Supervillains aren’t bound by rules or a sense of morality, which makes them more interesting and (hopefully) less predictable. The more humanized antagonists have an intriguing personality to match. Some of them believe their cause to be just, while others simply believe in anarchy and chaos. However, the most interesting villains have a deeper motive beyond simply destroying the world or universe. Backstories don’t really matter as long as the villain meets three qualifications. He or she must have some sort of relationship with the protagonist, even if it’s metaphorical in nature. They need a clear motivation and pose an actual threat.
1. Relationship With The Hero
When people think of the ultimate comic book movie villain, they usually think of Heath Ledger's Joker. He represents the darker half of what Batman could have been. This version of the Joker found weaknesses in Batman and managed to exploit them. He didn't have any superpowers and yet he was able to cause so much destruction while our hero was forced to make difficult choices. The Joker may seem insane, but he had a goal and that was to make Batman break his no killing rule. There's something special about an antagonist who can test a hero on multiple levels. Even if they have a connection with the hero, our antagonists must have some sort of motivation behind their actions.
2. Clear Motivation
General Zod wants to restore his race and ultimately save his people, while Magneto's goal is to protect mutants from humans who are willing to exterminate his kind. They sound like noble goals, but they're willing to sacrifice a lot of people to do it. Then you have the twisted human known as Col. William Stryker, who wants to erase all mutants from existence after his wife kills herself, thanks to his son’s powers. Sounds like simple revenge on all of mutantkind, but it's more potent thanks to the personal nature of Stryker’s situation. Even if he’s doing horrible things, you feel kind of bad for the guy. Proper motivation has to come with some advantage over the hero to be an actual threat. An antagonist that isn't threatening is like a monster without teeth.
3. An Actual Threat
A lot of these characters test our hero’s limits when it comes to physical strength and intelligence. General Zod was a credible physical threat to Superman and humanity in Man of Steel. That being said, Zod had a clear experience advantage over the hero as well. Spider-Man had his hands full with Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2 after their initial fight and Peter saves the city by convincing his enemy that he's doing something dangerous. So, Spider-Man beats his opponent with intelligence instead of another fight where our hero would be outclassed. Remember Watchmen? Director Zack Snyder gave us Ozymandias, who may have killed more people than Zod did. Hopefully, Deathstroke will be more than a simple threat for the caped crusader's next film.
Great villains have all of these qualities, oh, and a good fall sequence:
Which comic book villain do you think has all of these traits in spades?