Darth Vader was a really bad guy. He was also an ultra-cool cyborg with a laser sword, so it’s sort of hard to hate him outright.
On the other hand, these villains hated by the viewers just as much as those in the story. Don’t expect to find yourself rooting for any of these people, because between the lot of them, they barely scrape together a handful of redeeming features – and none of them make up for it with cool laser swords.
They’re the ones who make you desperately wish you could reach into the page/screen and give them one good, cathartic slap in the face, just to make yourself feel better until they come to their eventual sticky end. Fortunately, most of them have those… but not before we have to suffer a whole lot of despicable evildoing first. There are some spoilers ahead, so read with caution! These are the 15 Villains You Just Love to Hate – and their just desserts.
15. Ramsay Bolton
Game of Thrones‘ Ramsay Bolton is the kind of person who looks at Joffrey’s reputation and thinks “yeah, I want that, but even worse.” To that end, he goes out and commits every despicable act he can think of until he morphs into the actual human form of the devil emoji.
Sneering, maniacal and the very definition of cartoonishly evil, Ramsay’s portrayal eventually swelled to the point where he became the ultimate hate vacuum, sucking in all of the viewer’s ill-will and making us beg for him to die a slow, agonizing death via impalement on ten thousand blunt needles. Season six may have taken things slightly too far, having him send pointlessly gruesome letters, lopping off the heads of Direwolves (though at this point that’s basically a running gag) and generally being a massive, medieval douche who somehow still has people willing to work for him. And then there were the obligatory, drawn-out Theon torture scenes and that scene with Sansa that actually caused viewer complaints. Ramsay wasn’t exactly the most emotionally nuanced character. He didn’t ooze depth. But wow, it takes some serious effort to have people crying out for your violent death even more than they did for King Joffrey.
The Sticky End: Ramsay’s face is repeatedly introduced to the business side of a shield, courtesy of Jon Snow, after which said face is bitten off by dogs. And then the rest of him is bitten off, also by dogs. That sound you just heard is ten thousand thousand GoT fans sighing in relief.
14. Professor Dolores Umbridge
Harry Potter villains up to the fifth book who weren’t Voldemort didn’t make much of an impact; they consisted of ‘Timid Turban Guy’, ‘Pathetic Rat Man’ and ‘Crazy David Tennant’. Then along came Order of the Phoenix and the debut of Dolores Umbridge. If you didn’t outright forget about Voldemort, you were left wondering if he was really just a sweet, misunderstood guy compared to this sadistic hag-demon wearing the skin of a woman who really liked cats.
Umbridge technically wasn’t even the main villain of the piece, acting as more of an obstruction until the final act, but her monstrous portrayal made her easily more hated than any that had come before her and any who would come afterwards. Acting as the embodiment of that one teacher you loathed with the volume turned up 1000%, Umbridge forces Harry to carve (false) words into his hand, ousts Dumbledore from his position and turns Hogwarts into a dictatorship, then even considers using a forbidden curse to force non-existent information from an underage student.
And then to really hammer in how foul Umbridge truly was, she’s back for Deathly Hallows, where her patronus (a charm only possible using positive thoughts) is conjured by her enjoyment of the pain and suffering of muggle-borns being sentenced to prison on false charges. Not that we expected anything good to come from someone whose last name literally means “pain and insult.”
The Sticky End: Two, because one just wasn’t enough. Her final end has her sent to Azkaban for her crimes, but before this, Order of the Phoenix sees Umbridge carried off into the forest by a horde of centaurs, and only rescued hours later.
Played by David Tennant in an endless array of really nice suits, Kevin Kilgrave is your average mind-controlling scumbag with a really, really obvious name. As Jessica puts it, “Was Murder-Corpse already taken?”
Any ambitions you have of seeing Kilgrave as a victim of his own psyche lie in ruins by the end of Jessica Jones, with him outed as a serial rapist with no concept of his actions, a viciously casual murderer and a psychopathic man-child with no sense of responsibility. Armed with the ability to compel people to do anything he wants using his voice, he chooses to employ his power to live a life of extravagance and wealth, picking up random women, abusing them and then kicking them to the curb when they get boring. We’re left with the solid belief that any good within Kilgrave has been utterly crushed by a life of him getting everything he’s ever wanted, causing him to develop the traits of the ultimate stalker and murderer. He lives by his own twisted code where everything he does can be either justified or pinned on someone else, usually a fun combination of both.
Despite all his charm and charisma, not even David Tennant can take a sadist and play him as anything other than a human monstrosity.
The Sticky End: Kilgrave’s obsession with Jessica eventually leads to a confrontation at the docks. Convinced that his enhanced powers finally work on her, poor Kevin gets a little bit taken with himself, allowing her to snap his neck.
12. Alfrid Lickspittle
On the opposite end of the well-written scale comes Alfrid Lickspittle, with an equally obvious name but lacking any of the charm, or menace, or decent characterization. He’s hardly a villain, more of a try-hard who pales in comparison to the actual army of orcs just over the hill.
Introduced as the mean-spirited aide to the Master of Laketown, Alfrid unfortunately managed to survive Smaug’s attack on the town and stick around for another movie of wacky antics and poorly-timed comic relief. Pluck him out of the film and the whole thing just keeps going, partially because he wasn’t in the original book and partially because he’s just the worst.
Initially charged with watching for danger, Alfrid utterly fails to see an entire army of elves coming until they’re literally at the doorstep. He then shirks his responsibility during the battle, dresses up like a woman, steals some gold, gets in a few more of his wacky comic relief moments while actual plot things and countless deaths are happening all around. Nobody in-universe besides Stephen Fry wanted anything to do with Alfrid Lickspittle, and it’s very easy to see why; it’s just kind of a shame that the viewers had to sit through it as well. No offense to Ryan Gage, though; you worked with what you had.
The Sticky End: The extended edition of The Five Armies gives us a scene where Alfrid hides inside a catapult while Gandalf struggle to fight a troll and screw in his staff crystal at the same time. An ironic coin falls from Alfrid’s dress, activates the machine and launches him into the mouth of the troll, killing them both. It’s a terrible scene and makes Gandalf look like a complete doofus, but…hey, Alfrid’s dead!
11. Joffrey Baratheon
And then there’s this guy. Jack Gleeson has actually received death threats for his portrayal of Joffrey Baratheon, which doesn’t really seem like a fair trade off when his only crime is being a really good actor, but it speaks volumes about how loathed this fictional character was.
A bastard prince, the son of his mother and uncle and the wearer of a near-permanent sneer, Joffrey later takes the throne as possibly the worst king Westeros has ever had. Convinced that he’s so wonderful as to be divinely appointed, Joffrey abuses his position, makes one awful decision after another, has Ned Stark executed and is generally a wholesale tyrant, making his subjects miserable while he convinces himself that’s he doing a bang-up job. He’s also needlessly cruel to Tyrion, and tormenting a fan-favourite character is always a one-way ticket to fan hatedom.
Combined with being an abject coward, tormenting Sansa Stark at every opportunity and using others as scapegoats for his many failures, Joffrey and his smirking blonde mug managed to alienate pretty much anyone who wasn’t his own mother, causing many to actively seek his death. For the good of the kingdom, of course.
The Sticky End: Joffrey is eventually poisoned during his own wedding feast with a deadly concoction slipped into his wine. He dies in agony. The kingdom shrugs and welcomes his inexplicably nicer younger brother to the throne.
Now please enjoy this ‘Joffrey Slap Edition’ of the GoT theme.
10. Lex Luthor (Batman V Superman)
We are not talking about Lex Luthor from the comics. Nope, this is specifically the Jesse Eisenberg version.
Regardless of whether you loved or hated what Eisenberg did with the character, one thing is for sure: this isn’t like any Lex Luthor we’ve ever seen before. In fact, this is more of a Joker/Riddler/Luthor hybrid, emotionally unstable and taking immense and obvious glee in the suffering of his enemies. Also, he’s totally nuts.
This is what makes him so different from the calm, collected Lex seen elsewhere, who could plausibly run for president and have at least someone take him seriously. Eisenberg’s Lex is pure manic energy and 100% contemptible, casually murdering both his loyal employees and innocent people all as part of his ongoing smear campaign against Superman. The end goal? Kidnapping Martha Kent and ordering her death by immolation if he doesn’t receive the Batman’s head. And then when Superman shows up late, Lex actually seems giddy at the thought that Martha has just suffered a horrific death. There are plenty of words for this guy, but most of them would have to be represented by little stars and exclamation marks.
Then there was that time that he unleashed an unstoppable killing machine on the world, purely because he was a sore loser.
9. The Dursley Family
They might not quite have had the impact of Professor Umbridge, but the in their own quiet way, the Dursley family made Harry Potter’s life miserable for his entire childhood and even beyond, earning them the scorn of countless readers.
Never villains in the true sense, the trio of Dursleys are presented as some of the worst the muggle world has to offer. Despite their knowledge of magic, they seem content to live their suburban existences, which would be totally fine if they weren’t outright cruel to Harry for his entire life for really insubstantial reasons. Everything that Vernon and Petunia do can be summed up in terms of lavishing underserved praise on Dudley or doing their best to ruin Harry’s life, while Dudley eventually evolves into a criminal bully with a yellow streak a mile long.
In fact, the characters are almost like the stereotypically awful sort you might find in a Charles Dickens novel, delighting in tormenting orphans, abusing their power and not having a drop of goodness anywhere in their wretched souls. To say nothing of Aunt Marge, who manages to top them all in the space of a single scene. A charming family indeed.
The Sticky End: None to speak of, since the Dursleys weren’t true villains. Dudley even manages to reform and make his peace with Harry, to an extent. However, their verbal annihilation in The Half-Blood Prince, courtesy of a quietly furious Dumbledore, was still pretty gratifying.
8. Charles Magnussen
Moriarty was pure evil, but also loads of fun.
The same can’t be said for Charles Augustus Magnussen, a businessman with all the creep factor of Kilgrave and absolutely none of the charm. The similarities don’t end there, with Magnussen excelling in blackmail and manipulation, forcing people to bend to his whims and enjoying every minute of it, clearly.
And then if being dang nasty evil wasn’t enough, it’s what Magnussen does with that power. Not content with simple blackmail, he takes pettiness to the extreme, starting with threats of sexual abuse and tapering down to forcing Watson to stand still while his face gets flicked. Charles Magnussen is the type of petty minded sadist who fried ants with a magnifying glass as a child, but instead of growing out of it, he got rich enough to fry people’s lives instead. Every second of screen time has Magnussen oozing an aura of creepy so strong, Charles Manson would tell him to tone it down a notch.
The Sticky End: For the honest-to-goodness third finale in a row, Sherlock realizes that he’s in over his head with an evil mastermind… except this time, literally the only solution is to pull out a gun and blow Magnussen’s brains out. As deaths go, it was quicker than he deserved.
7. President Snow
In terms of bad guys who seemed utterly invincible, President Snow sits near the top of the list. Acting as the shadowy antagonist of the entire Hunger Games trilogy, technically making him responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children in the arena, thousands of Panem citizens and the general oppression of his entire nation – for no good reason, it must be said. Snow just liked being the boss, and he was totally okay with firebombing anyone who had a different opinion.
The character is more prominent in the film adaptations, played with all the sneering brilliance of Donald Sutherland yet cloaked in a grandfatherly guise that made him all the more vile. He’s the kind of guy who politely, serenely orders the death of your family and thinks nothing more about it than what cereal he had for breakfast that morning. In fact, Snow threatens to do just that with Katniss’ family and entire district, just because she made his government look bad that one time. And then he actually goes through with it. District 12 was wiped off the map because this guy was annoyed. The actions of the Capitol are portrayed as over-the-top, pointlessly evil at times, but it’s totally possible that Snow was just that drunk on power.
The Sticky End: Once again, a last minute antagonist switcheroo sees him executed off-screen/page, and it’s even insinuated that he died getting exactly what he wanted (Coin’s death). That’s real life, we guess. The bad guys don’t always get karmic endings.
6. Seymour Guado (Final Fantasy X)
There are plenty of video game enemies that encourage massive amounts of hatred, and if you’re good, the game lets you kill them with one of seventeen unique weapons. Few are like Final Fantasy X‘s Seymour Guado, however, since you have to put this smug prick down a grand total of four times before he finally stays dead.
The only other villains in this game were a humungous, mindless mutant whale and a little ball with some spiky bits and no personality. Meanwhile, Seymour is actually proactive in trying to destroy the world, having gotten the idea into his head that everyone would be better off dead and free from this mortal coil. To this end, he wants to become the aforementioned mutant whale and murder everyone in the world. It makes a lot more sense in context, but the one thing we know for sure is that Seymour is the mastermind behind most of the terrible events that happen during the course of the game. The party’s first battle forces you to contend with his Aeon, Anima, an ethereal demon who will wreck your day very quickly. Seymour’s smarmy mug manages to cheat death and return to commit genocide against the Ronso, creep on Yuna like some kind of undead pervert and make your gaming experience a living hell with zombie attacks. Hope you saved up all that holy water! It won’t help when Seymour decides to carpet bomb the entire battlefield, however.
He might skirt the edge of villains too cool to hate, but his creep-factor and refusal to die stop this Guado from truly making it over the line.
5. Cal (Titanic)
Titanic needed a villain that wasn’t a ginormous, neutral block of ice, so we got Cal. Fortunately not a real, historical person, Cal started off his villainous tenure by being a polite rich fellow with all the manners money could buy. Then he gets the slightest inkling that someone could be making a move on his girl, and suddenly he flings himself right off that slippery slope and into blatant theft and murder attempts.
Was all that just biding its time below the surface? It must’ve been pretty close, since Cal switches from snooty to psychopath in the space of a few scenes. It’s bad enough that he treats Rose like property, physically and emotionally abusing her. He then goes on to frame Jack for theft, and later tries to kill both of them for the sake of pride and ‘a shiny thing’.
The clincher comes when we see him frantically whacking people trying to get onto his life boat, establishing him as a world-class douche willing to save his own skin in the midst of a major tragedy but not willing to give others the same chance.
4. Walter Peck (Ghostbusters)
The obstructive bureaucrat to end all obstructive bureaucrats, Walter Peck is best remembered as the smarmy EPA inspector who blundered in without any knowledge of what the Ghostbusters were actually doing and tried to shut down their operation. That would be the operation keeping thousands of hostile ghosts inside a massive containment field. Despite being warned of the consequences of releasing a horde of destructive spirits on the city, Peck just thought it’d be a great idea to do it anyway. It didn’t turn out well for anyone, surprisingly,
It’s bad enough that he goes about his job with a near-permanent look of smouldering rage, but Walter Peck is supposed to be a safety inspector. He should be absolutely, 100% careful when it comes to his actions, and what he did was comparable to marching into a nuclear power plant and shutting down the reactor safeguards because you don’t think the people manning it are responsible. Sure, Mr Peck, that’s fine, but that’s not how your job works. Also, you just made the problem a million times worse. His crippling idiocy and incompetence meshes with his attitude of snarky superiority to create an antagonist who doesn’t even skim the concept of ‘evil’, but still makes you want to reach inside the screen and knock out his teeth for being a smug, brainless moron.
The Sticky End: His end is literally sticky, as Walter peck is last seen (in the movie, at least) doused in marshmallow goo and screaming to the heavens. We can be comforted in knowing that it probably took him hours to get that stuff out of his hair.
3. Nurse Ratched
Nurse Ratched is pretty much the reason psychiatric hospitals have a poor, and undeserved, reputation for all their staff being needle-happy psychopaths. Like how Jaws scared people off the beaches, Ratched’s terrifying presence and quiet axe-killer eyes became a picture of mental institutions worldwide and their ability to shock people into subservience (again, not true).
Nurse Ratched is introduced as the head nurse at the Salem State Hospital. We learn pretty quickly that she’s not in the gig because of her compassion for the mentally unwell, but instead runs the place like a prison with slight misdemeanours given disproportionate punishments and her screeching voice drowning out all protests. Ratched is the ultimate control freak, gleefully abusing her power yet remaining granite-faced like some kind of humanoid gargoyle sent to torment the world of the living. The film doesn’t exactly need to employ much manipulation to get us in the camp of the plucky, rule-breaking newcomer, since Nurse Ratched is just that despicable. Unlike Walter Peck, she isn’t even trying to do her job right, since she withholds medication on a whim, humiliates those in her care and eventually uses lobotomy as an actual punishment. So yeah, as medical professionals go, she’s not the best.
The Sticky End: Despite managing to lobotomize the one man who stood against her, a bout of near-strangulation and the patients losing their fear of her leaves Nurse Ratched a whispering shadow of her former self, no longer in a position of power.
2. The Vulture (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a comedy, so you’d expect any real antagonists to be either cartoonishly sinister or still amicable despite their crimes; case in point, Doug Judy AKA The Pontiac Bandit.
This just makes The Vulture’s presence all the more grating, since his genuinely funny moments are few and far between, while he spends most of his screen-time acting as a moronic, bullying, credit-swiping jerk, totally in love with himself and lacking any motivation to do his job properly. Named ‘The Vulture’ due to his habit of stealing cases that are pretty much solved and taking the credit, he’s every single terrible co-worker you’ve ever had, multiplied by a thousand and rolled up into one deplorable package. Add into the mix a boatload of discrimination, unwanted sexual advances and a planet-sized ego and he’s the perfect arch-nemesis of the Nine-Nine precinct, who are an odd bunch that are still committed to their jobs (more or less).
This is a character that goes way beyond simply obnoxious, causing him to become as loathed in the fandom as he is in-universe, with some going so far as to say that he doesn’t belong in a comedy show. Whether that’s true or not, The Vulture is a far greater threat to the Nine-Nine than any criminal.
The Sticky End: No major comeuppance so far, given the ongoing nature of the show. However, a few episodes have seen him beaten at his own game, and then there was that one time they flooded his office with tear gas.
1. Emperor Commodus
Emperor Commodus was already a pretty terrible ruler in real life, renowned for being corrupt, killing people in the arena who were pretty much served up to him on a platter and having another one of those planet-sized egos. He was also just really terrible at his job, leading to him eventually being assassinated.
Thus the film version of him in Gladiator can’t have been all that hard to write, seeing as they just threw in some incest and Joaquin Phoenix’s face and more or less called it a day. Introduced killing his own father to become emperor, Commodus quickly goes downhill in everyone’s opinion when he orders the brutal deaths of Maximus’ wife and son. The movie afterwards is mostly Maximus working his way up the gladiatorial ranks to get his chance at killing Commodus, and from everything we see of one of Rome’s worst emperors, it seems like a foregone conclusion.
Commodus then cements his reputation as a cheating snake by fixing matches, then stabbing Maximus in the side before their duel. Everything about this guy just secretes slime and villainy, from Joaquin’s Phoenix’s permanent disdainful face to how he abuses his own family. His attempts at incest may have been an invention of the film, but looking at Commodus from history and fiction, it’s easy to see him being okay with that sort of thing.
The Sticky End: Despite totally tipping the scales in his favour, Commodus is bested in his fight against Maximus, rejected by his people, shanked in the neck and left to rot in a shallow grave, to the immense sadness of no one.
Know any more fictional characters who are need of a good kick to the teeth? Let us know in the comments!