Villains come in all shapes and sizes. From cruel dictators to menacing ghosts, these villains are often the driving force behind a story’s narrative. Through their evil deeds, villains create tension and keep readers on the edge of their seats. 

Whether they’re out for revenge or simply seeking power, every villain has their own unique motives and endless list of misdeeds. In this blog, we’ll explore the different types of villains that inhabit our stories and discuss how they differ from each other.

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What Makes a Villain in Story?

The stereotypical villain

Villains are great characters because they help to create tension, suspense, and drama in stories. Before we take a look at each type, let’s take a look at the villain definition.

VILLAIN DEFINITION

What is a villain?

A villain is defined as an evil or wicked character that enacts evil action and/or harms others. A villain may have a justification for their actions that is in line with their own principles, but their actions inflict harm and create ruin in the process. This is not the same as an antagonist. There is overlap between them but they're not always the same. The antagonist is simply the main obstacle attempting to thwart the protagonist from reaching their goal.

What makes a villain a villain?

  • Malevolence and a desire to do harm or evil
  • A disregard for laws, social norms and morality
  • Selfishness and a lack of empathy for others
  • Cunning, deceitful and manipulative behavior

Types of Villains

The Antagonist

The antagonist is the main obstacle that stands in the way of the protagonist’s goal. They provide a source of opposition and conflict, testing the hero's mettle and pushing them to greater heights. 

What is an Antagonist  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Unlike protagonists, antagonists do not necessarily need to be sympathetic nor likable. Though they can still evoke empathy or sympathy in readers who understand their motivations better.

This type of villain is often driven by an emotion such as anger or greed, and their ultimate goal usually conflicts with that of the protagonist. The Dark Knight’s Joker is a classic example of this type of villain.

Villain Archetype Guide

The Monster

This type of villain is often a larger-than-life character who either symbolizes evil or has been warped enough by tragedy or circumstance to embody it.

Jaws  •  Monster villain archetype

These villains pose a physical threat to the hero, forcing them to confront difficult challenges in order to conquer them. Godzilla and King Kong are both examples of monster villains. Few, however, are as iconic in cinema as the shark from one of Steven Spielberg’s best films Jaws.

Different Types of VIllains in Film

The Trickster

This type character seeks to trick and manipulate the protagonist into making bad decisions rather than causing direct harm. They often use their wit and intelligence as their best weapon, relying on manipulation over physical confrontation. 

Thor: Ragnarok  •  Loki as a villain archetype

The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland is an iconic example of this villain archetype. More recently, Loki has proven to be an entertaining trickster villain to Thor within the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline.

Evil Twin Villain Archetype

The Evil Twin

While the Evil Twin villain is not always an actual twin of the protagonist, they do share similarities. This type of villain shares similar characteristics with the protagonist but still poses a threat due to their conflicting goals or ambitions. 

Anton Chigurh Character Analysis

A great example of this can be seen in  No Country for Old Men, arguably the top of the list of the Coen Brothers’ best films. In the film, Llewelyn Moss and Anton Chigurh have the same goal of obtaining the case of money.

They both have incredible survival and combat skills. However, they differ in morality and intent. 

Types of Villains in Cinema

The Authority Villain

The authority villain is a type of antagonist commonly seen in thrillers and political stories. This villain often takes on a position of power or authority, but abuses this authority for their own evil ends. 

The Godfather (1972) Movie  •  Michael Corleone gets punched by cop

The corrupt official is an archetypal example of an authority villain and can be found in many stories; Oscar Goldman from The Six Million Dollar Man is one such character. More iconically, is Capt. McCluskey in The Godfather

Character Villain Stereotypes

The Bully

The bully villain is a type of antagonist commonly seen in stories, often as the main source of conflict. This type of villain archetype aims to terrorize, intimidate or belittle the protagonist and other characters, with their behavior usually rooted in a desire for attention and power.

Regina George  •  Mean Girls

They can be found in many genres from fairy tales to superhero films, taking on various guises. From the tyrannical school bully to the corporate shark. Regina George from Mean Girls is an iconic example of this type of villain.

Types of Villains in Writing

The Criminal

The criminal villain is a type of antagonist commonly seen in crime and mystery stories. This type of villain is often a professional criminal who commits some form of theft or crime for financial gain. But they can also be 'amateur' criminals who commit their offenses out of a twisted sense of justice.

How Sound Creates Suspense

They can be found in many film genres, from hardboiled detective noir to contemporary heist films. Tommy DeVito from Goodfellas is an iconic example of the criminal villain archetype. Another great example, is Bernie from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.

Female Archetypes of VIllains

Femme Fatale

femme fatale is a female character often featured in books, movies, and plays who is seductive and alluring but also has a dangerous side. She typically uses her charm and wit to manipulate, deceive and outwit her opponents. 

Top 10 TV Femme Fatales

A femme fatale has no moral boundaries or sense of guilt and will not hesitate to use any means necessary to get what she wants. She has her own agenda that puts her at odds with the protagonists of a story.

An example of a femme fatale in film is Selina Kyle aka Catwoman. She uses her sex appeal, wit, and cunning to manipulate people to get what she wants. She's able to outsmart anyone who gets in her way, whether it be Batman or the villains she goes up against. Her ability to capture the attention and admiration of those around her serves as an example of her femme fatale persona.

Archetypes of Villains in Story

Mother Nature

Mother Nature is often depicted as a villain in film, embodying destructive forces of nature beyond human control. From natural disasters to powerful storms, Mother Nature is often seen as the ultimate enemy that must be overcome in order for humanity to triumph.

he Day After Tomorrow  •  Super-Sized Tsunami

In films like The Day After Tomorrow, Mother Nature serves as a reminder of the power and destruction that nature can bring when it goes unchecked. You can also count animalistic monsters like the shark in Jaws as a natural villain.

Types of Villains in Horror Films

The Supernatural

The supernatural villain is a popular figure in films, representing an entity beyond human control. The supernatural villain often has magical or otherworldly powers that make them unstoppable and almost invincible. 

Paranormal Activity 2 

Movies in the horror genre like Paranormal Activity feature the supernatural villain as a powerful force of evil. Films like Ghostbusters depict the supernatural villain as more mischievous and playful.

No matter the exact portrayal, these villains usually bring with them some sort of chaos or destruction.

Up Next

What is an Antagonist?

While not always, villains are often the primary antagonist in a story. Antagonists are important to an engaging story. Learn more about the antagonist character and their role in narrative storytelling in our next article. 

Up Next: Antagonists →
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