Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.
Villains are always one of those pieces in writing that can either be really impressive or really disappointing. In recent years, I’ve noticed that we often fall into these ideas of feeling for the villain once you learn their backstory, as though they are truly misunderstood. And, to be fair, some of them actually are. But I think there’s some irony in the misunderstood villains becoming so popular when the villains of the world we live in often don’t quite fit into that category. After all, no amount of backstory really excuses Trump or Weinstein.
Anyway, here’s my list of villains that I was immensely impressed with the characterization of and though their backstories may be sad, it still doesn’t excuse the horrible things they did.
Now, admittedly, I’m not one hundred percent in love with my list here. In fact, I don’t even know how much I agree with the order or whether some names should even be on here. I actually had a hard time filling out this list because I wanted it to include only villains I was impressed with, which ultimately is why Voldemort never made it on here.
I saw him on several lists and admittedly struggled to understand or agree with the idea that he is a magnificent villain. His backstory was rather…ridiculous, frankly. As if the only reason he could be the dark monster he was resulted from the fact that he was conceived thanks to the help of a love potion. And in truth, he was simply a disgusting tyrant. I think a few small changes to his story might’ve received him a place on this list, but in truth I never found him all that impressive (especially since he regularly insisted on being idiotic about how he handled the whole Harry Potter situation on numerous occasions).
10. Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events
This is probably the one villain that I’m most unsure about. And yet, there’s something utterly interesting about his sheer dedication and the ways in which he uses his ridiculous schemes to maneuver through snatching up the fortunes of unfortunate children. There’s a crazy world of secrets that he’s involved in and as a villain from a middlegrade novel, he definitely catches your attention. In a way, he’s impressive in his persistence and in his stupidity. The fact that he represents this idea that people’s will take an adult’s word over a child’s first, even when the adult is a bit of an idiot, has always been something I liked about his characterization. While not always true, it does touch on an emotion I certainly felt as a child.
9. Sutter Keely from The Spectacular Now
Sutter would not be the sort of character that most people think of as a villain, and in fact he definitely acts heroic at the end. But the thing is that he spends most of his book believing he is doing the right thing, that he is a good and helpful person without realizing that he is actually precisely the opposite. In recognizing the damage he is causing, Sutter leaves the pieces that would qualify him for this list in a way. But for the majority of the book he definitely feels dangerous.
8. Petyr Baelish from Game of Thrones
This genius mastermind behind all the horrors that the characters of Game of Thrones end up facing in their lives, many of them unfortunately short, is unquestionably impressive. He manipulates and cheats and is the monster behind the undoing of everyone around him, the master of the chessboard. It’s simply fascinating to study his character and see how carefully he orchestrates everything to fit into his plan for what he desires most. And even his oversight was done beautifully.
7. Amy Dunne from Gone Girl
No one could really ever claim that Amy Dunne wasn’t an amazing villain. She’s perhaps the most terrifying villain on this list in my opinion because she’s the one that feels most like you could potentially come across at some point in the future. While the others don’t entirely feel as incredibly realistic as the others, Amy actually could be someone real. It delves into the questions of what you truly know about your significant other and how your hurting them could set them off at any moment. And that’s terrifying.
6. Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes
I just love Moriarty. His wonder comes from the regular intellectual battle that he insists on having with Sherlock, which frankly is just a lot of fun and quite fascinating. It’s rare that you can ever really beat the amazingness of dark characters who are also exceedingly intelligent.
5. Benedict “Blueboy” from Curio
This character honestly terrified me. He was the sort of creature that you just couldn’t help feeling as though you would never want to meet, but if you did your days would be numbered. I was regularly sketched out by him and then additionally deeply disturbed and terrified all at once. His characterization brought out so many emotions in me that I can’t help being immeasurably impressed with the author for it.
4. General Trajan from The Winner’s Curse
This villain didn’t really break my heart until the second book, but if you’ve read the series there can be know question as to why this man is so high on my list. It takes a special kind of person to do what he did and I guess, in a way, he reminds me of my own father though mine would be stupidly making decisions instead of knowingly causing harm. Still, the betrayal is real.
3. Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles
I’ve always loved the way Levan was written, while I never loved her at all. Even with her distressing backstory, you always sort of knew that she would be the sort of person who could convince herself that anything she did, no matter how awful, was for good. And that’s the thing about Levantine that was always so fascinating. She was so deluded into believing she knew best to the point that even the possibility of being incorrect didn’t exist for her. And she was willing to go to immeasurably extreme lengths to do the “good” she believed was so important for her to do.
2. Joe Goldberg from You
I cringe just thinking about this character. And yet, I loved him. I still cannot help being amazed by how Kepnes blended this deeply disturbed character with so many lyrical and fascinating writings to the point that I couldn’t help being blown away. This is one of those books that leaves you feeling disturbed on so many levels and yet you cannot reasonably be anything but amazed with the author’s ability to create the villain she did and to make you somehow empathize with him in the strangest of ways. This book still creeps me out and blows me away all at once.
1. Spoiler Villain from All Our Yesterdays
I can’t say who the villain of this story is merely on account of the fact that it is a massive spoiler for the book. But what I can say is that it was amazing and I could not have loved him more. And frankly I’ve never felt so heartbroken over a villain before, either. If you’ve not read this book, you honestly really should.
And that’s all for now! Happy reading, everyone!