creep.
    And in other Dickens villains, Madame Dufarge is another of my favorite villains. Because her motivation is so natural? But she takes it so sinfully far? But you can kind of see why she does and she’s so…implacable.
    Dickens was good at villains.

    (And Gollum and Mr. Curtain. yes to everything you said. Mr. Curtain is somewhat the adult version of Azula, yes? Day by day grows the strength of my resolve to watch ATLA)

    Ha. The epilogue made me laugh out loud. I know that feeling. XD

    I am confused how anyone prefers villains to heroes. Granted that some villains are very fascinating (a few you didn’t mention that I also like are Vollys from The Two Princesses of Bamarre, the Marquis La Tour D’Azyr from Scaramouche, and Captain Beatty from Fahrenheit 451), heroes are…you know…heroes. And villains are…you know…villains. If you know what I’m saying. But yes. I enjoyed this post greatly, despite my inexplicable prejudice in favor of heroes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh oh oh and Calvera from The Magnificent Seven (the original one made in the 60’s). He is SUCH a good villain. He’s…I don’t know. I almost like him, in a way.
      And I don’t know if you’ve seen the old black-and-white movie Key Largo? (with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall) The villain of that, Johnny Rocco, is very interesting to me. An overgrown bully who…kind of knows he’s an overgrown bully? It’s an interesting situation.
      And everybody says Loki is a villain and I love him so, I mean. Loki, I guess. (From Norse mythology. I’ve never seen the MARVEL movies he’s in or anything.) I don’t necessarily like him when he’s being a flat-out villain, but I do like him when he’s being a complete pain who wants to make trouble for everyone, which is most of the time. I maintain that in the story of Balder’s death he was acting TOTALLY out of character and I hate that it’s canon and…argh. Why, Loki.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t seen either of those movies! My old-movie library is sadly thin…
        Now I feel frightfully uneducated because I haven’t actually read much of anything regarding Norse mythology and Loki. My only exposure to Loki has been the Marvel movies. I think that Loki (Marvel Loki) gets more hype than he’s worth, but I do like the idea of his character, and he’s well acted, so I can see why a lot of people like him…but at the same time, he’s just not that great. I really need to read about the original Loki now.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I really like what you pointed out about Colonel Graff and President Snow! I agree with you that in a weird way President Snow is more “likable” because at least he’s honest. He doesn’t pretend to care. He just…doesn’t. Graff is in some ways (very loosely) like Fagin in that regard, because he’s apologetic…without actually being sorry. Which is the worst.
      Ooh, yes, someone else just reminded me of Madame Defarge! If I had thought of her I would have put her on this list.
      Hm, I hadn’t thought of that exactly, but in some ways, yes- Mr. Curtain and Azula both fear being out of control and that ends up controlling them, and their quest to be invincible actually ends up revealing their fundamental weakness. It’s a common enough villain trope but it is so often brushed over as a given and I love it when it’s actually shown for how destructive it really is.
      I need to reread The Two Princesses of Bamarre- I remember that I liked it, but I don’t remember much about it- I don’t remember the villain at all. And I’ve been meaning to read Fahrenheit 451, but I haven’t yet. I haven’t read Scaramouche either…I don’t actually know what it is.
      I can sort of see how people would be drawn to villains, considering we all have the capacity for villainy inside of us, and if we change the narrative and decide that villains are just misunderstood or justified or something, it justifies our less than heroic behavior? I’m not totally sure, but that would make sense to me. I still prefer heroes though.
      I am very happy that you enjoyed my post, despite your prejudice in favor of heroes. I enjoyed writing it despite my own prejudice in favor of heroes, so we can relate on that point. Thank you so much for sharing, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts!

      Like

      1. I feel like that applies to a lot of tropes, but ESPECIALLY that one – it’s common because it rings true and is fascinating, but not unless it’s given the attention it deserves. Watching fictional characters self-destruct is so fascinating. (I hope that’s an okay state of mind to have. xD)
        Scaramouche is… a classic about a thoroughly sincere, sarcastic, honest, crafty fellow named Andre-Louis, set in the French Revolution. It’s by Rafael Sabatini and is full of stage-acting and swashbuckling. (I know you didn’t ask what it was about but it’s GOOD so I’m just telling you.)
        Ah, I like that explanation for why we can be drawn to villains. Makes sense to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Indeed, I think you are right. Most tropes are common for a good reason, but when handled sloppily their power is lost. Haha, it IS fascinating to watch fictional characters self-destruct…
        Oh, Scaramouche sounds interesting. I was slightly intimidated by the title, but it sounds like fun.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes Miss Havisham is one of the best!!!! (Ok, I DO prefer heroes, but I do get excited over a dramatic villain that one loves to hate) Keeping with the Dickens theme, one of my favorites is Rigaud in Little Dorrit (in the BBC adaption he’s played by Andy Serkis and is AMAZING) he has zero tragic backstory and is just….bad. And there to screw around with everyone (which can be refreshing since sometimes I feel like the tragic backstory is forced and we’re suppose to “feel” for the villain and it just doesn’t jive)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Okay, this is slightly a tangent, but I just finished a book today called Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. (He also wrote A Man Named Ove if that’s more fmailiar??) It’s about a bank robber who turns into a hostage taker….but um maybe slightly on accident? I was reminded of this by your book because it’s all about villains/normal people.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. *rapidly scribbles down notes for my own villains* What a fascinating, useful study! I have to say, I like heroes more than villains, but I do love when I can sympathize with/understand the villain AND hate him/her at the same time.

    You’ve reminded me that it’s high time I re-read The Tale of Despereaux because I only have the vaguest remembrance of Roscuro. And Fagin! Who seems nice! And a good guy! But isn’t really! Ooh yes, Gollum is an excellent one. He’s the only villain-character I’ve so truly felt compassion for while still disliking him a great deal. Tolkien was a genius. Hmm, I never really empathized with Count Olaf. He seemed to be an annoying pain most of the time xD I haven’t read Ender’s Game but it sounds very intriguing, from the villain. I think I shall endeavor to get my hands on that book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that is my favorite type of villain as well! The kind that you can understand and even sympathize with while still fully realizing how evil they are being, and probably hating them too.
      Ah, yes, The Tale of Despereaux is so good! I never cease to be amazed by it.
      Gollum is such a fascinating character. I agree that Tolkien is a genius.
      Ooh, yes, you should read Ender’s Game! Ender is a wonderful, complex character- who is almost something of a villain himself.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s