I've loved superheroes since Sam Raimi's 'Spider-Man' came out in 2002. I remember cheering on everyone's favorite web-slinger as he took down the evil Green Goblin. Back then, I rooted for the hero and I wanted the bad guy to lose. That is not necessarily the case anymore.
'Spider-Man 2' came out two years later, and with it was a whole new take on villainy. Instead of the maniacal insane Green Goblin, I was presented with a victim of circumstances. Doc Ock was a brilliant scientist with the world ahead of him, and in the blink of an eye his career and his wife were snatched away from him. Even though Doc Ock managed to beat Spider-Man, one of my favorites, to a pulp, I still felt sad when Ock sacrificed himself at the end of the movie to save Spidey.
I noticed the same supervillain sympathy aspect in many other superhero films like 'X-Men: First Class', 'Thor', and 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'. It eventually got to the point where I started to like some villains more than the heroes, which spurred controversy among my hero-loving friends.
I started to get curious, so I went to the Moviepilot Creators Facebook page and consulted with my fellow Creators on villains that they like. After reading their responses and reflecting on my movie-going experience, I've compiled a list of reasons why villains have become so lovable.
Looks ARE Everything
Let's face it, humans are visual creatures. If something looks visually attractive, we are much more likely to like the object.
I like Anti-Man better than Blue Marvel because I think he looks cooler. -Reid Jones
While Reid's statement is very simple and straight to the point, it is also very true. When villains look cooler, they are much more likely to be favored over heroes. For example, take Star Wars for example. As heroic as Luke Skywalker is, just look at him compared to Darth Vader.
To me at least, the giant, sleek, robotic man seems a lot more intimidating and visually appealing than the black-clad fellow to his left.
To Struggle Is To Be Human
Going back to Vader and Luke, another awesome Creator had stuff to say about the famous father-son rivalry.
...Vader was just a great character because of his story arc. Even when was fully immersed in the dark side, before returning to help Luke, I found him more interesting than Luke.
Luke was too . . . pure. Being a good person came too easy to him. Vader struggled with it, and it's that struggle that makes him so appealing. -Bridget Serdock
The character behind Darth Vader wasn't always as cold and emotionless as we see in the original trilogy. He was once Anakin Skywalker, a little slave boy from Tatooine. He is given glorious potential that allowed him to rise up the ranks of the Jedi quickly, but pain constantly followed him.
First, he had to leave his mother behind, which is hard enough for any young boy to do. Years later, his mother is abducted and killed by Tusken Raiders, so he slaughters the lot of them. Soon after, Chancellor Palpatine, a man Anakin had come to see as a father figure, was ordered to death when the Jedi Order found out that he was a Sith. With all of this death and destruction around him, Anakin had to struggle greatly with the bounds of good and evil before ultimately settling with evil.
These struggles not only make him more interesting, but more relatable as well. We all go through constant moral struggles in our day-to-day lives, and it's nice to be able to see eye-to-eye with such a dynamic figure like Anakin.
Are They Really Villains?
Many times when watching a superhero movie, you will encounter a villain who views himself as the hero, and he is only the villain through the current hero's point of view. I found that to be the case with Loki, but One of MP's awesome Creators found that same dynamic with the X-Men arch-nemesis Magneto.
...he's not REALLY a villain. He's a hero who is protecting his kind (mutants) from the ordinary humans (who attacked first just because they were scared of what the mutants could do, not because of what they DID do). Yes, he takes things to the extreme sometimes, but overall, he is most definitely a hero. -Micah James Nebeker
I am glad someone finally agrees with me on this front. I have always agreed that Magneto is truly doing what he thinks is best for the preservation of his species. He is only seen as a villain because the story of the X-Men follows the founder, Professor X.
Yet another Creator spoke out to the likability of Magneto.
...the character is deadly and powerful with charm and sophistication. It makes me want to join his side. -John Hopper
Charisma is a big factor often found in heroes, like Tony Stark. The fact that Magneto is so charming only makes you like the character more.
Another Creator shared one of her favorite villains, which also falls into the same category.
...I surely love Maleficent played by Angelina Jolie. Up until the film, Maleficent was a villainess but thanks to Disney, we get to see different side of the villainess and watch more of her in action as they decided to develop the character! -Rosalyn Lim
Maleficent and Magneto both really make you think about the point of view of these stories. They always come off as the bad guys, although they are the hero of their own stories. Just think about how many other villains could just be heroes in a different light!
A Perfect Match
Of course there are those times where you absolutely adore a hero, and you adamantly believe that there is no one that can ever match them. Then you're proven wrong when you meet a villain that has the potential to show up the hero with ease. I know of two amazing villains that both fit this section, and one of them was brought up by another Creator.
I can't say that I like the Joker better than Batman, but I think I've always liked him as much. They really are two sides of the same coin. He's just so much fun, that even with his extreme psychosis, he's irresistible. -William Cloud
Batman is a popular fan-favorite, and 'The Dark Knight' is one of the most popular superhero films in existence! That being said, a large portion of the film's success had to do with the back-and-forth dynamic between Batman and his rival, the Joker. The Joker finally gave Batman a real challenge, that drove fans mad with glee. It's hard not to love such a perfect match-up!
Another perfect match-up can be found in one of my favorite modern shows, 'Sherlock'.
That's right! Good ol' Jim Moriarty. Sherlock Holmes wouldn't even be half of the detective without such a worthy adversary to push him to his limits. Even for a man known far and wide for his intellectual genius, Sherlock is often stumped by some of Moriarty's elegant schemes. Without Moriarty, you wouldn't like Sherlock as much, and without Sherlock, you wouldn't like Moriarty as much. They are the perfect match-up!
At the root of my admiration for Loki lies his intellect. While Thor, his counterpart, is keen on charging things head-on with his hammer flailing about, Loki uses tricks and illusions to fool his enemies. He is able to think himself out of any predicament that he lands himself in, which is highly commendable.
It seems as if I'm not the only one that likes the smart type.
...Mr. Sinister is my all-time favorite villain. He doesn't get any respect or recognition for the most part and to this day he hasn't received a dedicated comic series to him. He is a genius, has extensive medical and scientific knowledge. He has the Nasty boys, the Marauders, and the savage land mutants at his command. He has tie's to Apocalypse, and a huge story arc with Jean Grey and Cyclops. At one point he even had his own country like Dr. Doom, what more does this guy have to do to get some respect? -TJ Smith
While Mr. Sinister is a great choice, there is a large collection of academically talented villains out there, like Dr. Doom, Braniac, and Lex Luthor. With people who boast such colossal intelligence, it's hard to not allow them a certain level of respect.
So many superheros nowadays are the tough, fit, buff ones who probably could have been football stars if they wanted to. I don't know about you, but I always vote brain over brawn, no matter if they're a hero or villain.