From Sarah, With Joy

Writer of all things kid lit.

Here there be kid poems.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Top Three Most Memorable Villains

I've talked before about how difficult it is for me to write villains. Every time I try, or even try brainstorming and outlining my "antagonist" character, they always end up Snape-like. As in, more anti-hero than true villain. I want my villains to have a tragic back-story and maybe even a last-second moment of redemption, which just makes me sympathize with them and often find them more interesting than my hero. This has even come up a couple times in college creative writing classes, where I was often told that my characters are too nice and my villains not really villainous.

Today, though, I want to take a look back at the three most successful, effective and memorable villains, at least in my opinion. These are the characters I want to personally keep in mind when I do, in the future, try to write truly despicable characters, or at least more really evil antagonists. So without further ado, here they are. My top three favorite and most memorable villains.

1. Benjamin Linus: Yep, we're back to Ben Linus. You know me, I have to bring him up every once in a while or I start doubting myself. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Benjamin Linus is one of the most well-written and intriguing characters on television, and while the writing itself was quite brilliant, a lot of the credit goes to the paralyzingly genius Michael Emerson. You fellow Losties know what I mean. "So yes, I lied. That's what I do." You heard that in his voice, didn't you? For me, Ben Linus is in that same Incredibly Sympathetic and Heartbreaking category as Snape, but I'm adding him on this list because I know plenty of people who find him truly and thoroughly villainous. And while I think on Lost there were more true "villains" than him, none of them held a candle to the complexity and awesomeness that was, Doctor Benjamin Linus.

2. Moriarty: How amazing is this character? I mean, the character of Sherlock Holmes needed a villain that could match him, and he got that in Moriarty. The version I'm really thinking of is, of course, the aching and slightly mad version played by the incredible Andrew Scott. I love me some quirk, and Scott's Moriarty has that in insane spades. Sherlock: "People have died." Moriarty: "That's what people DO!" Again, it's that genius voice and line delivery. Maybe it's the voice that truly makes the villain. It gets stuck in your head. "I'm *so* changeable!"

3. Wild Bill Wharton: Ok. When I think of truly despicable, awful, truly evil and completely unsympathetically villainous characters, this is the face that comes to my mind. (Either him or Bob Ewell from To Kill a Mockingbird.) In the book he is just as completely evil, but really I think, again, some of the credit is due to the chillingly fabulous and insanely underrated Sam Rockwell. (You've all seen The Way, Way Back, right? Right??) Seriously. Amazing. Pair that genius acting with a character by Stephen King and you've got a match made in...well, Hell. Percy Whetmore, also from The Green Mile, could also deserve a place on a truly despicable villains list like this. Thank you, Stephen King.

These are the first characters that come to my mind when I think genius villain. Mad villain props also have to be given to Dolores Umbridge, more despicable even than Voldemort in my opinion, Darth Vader, and of course, Heath Ledger's Joker. So yeah, I don't do well at villains, but as I try and teach myself, these are the evil masterminds I will try to learn from.

Who are your favorite/most successful/most memorable villains?

Sarah Allen


  1. Interesting post. I suppose Percy Whetmore in The Green Mile was one of the most chilling villains I've ever seen on screen.

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  3. Moriarty was a great villain to play opposite Holmes.
    Vadar will always be an iconic villain. I also like races as villains, such as the Borg, Klingons, or Goa'uld.

  4. Good question! I have to admit I have not given much thought to villains. I completely agree that Moriarty is incredibly memorable, but I might add Auric Goldfinger and Rosa Klebb from the Bond movies, if you aren't limited to lit.

  5. Dolores Umbridge is quite believable. I have worked with her, a former principal at my school. And she wasn't just horrible to the kids. She bullied the women teachers and flirted with the men(and then bullied them if they didn't respond to her charms).We all heaved a sigh of relief when she left.

  6. I'm always looking for the villain who isn't an anti-hero, but may be driven by honorable motives, even if their approach is totally evil--like Goob in Meet the Robinsons. Wow. Love that movie.

  7. I'm not good with villains either. Captain Hook and Cruella de Ville are my speed. But then there's Sauron from Lord of the Rings, an evil so great we never even see him.

  8. Alan Rickman in Died Hard was a great villain.

  9. I'm struggling with writing my current villain, too. We'll see what the betas say...

  10. Moriarty was beautifully played in the latest Sherlock incarnation.

    For me, the Master (played by John Simm) is also a very chilling characters. In fact any villian who can laugh and enjoy their own evil is very worrying indeed!

  11. Excellent post! But I don't watch much TV except for The Walking Dead and Dracula and the news.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  12. Right now, we are watching "The Mentalist" where the villain is yet-to-be-identified Red John. Somehow, the anonymous villain makes him/her all the more so.

  13. Most memorable? The mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash in the Dudley Doright cartoon--not how you want to write your villains. :)

  14. Although of course I'm familiar with Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes stories, I am not familiar with his modern version in the TV series.

    So, the only one of your villains I've ever seen in action is Benjamin Linus. And oh yes ... he was a chilling villain.

    I have a villain I need to work on in my WIP. He started out as pretty flat and cartoonish in my outline. I now see a way to humanize him a little while making his ultimate evil a little more betraying to a naive someone who trusted him.

    But I'm sure it will take several drafts to really hone him.

  15. These are great villains. I actually have a weak spot for villains and their back stories. Hannibal Lector and Loki from Thor have great examples of nature vs. nurture.

  16. If we're thinking about Vader, wouldn't the Emperor qualify as well.

  17. I'm not good at picking villains although the amount I read, I must have come across lots. The female in Misery played by Kathy Bates comes to mind.

  18. Oh, yes, LD, the Emperor makes Vader look like a teddy bear! Mind you, I almost wish we'd never seen Star Wars 1-3; the sweet child of the first movie has committed his first mass murder by the second and no real reason for his change from sweet little boy to sulky teen to killer. Whereas the Vader we saw in the original trilogy was not so bad.

    Dianne, be careful with your villain! I found myself without one when I humanised one and you can't have a fantasy adventure without a villain!

  19. I've had to stop writing a story because just didn't want to be in an evil mind. It was too much. I think your idea is a better one.

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette


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