The wait is over.
“Suicide Squad” has hit the theaters, and while the initial reviews are looking less than favorable, it’s undoubtedly the biggest coming-together of lovable rogues for one single movie.This got us thinking: what is it about certain bad guys that we’re drawn to. And which in cinema are the most endearing?
Today we’re not just talking antagonists with likable qualities, but bona fide bad guys who you can’t help but want to see win.
- Dr. Hannibal Lecter (The “Hannibal” Franchise)
It’s an exceptional feat of writing to make an audience root for a murderous psychopath who thinks nothing of turning a flautist’s liver into pate and serving it to dinner guests.
In theory, we should despise Dr. Hannibal Lecter as the monster that he is. But due to his limitless charm, willingness to help the story’s underdog (Clarice Starling), and the gleeful delight he takes in torturing characters we also dislike (Dr. Chiltern, Paul Krendler, and Mason Verger, among others), it’s hard not to feel like he’s on our side.
We’ll ignore “Hannibal Rising.”
- Gru (“Despicable Me” franchise)
Animated features rarely switch up the notion of good guy/bad guy. More often than not, it’s very clearly defined which characters are “evil” and which ones we should be rooting for as an audience.
“Despicable Me,” on the other hand, places a classical super villain in the role of the protagonist –and to great effect. There is a more super-villainy super villain in the form of Vector, which frames Gru as a good guy in a relative sense and gives him someone to work against. But throughout the movie, Gru is very much intent on being the most typical bad guy on the planet.
Until, of course, his sensibilities change in the third act, giving Gru a story arc that follows The Hero’s Journey beat for beat.
- The Firefly Family (“Devil’s Rejects” and “House of 1000 Corpses”)
Make no mistake about it: the Firefly family are terrible, terrible people whose sadism and penchant for violence is utterly horrifying.
But paradoxically we want them to kill the dumb kids, and we definitely want them to escape from the rather unlikable Captain Wydell. In the universe Rob Zombie crafted across the two movies, their tale is one of outlaws sticking it to the man. Horror aside, it becomes something of a buddy road movie, and one which those with a strong stomach are invited to enjoy.
- Jareth (“The Labyrinth”)
If you can think of another baby-kidnapper who is more enigmatic, charming, and likable than Jareth, we want to hear about it in the comments.
Rest in piece, David Bowie.
- Patrick Bateman (“American Psycho”)
Like many of the other entries on this list, Patrick Bateman doesn’t have many redeemable character traits going for him. Not only is he a serial killer, but he’s a vain, materialistic investment banker.
Ultimately, however, we take a perverse joy in watching a man live an anarchic life and indulging in whatever whim takes his fancy.
- Alex Burgess (“A Clockwork Orange“)
From one anarchist to another, Alex Burgess (or DeLarge in the novel) is similar to Bateman in the sense that he eschews all social convention in favor of simply doing whatever he pleases: in Alex’s case, it’s spreading his own brand of “ultraviolence.”
But above it all, he’s sophisticated and charming – and even recognizes that not everyone should act like him, lest society completely collapse. He’s a complicated and endearing one-off, and for that we delight in his unruliness.
- The Joker (“The Dark Knight”)
Closing off with arguably the greatest interpretation of the greatest super villain of all time: Heath Ledger’s The Joker.
Bateman and Burgess have nothing on the Clown Prince of Crime. He not only displays zero affection for organized society or even the notion of “good and bad,” but he’s obsessed with forcing others over to his way of thinking.
A common thread here is that we secretly enjoy watching people act outside of “the rules,” and nobody does it with more flair and drama than The Joker.
Any we missed? Head on down to the comments and let us know your top super villains you can’t help but love…
… and your thoughts on “Suicide Squad” if you’ve seen it!