Who's the Bad Guy?

Snidley Whiplash, dastardly villain,
The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show
My Favorite Villains!

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines antagonist as:
One who contends with or opposes another: an adversary, opponent.

Anyone who enjoys reading fiction knows that, in order to have a great story, you need a great antagonist. The protagonist—the main character, the hero or heroine, the good guy, the one you root for—is nothing without a fitting adversary.

After the jump, I'll share some of my favorite unforgettable villains.

Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter series, J.R. Rowling

"We are not playing hide-and-seek, Harry," said Voldemort's soft, cold voice, drawing nearer, as the Death Eaters laughed. "You cannot hide from me. Does this mean you are tired of our duel? Does this mean that you would prefer me to finish it now, Harry? Come out, Harry... come out and play, then... it will be quick... it might even be painless... I would not know... I have never died...." 

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.” This prophesy caused a lot of trouble for Harry Potter, a young wizard who grew up unloved in the home of his aunt and uncle. Lord Voldemort killed his father and mother, who died trying to protect him when he was a baby. Lord Voldemort became knows as “He Who Must Not Be Named,” since even saying his name aloud could activate spells. Together with his evil followers, the Death Eaters, Voldemort terrorized and killed many wizards, witches, and muggles (non-magic folk) using dark magic. He split his soul into seven parts to achieve immortality. This unforgettable villain is a dark wizard who wants ultimate control over the wizarding world.

Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall, Outlander, Diana Gabaldon

“Moving without haste, Randall leaned past Jamie to pluck a ha ‘penny nail delicately from the reed basket. He positioned the point with care and brought the mallet down, driving the nail through Jamie’s right hand into the table with four solid blows.”

Black Jack was an ancestor of Claire’s husband, Frank. When Claire goes back in time, he is one of the first people she encounters, and he bears a striking resemblance to Frank. Unfortunately, the similarity ends there because Black Jack is a rapist, sadist, and murderer. He is an English soldier who has been sent to Scotland to torture and terrorize the countryside. He develops a sick, twisted obsession with Jamie Fraser, who becomes the love of Claire’s life. His torture of Jamie, both physical and psychological, is hard to read and reveals this villain’s dark, tortured soul. He shows unimaginable cruelty and a love of inflicting pain on others, especially Jamie, at several points through the novel. Jamie has many both physical and emotional scars thanks to Captain Randall.

Sauron, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien

“Concealed within his fortress, the lord of Mordor sees all. His gaze pierces cloud, shadow, earth, and flesh. You know of what I speak, Gandalf: a great Eye, lidless, wreathed in flame.”

Sauron deceived the elves, who under his guidance had created twenty Rings of Power. In secret, Sauron forged the One Ring in Mount Doom to rule the other rings, and enslave Middle Earth, investing most of his own power into the Ring as he forged it. The ring was cut off his finger and lost for many years. Gollum found The Ring, then he lost it, and it was later found by a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo, eventually gained possession of The Ring and went on a quest to Mount Doom to destroy it. The closer The Ring came to Sauron, the more he was able to sense it. This unforgettable villain is a dark lord, an evil mastermind who wants ultimate power.

Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris

“A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone. Go back to school, little Starling.”

Hannibal Lecter was a brilliant yet disturbed sociopathic killer, first introduced in the novel Red Dragon. He was a prominent psychologist with refined manners, who often chose his victims if they exhibited poor taste or bad manners. He hunted down and killed all those responsible for his beloved sister’s death. He could be very charming and kind to those he liked, and developed an obsession with a young FBI agent named Clarice Starling. He was caught and captured by FBI agent Will Graham, although he later escaped incarceration. He was portrayed several times on both the big and small screens, most notably by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the Oscar-winning film.

V’Lane, the Fever series, Karen Marie Moning

“A clatter drew my gaze to the floor. Next to my panties was my pearl bracelet. I wasn’t sure if I’d done what I’d just felt between my legs, or if it had. “V’lane,” I whispered.”

The Fever series is a Wench favorite. V’Lane was introduced as a Seelie Prince, a death-by-sex fae, who aided MacKayla in her search for the Sinsar Dubh. Many fans became enthralled with V’Lane, wondering whether Mac would end up with him or Jericho Barrons. At the end of the series, it was revealed that V’Lane was long dead and had been impersonated by Cruce, a Unseelie Prince who had been seeking the Sinsar Dubh for his own purposes. It was a shocking revelation to the fandom, leaving many to begin rereading the series over right away. I was pissed when I learned that I had totally misread that.

Jadis the White Witch, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

“You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill...And so, that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.”

The White Witch was a frightening character from the children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia. She proclaimed herself Queen of Narnia, and placed a spell over the land so that it was always winter, but never Christmas. She knew of an ancient prophesy that her reign would end when two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve arrived and sat on the four thrones of Cair Paravel as Kings and Queens of Narnia. She demanded all her subjects to immediately turn over any humans they encountered. She spoke the evil magic spell that destroyed the planet Charn. Her wand could turn creatures and people into stone. Her most evil act was killing Aslan, the true King of Narnia. This unforgettable villain is a witch who uses sorcery to rule forever.

Annie Wilkes, Misery, Stephen King

“I am your number one fan. There is nothing to worry about. You are going to be just fine. I am your number one fan!”

Annie was a demented, obsessive fan who came to the rescue of her favorite author, Paul, during a snowstorm. At first she appeared caring and nurturing, but when she found out Paul was planning to kill off her favorite character, she tortured and almost killed him. Kathy Bates brought this character to life in the film of the same name, and it was a chilling performance that won her an Oscar. I don’t think I’ll ever get the sight of her breaking Paul’s legs with a sledgehammer out of my head. This unforgettable villain is a monomaniac, someone who has a pathological obsession with one idea or subject.

So there you have my list of favorite villains, the ones who stand above all the others I’ve met in my literary adventures. Villains bring the meat to the story. We love to hate them, although sometimes we end up rooting for them in spite of ourselves. Sometimes it seems like the villains get to have all the fun; other times they might be tortured souls, pathetic losers, or just plain evil. Their motivations are often greed, hatred, anger, or a thirst for power. But whatever drives them to do the things they do to hurt the characters we love, the story just wouldn't work without them.

Do you have favorite villain whom you love to hate? I hope you’ll share them with us below!


  1. Oh, great villains! Can I say wonderful villains ?

  2. Villains are usually the reason a book is good. It take a really good writer to make an interesting, one of a kind villain.

    I like your choices! ;)

  3. I love your choices Donna. The White Witch was my most hated villain all of my childhood years! But like Vale said, a good villain can make or break a story!

  4. Glad you like, er hate, them too! I think, for me, Lord Voldemort is my top villain. I've read the Harry Potter books so many times, and I've really gotten to know him. Great character development!

    On a side note, after I wrote this post I started watching the new TV show, Hannibal. I must say, I'm really enjoying it! Mads Mikkelsen is doing a fantastic job portraying Dr. Lecter. I highly recommend checking it out!

  5. Hannibal Lecter is one of my favourite literary and screen villains and I'm possibly one of the few people who felt that the 'shock' ending to the book Hannibal made a strange kind of sense. However I have to respectfully disagree with Donna WFS and say that Mads Mikkelson, while a fine actor, isn't doing it for me as Dr Lecter. He seems to lack the sinister but compelling charm of Anthony Hopkins. That and I want to burn every hideous item in his closet. ;)


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