Here at Gideon’s screenwriting tips, I’m always looking for inventive ways for screenwriters to create different classes of villains. Are they merely the bad guys (or gals) or antagonists?
While villains are generally involved with negative behavior, this isn’t always true. They are however, directly responsible for obstructing the main character’s goal.
Sometimes their causes are noble and justified, while other times they are pure evil. It’s worth examining the backstories of your villains to give them a song motivation for their actions.
Let’s explore some different types of villain you can use in your screenplays:
1) SUPER VILLAINS
These are the Lex Luthers of the film world. These villains have no sense of morality. They are cold, selfish, emotionless and unrelenting in their pursuit of death and destruction. This type of villain is sometimes called The Dark Lord. There is no grand plan, just the desire to cause mayhem. Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter is a good example.
2) OFF THEIR HEADS
These villains are basically insane. Think of the psychopaths who kill indiscriminately without motivation and without remorse. They can’t be reasoned with and unstoppable. Think Frank Booth in Blue Velvet as an example.
3) VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCE
These are villains who are trapped between a rock and a hard place. They are fighting for their survival. They may have been framed for a crime they didn’t commit and trying to prove their innocence, blackmailed into committing crimes or other negative acts. Walter White in Breaking Bad is a good example. Had he not contracted cancer, her wouldn’t have taken such a treacherous journey.
4) THE GOOD ONE
When is a villain, not really a villain? When their seemingly negative actions result in a greater good. They are often vilified by their communities and treated as criminals. Think Terence Fletcher in Whiplash. His actions only served to push Andrew to reach his full potential.
5) THE JEALOUS ONE
These are the villains who act out emotion to exact revenge on a rival. Think of the the rivalry between competing love interests. Beth in Basic Instinct is an example of this.
6) CHANGE OF HEART
These are villains who come good after spending time in the communities they’re meant to harm. Think The Grinch after realizing that Christmas is more than gifts.
7) NOT TOO SMART
These are the villains who are more about comic relief than actually doing damage. They are constantly hatching hare-brained schemes which are unlikely to work. Dr. Evil in Austin Powers is a good example.
8) SECRET VILLAIN
These are villains that live an overtly virtuous life. They are seemingly pillars of society, attend church, donate to charities and recycle. Beneath their selfless veneers, they are secretly planning to blow up the world. Dylan Rhodes in Now You See Me is a good example because he reveals himself towards the end when the four magicians pull off their final heist.
9) MONKEY MIND
This is the imp. The chuckling villain who is more of an inconvenience than truly evil who’s only role is to obstruct the hero rather than beating him. The Joker in the Batman movies is a good example.
This type of villain works well in thrillers. They perpetuate the cat and mouse game, set up traps for the hero, mislead, fool and lie to them. They are always a step ahead of the hero but eventually get caught, when the hero figures out their plan. Hannibal Lecter is the best example of this I can think of.