13 baddies we love to love
Horror writer Kim Newman once wrote: "To be a great villain, it’s not enough just to be thoroughly evil – you have to be entertaining with it." And with this in mind we have pulled together some of the best, or should that be worst in villainous entertainment.
It's hard to forget Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Dr Hannibal Lecter in the film Silence of the Lambs. The cultured and sophisticated Hannibal was first introduced in the 1981 novel Red Dragon, written by Thomas Harris. There is now a whole franchise of films and TV series based on the cannibalistic serial killer, who often tops polls as the number one villain.
"I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”Dr Hannibal Lecter
2. Frankenstein's creature
Mary Shelley was only nineteen when she wrote the gothic novel Frankenstein. The strange, haunting story of Dr Frankenstein and his monster came to Mary Shelley in a dream-like vision. The crucial scene in the novel is when Victor Frankenstein examines his living creation for the first time and realises that it isn’t the beautiful exemplar of humanity that he’d originally envisaged.
Since its publication in 1847, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights has become one of the most admired and popular of all English novels. Heathcliff is more often thought of as a romantic hero, because of his love for Cathy than for his later years of retribution. In the second part of the novel he grows into a vicious, haunted man. His complicated, mesmeric and peculiar nature makes him a rare character, with components of both the hero and villain.
4. Darth Vader
Large black helmet. Heavy breathing. The Death Star. George Lucas' epic space opera franchise Star Wars introduced the world to evil Sith Lord Vader. One of the key elements of the Star Wars story was that villainy rarely occurs without cause. Characters begin making choices they think are for the best which begin to lead them off the moral path.
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.Yoda explains the path to the dark side to a young Anakin Skywalker. Skywalker became Darth Vader in Star Wars.
5. Mrs Danvers from Rebecca
Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is a classic tale of romance, treachery and murder. The gaunt and cadaverous looking housekeeper Mrs Danvers ends up (spoiler alert!) setting fire to Manderley, destroying herself and the house. Not a dissimilar ending to Dickens' Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, who ends up perishing after burning her bridal dress and wedding banquet. Fire is an important symbol in both these novels, emphasising the unsatisfied and destructive passions which consume these women.
6. Iago from Othello
The critic William Robertson Turnbull once said, "Iago is an unbeliever in, and denier of, all things spiritual, who only acknowledges God, like Satan, to defy him." Iago is a classic three-dimensional villain. You never know where you are with these classic baddies. They're always scheming and seducing people into trusting them with their voice, their appearance and manner.
7. Tony Soprano
This stout, receding mobster, played by James Gandolfini, kills his enemies with a sick relish and cheats on his wife. Tony Soprano was the gritty, unpleasant protagonist in the television series The Sopranos, ushering in the era of the modern TV anti-hero when it first aired in 1999.
8. Professor Moriarty
Sherlock Holmes described criminal mastermind Moriarty as the "Napoleon of crime". Sir Arthur Conan Doyle invented Moriarty as the ultimate archenemy to kill Sherlock Holmes and he appeared in only two of the original stories. However, in subsequent adaptions of the story for TV and film over the years Moriarty has appeared a lot more frequently. Too good as a baddie to resist bringing him in to more plots!
9. Long John Silver
Often remembered for his pet parrot and wooden leg, Long John Silver is the main villain in Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure novel Treasure Island. Long John Silver's main occupation was chief cook until he led a mutiny. Shiver me timbers.
The comic villain is one baddie we don’t need to over analyse and take a moral stance with – we can just enjoy the ride.Actor Toby Jones on villains in Radio 4's The Villain in 6 Chapters
10. Walter White from Breaking Bad
In the TV series Breaking Bad Walter White’s transformation from humble chemistry teacher to murderous drug kingpin has provoked water-cooler discussions, blogs, ardent articles and fervent forum discussions online. Anti-heroes like Walter White, or Frank Underwood in House of Cards are all too human, all too recognisable. They are familiar and even sometimes like us. Walter White is simply an "everyman".
Dracula is a character that’s been re-interpreted in a shape shifting style every decade with little conformity to the precise description that Bram Stoker gives in the 1897 Gothic horror novel. Because of a succession of films and books including The Lost Boys, Interview with the Vampire, The Twilight Saga and television series such as Buffy, that ultimate cultural outsider who stalks and feasts on the ordinary humans of mainstream society has started to look cool, gained more acceptance and sympathy.
12. Cruella de Vil
Few people haven't seen Cruella de Vil kidnapping all those dalmation puppies in a dastardly attempt to get a new fur coat. Dodie Smith's novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians first introduced the character Cruella de Vil to the world in 1956, and she has gone on to star in several film adaptions and even a Broadway musical. What could be more wicked than having a name which is a pun on the words of 'cruel' and 'devil'?!
13. The Joker
Archenemy of Batman, The Joker was a fictional supervillain created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson for the Batman comic books. When first created, it was initially planned to kill the character off, but he was too good to get rid of and has starred in comics, TV series, video games and films, ever since first appearing in 1940.
We could go on and on. We've only scratched the surface of some of our favourite baddies here - listen to actor Toby Jones celebrate the mercurial world of the villain.
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