A good movie villain is generally defined by a how he or she challenges the hero of the piece mentally, physically, or some combination of the two. While villains are meant to stand in opposition to the hero, that doesn’t mean that their actions are always evil or “wrong”; they just don’t line up with the hero’s system of beliefs. Some villains are even sympathetic or behave in a manner that makes total logical sense. The following 10 bad guys are all examples of villains that we may have initially misjudges, as they might actually be more in the right than the heroes trying to stop them.
10. Jonas – Twister
Sure, the main villain of Twister is arguably the tornadoes themselves, since they cause the film’s heroes so much grief. Since an inanimate force of nature can’t really be labelled a proper villain though, that designation has to go to Twister‘s worst human character, Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes). If you stop and think about it though, other than being kind of an obnoxious, second-rate tornado chaser, there’s no reason Jonas deserves to be called a proper antagonist. His only “crime” is using corporate funding to finance his scientific work, but his motivations (trying to develop a better early warning system for tornadoes to save human lives) are identical to that of the film’s heroes Jo (Helen Hunt) and Bill (Bill Paxton). Just because Jonas doesn’t operate from a place of purity doesn’t mean he deserves to die in a fiery explosion.
9. Government Agents – E.T.
It makes little difference whether the government agents in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra -Terrestrial were wielding guns or walkie-talkies because investigating a mysterious and potentially harmful alien was well-within their job descriptions. Sure, their presence interferes with the central bond between E.T. and Eliot, and experimentation probably would have led to E.T.’s death, but all sorts of scientific breakthroughs probably could have been made if the agents had been able to examine E.T. fully. One child’s grief over his alien best friend is a small price to pay for potentially improving humanity as a whole.
8. Syndrome – The Incredibles
Syndrome, the nerdy creep with the Troll hair from Pixar’s The Incredibles, is a former fanboy of Mr. Incredible who grows up and seeks revenge on the masked hero for slighting him as a boy. As far as motivations for villainous deeds go, Syndrome’s are extremely petty, but his actual goal is rather noble when you strip away his more unsavory acts (such as murdering dozens of superheroes out of spite). Syndrome’s mantra is that “when everyone is super…no one will be”, which is a way of explaining his motivations behind building a series of weapons and devices that would give everyone superpowers, in a sense. Sure, there are a lot of problems with Syndrome’s methods, but advancing human potential is actually a pretty significant technological development all the same.
7. Sandman – Spider-Man 3
Although Sandman, played by Thomas Haden Church in Spider-Man 3, has some pretty terrifying and destructive abilities, he is far from running in the same league as other Spider-Man villains like Venom and the Green Goblin. If anything, he’s more of a tragic hero, a victim of circumstance and economic woes. Sandman a.k.a. Flint Marko is shown to be an extremely compassionate father who turns to a life of crime in order to pay for his ill daughter’s expensive medical bills. Even his one despicable action — killing Peter Parker’s villain Uncle Ben — is shown to be an accident that caused him grief and remorse. Really, Spider-Man should be fighting New York’s outrageous health care costs, which are the true adversary in this situation.
6. Wilford – Snowpiercer
The conclusion to the excellent science fiction film Snowpiercer involves a debate between two ideologically-opposed characters: freedom fighter Curtis (Chris Evans) and Wilford, the creator and caretaker of the Snowpiercer train, which holds the last survivors of humanity after a global climate crisis left the Earth frozen and inhospitable. Wilford reveals that the class system of the train is a closed ecosystem that requires strict population control in order to be maintained and Curtis’s revolution was orchestrated by him in order to keep population levels in check. While his methods are heinous, they’re also driven purely by pragmatism and the recognition that it would be impossible to keep the train running if everyone lived in privilege like the occupants of the front of the train, a grim reminder of the economic realities of our own world.
5. Carl Anheuser – 2012
In the end of the world disaster flick 2012, Oliver Platt’s character Carl Anheuser is depicted as a terrible, heartless politician because he attempts to bar thousands of civilians from boarding the Ark crafts in order to escape imminent death. While his methods are harsh, Anheuser is simply acting pragmatically. The Arks are the only reasonable chance left of saving the human race and since there is a finite amount of space and resources on the ships, there is also a finite amount of people that can be accommodated without risking the extinction of the human race. Anheuser definitely wouldn’t win any humanitarian awards, but he’s willing to make the hard choice, which sometimes is also the right choice. It’s a good thing the movie ends with the discovery that Africa is still habitable because the Arks’ overpopulation probably would have doomed everyone on board.
4. Gaston – Beauty and the Beast
Gaston, the brutish, egotistical strongman from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, is for all intents and purposes the film’s villain. His villainous acts including having an unhealthy obsession with the film’s heroine, Belle, and leading a village mob to the Beast’s castle to kill him. These actions of course bring him into direct opposition with the film’s heroes, but most of his actions make logical sense. While Belle knows that the Beast isn’t a monster, Gaston and the villagers don’t; instead, they just see a wild animal that has kidnapped one of their own. Gaston’s stoking of the mob’s superstitions is really just par for the course in how pre-enlightenment communities thought of phenomena that couldn’t be explained — it needed to be sought out and destroyed. Gaston’s definitely not a good person, but he was behaving no differently than the majority of people of his time would in his situation.
3. Roy Batty – Blade Runner
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, easily one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, is set in a futuristic Los Angeles where human-looking cyborgs called replicants are a reality and are used for dangerous, off-world labor. Any rogue replicants (who only have a four-year lifespan to begin with) are hunted down by blade runners like Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard. Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer, is the leader of a rogue band of replicants and is the film’s main antagonist. He also happens to be a wholly sympathetic villain, as his motivations for his actions (which, to be fair, include a few gruesome murders) stem from a desire for his kind to live longer, which seems like a pretty fair desire given that he and his fellow replicants are mistreated by their human creators and feel emotions like everyone else. By the time Roy is saving Deckard from falling off a building near the end of the film, it’s hard not to feel your sympathies siding with the deranged, yet poignant replicant.
2. The Wicked Witch Of The West
The Wizard of Oz featured an all-time great villain in the Wicked Witch of the West. Her distinctive green complexion and Margaret Hamilton’s memorable cackles and shrieks made her quite the formidable adversary for Dorothy and her band of misfits. That being said, what did the Witch really do to deserve to be treated like Oz’s version of the devil? Dorothy not only takes the Witch’s sister’s ruby slippers, she kills her sister by crushing her with a house! All the Witch really wanted were the slippers, which rightfully belong to her anyway, so it’s understandable that the Witch would want to take revenge on Dorothy. Sure, the Wicked Witch of the West’s past deeds probably warrant her dastardly title, but in terms of the film’s plot, she’s arguably the character who is the most hard done by.
1. Ozymandias – Watchmen
Zack Snyder’s underrated film adaptation of Alan Moore’s legendary graphic novel Watchmen was notable for depicting a group of deeply-flawed heroes whose actions are often morally-questionable. Late in the movie, it’s revealed that Ozymandias, a former member of the Watchmen who also happens to be the smartest man in the world, is behind a plot to unite the world together through a common tragedy that happens to involve the deaths of millions of people. Ozymandias makes the point that his actions, while deplorable, will save the human race from nuclear annihilation and thus are justifiable. While fellow hero Rorschach is unable to forgive Ozymandias for his actions, it’s hard not to side with the latter, as even Dr. Manhattan — essentially an omnipotent god — agrees that his actions were justified. Ozymandias may not be a hero in the traditional sense, but he’s definitely not a villain either.