If you missed the start of this countdown, then I highly suggest you first read the previous post right here:
Why is last week’s post so valuable to you today?
- We learned the 4 fundamental characteristics of all great villains
- We learned the 5 villain types most commonly found in fiction
- And finally, we learned numbers 10 through 8 on my ultimate naughty list
You’ll be shocked who ranks in, and, more importantly, you’ll learn what characteristics all writers need to include in their own villains. So please, have a read at my previous post before we learn the 5 deadliest weapons ever used by a villain, and find out numbers 7-5 on my top villains of all time list.
But hey- if you’re ahead of the game and have last week’s post already under your belt, then congrats! You get to move on to the next round.
Villains hardly ever leave home without an arsenal of weaponry cocked and loaded for their cause. Some weapons are so deadly, so catastrophic, we fear that the world of mankind may never see the light of day again. Some villains are born with their weapon, abusing their superpowers and leveling humankind with a simple flick of their wrist. And worst of all, some weapons are in the mind of the villain, causing fear and paranoia leading to submission in their prey. So which types of weaponry leave readers trembling in their boots the most? And, which type should your villain use?
- Weapons of Mass Destruction
What’s worse? All residents of say, New York City, London, or Sydney Australia, under threat? Or one citizen alone? Granted, we don’t want either under threat, but there inlays the point: WOMD (weapons of mass destruction) incite nationwide fear and alarm in the hearts of the targeted citizens. WOMD come in many forms: a massive army, a piece of fearsomely powerful technology, or even a plethora of trained beasts can all be WOMD. For instance, Loki utilized the Tesseract, allied with the Chitauri- a godlike alien army of bad boys- to help do his bidding. His army boasted even more weapons of mass destruction with flying beasts and highly advanced technology all aimed to bring down, not just his brother Thor, but all the Avengers as well.
So who is this weapon meant for? What type of villain uses this weapon? Think about Loki’s goal: he wanted the Asgardian throne, which promised a vast amount of power. Does your villain want something similar? Does he thirst for power? Does he seek a crown? Does he want to prove himself undefeatable? Does he want to lock down victory in a massive war between nations? Does he want to wipe out a select city, race, nation or planet? Then he should be using WOMD to incite fear in the hearts of his enemies.
2. Natural Born Killers
Some of us have auburn hair or green eyes. Some of us have double-jointed thumbs. And then, some folks have laser beams that shoot out of their hands, blowing up city buildings in mere seconds. Yes, some villains are born with their powers. This category of villain, though, is more widely encompassing. Natural born killers can literally be born with superpowers. For example, Sylar from Heroes was born with his sick brain-hacking skill. Natural born killers can also be artificially created with their power, or created by a third party, with a specific goal in mind. Khan, for instance, was an augmented human who was used for his superior mind. Natural born power can also include magic. The evil Queen Regina in Once Upon A Time is a perfect example of this sort of natural power. Now, on the other end of this spectrum are monsters or beastly animals who are born with their fearsome weaponry. Animals or monsters can have razor sharp fangs, claws, talons, or any other number of dangerous, naturally occurring weaponry. One of my favorite depictions of this are the lions from the movie The Ghost In the Darkness. Based on a true story, two bloodthirsty lions attack and kill workers at Tsavo, Kenya, during the building of the Uganda-Mombasa Railway in East Africa in 1898.
So what common factor unites this varied weapon-type? A lack of self-control. This villain’s selfish desires outweigh the wants of the many, and their unmatched power drives them to abuse their inborn abilities. They terrorize their enemies, the community they live in, or something far grander. So, should your villain have natural born powers? Well, is your world a universe where naturally occurring powers or superpowers already exists? Then perhaps your villain should use natural born powers to their advantage.
3. Mind Games
What weapon has a massive impact, yet goes unseen? It’s the ever complex brain of the villain who uses words alone to take down its prey. The villains who use mind games are masters at convincing others to do their bidding or believe in their ideas. Mind games include ammo such as manipulation, lies, secrets, and an unwavering straight face. So what makes the mind games weapon so effective?: The clever use of half-truths. When a villain uses mind games to control their prey they typically use some truth to make the lie more palatable, more believable. They weave a web around their prey so complex, that in most cases the hero won’t even notice they’ve been caught in a trap until this spider begins to devour. So why choose this weapon over a bullet to the brain? Because the villain has a goal which involves gaining the trust of their victims first. Plus, this villain wants to gain greater power while keeping up the facade that this power has been rightfully earned. So, in order to attain their goal, they must be seen as a trustworthy person first. That means a best friend, a spouse, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, could potentially be the villain, but the reader does not know until the sting of betrayal is revealed. In conclusion, this weapon usually kills the victim emotionally before any physical harm ensues.
4. Weapon of Choice
Infinity Gauntlet. Lightsaber. The One Ring. What did you think of when you read off these weapons? Did you think of their wielder? Well, if so, that’s the point. For some villains, the weapon is one consistent, iconic choice. Their identity surrounds the weapon they use to achieve results. The thing about this option for your villain is that it can be played around with a bit. Superpowers can be a weapon of choice. Magic can be a weapon of choice. Telepathy can be a weapon of choice- literally, anything can be a weapon of choice, as long as the villain uses it regularly in their battles.
So should your villain choose one iconic weapon while attacking his enemies? It depends on the message he wants to send and the image he wants to embody. If he is all about building an intimidating reputation, then a weapon of choice is perfect for your villain.
Now, we can focus on the next villains in my line up and what weapons they chose to climb up my list of “the top ten villains of all time”.
In following with the previous blog post, I will also be breaking down what types of villains they are too.
#7 Khan Noonien Singh
Humans often have dreams of creating superior humans, always believing they will come out better than we are in every way, including morally and ethically. But the product always falls short of the dream, doesn’t it? And this infamous Star Trek villain enters as one of the more insidious of these examples. The character first appeared in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Space Seed” (1967), and was portrayed by Ricardo Montalbán who reprised his role in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In the 2013 film Star Trek Into Darkness, he is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Khan’s origins are vague, however, we understand that he was the product of a selective breeding or genetic engineering program. Cumberbatches’ incarnation of this character quite blew me out of the water (but then again, when doesn’t a Cumberbatch role do such a thing?). In Star Trek: Into Darkness, Khan terrorizes the Starfleet Academy and residents of San Fransisco, eventually surrendering himself to the crew of the Enterprise. Using his superior mind, Khan makes pawns of the lowly humans standing in his way of saving the lives of the last few superhumans dedicated to his cause. Khan viciously destroys thousands and throws the crew into endless chaos, therefore ranking him as number 7 on my list of top ten villains of all time.
#6 Howard of 10 Cloverfield Lane
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so completely stressed out during a movie from beginning to end. 10 Cloverfield Lane produced one of the most spine-tingling, mind-warping villains of all time. Perhaps it’s the aliens, or maybe it’s his time spent in his impregnable bunker, but Howard has got more than just one screw loose, and it’s apparent to all. In his desperate attempt to save himself and a select few from the aliens destroying the outside world, Harold turns into a monster himself. As we follow the story through fellow bunk-mate Michelle’s eyes, we witness his level of insanity slowly unfold during intense interrogation scenes and nail-biting escape-attempts. His grizzly mind games alone intimidate his fellow cabin mates into submission. And when they act out of line, he takes out a new weapon with which to threaten them. We wonder if the world outside is as dangerous as Howard claims it is, or if this world is one born out of Howard’s twisted mind. Thanks to another one of John Goodman’s incredible performances, Howard is truly terrifying, and therefore comes in as number six on my list of the greatest villains of all time.
This two-faced villain hailing from The Lord of the Rings saga is such a wonderfully complex character. I personally have a soft spot for Gollum, formally known as Smeagol. See, Gollum isn’t just some straight up cold-hearted bad guy. No, Gollum battles between his desire to reclaim his “Precious”, the One Ring, and his desperate desire for redemption. We witness this battle unfold in literal fights between Gollum’s split personalities, and we sympathize with him. We all see hope for redemption in him the way Frodo sees hope in him, yet we all worry about his desire to take back his Precious, like Sam does. His multi-dimensional personality and his dark backstory creates a unique view of this character. I personally believe truly interesting, complex villains should have more than just an obvious bad side and Gollum is a perfect example of this. His treacherous mind games split up one of the greatest friendships in all of fictional history, and we hate him for his snake-like behavior. Yet, we pity Gollum because we believe everyone deserves a second chance and we want to see Gollum defeat his demons. This battle between good and evil is relatable, creating a truly complex villain we admire, and that’s why Gollum makes it as number five on my list of the greatest villains of all time.
Stay tuned in the following weeks as I continue my breakdown of villains, how we can create multi-dimensional villains with a relatable origin story, and reveal numbers 4-1 of my favorite villains of all time.
And, better still, stay tuned for the upcoming release of this third workbook in the”The 16 Point Checklist Every Author Needs” series!:
Share in the comments section below who your favorite villains are and why they gave you nightmares! I’d absolutely love to see who you come up with!