Today is all about the villain.
What is it about villains that make them so unlikeable, so despicable, so abhorrent, yet we need them. Why? Because a story would just not be the same without them. You have to have good villains to make a good story.
So - who make good villains?
Let me think about a few from both books and movies that I have found particularly loathsome and also quite brilliant.
The first villain I remember truly despising was Archibald Cunningham (played by Tim Roth) from Rob Roy. He was so evil and arrogant his death was a truly triumphant moment. It also made me cheer a million times harder for Rob Roy. I wanted to see justice served SO badly in this film. Tim Roth played the role so well, I actually didn't like him as an actor until I started watching Lie To Me :)
Another villain who has been portrayed beautifully in film, and wonderfully on the page, is Hilly Holbrook from The Help. Again, it is her arrogance that makes her SO unlikeable and therefore so compelling. You want to keep reading. You want to see her go down in burning flames for the way she has treated people.
The last villain I must mention is the Sheriff of Nottingham (played by Alan Rickman) from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Now he is also a very self-centered and evil character, but the way Alan Rickman played him, made him likable as well. Now this, to me, is excellent script writing... and acting. You want the hero to win, but the villain provides a very entertaining ride along the way.
Now, I know I have missed PLENTY of excellent villains - there are the quiet, calculated ones, the monster types, the punchy shouters and the ones who can actually send a spike of fear through your soul. But they all have certain things in common - a healthy dose of arrogance, a huge lack of regard for human life and they all possess qualities that you hope you never exhibit in your own life. On top of all that, a good villain (a well written villain) must have a sliver of humanity that we can relate to, maybe a touch of history that makes us realize why they behave the way they do. That last aspect certainly makes writing a fantastic villain SO much harder, but definitely worth the effort.
Which villains have stayed with you after a book or movie? What qualities did they possess that made them so memorable?
I look forward to seeing which other villains the carni's have chosen. You can check out their links below...