Every fan loves to hate supervillains. Sometimes, frankly, heroes are simply too boring. Villains manage to help keep things fresh and interesting. Whether they’re fighting a fan-favorite superhero or attempting to destroy the world, people love to discover what evil deed their favorite bad guy will commit next.
However, sometimes “supervillains” aren’t actually all that evil. Villains that seem down-right diabolical on the surface can be motivated by reasonable means, and may even have good intentions. A well-written villain will possess complexities that are morally ambiguous and keep fans wondering about their actions. If a film or comic book is viewed from an opposite perspective, the original antagonist could arguably become the protagonist.
Many supervillains believe that they are fighting for some kind of “greater good”-- regardless of how they achieve it. Whether motivated by trying to save their people or attempting to change the world from what they view as better, these villains may very well be the heroes of their own story.
Here are the 15 Fake Supervillians Who Are Secretly Heroes.
While it may appear that he simply wants to rule the world, it all really comes down to him being an insecure child attempting to win the favor of his family-- both biological and adopted. On Asgard, he believes that ruling the people is the ultimate way to impress his father.
Once he realizes that he won’t achieve this and finds out he is actually the descendant of a Frost Giant, he lashes out. He feels a need for acceptance and adoration. Everything he does is to achieve this, even if the means doing terrible things.
Even after the events of the first Avengers film, Loki addresses Thor as “brother.” Family is at the heart of everything Loki does, even if it’s a bit twisted.
14 Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy is a complex supervillain. She’s not a “bad guy” so much as she is an eco-terrorist. Although at times violent, all of her actions surround the well-being of the Earth and her plants. Her main goal, above all, is to save the environment.
While many fans classify her as a villain because she has no feelings toward humanity, there’s proof that says otherwise. She cares deeply for Harley Quinn and goes out of her way to support her when she and the Joker are on the outs. Just because Ivy isolates herself from humanity doesn’t mean she’s completely disconnected from it.
Unlike other villains, she does not commit crimes just for the sake of anarchy or evil. There are real goals behind her actions.
13 Ra's al Ghul
Ra al Ghul believes himself to be a hero. He is another villain whose goal isn’t unreasonable, but his means of achieving it are questionable. He sees the world as corrupted and wants peace by any means necessary- including murdering thousands.
He also seems to have great deal of respect for Bruce Wayne, often treating him as an equal. Any true evil supervillain wouldn’t treat a hero in such a respectful manner. This is because their relationship differs when it comes to their motives. The end goal of Batman and Ra’s isn’t all that different. The world is corrupt and needs to be changed. They just have opposing manners of achieving that goal.
If viewed from the League of Assassin’s point of view, Ra’s is indeed a hero.
12 Mr. Freeze
It could be argued that Mr. Freeze is the most sympathetic villain in the Batman universe. He only became a villain because of the love he felt for his wife. He resorted to crime when she contracted a fatal disease in order to find a cure for her illness.
Freeze hurt innocent people, but he never intended to become a villain. He just wanted to save his wife, regardless of the method. There are some doctors and scientists who choose to enter morally gray areas in order to find a cure for patients they don’t even know, so Freeze's logic isn't anywhere near unreasonable.
He takes his anger out on Gotham, but to his wife, Mr. Freeze could be considered a hero. He dedicated his life to saving her and is forever a criminal because of it. Many people would sacrifice everything for a loved one if it meant saving their life.
Similarly to Mr. Freeze, Sandman entered a life of crime in order to save a family member. He stole money so he could afford medical treatment for his sick daughter. In the process, he kills Uncle Ben while in a state of panic.
Although it’s a terrible act and seems unforgivable, he never set out intending to kill or harm anyone. He tells Spider-Man this at the end of the fight in Spider-Man 3. Even Spidey can tell he isn’t evil, and eventually lets him go in a moment of compassion.
Sandman did everything for his daughter. Many fathers would give up everything for their child. His only motive was to save the person he cares about most. This doesn’t sound very villainous.
10 General Zod
If you watch Man of Steel from Zod’s perspective, Superman is actually the villain. From the beginning of the film, Zod sees Jor-El doom the entire Kryptonian race by sending baby Superman into space. Zod was born to protect the Kryptonian race, so it's obvious that he spends the rest of the movie attempting to save his race, which was lost when Superman’s dad sent him to Earth.
When Zod arrives to Earth, he finds the other lone survivor (Superman). He tells him the plan to rebuild Krypton, and instead of allying with his people, Superman opposes Zod. After attempting to deal with him peacefully, Zod realizes that, in order to save all of his people, he must sacrifice one. He fails, and Superman ends up destroying all hope for the remaining Kryptonians.
While Zod did attempt to destroy Earth, it can be excused if viewed from his perspective, as he was trying to save everyone he loves and secure the future of his people, which was his sole purpose from birth.
Syndrome from The Incredibles wanted to be a hero from the very beginning, and practically begged Mr. Incredible to let him help. His heart was good until other people pushed him away. He wasn’t evil, he just wanted to be accepted.
Syndrome actually wanted to prove that people can become anything they want to be. Regardless of having powers or not, anyone can save the world. Although he goes to extreme methods to prove this point, including unleashing killer robots on unsuspecting citizens, the driving reasoning wasn’t all that bad.
He was a kid let down by his hero. That made him invent tools that could help people without superpowers. Really, he was trying to help people, not hurt them, he just ended up getting a little carried away.
Catwoman may be a more obvious character on this list. She’s an intriguing nemesis, known for being morally ambiguous. Catwoman steals regularly, but shes’s also been known to occasionally team up with Batman and Robin. Her role in the DC universe is constantly debated, and there never seems to be a solid answer about whether she's good or evil.
She claims to do what’s best for her, but it’s clear that she cares deeply for Bruce, and he seems to show a degree of trust towards her. Is being a great thief enough to classify someone as a “supervillain”? Catwoman seems to do more good than bad. She helps the impoverished and is always looking out for less privileged people.
Compared to other villains in Gotham, she’s an angel since her good acts outweigh her bad.
7 Captain Cold
Although he joined in with heroes on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Captain Cold is known to be a villain.
He doesn’t actively want to be evil, but he is self-serving. He does what he needs to do purely to benefit himself. He teams up with The Flash when it helps him. If it doesn’t, he ends up working against The Flash.
He tries to put on a cold exterior but, underneath it all, he has a good heart. He slowly grows to realize there’s more to life than crime. That’s why he ends up helping the Legends and ultimately sacrifices himself for them.
This doesn’t sound like something a “supervillain” would do. Captain Cold may have started as a villain, but he quickly evolved into a hero.
Ozymandias from Watchmen is one of the most frequently debated villains/heroes. Every one of his actions is motivated by the greater good-- saving humanity is the goal, whatever the means, even if this includes killing millions. This doesn’t mean that he never questions himself or his actions, though, which brings up the question-- hero or villain?
Villains don’t normally second guess their decisions or weigh the consequences. His thoughts aren’t bad, it’s his methods that are so questionable, and his sense of heroism is just a bit twisted. Ozymandias is driven to save lives, not take them. He actually has an optimistic view of mankind: if you sacrifice some, you’ll save many and the world will be a better place.
If his methods were a bit different, he would definitely be considered a hero.
5 Harley Quinn
Harley Quinn only became a villain because she fell in love. She began as a straight-laced doctor who only wanted to do her job well, but she eventually succumbs to the temptation of the Joker and becomes a psychotic villainess. She doesn’t necessarily choose evil-- she chooses madness. The Joker brought out her chaotic, impulsive side, so now she does what she wants whenever she wants to.
However, at the heart of her character, Harley believes in love. This is ultiamtely the motive behind her actions. In Suicide Squad, she decides to help Rick because the girl he loves is in danger. She envisions a life where her and the Joker are a happily married couple with a family.
A true “supervillain” wouldn’t have any goodness in their heart. She simply indulges every impulse she has, whether good or bad. She alternates between villain and hero depending on the day.
4 Lex Luthor
While at times blinded by greed and wealth, Lex Luthor actually fights for humanity. Not only that, but he evens stands up to a god (Superman) in the name of humanity. He fights against a threat that human beings cannot fight on their own. Superman has too much power, which means that, if he wanted to, he could force others to do his bidding, or even destroy Earth.
Lex is incredibly smart and has the means to create innovative technologies. He represents the best of human beings, even if his actions are questionable. He represents progress in the face of impossible odds.
He attempts to evolve the human race in order to better protect it. Rather than relying on a god to save him, Lex work hard so that one day humans will be able to protect themselves. In his mind, this makes him a hero.
3 Malcolm Merlyn
Malcolm Merlyn is an Arrow character who will do anything in the name of the greater good or for those he loves. The reason he trained with the League in the first place is because he wanted to protect this family.
The Green Arrow isn’t much different. Oliver Queen became a vigilante in order to make the city a better place, even killing people in order to make this happen. He would also do anything to protect this family, including reviving his sister in the Lazarus Pit. They have both teamed up at times.
Malcolm and Oliver aren’t that different, yet one is called a hero and the other a villain. Merlyn just believes that the end justifies the means. He uses extreme methods to achieve understandable outcomes.
Deadshot is a trained assassin who goes where the money takes him. He doesn’t seek out victims based on revenge or bloodlust, instead he is paid to kill people-- it's just a job. It’s not clear what side he’s on because, in most cases, he’s on his own side.
In Suicide Squad he does what he can to help save the world, so he definitely has heroic qualities. Deadshot builds a somewhat caring relationship with Harley Quinn. He cares deeply for his daughter and is willing to sacrifice everything for her, and even ends up getting arrested because she begs him to spare Batman’s life. Really, he’s just a loving dad with a really dangerous career.
On the surface, he seems like a “supervillain,” but in reality, he’s a man with a good heart who has made some bad choices.
Magneto is only a “supervillain” because he’s afraid. His ultimate fear is that mutant-kind will be wiped out. Mutants face constant persecution, and Magneto believes that the only way to stop this is to fight, regardless of the methods or the cost. It’s understandable that, after witnessing the Holocaust and facing so much discrimination, Magneto would be angry at human beings treat so-called "outsiders."
His morality is complex, but the place where his hate comes from is a result of the world around him. Peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants seems nearly impossible to him. After all that Magneto has seen, he believes that humans deserve to be punished. They inflicted pain (whether it be emotional or physical) on mutants, so now it’s time for mutants get their revenge.
Magneto is an extremist with many angry, passionate, and fed up followers. They believe he is the hero who will fight for their right to basic human freedoms.
Do you know of any other "supervillains" who are actually heroes? Let us know in the comments!