WARNING: Contains spoilers for a ton of movies and TV shows.
I've written two fantasy novels (THE CATASTROPHE OF THE EMERALD QUEEN and its sequel THE SUNDER OF THE OCTAGON) aimed primarily at young adults or older children. In both I have created villains so obscenely awful, so unforgivably foul, so irredeemably despicable that there are beyond salvation.
In CATASTROPHE you have two villains who are about as bad as you can get. First there's Galfront Siavy, a mercenary who thinks nothing of sacrificing his own men to save himself. Putting him in the shade however is King James. A villain to beat them all. This guy has NO redeeming qualities and through the course of the book orders people killed for no reason, threatens to murder children and is prepared to commit genocide to get what he wants.
In every movie or book or even TV show that works on the principles of good thwarting evil, you have to have a really juicy, horrid villain. It is as necessary as ice in gin & tonic or peanuts in Snickers.
In one of my favourite TV shows The Walking Dead we had The Governor. This character started off as simply a ruthless pragmatist. He later developed into a full blown psycho. The show cleverly tried to show his "softer" side and imply that he'd changed for the better. Turned out he hadn't and the evil bastard was lurking under the surface. Kudos to David Morrissey for playing this part so well. The Governor was a villain to remember. Someone who would chain a woman up in a room, stab her friend in the guts and then lock them in together. Reason? So that when the guy reanimated as a zombie he would attack and eat the woman, who would be unable to stop this. Cold hearted or what?
In Game of Thrones, nearly all characters have some semblance of villainy and the villains themselves have shades of heroism (Jaime Lannister and the Hound being prime examples). The best villains though are characters like Cersei who is an uber bitch or better still the Mountain, who kills people for sword practice and has murdered children. And let's not forget what he did to Prince Oberyn. It was a good few months before I was able to face a repeat viewing of Viper vs. Mountain.
Then we move back to Star Wars. While Darth Vader was a badass (force choking those who failed him and testing carbon freezing on someone just to see if it would kill him) Grand Moff Tarkin played by Peter Cushing in A New Hope was the epitomy of what a baddy should be. The only man bar the emperor who could give Vader an order and someone who killed millions of innocent people with a super lazer...after promising he wouldn't....just to prove a point. Only movie I know where an entire planet was destroyed to set an example.
In my books I LOVE nasty villains. They need to be despicable. Bullies of the first order, evil, highly intelligent and witty. People who you hate so much that you love them for being so hateful. Partly because it's fun to watch the goodies finally kill them but also because it makes them so much fun to read about.
BUT...I don't want to know about WHY the baddy became a baddy. I personally don't care that he's had a broken home or that he was abused growing up. A villain is pure and simply a villain. Hannibal Lecter in the TV show, played by Mads Mikkelson (sp?) is awesome. Yes, his traumatic past is alluded to but he is so gloriously evil that you just want to see what he'll do next.
In the TV show Spartacus there was Ashur. Initially an utter bastard who got a fellow gladiator killed just so he wouldn't have to pay back a gambling debt he owed him, and someone who had his friend sodomised because he was pissed off, he was softened in the prequel series Gods of the Arena to make his actions in the parent series understandable. Mitigation is not a factor in a villain. Making Ashur sympathetic was a big mistake. He was glorious as an immoral scumbag. Less so as a bitter, lonely ingrate.
Grange Hill the ultimate children's TV show had a terrifying villain named Booger Benson. A character with no nice charming sides who beat up Tucker Jenkins for grassing on him to the Head and was sent to borstal. Later series (remembering this show ran for about 25 years) had bullies who had softer sides....and therefore were boring and crap.
The tremendous programme Banshee has a villain named Kai Proctor. Kai is evil. He had his niece Rebecca's lover garrotted and his body minced, solely because he was jealous. He punched a man's teeth out and then made the man pick them up and put them back in his mouth before leaving BUT he loves his estranged parents and genuinely cares for them. Chayton on the other hand has NO qualities that can be admired. He's a monster. Murdering a kindly widow who bandaged him up and fed him and snapping the neck of a helpless police woman.
I like Chayton. I like him because it's fun to hate him.
Hawk the Slayer, one of the worst fantasy movies ever made has about three things that people remember. The repeating crossbow, the pointy eared, super fast archer, and Jack Palance as Voltan. A scarred, ugly, sadistic villain. A man who personally killed two of his own men, just because he was pissed off that his son was dead. A man who personally stabbed a nun to death. An utter, evil bastard.
Villains should be dripping in villainy. Exempt from the morals and rules and ethics that us nice people adhere to and love in our heroes. Those heroic characters with a bit of villainy are much better remembered than their boring cousins. Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the
would jump into the water to save a drowning woman but would also run from a
battle and has the awesome line "That isn't much of an incentive for me to
fight fair then!" when informed by the straight laced Will Turner that he
could have beaten him had Jack not cheated when they were clashing swords.
Villains add spice to shows and books and films. Villains are necessary to the plot.
I don't want to hear about the journey that led them to become the way they are. In my mind they never existed before they were villains.