Written by Rachael Cheeseman
Okay, I'm coming clean. I've been keeping this secret way too long. And the first step is admitting you have a problem.
My name is Rachael Cheeseman and I am villain addict.
I love villains. And not in a "villains we love to hate" kind of way. I straight up adore them, I root for them to beat the heroes. I am the person eagerly anticipating James Bond having his body sliced in two by a death laser so the villain can get on with villainous plans doing villainous things and generally being a stone cold badass. I'm a nightmare to watch movies with, I'm sure. There's just something about that moment when a truly well written baddie lays out their reasons, their justifications, and you realise deep down they're just complex, misunderstood sweethearts and they could really do with a win. Then in charges the arrogant, goody two shoes "hero" and messes everything up.
I have a problem, I know. But, deep seated issues aside, let's look at some of the villains out there it's impossible not to love.
1. Captain Hook
I'm easing you guys in with this one. We all know Captain Hook is the reason for watching or reading Peter Pan.
Captain Hook is such a glorious villain that he has been played by some astonishingly charismatic actors in countless adaptations and spin-offs. We cannot get enough of the guy. Let's face it, when a new version of "Peter Pan" is announced, no one, literally no one, says "ooh who's playing Pan?" We don't give a fig which ginger haired brat is going to be leaping across our screens in green tights like some crazed ballerina on Meth. We want to know who will be playing Hook.
For me, the Captain Hooks that have me praying hardest for Pan's downfall have to be Jason Isaacs and Dustin Hoffman. Not men that would usually drive me to take the side of murderous marauders.
But, once they're bringing to life that curly haired, one handed chronomentrophobic (fear of clocks, look it up) child killer, something about them makes me swap instantly to Team Bad Guy.
I think the love of Captain James Hook (yeah James; he's more than just his disability people!) Can be boiled down to few key things. Firstly Peter Pan is not a good guy. Peter is selfish and thoughtless and something of a bully. Sure, he's just a kid but he isn't a particularly likeable character. It's easy to imagine that you could grow to hate Peter with enough exposure. I also think there is something innately jarring about a character who refuses to grow up. Growing up and getting old is a fact of life, and one that drives us to seek out experiences and meaning. We are all acutely aware of our own mortality and someone who just swanned off one day and thought "nah, screw it. "This aging thing isn't for me" feels almost insulting.
Secondly, Hook is a very charming man. He rules his crew with a cool, clear headed authority and is able to tempt even the purest of characters with his silver tongue. As a character he is also aware of his own flaws and limitations and he despises them. Hook is far more relatable a character than Peter Pan could ever be.
Finally, I think the reason Captain Hook is so easy to love is because of some of the incredible actors who have portrayed him. He's been voiced by Tim Curry and Tom Hiddleston, portrayed by Stanley Tucci and Jason Isaacs, Christopher Walken and Dustin Hoffman. These are some seriously smooth guys. Of course rooting for the bad guy is inevitable. Heck, Tim Curry managed to make me root for Pennywise the clown, yet another child murderer.... wait, is this Tim Curry's type casting?
2. Hans Gruber
Yes, I confess, when John McClane was busy being a one man army trying to rescue the civillians in Nakatomi tower, I was sort of hoping to see Gruber and his pals pull off the heist of the century. And they were so damn close. All that planning and forethought ruined by some barefoot cowboy who just couldn't sit nice and quietly with the other hostages.
Don't get me wrong, Die Hard is awesome just the way it is. It's a great action movie that doesn't need to rely on ridiculously big stunts and a stupidly convoluted plot. And while the story of McClane survivng on his wits and know-how, beating the odds time and again is spectacular, every time I watch this film I find myself thinking "god damnit McClane! Can't you just let Hans have this one? This isn't even your jurisdiction!"
Hans Gruber is just such a wonderful villain, I simply have to root for him. Let me try to explain why.
For starters Hans is what I would call a "Gentleman Villain": he exudes a quiet confidence, talks in a measured, clipped manner, he wears nice suits and mocks people with sardonic dry wit. He even manages to pull off an almost detached, disinterested air that shows that this sort of crime is beneath him. Hans Gruber is an incredibly suave guy.
Another reason Gruber is such a compelling villain is because he and McClane develop a genuine rapport. There is a grudging kind of respect between the two. Their relationship transcends being enemies and becomes more like a game of chess, each trying to out think the other. In the end the money is of no consequence. What matters to them is being the one to win, to beat the other in no uncertain terms. It's the kind of adversaries we see in Sherlock Holmes and Moriarti or Professor X and Magneto. It's not as subtle, by any means, but the vibe is definitely there.
And, of course, the actor to play the part is a very big part of why Hans Gruber is so irresistible. Alan Rickman was built to play villains. The Sheriff of Nottingham, Judge Turpin, Severus Snape, the guy just knows how to make bad look good. No one loses their calm facade as well as Alan Rickman, it's a joy to watch.
With Gruber, Rickman was able to perfectly contrast McClane's "all guns blazing" style with an almost elegant , controlled performance. He was riveting and I highly doubt I was the only one disappointed that he didn't get to live to fight another day.
3. The Xenomorph
What happened to charisma, Rachael?
What happened to actors bringing a part to life? I hear you cry. Well, some villains are so epic they don't require any frills like charm or, you know, dialogue.
The Xenomporph is 100% pure undiluted villain and for that alone, I love it. It's iconic. I think you just have to respect the raw awesomness of this ruthless, efficient killing machine. And it's not like the Xenomorph doesn't have a flair for the dramatic. It could literally make a run straight at its prey and take them out in a heartbeat but instead it lurks in the darkness and let's them come looking for it. Not to mention that if there's a more badass way to reproduce than facehuggers, I've yet to hear of it.
You know I'm right on this one. Throughout the Alien movies 1-4, prequals, spin-offs, and videogames we all love that terrifying two-mouthed bastard, and, although it's always good to see Ripley walk away unscathed, you know you get a little thrill every time the Xenomorph takes out one of the supporting characters.
4. Kylo Ren
Ooh controversial. I know, I know but bear with me. Kylo Ren is (at this stage in the saga) a villain. No if's, not but's, no coconuts, my friends. He is directly responsible for countless deaths, helped destroy an entire planet, killed his own father and made a very solid attempt at avunculicide (uncle killing; you are learning so much from me today) and has been doing the bidding of Supreme Leader "melty face" Snoke (aka the Gollum voiced Sith).
Yep, Ren is a villain. And yet, I really really really want him to succeed. I think the issue here is Ren's extreme vulnerability. He's young, he's conflicted, he was betrayed by someone he looked up to, and he has daddy issues up the wazoo. I always feel like all Ren is ever looking for is a pat on the back and a "good work, champ" and so help me God, I want that for him too. Instead all we see is everyone telling him he's not good enough, not strong enough, not on the right path. Cut the guy some slack, he's doing the best he can.
The conflict in Kylo Ren, particularly seen in his moments alone with Rae is what draw us in with this character. We're invested in him, rooting for him and even when he goes into full "Sith mode" we're still invested. This guy killed Han Solo and we still want his story to end well. That is one lovable villain.
There are some truly exceptional baddies out there: The Joker, Hannibal Lector, Loki, Jareth, Lex Luther, Keyser Söze, to name but a few. Villians that we just can't stop thinking about, villains that captivate us, make us question the story we've believed up until that point.
Villains make the hero. We all know that. The quality of a villain can make or break a story (Anakin Skywalker in the prequal trilogy springs to mind) but when it's done just right and you find yourself faced with a truly brilliant villain, you may find yourself unsure of whose side you're actually on.