A friend recently requested that I put together a list of my favorite villains in books, television and movies, and I am happy to oblige! Ever since I was a kid, I always had a gigantic soft spot for fictional baddies. Perhaps I've got an inner dark side myself?
As long as I'm given the barest hint of back-story, I can mentally construct a whole plane load of plausible motivations for the villains I watch. A hero is a difficult thing to create because they are so often driven by the same noble urges as all the other heroes. Most good guys are good in the same way, whereas bad guys can be bad in a wonderful, delicious smorgasbord of ways.
Since I have too many favorites, I'll be making a separate list for villains from movies and TV shows. Here's the first of the series- my top five movie villains (not in any particular order):
Imhotep (The Mummy, 1999) -
A male villain motivated and twisted by his timeless love for a lady? Not something that comes along very often. And since I first watched The Mummy as an impressionable young girl obsessed with ancient Egypt, this kind of devotion seemed pretty damn romantic to me.
O-Ren Ishii (Kill Bill) -
The silk glove on a steel gauntlet. That beautiful and brutal sequence detailing the tragedy of her childhood and the loss of her family just broke my heart. The Kill Bill movies were always entertaining but I wasn't emotionally engaged, except for that section about O-Ren. Her transformation from child soldier into that stunning and ruthless crime boss just made sense to me. I think there is a tendency to cheer for narratives involving girls who empower themselves through violence and masculine-coded strength (ahem, Arya Stark, anyone?) and O-Ren is a particularly poignant example of how tragic it can be, as satisfying as it is watching women take revenge on those who have wronged them.
Lots-o-Huggin Bear (Toy Story 3) -
I found Lotso's story about how he was left behind by his beloved owner and then replaced with another bear very illuminating regarding his selfish behavior. Woody and his friends managed to get themselves out of that horrible situation in the daycare center. But Lotso was likely to spend the rest of his life being destroyed by little kids if he didn't save himself. I mean, there has to be some toys (or rather, cannon fodder) in the Caterpillar Room, right? Lotso made sure it wasn't him. Of course, he went beyond self-preservation into tyranny, but it seems logical that a lifetime of scheming would warp his personality.
Marquise de Merteuil (Dangerous Liaisons) -
I have a thing for women in patriarchal social arenas ruthlessly using the performance of femininity to get themselves what they want. Marquise de Merteuil is probably the most sublime example of that trope. And Glenn Close is just mesmerizing in this role. All you need to know about the Marquise de Merteuil is in this clip here:
Elektra King (The World Is Not Enough) -
James Bond movies usually all blend together for me. But Casino Royale and The World Is Not Enough both made a huge impression, because of the intriguing female characters who have their own reasons for acting the way they do. Since Vesper Lynd of Casino Royale doesn't really qualify as a villain, I'll just focus on Elektra King. The ultimate femme fatale, she was taken hostage in a plot masterminded by the terrorist Renard. Left at the mercy of the terrorists by her father and MI6, she decided to secret ally herself with the man who took her captive to accomplish her own goals.