Every good story usually needs a good villain. There are also times when the villain may not be a classic Shakespearean villain or a Machiavellian character, they could just be characters who are misunderstood or characters whose actions are tied to their respective fates. So, here is a list of 9 misunderstood villains from the world of films and television.
Roy Batty - Blade Runner
Ridley Scott’s dystopian cyberpunk film was not well received upon release in 1982. Over the years it has become one of the most iconic films ever made. The android, Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer, is portrayed as the villain. At the end of the film, he delivered a monologue to Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, which forces the audience to rethink the plot, narrative and ultimately sympathise with Roy Batty. It dwells into the ethical conundrums surrounding artificial intelligence.
John Kreese - Cobra Kai
The ultimate villain of the 80s in The Karate Kid and in the modern era in the sequel series Cobra Kai. The abusive Karate instructor and Sensei of the original Cobra Kai is a man everyone loves to hate. However, in season three of Cobra Kai, Kreese’s backstory was fleshed out and revealed the pain and tragedy he suffered when he was deployed in Vietnam as a soldier. He is in fact a person suffering from severe PTSD, something the writers might delve into in the upcoming fourth season.
Severus Snape - Harry Potter series
Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series is one of the most tragic characters ever written. Snape was always teased as a 50/50 character, eventually turned into a villain by the sixth book/film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It was not until the final book/movie was it revealed that Snape had a tragic story and all of his actions were in fact, justifiable. It could even be argued that he deserved to be called a hero. The late Alan Rickman was phenomenal in his role as the loyal anti-hero Severus Snape.
Luca Changeretta - Peaky Blinders
"Instead of sending you a black hand, I could've killed you in the night without knowing why. But I want you to know why, and I wanna suggest to you that we fight this vendetta with honour."
Luca Changeratta was a mobster, a criminal, and the leader of a large criminal organisation - but so was Thomas Shelby, the hero of the story. Changeratta, played by Oscar winner Adrien Brody, only wanted vengeance for what Cillian Murphy’s character, Thomas Shelby, did to Changeratta’s father. Luca Changeratta conducted himself with honour and tried his best to avoid any collateral damage with his gang war with the Peaky Blinders. The line that separates the hero from the villain, in this case, is a blur.
Magneto - X-Men series
Erik Lensherr or Magneto is often the villain to Charles Xavier’s X-Men. Magneto’s motives are to keep his kind, mutants, safe from human discrimination and persecution. Of course, he took a very violent and aggressive stance for his revolution, but for a man who is a survivor of the Holocaust, being paranoid about oppression is understandable from a certain perspective.
General Zod - Man of Steel
The DC cinematic universe has had its fair share of ups and downs. However, it’s best villain to date is arguably General Zod from Man of Steel.
“I exist only to protect Krypton. That is the sole purpose for which I was born. And every action I take, no matter how violent or how cruel, is for the greater good of my people.”
Zod is a product of a flawed alien society in Krypton that has taken away the individuality of the people and their right to choose. People are given predetermined roles in society even before they are born. It is in fact an analogy for the caste system. Zod truly believed in his life’s purpose and his only mission in life was to rebuild his civilization on Earth, albeit at the expense of the human race. Michael Shannon was flawless in his portrayal as General Zod.
Gustavo Fring - Breaking Bad
A well respected entrepreneur in the society, Gus Fring however runs a criminal enterprise discreetly unlike the mobsters and gangsters seen in many films and TV shows. His feud with Walter White, was a deadly game of chess. With each passing episode it becomes murky as to who is good and who is bad. By the end of the season it’s clearly evident that Walter White is willing to cross the lines which even the supposed villain, Gus Fring, might be hesitant to. Fring’s backstory revealed that he deserves more sympathy than Walter White.
Hazel - The Umbrella Academy
An assassin sent by those who oversee space and time, Hazel evolved and became a character everyone rooted for, over the course of the first season of The Umbrella Academy. Hazel, a cold assassin who never flinched in any of his missions becomes disillusioned over the course of the season. He ultimately finds love and decides to turn a new leaf and joins Number Five and the others in the good fight.
Steppenwolf - Zack Snyder’s Justice League
The theatrical version of Justice League that released in 2017 had one of the most forgettable and generic supervillains in the superhero movie genre. The CGI design for the character was subpar, as well as his character arc. With the release of Zack Snyder’s definitive and original version of the Justice League, Steppenwolf received a much needed overhaul in both character and design. In this version he is banished by his master, the ruler of Apokolips Darkseid. His plans to conquer Earth is his desperate attempt to finally return home and win back his master’s trust. The audience is left to feel a little sympathetic towards the end after he is brutally speared through the back by Aquaman and decapitated by Wonder Woman. He is then thrown into the Boom Tube at Darkseid’s feet, who crushes the severed head with his boot.