It’s been the plot of many movies since the silent film era. The audience gets introduced to the good guy, normally a tall, dark and exceptionally muscled man; we meet his lover, the fair faced blonde that always seems to get in to trouble, then boom! The peace is broken and the bad guy is introduced. It is the way all films go. There is balance, conflict, and then finally – equilibrium.
As films have progressed and Hollywood has become bigger and mightier, the villain in film has evolved from the distasteful hunch backed, top hat wearing, impressive moustache bearing man in black, to the strangely likable sociopath who in no way, shape or form resembles anything like the comical villains of the ‘20s and late ’30’s. In fact, the villains have changed into the guise of ’ bad boys’, ones that everybody -especially women- find oddly intriguing.
Every good guy has to have a bad guy. Every superhero has to have a super villain. Not only does it make for good TV and film, but it also appeals to our thirst for conflict and adventure as well as telling the age-old story of good versus evil. We as human beings love to see relatable people overcome great odds and save the day. We strive for justice and are attracted to the scenario of good triumphing over evil. But that does not necessarily stop the little voice in the back of our head asking ‘Why can’t the bad guy win for once?’
There has been at least one movie that we have all watched where the villain makes more of an impression on the viewer then the actual hero. Anyone can be the good guy, save the day and get the girl. It takes real guts to be the guy that wants to destroy the world in spectacularly inventive ways.
Take the Joker for example. A vicious, calculating, psychopathic killer with a clown like appearance, who finds amusement in mass murder and terrorism. Although we might not love him as a person, he makes much more of an impression in the movies then Batman himself ever has. We find ourselves drawn to him more than the masked vigilante millionaire who, in my opinion, at times can come across as a spoilt brat. Another thing about The Joker (again in my opinion) is that he is the Prince of Villainy. Other villains may pale in comparison to him and there is no motive for his actions except pure amusement as in his uncontrollable madness, he causes untold suffering.
As villains have evolved, they have become darker, more intelligent and a lot more appealing and relatable. Take Bane for example. Played by British actor Tom Hardy, He is another Batman villain who sees himself as a hero in his own story. Unlike the Joker, Bane has reasons for his actions and motives for his warped sense of the world. His intelligence draws the audience in, his back-story causes the audience to feel sympathy, making the viewer question the good guys, and perhaps even come to an understanding of why Bane did the things he did.
Last of the male villains (out of the many I could have mentioned) is of course Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, another British actor that makes you love the character you are supposed to hate. Tom brings a certain finesse and intelligence to the fictional Nordic villain. His distinct gravelly voice lets you know that he is in change.
They say that the British make the best villains. I whole heartedly agree.
But where would this article be without a mention of the villains that have brought our male heroes to their knees since the beginning of the silent era, the villains that instead of doing their own duty work, use their wit and their sexual advantages to make the hero do it for them? I am of course talking about the femme fatale.
Considering this ancient archetype dates back long before film was invented, I shall be sharing with you three characters ‘I’ think fit the description perfectly. Starting with the original ‘New woman’ Marlene Dietrich as Concha Perez in “The Devil is a Woman. The character of Concha might not be a murderous psychopath hell-bent in destroying the human race and everything it stands for, but villains do not always have to be killers to take the title of the ‘baddie’ especially when it comes down to the femme fatale.
Probably the most dangerous female played in Dietrich’s long filmography, the emotionless character of Concha effortlessly causes two men to fall madly in love with her, than continually leads both of them on, causing people to get hurt and hearts to break. Her pure, detached state towards the whole situation during the movie causes the audience to have a love- hate relationship with the character. They hate her because she is, for lack of a better word, a total bitch and they love her for the exact same reason. The cool way she handles situations and the way she has both men wrapped around her finger gives her a certain power, and if there is one thing audiences love, it’s a powerful woman.
The second female villain worth mentioning carries a sword, wears an eye patch and appears to have no conscience whatsoever. You may have guessed who it is- it’s Ellie Driver, from ‘Kill Bill.’ She is dangerous and sexy, and all boxed up into a psychotic little package. Ellie Driver is the type of villain that draws you in for no other reason than being a fun loving lunatic with a thirst for revenge. A woman who does her own thing whenever she wants and a woman that can hold her own in a fight.
I know most of the villains I have mentioned so far (excluding the last two) have been from comic books, but where would the wonders of female villainy be without the sexy and surprisingly relatable Mystique, the acrobatic, shape shifting blue mutant hell-bent on protecting herself and her kind. Cast out because of who she is, I think we can all connect to this baddie in one way or another. Think of her as the genetically mutated femme fatale. She is sexy, dangerous and believes she is the hero in her own story.
All of the villains who I have have mentioned (and many more) have one thing in common. POWER. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a women, deep down we are still just animalistic and primal beings, attracted to power. To me, that is what villains are all about.
In conclusion, I’d like to say I think that everybody loves a villain, even if they won’t admit it. There is something about the rebellious nature of the bad guy or girl that we all admire, that we all secretly strive to achieve. We may not have the urge to go on a murderous rampage and destroy large cities with shiny expensive weapons and our army of henchmen (and if you do have that urge, please seek help immediately or call me for a chat) but all of us have the little feeling of rebellion, that voice that tells us just do something because you want to do it. The urge to rebel against a conforming society and truly be free is a powerful emotion. And because the bad guys normally lose one way or another in the films, that doesn’t necessarily mean they lose in real life…. right?
Now I am in no way trying to convince you to become a super villain, but we as human beings have a fascination with the side of things that we do not experience often, the side of things that are free of tiresome rules and regulations.
But, again, that’s just my thoughts on the subject. Who are your favourite villains and what makes them so likable?