Good villains in literature


Villains. The characters we love to hate and hate to love. A good fictional villain is not just some evil person, though there are definitely some excellent exceptions. The best villains in fiction are complex characters – sometimes they even believe they are doing the right thing – who have great reason and motivation for their actions. So I’ve put together a list of 50 villainous baddies from the pages of fiction throughout history.

That’s a lot of malice for one post, so I’m going to break it up, presenting five today. Without further ado:

50. General Teuche Kunessin – The main character in K.J. Parker’s The Company (2008, Orbit Books), Kunessin is a special kind of deuche. He spends an entire war inspiring in others the ability to do the impossible, and forms a lifelong bond of loyalty with them, earning their respect and devotion. It isn’t until after Kunessin and company have retired to a captured and unguarded island that it is discovered their beloved leader has betrayed them all.

49. Cruella de Vil: Can you get much more villainous than wearing the fur coats of cute little puppies? The character has been made infamous thanks to the Disney film, but she first appeared in Dodie Smith’s novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. (1956, Heinemann). If she were an actual person, I’m sure she’d have to deal with some of the more radical PETA supporters.

48. Claudia: Any vampire can be seen as an evil character. Let’s face it, undead = bad, especially during today’s current zombie craze. But to corrupt an innocent child by turning her into an undead creature that must kill to survive, that’s good writing. In Anne Rice‘s Interview With the Vampire (1976, Alfred A. Knopf) we read of Claudia’s transformation taking place as well as the cursed effect of her immortal youth upon her psyche.

47. Bill Sikes: A criminal with no redeeming qualities, Sikes can be found murdering, robbing, beating his girlfriend to death and beating his dog in the pages of Oliver Twist (1837, Richard Bentley) by Charles Dickens. Sikes is a brutal, bad man who comes to a suitable end and definitely belongs on this list.

46. Jack: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but playing turned him into a psychopathic attempted murderer in Stephen King‘s The Shining, (1977, Doubleday), so maybe all that work wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Though he didn’t actually kill them, in the grips of madness, Jack tried to murder his own family.  Though he failed, he is still one of King’s most memorable bad guys.  King is well-known for the depth of character he provides not just for his villains, but for all his characters.  Don’t be surprised if you see more of his characters pop up on this list in future posts.

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