Every show and every movie needs a great antagonist to play second fiddle the protagonist, right? What happens when the antagonist is actually likeable? Nevermind the potentially bad things being done like killing people, kidnapping or whatever the hell we are talking about here, sometimes you just downright like them.
It’s kind of funny that shows like Cobra Kai are showing classic villains like Johnny Lawrence in a different light. Spoiler alert, I am removing Johnny from contention because of Cobra Kai, although he would easily be number one or two otherwise. John Kreese is still an asshole though. There is a difference in love to hate versus actually liking a villain. John Kreese is the former. Ramsay Bolton and Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones are both the former. There is nothing redeemable or likeable. They are just ruthless piece of shit that make for great entertainment.
Then you have iconic and I mean fucking ICONIC villains like Darth Vader, who is arguably the best villain in movie or TV history. There are maybe 3 or 4 others who get that nod. In Vader’s case, his backstory makes him understandable, but for me, not necessarily likeable.
The term likeable is highly subjective so when you’re reading this, I expect you to keep that in mind. This isn’t a Top 10 Best or a Top 10 Most Popular. This is 10 villains “I” (me, not you) genuinely enjoy, appreciate and like. I would go have a beer with these people. Hopefully not be killed in the process, but fuck it.
Honorable Mention: Stu Macher (Scream)
Portrayed by: Matthew Lillard
Best Line: *Being asked his motive* “Peer pressure. I’m far too sensitive.”
Sure, he went a psychopathic killing spree with his not so likeable best friend Billy Loomis. Even when Sid dropped the TV on his head, I was disappointed he died, even as a child when I saw it for the first time. He was the comedic relief of Woodsboro during the first appearance of ghostface. I loved him for it. I was shocked when it was revealed he was part of it.
10. Joker (Batman)
Portrayed by: Jack Nicholson
Best Line: “This town needs an enema.” *blows horn*
Jack’s Joker is sinister, but in a much more comedic spin to the character. The line I used above is just downright hilarious. Alluding to the fact the entire town needs something shoved up it’s ass and he is going to be the one to do it, my god. From the time he liberated from being dead once, he just manages to make every scene hilarious with amazing one liners. Sure, he is a psychopath with the highest kill count of any version of Joker, yet I still like him.
9. Jareth (Labyrinth)
Portrayed by: David Bowie
Best Line: You remind me of the babe...
First off, it’s David fucking Bowie. His charisma makes him likeable despite being the villain. He also has some code and honor to some degree. Let’s also not forget the fact, he was granting Sarah her wish of Toby to be taken by Goblins. Not to mention, Magic Dance is one of the best songs ever. I love when he tells all the goblins laughing “quiet,” to make his joke “a goblin babe” to dead silence before saying “well,” laughter then continues. He’s amazing.
8. Aaron Burr (Hamilton)
Portrayed by: Leslie Odom Jr.
Best Line: “I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable. I am original.”
Aaron Burr, sir. Leslie Odom’s portrayal of the character is just *kisses hand* muah. Considering I relate to Hamilton on standing up for what you believe in and picking sides. I believe in being divisive than indecisive. Yet, I still like Burr considering he is the opposite of Hamilton who I align with on so much. There is just something about his calm demeanor that is captivating.
7. Shere Khan (The Jungle Book)
Portrayed By: George Sanders
Best Line: “Why should you run? Is it possible that you don’t know who I am?“
He’s a charming fellow with a sick and sadistic side. He’s also a condescending piece of shit because of him being the alpha of the jungle. He knows his reputation and he uses that to his advantage. What’s wild though is he hates man because of their guns and fire. He knows the danger of these things. It is more of a tact in survival.
6. Loki (Marvel)
Portrayed By: Tom Hiddleston
Best Line: “You will never be a God.“
I mean, is there a funnier villain in the history of anything? Probably not. Loki is probably number one on most lists. I am sure as shit going to catch flack for this by someone. The reason he isn’t higher for me is because I am not as obsessed with Marvel and superheroes as most people. I am not saying they are wrong for that obsessions, the films I have seen are great. The popularity speaks for itself. Even for someone who is not as in tune with the Marvel Universe, there is no denying how great Loki is.
5. Gus Fring (Breaking Bad)
Portrayed by: Giancarlo Esposito
Best Line: “If you try to interfere, this becomes a much simpler matter…”
I remember texting one of my sisters when I watched Breaking Bad for the first time. I said how awesome and how much I loved Gus. Her response was something like lol just wait. Gus is one bad bad bad mother fucker. Even with his evil and sadistic side, there was some honor in what he did. It’s pretty hard not sympathize with his backstory. Let’s be honest, we all cheered for Gus in getting even with Don Eladio.
4. Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
Portrayed By: Richard White and Luke Evans
Best Line: “I’d like to thank you all for coming to my wedding. But first I’d better go in there and propose to the girl!”
Arrogant in the best way possible, no matter which version we are talking about. I love Beauty and the Beast, specifically Gaston. He has always been a favorite of mine. When the live action was announced and Luke Evans was cast, I thought holy shit what a perfect person to play him. The jawline alone made it great. No brains. Braun to the max. A complete and utter douchebag, yet I still love him.
3. Leona Lansing (The Newsroom)
Portrayed By: Jane Fonda
Best Line: “Moses and Jesus are playing golf. Moses steps up to the tee and hits a beautiful shot 250 yards straight down the middle of the fairway. Jesus steps up to the tee and hooks the ball into the trees. Jesus looks up into the heavens, raises his arms, and suddenly the sky darkens. A thunder clap rings out, rain pours down, and a stream rises among the trees. The golf ball floating on top finds its way into the mouth of a fish. Then a bird flies down and takes the fish and the ball out over the green, drops it in the cup for a hole-in-one. Jesus turns to Moses with a satisfied grin, and Moses says, ‘Look. You wanna play golf or you wanna fuck around?“
First and foremost, Jane Fonda is a national treasure. Bonus points there. I cannot stress enough that people NEED to watch The Newsroom. That being said, one of the main villains throughout is Leon Lansing. She owns ACN which means she has to protect the pockets of the company. When the news team decides to finally do the news, she is not happy as they are going after people who help fill her pockets. Yet, you still love her character throughout. The clip I share below is one of my favorite scenes in the history of TV, bar none. After one journalist pulls shoddy shit to get a story on the air, ACN catches a shit storm. This was basically her face turn for saying that she loves the honesty that was brought to the network proving she wasn’t really the villain all along. The scene always brings me to tears, while simultaneously making me laugh. While the heads of her news team (Charlie, Will and Mac) say they want to resign, she says absolute not. When Charlie says they don’t have the trust of the public anymore, she passionately screams get it back, putting all faith in them. End scene. End episode. Magical.
2. Rowan Pope (Scandal)
Portrayed By: Joe Morton
Best Line: “Olivia you are getting on that plane come hell or high water.. and to be clear I am the hell and the high water.”
For as bad of a woman as the white hat wearing gladiator Olivia Pope is, Papa Pope ain’t nothing to fucking play with. Throughout Scandal, he was the man making power moves and doing so with precision and tact. It was the one individual that put fear in Olivia Pope. And for the love of God, good luck shaking him down. He is command. And you can’t take command.
1. Klaus Mikaelson (The Vampire Diaries & The Originals)
Portrayed By: Joseph Morgan
Best Line: “If I tell you who I really am and you refuse to believe me then I can hardly be blamed for your disappointment.”
Niklaus (Elijah voice). Man oh man. He will forever be my favorite villain. Just from a pure bad assery standpoint, Klaus is not to get messed with. He is witty. He is smart. He is powerful. He is honest. He is the perfect villain to like. There is no other number one for me, period.