The action and fantasy film genres have produced some truly iconic heroes over the years. However, a hero is only as good as the villain they are paired up against. Every once in a while a movie’s enemy can steal the show, somehow becoming incredibly likable.
Whether they were given sympathetic traits or operating from a point of view that the audience can understand and the audience can relate to, these villains have continued to be loved by fans but are also consistently looked down upon. Sometimes the actors behind these characters are so extremely talented that their performances really take these villains to a new level of sympathy.
ten Severus Snape (Harry Potter)
The Harry potter franchise contains a number of complex characters. Being part of the fantasy genre, it’s perhaps easy to assume that many of these characters would be caricatures of real people, rather than three-dimensional actors and wield magic in a larger narrative.
Severus Snape acted like a villain for most of Harry’s journey, but was also a hero. Snape was a complicated man, torn between his love for Lily Potter, his loyalty to Dumbledore and his past as a Death Eater. He had a fitting ending to his arc and is one of the most beloved villains / heroes in the series. It was a great performance by the late Alan Rickman.
9 Killmonger (Black Panther)
Black Panther is one of Marvel’s most famous films, and a big part of the picture’s success is that of the villain, Killmonger. From the performance of Michael B. Jordan in each scene to the conviction of the character, this was a unique foe for T’Challa to face.
Killmonger certainly brought some notable political points to the table and many were sympathetic to the cause he was trying to fight. A man torn from his home and rejected by his people, there is something peaceful about his death. He is perhaps the best-built antagonist in the MCU, which makes him incredibly likeable despite forcing the King out of his throne.
8 Hans Gruber (Die Hard)
Another brilliant performance from the fantastic Alan Rickman, some of whom Die hard‘s the most notable scenes involve the main antagonist Hans Gruber. He’s always been the smartest man in the room and has stayed one step ahead of John McClane even in the most dangerous situations.
There is something oddly nice about this sociopath. Maybe it was his mind or his ability to change his personality to avoid detection, but when it comes to villains in action movies, there’s really no one quite as deadly as Hans Gruber.
7 Loki (MCU)
Loki is a complete wild card. He’s done a number of vile things, from trying to assassinate his own brother to enslave Earth for the benefit of the Mad Titan Thanos. At his heart however, Loki is still a social outcast who seeks acceptance in one way or another.
He has been redeemed constantly and yet also exhibits a number of despicable traits. The upcoming Disney + series is proof that audiences are still intrigued by the chaos that follows the trickster deity – a character who should truly be hated despite his charm.
6 Captain Barbossa (Pirates of the Caribbean)
The Pirates of the Caribbean The franchise introduced a line of instantly recognizable characters, but Captain Jack Sparrow was originally built due to his rivalry with Captain Barbossa. The ghostly leader of the Black Pearl, there was a quiet charisma in Barbossa that captured the public’s attention.
His popularity ultimately meant that the character was brought back from the dead for future installments before finally making his own sacrifice. It’s a huge arc to pull off and perhaps one of the most poignant of movies. Despite its introduction, Barbossa won over audiences and grew more likable as the franchise progressed.
5 The Terminator (The Terminator)
The Terminator was an action film built around the star Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was a bold move to make the actor the titular villain of the play, but despite his penchant for extreme violence, audiences were still drawn to Schwarzenegger’s portrayal.
The Terminator was instantly cool, with his one-liners and awesome costumes. Terminator 2 had to bring the character back into a heroic role to match the public perception of the villain. Ironically, the T2 Terminator also became very likable because of his many badass moments.
4 Megamind and tighten (Megamind)
DreamWorks has created a few notable franchises, but their plunge into the superhero genre with Megamind, combined with a number of comedic elements, was a truly refreshing studio project. Of course, the point of the film was to develop sympathy for Lex Luthor’s villain.
However, not only was Megamind himself extremely likable, but also the production’s main nemesis, Hal, who rebranded himself as Tighten. The two were sort of presented as underdogs in the narrative and despite their destructive nature, audiences still found themselves supporting the antagonists. That’s a shame Megamind I’ve never had a follow-up exploring this world further.
3 Boba Fett (Star Wars)
Introduced for the first time in the Star Wars Holiday Special then brought to the big screen in The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett was instantly cool. Very little was known to the public about the bounty hunter, but the silent killer garnered a lot of attention.
The character has evolved both in the Extended Universe and in the canon timeline. Although Boba Fett was instrumental in the downfall of the rebels and the capture of Han Solo, fans have always come to love this expert-designed clone.
2 Maleficent (Maleficent)
Maleficent Maleficent was one of many Disney villains who had their grim endings in the company’s animated films. A foil for Sleeping Beauty Aurora, Maleficent’s main claim to fame sent the princess into an endless slumber and transformed into a terrifying dragon.
The mystique around the character grew and grew, which ultimately led Disney to create the Maleficent franchise, an action-fantasy project that aimed to add extra layers to the character. Before that, however, this witch in her animated form was incredibly popular even after her terrible crimes.
1 Gollum (Lord of the Rings)
Gollum is a monstrous, selfish creature. He almost gets the the Lord of the Rings protagonist Frodo killed several times. Gollum’s quest for the Ring of Power and his obsession with her beauty almost stops Sauron’s defeat and ultimately leads to his death.
He is a grotesque character, who undoubtedly deserves to be vilified. However, thanks to his split personality with Smeagol and the tragic nature of his addiction, fans have come to regard Gollum with some affection.
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