Villains we love to hate, or just plain love, ranging from the deplorable to the deranged – I’ve chosen five of my favourites.
These are all characters who commit acts of selfishness, curelty or violence. Why do we like them? Are we bad for enjoying them? I like how a really good villain can convince us to side with them – and in the end, hold the mirror up to us, the viewer.
Cheeky chappy or malicious reprobate, Alfie’s motto is ‘you do what you want so long as you don’t hurt nobody’ which, as Alfie painfully learns, is precisely what he is doing.
Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver
Travis is an antihero that gets hailed as a hero because of his violent attack on the ‘scum, the dogs, the cunts, the filth, the shit…” But don’t forget – he first tried to kill a politician before he goes on a rampage on the downtown pimps of New York. Angry, mad, lonely and broken, Travis is a wounded Vietnam vet pushed to the edge.
Withnail – Withnail & I
Failed actor and furious alcoholic, Withnail rages, laments and drinks with a vengeance throughout the entirety of cult classic Withnail & I.
Alex DeLarge – A Clockwork Orange
Alex is a funny one, because we don’t ever really like or sympathise with his character. At once ominous and playful, he is a teenage delinquent and sadistic gang leader with few redeemable characteristics. Perhaps we enjoy him so much because all the other characters in the film are stupid and grotesque. Alex is intelligent, charismatic and cultured.
Leon – Leon/The Professional
Leon is a hitman, or ‘cleaner’. He kills people for a living (no women, no children), which, I think we can all agree, is pretty bad. Leon is also very endearing: we watch him ironing a shirt and drinking milk. He also looks after Matilda, and eventually sacrifices everything to help her. Does this redeem this cold-blooded killer?
Honourable mentions: Michael Corleone, Lisbeth Salander, Harry Calahan, Hannibal Lecter, D-Fens, Jules Winnfield, Alfie, Tom Ripley, Robin Hood, Patrick Bateman