10 movie & TV show villains we secretly love


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From the classic tale of David and Goliath to modern-day blockbusters, the idea of the hero triumphing over the villain is a staple of storytelling. However, the lines between good and evil are not always clear-cut, especially in modern story-telling, where villains often come with layers of complexity and a backstory that makes them more than just one-dimensional antagonists.

While it is very human to root for the hero to overcome the villain, it is also human to empathize with what turned the villain into a malicious force.

This phenomenon is best demonstrated in the world of film and television, where villains have become increasingly complex and multifaceted.

Disney has succeeded in transforming some of the most notorious villains into beloved and relatable characters by giving layers and backstories to the villain. In fact, so much so that it wouldn’t be surprising to see a movie that delves into the backstory of the iceberg that caused the sinking of the Titanic.

The evolution of villains into multifaceted characters is a testament to the power of storytelling and the endless possibilities of character development that ultimately have us rooting for drug kingpins, psychopaths, and evil mythical creatures. Here are the ten movies and TV anti-heroes we all secretly love.

Walter White in "Breaking Bad" -

Walter White in ‘Breaking Bad’

 Even though we all knew “he was the danger and he was the one who knocks,” we all secretly wished for Heisenberg to drive off into the sunset with his meth fortune. Portrayed by Bryan Cranston, Walter White, the central character of AMC’s hit drama series “Breaking Bad,” is widely considered one of the most complex antiheroes in recent memory.

Even the creator of the series, Vince Gilligan, still cannot wrap his head around why we all rooted for Walt, although he is a terrible human being. Admitting in a recent New Yorker interview, “The further away I get from Breaking Bad, the less sympathy I have for Walter.”

Whether it’s the inherent rebellion against societal norms or the satisfaction of seeing a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who has been pushed around finally seize control of their own life, there’s something about Walter White that resonated with audiences.

However, in the end, Walter’s ultimate fate was a fitting one, but his character remains as a testament to what a well-written and well-acted antihero can accomplish.

The Joker in Dark Knight
Warner Bros / IMDB

The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’

Portrayed brilliantly by the late Heath Ledger, the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is a chaotic force of nature whose motives are almost impossible to comprehend. His twisted sense of humor and complete disregard for human life makes him a formidable opponent for Batman and a memorable character for audiences. From the iconic “Why so serious?” line to the maniacal laugh, the Joker has become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring countless memes and Halloween costumes.

While the ultimate villain and his actions are often heinous and irredeemable, the fact that so many people found themselves rooting for him is a testament to the power of Ledger’s performance and the depth of the character he created.

Darth Vader

Darth Vader in the ‘Star Wars’ franchise

Darth Vader is a villain who needs no introduction. From his menacing presence to his iconic breathing, he has become a cultural icon and one of the most memorable characters in cinematic history. But what is it about this dark lord of the Sith that has captivated audiences for decades?

Perhaps it is Vader’s tragic backstory that makes him such a compelling figure. Once a heroic Jedi Knight named Anakin Skywalker, he was seduced by the dark side of the Force and transformed into the iconic villain we know today. His descent into darkness was both tragic and fascinating, as he struggled to come to terms with his new identity while still clinging to his past.

Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Loki, the God of Mischief, has become one of the most beloved and complex characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Portrayed by Tom Hiddleston, Loki first appeared as a villain in 2011’s “Thor” but quickly gained a following among fans thanks to his charismatic personality, cunning schemes, and unexpected vulnerability.

Throughout his appearances in the MCU, Loki’s character has undergone a significant evolution. He has gone from being a power-hungry and manipulative villain to a more sympathetic anti-hero. This is partly due to the excellent writing and character development in the films and TV series but also thanks to Hiddleston’s remarkable performance who has brought an incredible depth and complexity to Loki, showcasing his inner struggles and conflicts in a way that resonates with audiences.

His chemistry with other characters, especially his brother Thor, has also been a highlight of the franchise.


Villanelle in ‘Killing Eve’

Only a character as well written and as well acted as VIllanelle in “Killing Eve” can make you outspokenly root for a cold-blooded psychopath who kills for the fun of it.

Portrayed by the brilliant Jodie Comer, VIllanelle is a skilled assassin with a penchant for fashion, luxury, and the finer things in life, which makes her a complex and intriguing character to watch.

“I’ve found that people really quite like her which, maybe they shouldn’t, but they do.” Comer told Harper Bazzar.

Her chillingly playful and carefree demeanor contrasts with her ruthless and cold-hearted nature, leaving viewers unsure of what she might do next. This, coupled with Comer’s exceptional performance, has made Villanelle one of the most memorable and beloved characters on television today.

Maleficent in 'Maleficent'

Maleficent in ‘Maleficent’

Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie in the 2014 movie of the same name, has become one of the most likable fictional characters in recent memory. Unlike the one-dimensional portrayal of the character in the original “Sleeping Beauty” story, this version of Maleficent is given a backstory and a depth of character that allows audiences to empathize with her.

Through Angelina Jolie’s exceptional performance, we see Maleficent’s strength, vulnerability, and pain. We witness the events that shaped her into the formidable villain she became and understand her motivations for seeking revenge.


Cruella de Vil in ‘Cruella’

Cruella de Vil is a character that has become synonymous with villainy in popular culture. In the 2021 movie ‘Cruella’, Emma Stone brings a new and fresh take on the character, revealing the story behind the infamous villain.

Unlike the original portrayal of Cruella de Vil as a heartless and evil woman who kidnaps puppies to make a fur coat, this version of the character is given a more sympathetic backstory. We see her struggles and her determination to make a name for herself in the fashion world, even if it means stepping on others to get there.

Stone’s performance as Cruella is captivating, showcasing both her rebelliousness and her vulnerability. She brings a sense of humor to the character that makes her more relatable and likable to audiences.

The Sopranos / HBO

Tony Soprano in ‘The Sopranos’

Tony Soprano, the protagonist of HBO’s critically acclaimed series ‘The Sopranos’, is a complex character that defies easy categorization. On the surface, he is a ruthless mob boss who commits heinous crimes without remorse. But as the show progresses, we see that there is much more to Tony than meets the eye.

Played masterfully by the late James Gandolfini, Tony is a man who is deeply conflicted about his position in life. He struggles with anxiety and depression, and his strained relationships with his family and friends only add to his emotional turmoil. Despite his criminal activities, there are moments when Tony shows empathy and kindness, which makes him a sympathetic character.


Gollum in ‘The Lord of the Rings’

‘We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious.” As Gollum, the iconic character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ series, shrieks these lines with utter obsession, even the most stoic viewer cannot help but feel sorry for and root for the doomed character.

Gollum is a unique example of an antihero. He is neither purely good nor purely evil but instead exists in a moral gray area.

Andy Serkis’ performance as Gollum in the Peter Jackson film adaptations is widely praised, capturing the character’s physical mannerisms and tortured psyche.

Despite his treacherous actions, Gollum is a tragic figure, driven by a desperate need to possess the Ring, and haunted by his own inner demons. His dual personality, constantly switching between Smeagol’s gentler nature and Gollum’s darker impulses, makes him a fascinating and complex character.

Fight Club

Tyler Durden in ‘Fight Club’

In the 1999 cinematic masterpiece Fight Club, we follow the descent of a forlorn and hapless man into a world of violence, conflict, and moral ambiguity, aided by a charismatic soap salesman named Tyler Durden portrayed by Brad Pitt.

From the moment we meet Durden, it’s clear that he’s a non-conformist who refuses to be dictated by society’s rules. Instead, he relishes in stirring up chaos and pushing people to discover their true selves, liberated from the constraints imposed by social norms. Despite his penchant for destruction and anarchy, Durden’s character captivates us, and we find ourselves rooting for him as he fights against the evil machinations of corporate power.