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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One popular concept of the "villain", meant to mimic the purposely distinctive visage of villains, initially from the stage plays of the 1880s.

A villain (also known in film and literature as the "bad guy," "black hat" or "heavy") is an "evil" character in a story, whether a historical narrative or, especially, a work of fiction. The villain usually is the antagonist, the character who tends to have a negative effect on other characters. A female villain is sometimes called a villainess (often to differentiate her from a male villain). Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines villain as "a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; or a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot."[1]



French villains in the 15th century before going to work, receiving their Lord's Orders.

Villain comes from the Anglo-French and Old French vilein, which itself descends from the Late Latin word villanus meaning "farmhand."[2] Someone who is bound to the soil of a villa, which is to say, worked on the equivalent of a plantation in Late Antiquity, in Italy or Gaul.[3] It referred to a person of less than knightly status and so came to mean a person who was not chivalrous. As a result of many unchivalrous acts, such as treachery or rape, being considered villainous in the modern sense of the word, it became used as a term of abuse and eventually took on its modern meaning.[4]

Folk and fairy tales

Baba Yaga often acts as a villain in Russian fairy tales

Vladimir Propp, in his analysis of the Russian fairy tales, concluded that a fairy tale had only eight dramatis personae, of which one was the villain,[5] and his analysis has been widely applied to non-Russian tales. The actions that fell into a villain's sphere were:

  • a story-initiating villainy, where the villain caused harm to the hero or his family
  • a conflict between the hero and the villain, either a fight or other competition
  • pursuing the hero after he has succeeded in winning the fight or obtaining something from the villain

None of these acts must necessarily occur in a fairy tale, but when they occurred, the character that performed them was the villain. The villain therefore could appear twice: once in the opening of the story, and a second time as the person sought out by the hero.[6]

When a character performed only these acts, the character was a pure villain. Various villains also perform other functions in a fairy tale; a witch who fought the hero and ran away, which let the hero follow her, was also performing the task of "guidance" and thus acting as a helper.[7]

The functions could also be spread out among several characters. If a dragon acted as the villain but was killed by the hero, another character—such as the dragon's sisters—might take on the role of the villain and pursue the hero.[7]

Two other characters could appear in roles that are villainous in the more general sense. One is the false hero; this character is always villainous, presenting a false claim to be the hero that must be rebutted for the happy ending.[8] Among these characters are Cinderella's stepsisters, chopping off parts of their feet to fit on the shoe.[9] Another character, the dispatcher, sends a hero on his quest. This may be an innocent request, to fulfill a legitimate need, but the dispatcher may also, villainously, lie to send a character on a quest in hopes of being rid of him.[10]

The villainous foil

The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an example of a literary villain.

In fiction, villains commonly function in the dual role of adversary and foil to the story's heroes. In their role as adversary, the villain serves as an obstacle the hero must struggle to overcome. In their role as foil, the villain exemplifies characteristics that are diametrically opposed to those of the hero, creating a contrast distinguishing heroic traits from villainous ones.

Others point out that many acts of villains have a hint of wish-fulfillment,[11] which makes some people identify with them as characters more strongly than with the heroes. Because of this, a convincing villain must be given a characterization that makes his or her motive for doing wrong convincing, as well as being a worthy adversary to the hero. As put by film critic Roger Ebert: "Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph."[12]

Portraying and employing villains in fiction

Tod Slaughter always portrayed villainous characters on both stage and screen in a melodramatic manner, with mustache-twirling, eye-rolling, leering, cackling, and hand-rubbing (however this often failed to translate well from stage to screen).[13][14] Brad Warner states that "only cartoon villains cackle with glee while rubbing their hands together and dream of ruling the world in the name of all that is wicked and bad".[15] Ben Bova recommends to authors that their works not contain villains. He states, in his Tips for writers, that "In the real world there are no villains. No one actually sets out to do evil. […] Fiction mirrors life. Or, more accurately, fiction serves as a lens to focus what we know of life and bring its realities into sharper, clearer understanding for us. There are no villains cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate their evil deeds. There are only people with problems, struggling to solve them."[16] David Lubar adds to this that "This is a brilliant observation that has served me well in all my writing. ( The bad guy isn't doing bad stuff so he can rub his hands together and snarl.) He may be driven by greed, neuroses, or the conviction that his cause is just, but he's driven by something not unlike the things that drive a hero."[17]

See also


  1. ^ Random House Unabridged Dictionary Web Result
  2. ^ Robert K. Barnhart, ed (1988). Chambers Dictionary of Etymology. New York: Chambers Harrap Publishers. pp. 1204. ISBN 0-550-14230-4.  
  3. ^ David B. Guralnik, ed (1984). Webster's New World Dictionary. New York: Simon and Schuster.  
  4. ^ C. S. Lewis (1960). Studies in Words. Cambridge University Press.  
  5. ^ Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale, p 79 ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  6. ^ Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale, p 84 ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  7. ^ a b Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale, p 81 ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  8. ^ Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, p60, ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  9. ^ Maria Tatar, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, p 136 ISBN 0-393-05848-4
  10. ^ Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, p77, ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by Roger Ebert.
  13. ^ Bryan Senn (1996). Golden Horrors: An Illustrated Critical Filmography of Terror Cinema, 1931–1939. McFarland. pp. 481. ISBN 0786401753.  
  14. ^ Jeffrey Richards (2001). The Unknown 1930s. I.B.Tauris. pp. 150. ISBN 186064628X.  
  15. ^ Brad Warner (2007). Sit Down and Shut Up. New World Library. pp. 119. ISBN 1577315596.  
  16. ^ Ben Bova (28 January 2008). "Tips for writers". pp. 2. Retrieved 2008-12-05.  
  17. ^ "Villains Don’t Always Wear Black". Revision Notes. Darcy Pattison. 28 January 2008.  


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

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"All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day. You had a bad day too once, am I right?"

— The Joker to Batman, in "The Killing Joke", saying that anyone can become a villain.

"The greatest joy in doing evil is to be rewarded by the sight of those who suffer its consequence!"

— Mephisto, in The Silver Surfer #3 (Marvel Comics, 1968), exemplifying the code of the villain.

"Much to learn, you still have."

— Yoda to Count Dooku, in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, illustrating the arrogance of the villain.

"Your overconfidence is your weakness."

"Your faith in your friends is yours."

— Luke Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine, in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, showing villains' individualism and less than complete trust in others.

"I met him when I traveled around the world. A foolish young man I was then, full of ridiculous ideas about good and evil. Lord Voldemort showed me how wrong I was. There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it."

— Professor Quirrell, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, reflecting the origin of the villain's psychology.

"First - and understand this, Harry, 'cause it's very important - not all wizards are good. Some of them go bad. And a few years ago, there was one wizard that went as bad as you can go..."

— Hagrid, the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, about to tell Harry about Voldemort, the main villain of the series.

"Good is a point of view, Anakin. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way--including their quest for greater power."

— Chancellor Palpatine, in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, illustrating the both similarities of villains and heroes, and the villain's psychology.

"I'm going to enjoy watching you die, Mr. Anderson."

— Agent Smith, The Matrix, explaining the hedonist motive of the villain.

"Unwilling though I was to follow my namesake's instructions, it has all come down to this. The ultimate risk, for the ultimate prize - day of reckoning with those who made us slaves."

— Megatron, in Beast Wars' "The Agenda Part 3," portraying the slavish origin of the villain.

"I was directly responsible for the deaths of all twenty-four thousand colonists when the Pfhor returned and sacked the planet. Yet I cannot think of any better way I could have served humanity: Tau Ceti's sacrifice bought time for Earth, which the Pfhor are even now planning to invade."

— Durandal, in The Slings & Arrows of Outrageous Fortune of (Marathon), idealizing the ambitions of the villain.

"Greetings, Green Ranger. Or should I just call you Tommy? How does it feel to be stripped of your powers forever? Are you green with envy? And your humiliation is far from over! You will soon pledge your allegiance to me!"

"No way!"

"Do you even recognize yourself? The Green Ranger, always willing to sacrifice, always ready. You must have saved your friends a hundred times, and think of all of Rita's monsters you destroyed. You and your powerful DragonZord! Witness the greatness you once were, Tommy. Because it's all over now!"

— Goldar and Tommy Oliver, in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' "Green No More, Part II", revealing the vulgarity of the villain.

"I will not fail again!"

"QUIET! Those Power Rangers are nothing but mere infants! You were defeated by children! You dare call yourself an Empress of Evil?! You are not fit to destroy a cockroach! You have made me very angry! Your days of control are over, there will be no other chances."

"Can't we talk?"

"Silence! I have spoken."

— Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd, in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' "The Mutiny, Part I", belying the capability of the villain.

"Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom or truth? Perhaps peace? Or could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although... only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? WHY? WHY DO YOU PERSIST?"

— Agent Smith, in The Matrix Revolutions

"If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. I must obey my master."

Darth Vader, in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

"The Alliance... will die. As will your friends. Good, I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the Dark Side will be complete!"

Emperor Palpatine, in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

"There will be no bargain, young Jedi. I shall enjoy watching you die."

— Jabba the Hutt, in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (translated from Huttese)

"My lord, is that legal?"

"I will make it legal!"

— Nute Gunray and Darth Sidious, in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

"I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace..."

— Don John referring to his half-brother Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing

"I had a speech... I learned it all... Oh God, she won't understand, she won't understand..."

"Of course she won't understand, Sparky. I'm beyond her understanding. She's a girl! With sugar, and spice, and everything... useless, unless you're baking. I'm more than that. More than flesh. More than blood. I'm... you know what? Honestly don't think there's a human word fabulous enough for me. Oh, my name will be on everyone's lips. Assuming their lips haven't been torn off. But not just yet. That's alright, though. I can be patient. Everything is well within parameters. She's exactly where I want her to be. And so are you, Number 17. You're right where you belong. So, what'd you think? You'd get your soul back, and everything'd be jim-dandy? A soul's slippier than a greased weasel, why do you think I sold mine? Well, you probably thought that you'd be your own man. And I respect that. But you never will. You'll always be mine. You'll always be in the dark with me... singing our little song. You like our little songs, don't you? You've always liked them. Right from the beginning. And that's where we're going... right back to the beginning! Not the bang. Not the word. The true beginning. The next few months are going to be quite a ride, and I think we're all going to learn something about ourselves in the process. You'll learn you're a pathetic schmuck, if it hasn't sunk in already. Look at you, trying to do what's right. Just like her. You still don't get it. It's not about right. Not about wrong. It's about power."

— An insane Spike and The First (taking the forms of Warren, Glory, Adam, Mayor Wilkins, Drusilla, The Master, and Buffy), in Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Lessons."

"What do you want from us? We're evil! EVIL!"

— Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV's Frank, in Mystery Science Theater 3000.

"Do you really expect them to pay?"

"No, Mr. Powers, I expect them to die..."

Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

"My children... from the very beginning, it was the children who gave me my power. The Springwood Slasher, that's what they called me. My reign of terror was legendary. Dozens of children would fall by my blades. Then the parents of Springwood came for me, taking justice into their own hands. When I was alive, I may have been a little naughty, but after they killed me, I became something much, much worse. The stuff nightmares are made of. The children still feared me, and that fear gave me the power to invade their dreams. And that's when the fun really began! Until they figured out a way to forget about me! To erase me completely! Being dead wasn't a problem, but being forgotten... now that's a BITCH! I can't come back if nobody remembers me! I can't come back if nobody's AFRAID! I had to search the bowels of Hell, but I found someone. Someone who'll make 'em remember! He may get the blood, but I'll get the glory. And that fear is my ticket home..."

— Freddy Krueger in Freddy vs. Jason.

"But you use your powers for evil!"

"Evil? Your evil is my good. I am Sutekh the Destroyer. Where I tread, I leave nothing but dust and darkness...I find that good!"

The Doctor and Sutekh the Destroyer, from Doctor Who

"Davros, if you had created a virus in your laboratory. Something contagious and infectious that killed on contact. A virus that would destroy all other forms of life... would you allow its use?"

"It is an interesting conjecture."

"Would you do it?"

"The only living thing...the microscopic organism... reigning supreme... A fascinating idea."

"But would you do it?"

"Yes. Yes. To hold in my hand, a capsule that contained such power. To know that life and death on such a scale was my choice. To know that the tiny pressure on my thumb, enough to break the glass, would end everything. Yes! I would do it! That power would set me up above the gods! AND THROUGH THE DALEKS, I SHALL HAVE THAT POWER!"

The Doctor and Davros, creator of the Daleks, from Doctor Who

"This carnage isn't necessary." "It's survival, Doctor. Just as these primitives kill lesser species to protect themselves, so I kill them." "That's hardly an argument." "It's not supposed to be an argument! It's a statement!" : — The Doctor, from Doctor Who serial "The Visitation"

"So, Lone Starr, now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb."

— Dark Helmet in Spaceballs.

"Khan is played as a cauldron of resentment by Ricardo Montalban, and his performance is so strong that he helps illustrate a general principle involving not only Star Trek but Star Wars and all the epic serials, especially the James Bond movies: Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph."

Roger Ebert, review of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

"Evil is merely a perspective that no longer concerns me, Brother Luther."

— Paul Augustine, also known as Pious Augustus, Eternal Darkness, noting the indifference to morality present in many villains.
Viewtiful Joe: Hey, what is this? Captain Blue, enemy of evil, guardian of the world, the guy who gave us the courage to... Why, Captain Blue?
Captain Blue: Guardian of the World? What does that mean? No matter how many villains I knock down, this world will not last. No... I'm going after the real world, where my powers will mean something! I'll rule over the entire earth! And then I can exact my revenge on you people, who confine us to this fleeting, transient place! Humans who just create things and then throw them away when they are bored and done with them, just like so much tissue paper!
— Viewtiful Joe and Captain Blue in Viewtiful Joe, expressing the self-interest that corrupts would-be heroes.

"'Justice'? I'm embarrassed to think you even said that! You think such pretty ideals can govern the people!? Why are you able to use that sword? Why do you think the people call you a hero? It's all because of me!! Because I dirtied my hands you're here! You should be thanking me, not despising me!!"

— Dycedarg Beoulve in Final Fantasy Tactics, reflecting the arrogance and egotism of the villain that blinds them to the consequences of their actions.

Robin: "So why did you do it? For money? Status? Those dark powers?"

Slade: "Not everything is so cut and dry, Robin."

Robin: "Selling out our world for your own personal gain seems pretty cut and dry to me."

Slade: "With or without me, there was no stopping this. "

Robin: "But you played a part. And just like everything else you’ve ever done, it’s made people suffer."

Slade: "It’s what I do best."

— Slade (Deathstroke) in Teen Titans (The End, Part 2).

"You know, by all accounts you should be dead by now, like everyone who's ticked me off to the degree you have. But, Calix, when we first shanghaied you, I thought I saw something in you that I liked. Now that I have the opportunity to crush your soul, I like you even more."

— Bun-bun to Calix, Sluggy Freelance, April 15, 2005, reflecting the malicious nature of the villain

Sephiroth: "What are you saying? Are you trying to tell me you have feelings too?"

Cloud: "Of course! Who do you think I am!?"

Sephiroth: "Ha, ha, ha...... Stop acting as if you were sad. There's no need to act as though you're angry either. Because, Cloud. You are..."

(after the battle with JENOVA-LIFE)

JENOVA: "Because, Cloud, You are... a puppet."

— Sephiroth, Cloud, and Jenova; Final Fantasy VII, reflecting the heartlessness and view of other humans as mere tools of a villain, and their disdain for heroic compassion.
Brauner: Damn you, humans... You selfishly start wars and despoil the earth. Perhaps justice wasn't on my side but I will never admit that it was on yours.
Jonathan Morris: Fine either way. After all, "justice" is just a matter of perspective. The fact is, you're just a coward who couldn't face the truth. You couldn't accept your fate, so you just abandoned humanity to get what you wanted.
Brauner: I just... I just wanted to protect my family.
    • Jonathan Morris and Brauner from Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, reflecting villains deluding themselves into thinking that they are in the right.
  • Luffy: Wow...


(Luffy grabs Arlong's sword, the Kiribachi)
  • Arlong (Thinking): What...? I can't move... the Kiribachi anymore...!!!
  • Luffy: USE?!
(Luffy breaks the Kiribachi)
  • Arlong: My Kiribachi...!!!

Luffy and Arlong(One Piece), reflecting a villains willingness to manipulate other people for self gain.

  • Luffy:"I will never become someone like you!"

Kuro: "it is not that you won't, it is that you cannot."

Luffy and Captain Kuro, One Piece, showing that the difference between villains' and heroes' mindsets.

  • Jiraiya: Any time there was trouble, whoever opposed your side would wind up dead. A few years after I left, I started hearing your names come up occasionally.
  • Konan: You have no idea what happened to us after you left, sensei.
  • Jiraiya: You're absolutely right, I don't. But there's no doubt in my mind that what Akatsuki's doing is wrong!
  • Pain: [arriving on-scene] That's YOUR opinion... Jiraiya-sensei.
  • Jiraiya: You've changed a lot, but those eyes... so you're Pain... Eh, Nagato? I guess you didn't grow up like I thought you would. What HAPPENED to you three?
  • Pain: [coldly] You don't need to know. You're just an outsider, remember?

Jiraiya, speaking to Konan and Pain(Nagato), formerly kind and idealistic orphans whom he had trained, in Naruto, signifying how people become corrupted over time.

  • "Reluctance to forgive has long been a human failing. It is man's nature to sin, yet you answer sin with violence upon violence. Is that not itself a sin?"
—Emperor Mateus Palamecia, villain of Final Fantasy II, speaking with Minwu, Scott, Josef and Ricard, just before the Final Battle, defending that no hero is better than any villain.
  • Orochimaru: There probably isn't any meaning in life. Perhaps you can find something interesting to do while you are alive.
—Orochimaru, villain of Naruto, speaking to his new protege Kimimaro, signifying how villains are partially driven by boredom.
Look up villain in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

Simple English

villain. Many people think about something like this when they hear or see the word "villain".]]

A villain is a bad person. Villains are usually found in fiction, such as books and movies. The audience do not usually like the villain and they support the hero or heroine. In some movies and books (such as the movie Ocean's Eleven), the villain is a good person and the hero/heroine is bad (such as a robber). When used in comic books, they are depicted as super-villians. Super-villians usually hold some kind of unnatural force.

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