Everyone has a favorite villain, whether it’s from comic books, video games, movies, or TV series. Villains are unquestionably more complicated than their heroic counterparts, which makes them the more compelling characters. But it is the motivations that distinguish agents of evil and chaos such as Emperor Palpatine and the Joker from Victor Frankenstein or Gollum.
Some people are bad by choice, others by vocation, and yet others are evil because they have no choice. Some of cinema’s most memorable villains are placed in their roles due to a desire, necessity, or circumstance. In the end, they are still nice individuals beneath it all.
While his techniques are unconventional, and his ambition is as murderous as the creatures that tortured him as a kid, Magneto is a villain because of the world, not because of his own impulses. Max Eisenhardt/Erik Lensherr doesn’t have the best track record, but his motivations for becoming a supervillain are comprehensible.
While Ian McKellen’s depiction is perhaps the most memorable, Michael Fassbender’s portrayal in the First Class series is more heartbreaking. He wasn’t born the mutant terrorist he became, but rather a valued friend and colleague of Charles Xavier who shared his vision for mutant-kind. He only went down the wicked path after parting ways with his pal.
Imhotep (The Mummy)
While Imhotep might have utilized the magical books for more selfish and wicked purposes, his motivations and reasonings aren’t technically bad; they’re merely contrary to the ways of the Egyptian gods. Imhotep doesn’t want to rule the world, command an army of terrible zombies, or incite undead rage; all he wants is his dead princess back.
He is merely the film’s villain because of his undead existence, not because he does anything intentionally or maniacally nasty. Playing with the powers of life and death isn’t exactly the noblest goal, but he’s doing it for Anck-Su-Namun.
The Corporation (Cabin In The Woods)
The outfits in the renowned Cabin in the Woods embody the trolley-track contradiction. Though they aren’t quite pure spirits in the film’s premise, they have been protecting mankind for years from the “great wicked gods.”
If it’s a numbers game, a handful of sacrifices cut up by a selection of Cabin’s iconic monsters is a drop in the bucket compared to the destruction of the whole global population. Their practice of feeding the Old Ones’ hunger isn’t quite moral or ethical, but the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.
Shere Khan (The Jungle Book (2016))
The Jungle Book remake from 2016 completely redesigned Shere Khan for the better, and it doesn’t even take into account Idris Elba’s outstanding portrayal. Shere Khan is a lethal predator, and that will not change, but he has been wounded by a more serious enemy, man. He understands jungle law, but he also understands that man is a greater threat to their ecology.
He does what he does not for the sake of devastation, but for his own survival. Mowgli has the power of fire, just as Shere Khan foretold, and lays fire to the forest. In retrospect, if Mowgli had been given up to the tribe sooner, the tiger may have saved more lives. Perhaps he is a more concerned environmentalist than he realizes.
Captain Gantu (Lilo And Stitch)
Despite what the animated series depicted, Gantu was not the antagonist of Lilo and Stitch. He was, in fact, operating on direct directions from the Galactic Grand Council. Gantu, essentially an alien law enforcement officer, was a decorated authority merely carrying out his responsibilities. In short, he was just a man going about his business.
The council regards Stitch as a dangerous monster, thus it stands to reason that they would send a qualified expert to capture him after Jumbaa and Pleakley failed. Apart from insulting and fighting Stitch, he does nothing unlawful or unethical.