Every screenwriter wants to write an exceptional screenplay that sells, right? Every great movie comes from a brilliantly written film script full of rich and memorable heroes and villains. Go script writers! We rock the page.
In classic screenwriting, the hero (protagonist) and villain (antagonist) are diametrically opposed in goals. The role of the antagonist is to thwart the hero.
Antagonist vs Villain in your screenplay
Screenwriters are often unsure what the difference is between antagonists and villains. This is often a matter of semantics and the two character terms are used interchangeably. The real difference is in the focus of goals.
- An antagonist is an obstacle to the protagonist’s goal.
- A villain has their own goal and the protagonist tries to block it. In essence, the protagonist is the villain’s antagonist.
I’ve discussed the difference between a hero and protagonist in another article. Again, the differences are moot and the terms are often used interchangeably.
The lines between the two character types are becoming increasingly blurred in screenplays to reflect the increasing complexity of life.
The hero is never absolutely good (flaw) and the villain isn’t absolutely bad. Despite the predominant character traits in each, there is overlap. This overlap is increasing to give heroes extensive negative traits (anti-hero) and the villain positive ones despite their relentless wreaking havoc. These permutations ultimately make more interesting characters in your screenplay leading to a richer story.
It’s important to establish the values and moral code of the villain. Villains often perceive their actions as good. As screenwriters, we must dig deeper into these fascinating characters.
Where are they coming from? What is their motivation? Religious zealots are a prime example. They veritably cause untold destruction for the greater good.
There is often confusion whether the protagonist must always be a hero. In most cases yes, but protagonists can also be criminals and villains.
Deep down we all want break social norms and secretly root for the villains. People who always follow the rules aren’t remembered nor do they change the world.
Villains vary greatly in degree according to genre. Consider a villain in a romantic comedy film trying to prevent two people falling in love by any means possible, so that they can find their true loves. Conversely, consider the Joker in Batman and other action thrillers.
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