The Five Best Villains in Fiction (and Why we Love to Hate Them)

The Five Best Villains in Fiction (and Why we Love to Hate Them)

Matthew Gurteen

‘There’s no hero without a villain’, Mark Pellegrino says. Whether you love or hate them – or love to hate them – villains are an essential part of most fiction. From Sherlock Holmes’s archnemesis Moriarty to the Wolf in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, villains create conflict for the protagonists to face and, in turn, drive the plot forward. Many people even have their favourite villains as much as their favourite heroes. In this article, we will give you our top five villains in fiction from various genres and explain why we love them so much. Understanding what makes villains great in other people’s fiction can significantly improve the antagonists in our own.

Count Dracula – Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’

Our first favourite villain is a classic terror from many people’s childhood, Count Dracula from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel ‘Dracula’. Based on the murderous fifteenth-century figure of Vlad the Impaler, Dracula is a supernatural being capable of changing his shape at will and infecting his victims with his disease when he sucks their blood. He is an ever-present, almost unbeatable threat in Stoker’s original novel. It is no wonder he has been adapted into several books and movies since. Some of these stories even turn Dracula into the protagonist!

Hannibal Lecter – Thomas Harris’s ‘Red Dragon’

Although Dracula may be a figure of Gothic terror, our next villain represents another form of horror entirely. Not many people know that Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins in the 1991 thriller ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ is based on a character from a novel. Thomas Harris’s ‘Red Dragon’ introduced the character, and he has survived to haunt many sequels, films, and television shows. Not only psychopathic but intelligent, too, it is no surprise Lector is many readers’ favourite villain.

Sauron – J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’

As frightening as Lecter is because he could exist, some completely fantastical villains are equally terrifying. Sauron is one such villain. Although formless for much of J. R. R. Tolkien’s infamous ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, Sauron was initially a great wizard. Indeed, he forged a weapon so powerful that takes an epic three books to defeat him!

Lord Voldemort – J. K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series

As much as it took three books to defeat Sauron, however, it took the protagonists seven to defeat our next villain. Lord Voldemort, also known as Tom Riddle, from J. K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series was many readers’ first encounter with true villainy. Intent on creating a pure race of wizards, Voldemort has frightening parallels with the real world. It is no wonder that Voldemort is also known as the Dark Lord!

The Magisterium – Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ series

Indeed, villains in children’s books can often be frightening. They do not always have to be one person. The infamous Magisterium of Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ series is also worth a mention for its horror and real-life parallels. A corrupt religious order in a parallel world, the Magisterium pursue the child protagonist, Lyra, into our in an attempt to thwart her.

This has been our list of the top five villains in fiction. Do you have a favourite villain in fiction? Let us know who/what it is in the comments below along with why you love them!