55 Villains We Should Root For
So, here's the thing about villains. They have a nasty habit of killing hundreds of innocent people, or at least of attempting severe bodily harm on our innocent hero. That's how we know they're the villain, and there's often no defending all that wanton slaughter.
But some villains don't do that, and as for the ones who do, well, what if we merrily ignore that? What if we concentrate on everything else they do and believe? We suddenly find ourselves looking at some people who seem pretty decent, to the point that we wonder why anyone decided to make them the villains.
1. The Concierge
Tim Curry's Home Alone 2 concierge is suspicious of Kevin, and we're supposed to hope Kevin eludes him. But Kevin is an unaccompanied child lying and using a stolen credit card. Of course the concierge should be suspicious, and had he succeeded, he'd have reunited Kevin with his family, just like his family wanted.
2. J. Jonah Jameson
When Green Goblin attacks the Daily Bugle and demands to know the source of the Spider-Man photos, Jameson refuses to give Peter up, even though his own life is on the line. This is a level of heroism worthy of Spider-Man himself -- nay, greater than Spider-Man's because Jameson chooses this despite having no superpowers.
3. The Hyenas
The hyenas in The Lion King are starving. Why are we supposed to dislike them exactly? Because they kill and eat other animals? So do lions!
4. The Signs Aliens
The camera wants us to think these aliens are scary, but they don't hurt anyone. They're clumsy goofballs. And why did they come to Earth, a planet covered in water, which is so dangerous for them? The poor guys must have been, for whatever reason, truly desperate.
5. The Pre-Crimes Unit
We're supposed to leave Minority Report happy that the pre-crimes division has ended. But that division was great! They prevented numerous murders. Now, the punishments in this world are dystopian, and someone needs to get the pre-cogs better living quarters, but the system of preventing murder works perfectly (unlike sinister imperfect real-world systems that are likened to Minority Report).
7. Senator Kelly
The senator from X-Men is supposed to bring to mind Joseph McCarthy. But Senator Kelly is absolutely correct about mutants being a threat. In fact, later events mean that, if anything, he greatly understated how important it was that humans protect themselves from mutants.
On the other hand, when Magneto says humans can't be trusted and will try to subjugate the mutants, he's right. Granted, much of this is because of Magneto's own actions, but even when Magneto isn't to blame, humans are putting his people in camps.
Judging by his laugh, Skeletor has a great sense of humor. He's also an honest person, as he goes by the name "Skeletor" and is, in fact, a skeleton.
10. The Wicked Witch
No sympathetic prequels are needed for us to root for the Wicked Witch of the West. All she wants in Wizard of Oz are a pair of shoes -- shoes that belonged to her sister, whom Dorothy killed, shoes that should now be hers by all rights.
Have you ever had to hear people say a meme, then other people say it, then just the same thing goes on, over and over, seemingly endlessly? Then you should have every sympathy for Dormammu from Doctor Strange, stuck in a time loop.
12. Miranda Priestly
Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada has a reputation for being strict. But if anything, she's too generous with employees. She hires Andy despite this prospective assistant being clearly unqualified.
14. The Bank Manager
Who's the biggest badass in The Dark Knight? Undoubtedly, William Fichtner's bank manager, who doesn't even get a name but who stands up with a shotgun to face an entire team of armed robbers.
15. Fox Books
In You Got Mail, Tom Hanks' bookstore chain is seen as a powerful behemoth. But in the decades since then, online retail has destroyed such chains (while indie stores like Meg Ryan's remain).
16. Harry Cooper
In Night Of The Living Dead, we're supposed to relate to adventurous Ben, not Harry, who wants to wait this crisis out in his basement. But we could totally see a movie solely from the point of view of a father protecting his homestead.
We're not entirely sure why Zod chose Earth, of all places, to terraform, but we can't fault him for wanting to restore Krypton. "Krypton had its chance," says Superman. Yeah, easy for you to say, Kal-El. You got away.
18. Amy Squirrel
Obviously, Cameron Diaz's character in Bad Teacher was going to be bad. It's right in the title. But given that we're supposed to root for her, you'd think there'd be something loathsome about the antagonist who plays by the rules -- she'd be a hypocrite, or cruel, or just no fun. Nope! Amy Squirrel is a great person, and Elizabeth Halsey ruins her life.
Ultron decides he wants to extinguish all life on Earth. But in his defense, he has just spent time on the internet. Is his reaction so surprising?
20. Violet Beauregarde
Gaston doesn't hunt the Beast because he's ugly. He's been ugly for years without Gaston ever summoning a mob. Gaston hunts the Beast because he's imprisoned Belle in his castle. He's doing the heroic thing!
22. Arthur Brooks
The social worker from The Big Daddy wants to separate Adam Sandler from a kid he basically kidnapped. By his own admission, Sandler's character is an unfit guardian, and the kid's own father wants him back. Why are we fighting Brooks on this?
23. Mr. Svenning
Mallrats offers us Mr. Svenning, a TV producer intent on keeping our lead guys off his set. Lead guys who yesterday crashed the Governor's Ball and sent said governor into the hospital. A movie with Svenning as a heroic defender would be a decent thriller.
24. Great Benefit
Insurance companies -- like Great Benefit in The Rainmaker, but all of them really -- are always villains in movies, denying customers' claims. But what if we told you they actually approve 13 out of 14 claims?
Since Frodo couldn't destroy the Ring voluntarily (indeed, no one could), it never would have been destroyed without Gollum's last-minute intervention. Also, how amazing was it that he held up under torture for a while before giving up Bilbo's name and location? He had no reason to protect Bilbo, but he chose to, at great personal cost.
When you look at everyone who allied with Sauron -- not just the orcs but also the people of Rhun and Harad -- it's clear lots of oppressed peoples needed equality, and Sauron was offering it. Anything else you've heard is just elf propaganda. "Orcs are corrupted elves"? That makes no sense and is hella racist.
It's a little silly for the villain in Rent to be a landlord who just asks his tenants to pay their rent. But the really silly part is Benny doesn't even ask that. He offers to let his friends stay in their giant loft for free. In return, he wants to also open a commercial space for artists ... which just sounds like another nice thing.
29. The Devil
In "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," the devil challenges Johnny to a fiddling contest. No impartial judges choose the winner. And yet the devil still concedes, honestly declaring Johnny to be the better musician.
Shredder's outfit, including a purple cape and shoulder pads, suggests that he has a side career as a backup dancer, and we'd be interested in more side stories exploring this facet of his life.
31. The Soviets
The communists are evil in Rocky IV because they're America's enemy, sure. But at the end of the movie. Adrian shows up in the snow and stays for the final fight. That means the Soviets, those softies, gave her permission to go behind the Iron Curtain so she could support her husband.
32. The E.T. Government
Though portrayed as scary, the government agents in E.T. today mainly come off as refreshingly competent at quarantining compared with real-world counterparts. Their actions are also necessary (E.T. and Elliot were both ailing before the agents swept in), and they even show compassion.
This guy looks like he's pretty hung.
35. Evelyn Deavor
Then in the sequel, we get an interesting monologue about heroes breeding complacency and inaction. Which Incredibles 2 could easily refute by having some non-super people chip in during the climax, but none do. So, guess Evelyn Deavor was right?
In Thor: Ragnarok, Loki has to spend 30 minutes locked in a construction site Porta Potty. Against suffering like that, his sins mean nothing, and all must be forgiven.
37. Benjamin Kane
Yeah, we know it's cool to reject rich sell-outs. But Rob Lowe's character in Wayne's World takes a chance on two nobodies, giving them a TV contract. What's the sleazy corporate thing he does? Getting sponsors for the show. That's how you pay for media, Wayne. Maybe you'd care if you didn't have mom's basement to fall back on.
38. Sack Lodge
The smug guy in Wedding Crashers is another character given a douchey name to make us hate him. But is he so evil for wanting to protect his fiancee and the Secretary of the Treasury from fraudsters?
Grindelwald criticizes magical secrecy laws, saying they leave wizard children suffering. Well, he's not wrong. Exhibit A: Harry Potter.
40. Draco Malfoy
The books would have us believe Draco is the snobby kid of privilege while Harry Potter is an underdog. But Harry also comes from a privileged bloodline ... and is fabulously wealthy ... and is effortlessly good at sports ... and is the Chosen One ... and he rebuffs his invitation to Slytherin only because he too wants to continue his parents' legacy. No wonder Malfoy resents him.
41. The Machines
42. Dr. Doom
A successful businessman who runs his own country would make for a nice change.
43. Cruella De Vil
Cruella is remarkably supportive of her protegee Anita, urging her to stick with her career after getting married. Later, seeing Anita's reduced circumstances, she offers to rehire her with a lighter workload. And she's not just greedy for Anita's talents -- Cruella even says Anita would do well working for a different company.
The bad guy in Last Action Hero wants to release the villains of various movies into our world. This would actually bring peace to all those other worlds, which deserve peace as much as we do, and as for us, well, we're best equipped to beat all those baddies because we know their weaknesses, and they lack supernatural powers here.
45. Hoyt Ambrose
This preppy guy from Accepted tries to investigate the lead character's fake college and expose the fraud. Good! The students should be happy some watchdog is warning them off this unaccredited scam school that's teaching them nothing.
46. Walter Peck
We guess Ghostbusters wanted to poke fun at a government that regulates too much, so they gave us Walter Peck from the EPA. But when you have four guys touring New York with homemade superpowered guns and storing the restless dead in their basement, that's maybe one arena that could do with a little regulation.
47. The Separatists
Yes, we were actually supposed to take sides during those battles during the Star Wars prequels and were supposed to root against the Separatists who just wanted to break away from the Republic. Why? What's wrong with independence? And what's so good about the Republic?
48. The Dark Side
Yeah, he didn't really live up to a single one of his ideals. But Killmonger from Black Panther manages something almost no other villain does: He convinces the hero to change his view (about needing to open up Wakanda).
51. Baroness Elsa Schraeder
Elsa is the unwanted corner of the love triangle in The Sound of Music. But what with her being fiancee to a Captain who's seduced by a nun living in his home, you'd think we'd be more sympathetic toward her. She takes it pretty well, all considered.
52. Carl Anheuser
Oliver Platt's character in 2012 might be the obligatory obstructive bureaucrat all disasters have. But watch carefully, and he actually listens to the scientists instead of dismissing them and is responsible for saving the human race.
53. Principal Rooney
The principal in Ferris Bueller's Day Off is completely right about Ferris lying. Also, he's only so keen on breaking into homes because he is a pedophile and desires his students sexually. Wait, what? Who added this guy to our article? Principal Rooney, get away from our computer!
Even before Clayface's rehabilitation in the new Harley Quinn show, we were convinced this was a guy with promise. He actually cares about delivering a good performance as an actor, which is more than we can say for most of the real-life people playing all the other characters on this list.
55. Mr. Potter