Who doesn’t love a good bad guy? Certainly the most iconic pieces of media have come with the most iconic antagonists, most of the time even outshining our heros. This is a short exploration into what makes a good memorable villain. Or rather a list of requirements for a good villain.
A good villain has to know what they want and what they’re willing to do to get it. They should either be convinced that they are their own protagonist, or completely revel in the chaos they bring to the world. Magneto, who has been an antagonist in the X-Men series nearly from the start, has one main intention: Get them before they get us. As a survivor of the Holocaust he witnessed what true evil, true prejudice could do hn it went unchallenged. He’s not just going to try and talk things out with a government literally building robots, whose sole intent is to facilitate a genocide. I hardly see Him as a villain anymore because his intent is to make sure that “never again” actually means something. And that is powerful stuff.
A good backstory can lend sympathy to any baddie. On the other hand it can completely take it away. Often times the best villains have stories that let you decide how to feel. Were their action justified or not? Was the hero justified in their actions of taking them down? It’s the age old question of who watches the watchmen? When the villain and the heroes both have stories steeped in tragedy, is it really fair to say who’s handling anything right? Is Batman not just some rich asshole who enjoys taking out his familial frustrations on Gotham’s lower class? Pumping more and more money into the prison industrial complex of which he is probably a stakeholder? To me this is why Batman is so well loved because he straddles moral lines and often comes out on the darker side of grey. Batsy is a villain in the most real world sense as he represents an ever worsening class dynamic, but we are expected to feel for him because of the near consistent deaths in his family.
Think of any Tim Curry villain, and therein lies the charm. Someone who looks like they’re having the time of their life doing the worst things imaginable is for some reason has a massive appeal. Dr. Frank N. Furter literally comes in singing and dancing, declaring to a room full of people that he has created sentient life from scratch, and he used that power to essentially build himself a sex slave. It is a role that requires charm, camp, pomp and circumstance, lest it actually be taken seriously and put in the context of our real world.
The way a ne’er-do-well plots and connives their master plan sets the tone for the entire plot. Sometimes we need something soap opera level dramatic and cartoonishly evil to really bring us into the world of the story. When Peter Hale does most of his scheming and plotting while in a fire induced coma and is so secretive he even manages to do it behind his own back, It is safe for the audience to assume what we are watching as close to a daytime soap opera as an MTV original series will get.
5. Theme Music
This is a brief point but none less important: the theme music can make or break your bad guy. So keep in mind that most people remember the theme song that followed Karishika around, but not the actual snore fest posing as a plot for the movie.