Television would be dull if it was filled with do-gooder characters with no evil streak in them, so in order for drama to unfold there needs to be a clash between the protagonist and antagonist. These evil characters commonly have much more depth and are quite intriguing, and every so often you will find one that you love to hate. Sometimes you will feel sympathy for these characters, other times you’ll be jealous of their ability to be effortlessly cool and witty, and sometimes they’ll simply be so evil that it is as entertaining as it is shocking.
10. Dr. Romano
Most of the characters on ER are all likeable, but not Dr. Romano, who is the character that everybody loves to hate. A stereotypical surgeon, he is brash, arrogant, rude, snarky and narcissistic, but also very good at his job. This adds a different dimension to the show, and although never a main character, his appearances are always memorable, especially when the other cast members need someone to clash with. Although people love to hate him, the audience can’t help but feel sorry for him by the end, as he is the victim of two freak accidents, the second of which causes his death. Strangely enough, they both involve helicopters, with the first accident seeing him lose his arm to a rotor blade, and the second where a helicopter crash lands (somewhat cartoonishly) on top of him.
9. Jim Moriarty
Moriarty is one of the all-time great villains, and in the thrilling BBC Sherlock series, where he is expertly portrayed by Andrew Scott, he is once again a fascinating and brilliant antagonist who we love to hate. The relationship between Sherlock and Moriarty is also particularly intriguing, and as he tells the show’s protagonist—“every fairytale needs a good old-fashioned villain. You need me, or you’re nothing.” Moriarty is psychopathic, sadistic and incredibly intelligent, and is therefore a criminal genius. People also find him difficult to read and anticipate, as he can change his tone and behavior all within one sentence. Even Sherlock struggles predict his next move. This all makes him a highly entertaining character, even if he is particularly evil and dangerous. Where his nemesis is a “consulting detective,” Moriarty brilliantly labels himself as the world’s only “consulting criminal.”
8. Gus Fring
Although Gus Fring is a drug kingpin and main antagonist on Breaking Bad, he is still a character that you love to hate. This largely comes down to how impressive he is at concealing his enormous drug empire, and he always appears to be one step ahead of Walter White. The two meet in an unforgettable scene where Gus does not reveal himself after Jesse turns up to the meeting high, and this is typical of his cautious behavior. He is seen by most as a respected proprietor of a successful fried chicken chain, as well as a public booster for the local DEA office. Personality wise, he is also very polite, quiet and humble. This means that nobody suspects him of unsavory behavior and he is able to “hide in plain sight,” but he proves himself to be a formidable adversary who is very good at what he does.
7. Junior Soprano
The official boss of the DiMeo crime family, Junior Soprano is the mentor and uncle to Tony Soprano. There is a power struggle found between the two, as Tony is a fast riser and Junior proves himself to be arrogant, impulsive and feels threatened by those around him. This makes him a very dangerous character (although he never does his own dirty work), and he even orders an unsuccessful hit on Tony after he believes Tony was conspiring against him, as well as a mock execution on Christopher. He is responsible for many deaths throughout the series, but his dangerous side is contrasted by his failing health, and as the show goes on he becomes more and more fragile. His mental state gradually deteriorates, which causes you to sympathize with him, but his actions throughout the entirety of the show make him a threatening character that you love to hate.
6. Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell
Just the image alone of T-Bag is enough to send shivers down the spines of Prison Break fans, and Robert Knepper did a terrific job of portraying the creepy, violent and psychopathic character who is also cunning and charismatic. The leader of a white supremacist group inside the prison, he is a primary antagonist for much of the show. Despite this, he is part of the group that escapes, and consequently they all have to work together. There are times where you even find yourself rooting him on. More and more of his background is revealed as the show goes on, and he also begins to change and show disillusionment for his actions. Although this somewhat changes the perception, there is still no excuse for many of his shocking actions, and his cunning evil is what makes him such a fascinating and brilliant character.
5. Ben Linus
There are several fascinating characters on Lost, and Ben Linus is certainly one of these and one who undertakes a huge character arc as the show progresses. He is introduced as an antagonist in the second season as the leader of the Others, and is an intriguing villain who is eloquent but also the master of manipulation and murder. His eerie manner makes him particularly untrustworthy, which is largely aided by the spectacular performance of Michael Emerson (earning Emmy nominations from 2007-2010 and winning in 2009). He later becomes an uneasy ally to the survivors and his flaws and insecurities are revealed, but his motives remain unclear. This makes him somewhat likeable whilst still being unsure of him, but it soon becomes apparent that he is now the one being manipulated and not is not at all the puppet master he once seemed to be.
4. Gemma Teller
Brilliantly played by Katey Sagal, Gemma Teller is a particularly intriguing and complex character on Sons of Anarchy and is integral to the show. Mother to Jax, widow to J.T. Teller and wife to Clay Morrow, Gemma is the typical matriarch who prioritizes family over everything else and will do whatever it takes to get her way. Whilst there are elements of her character which are likeable, her actions over the series are utterly shocking and the majority of the problems that arise for the club are Gemma’s fault. There are periods where you actively root for Gemma, and she also goes through plenty of personal trauma herself, but ultimately she is an antagonist. Creator Kurt Sutter (who is married to Sagal) does a fantastic job of creating dark and complex characters that are hard to pigeonhole, and Gemma Teller is a prime example of this.
3. Ramsay Bolton
Whilst Joffrey is the first villain that springs to mind when discussing Game of Thrones, Ramsay emerges later in the show and proves himself to be even more evil, psychopathic and despicable. Very violent and sadistic, he physically and psychologically tortures Theon Greyjoy and turns him into his own broken pet called “Reek.” He later weds Sansa Stark (to solidify an alliance with House Stark) and he begins to abuse her. He sees torture and abuse as some kind of sick game, and even admits that doing so makes him feel powerful. He is intelligent and even delivers some occasional comedy, but none of this makes him a likeable character. We simply love to hate him because he is pure evil and inflicts so much pain on the protagonists of the show.
2. Stringer Bell
Although very much a villain, you sometimes find yourself cheering for Stringer Bell as he is effortlessly cool, suave and intelligent. He is second in command to drug kingpin Avon Barksdale on HBO’s The Wire, and he is the brains of the operation, as he studies economics and tries to run the operation much like a business. He attempts to legitimize the operation by investing in housing and buying influence from politicians, but he is still shown to be brutal and ruthless (although not as bloodthirsty as Avon). Seeing as he is more of a businessman and planner than a gangster, this makes him a likeable character. But he will also act swiftly and violently as soon as any threats appear, which can be shocking. Being played by the very talented Idris Elba also helps to make him a popular character despite the fact that he is an antagonist.
1. Joffrey Baratheon
One of the most talked about and universally hated television characters of all time, Joffrey Baratheon was key in making Game of Thrones as popular as it is today. Joffrey claims the Iron Throne after his legal father died, however, he is actually a product of an incestuous relationship between his mother and uncle. He is sadistic, immature and cruel, and enjoys nothing more than humiliating others (particularly his uncle, Tyrion Lannister). Due to his cruelty and violent streak, everybody in Kings Landing fears Joffrey, and even his own mother knows how horrible he can be. Whilst you never cheer for Joffrey and everyone wants him to get his comeuppance, the fact that he is shockingly evil makes him a very entertaining character and the show greatly benefits from his presence. Jack Gleeson does an excellent job portraying him, but he will now forever be known for portraying this astonishing character.