An anti-villain – intriguing, unique and pretty unusual. The villain is the antagonist of the story and their aim is to do anything they can to stop the protagonist and stop them from achieving their goals. However, what if the villain’s plans are not that sinister, what does that mean? Well, it means that they are an anti-villain.
Anti-villains are fun to write, and everyone secretly enjoys them. That’s why in today’s article we will look into the definition of an anti-villain is, compare them to anti-heroes and provide some exciting examples of anti-villains in film and tv.
Let’s dive straight into it.
What is the meaning of an anti-villain?
An anti-villain definition is a villain who sets out their goals and values but how they look to achieve these are pretty questionable, and that’s what stands in the way of the protagonist’s goals.
However, the anti-villain isn’t traditionally evil, as they look to achieve their goals in what they see as morally right in their own mind. However, that morality is often skewed and causes a lot of issues for the protagonist to reach and achieve their goals.
An anti-villain is an interesting antagonist for your script and can be created in a complex way, that creates intriguing prose for your story.
We love an anti-villain here at iFilmThings and I feel the film and television world feels the same, we are always seeing new anti-villains crop up and celebrate some of the best anti-villains like Thanos from The Marvel Universe.
You may also be interested in: How to craft EXCEPTIONAL secondary characters
Anti-villain vs anti-hero
Not everyone recognises an anti-villain, but a lot of people understand the concept of an anti-hero, and they too make for an exciting watch.
An anti-hero is a protagonist of the story but uses an unconventional method of sorts to reach their goals. They have questionable methods but in their eyes, the morality is there for the greater good.
A classic anti-hero is Dexter, from the TV Series Dexter. He constantly has the urge to kill but uses it on people deemed to have committed terrible crimes. On one hand, he’s making the world a better place, but he’s doing it in a violent, ruthless manner.
It veers slightly from the path of an anti-villain who is causing grief, but in a way, in their mind, it seems viable and has an inch of morality.
I guess the outstanding difference is that the anti-hero does good but undertakes it in a questionable fashion. Whereas the anti-villain is someone who does bad but thinks they’re doing good in their own eyes, stopping the protagonist from completing their goals and making the world a better place.
The different types of anti-villain
There are many types of anti-villains, from a noble anti-villain to a well-intentioned anti-villain, but they’re all a villain deep down when it comes down to it. In this part of the article, we look at the different types of anti-villains.
The well-intentioned anti-villain is a villain who believes in the protagonists “Good goal” but will do anything in their power to achieve this.
The way the audience relates to them is that they share the same goal as the hero character, but they are ruthless in how they look to achieve that goal.
This kind of sit within the anti-hero and can cross over a little, but the well-intentioned anti-villain will steer towards the immoral side and constantly provide the audience with intrigue by constantly committing questionable actions.
Our favourite well-intentioned anti-villain: Walter White from Breaking Bad.
The noble anti-villain is one of the most common definitions of anti-villain. The noble types are villains who choose to be a villain, but it’s a job at the end.
It pays the bills. They won’t go out of their way to harm and can tell when villainous actions is a bit too much on the side of “evil”.
If it gets too much, they’ll turn away from it. But they’re still a villain, albeit an anti-villain.
Our favourite noble anti-villain: Rumpelstiltskin and Captain Hook from Once Upon a Time.
Have a read of our breakdown of what Disney owns – it’s truly astonishing.
Woobie anti-villains act out of loyalty and love – they’re not evil at all, but their circumstance pushes them to do terrible, questionable things.
It may be out of love for the person, or it’s just so they can survive, but the Woobie villain will act questionably to save themselves or their loved ones.
They may also be pushed to their limits leaving them to destroy everything. You find that the Woobie anti-villain will either turn into a full-on villain or transition to an anti-hero.
This character in your screenplay is perfect for moulding with an exciting story arc. Their versatile, interesting and they pull at the emotions of the audience.
A truly dynamic character who can go one extreme or the other. Have fun with them!
Our favourite woobie anti-villain: Richard Harrow in Boardwalk Empire.
You may also be interested in reading Conflict in film: How to write INCREDIBLE conflict
Name only anti-villain
A name only anti-villain is a villain who is not evil or villainous. It’s just because they are opposing the hero of the story.
They can be considered pretty dangerous to the protagonist because they can be highly skilled and possess a huge obstacle. But also the fact that they are not genuinely evil or villainous that the hero as a huge moral dilemma that can shred the protagonist’s morale.
Killing off a name only anti-villain can be a huge moment in a film or television programme. The audience can become attached and feel for the “Name Only” anti-villain and be rooting for them, only for them to be killed off by the protagonist.
An interesting setup can help create intense conflict throughout your script.
Our favourite name is only anti-villain: The Gorgs in Fraggle Rock. Now let’s have a look at the best anti-villain examples.
This is what you’ve been waiting for, the best anti-villain examples in film and television. Some of your favourite characters have been crafted as anti-villains, and in this list, we show the best (in our opinion) examples of anti-villains.
Let’s check them out.
Draco Malfoy is one of Harry Potter’s nemeses in J.K Rowling book and film series; a troublesome chap can be ruthless and certainly cruel. But, he sits as an anti-villain. Why, you ask?
As the series of books and films progress, you see it’s a result of his parents’ choices and politics in which he ultimately struggles to give himself away to those darker forces.
Inspector Javert from Les Miserables is a fantastic example. He’s on the side of the law – but is relentless in how he pursues justice.
A no mercy, get shit done approach means he’s bordering on what’s morally right and wrong. It throws up a lot of conundrums in terms of morality, but he decides on what he sees as right and what’s wrong and aims to punish in any way possible.
But a great example. Anti villain examples
We hope this article on anti-villains was useful to you, and we’ve fully explained the anti-villain definition and provided you with some exceptional anti-villain examples. We hope you could take something valuable away from it. Let us know your thoughts below in the comments; it’s always great to hear from you!
Scroll a little further for more articles and resources on screenwriting, and click here for some great filmmaking resources.