How Do Heroes & Villains Work In Screenwriting?

Do you want to learn how to write a movie script that sell? Are you working on some awesome heroes and villains? Read on to discover the difference between these two mythological archetypes and improve your screenwriting. Yay!

Screenwriters often refer to heroes as protagonists and villains as antagonists in screenplays. Despite the significant overlap in dramatic function, they are distinct in terms of character archetypes. They are more than just good guys versus bad guys.

Heroes and villains serve a deeper character function to explore the morality and theme of a screenplay. So choose them wisely.

A strong villain is a reflection of the hero. They know the hero’s weak spots and force them to face their fears.

gideonsway so now you're a screenwriter

Hero vs Protagonist

A HERO (often the protagonist) must have both an internal and external goal to be well-rounded. A protagonist only has an external (superficial) goal.

An external goal is plot driven, while an internal goal refers to overcoming a character flaw, belief, ideology or perspective. Once the external goal is achieved, the internal goal is achieved shortly afterward. A hero’s actions therefore must have meaning and purpose to achieve a satisfying ending to the story.

The role of a hero is divine and represents a powerful cultural icon. In Ancient Greek culture, the hero had god-like status and conquered evil from a position of weakness, courage, sacrifice (often they leave their communities), morality, valor, determination, perseverance and modesty.

At the behest of the gods, the hero served to protect humanity with his/her curious blend of human emotions and superhuman fighting prowess. A simple protagonist doesn’t have that much gravitas in your story.

A PROTAGONIST is essentially the main character who drives the action in pursuit of a goal. It is derived from the Greek words for “first (or primary) action driver”.

gideonsway screenwriting tips, so now you're a screenwriter

Antagonist vs Villain

An ANTAGONIST is the obstacle to the protagonist to prevent the protagonist from achieving their goal and generating conflict. “Anti” is derived from the Greek word for “against”.


A VILLAIN possesses the same qualities as a hero, except their powers are geared towards harm rather than protection. If God is the hero, then Satan is the villain. The key difference is that they do not directly protect mankind, but rather issue morality warnings if they disobey the gods..

They force us to discover, debate and explore the human condition in a logical and truthful way.

It’s easy to dismiss a villain as a simply being “bad”. However, villains were created to remind us what would happen if humans angered the gods, or didn’t act with austerity, trust, honesty and selflessness. There is a villain in all of us, because they represent our dark side, or more importantly, an alternative our good selves. Sometimes we need to access our dark sides in order to survive.

In terms of the physical universe, one cannot exist without the other. Night always follows day. A balance must occur to achieve equilibrium. Having a villain equally strong as your hero is almost mandatory, although the hero almost always wins. A hero needs a worthy adversary if humans will ever learn their lessons. Paradoxically, villains also possess admirable traits such as ingenuity, intelligence, agility, strength and a strong (although misguided) goal.

In superhero/ action films, heroes and villains are diametrically opposed characters, so different from each other in every way, they are almost mirror images of the same person who ultimately strive for different aspects of the same goal.

Don’t we all need a dose of chaos to observe our lives from a different perspective?

scriptfirm final logo colour
For in depth Film & TV script analysis visit Script Firm.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s