Everyone has their own, favorite fictional villain. From comic book villains to high school mean girls, every bad guy/gal has their own interesting story to explain why they became so despicable. Sometimes, however, these characters are actually pretty sympathetic. There’s almost always something that happened to make them the way they are — messed-up families, being mistreated by society, or just being misunderstood. That’s why we’ve decided to pay homage to some fictional villains who had pretty legit motives. Because maybe, they weren’t even villains at all!
16. Paris from Gilmore Girls
Okay, we can all agree that the relationship between Rory Gilmore and Paris Geller is confusing, to say the least. Most of the time, Paris is pretty clearly just a great fictional villain. She’s selfish, bossy, competitive, and seems to have almost no social skills when it comes to manners and general decency. However, Paris’s neuroticism and straight-up annoyingness are pretty understandable. She’s a young woman, trying her absolute hardest to be the best at everything. That kind of perfectionism is pretty relatable. Plus, you have Rory who seems so chill all the time and yet still succeeds just as much with seemingly half of the effort. Hey, we would go a little insane too.
15. The Janitor from Scrubs
The main reason that the Janitor from Scrubs is such a great fictional villain is because he’s just so funny. The majority of the people in the hospital agree that he’s strange, but no one sees his true wickedness the way JD and Turk do. He’s constantly making their lives more difficult and playing all sorts of borderline-cruel pranks. However, we kind of can’t blame him. He’s surrounded by cocky, whiny young doctors who think they run the place, and they never thank him for his work. Plus, the guy’s straight-up bored and lonely, and JD makes for such an easy target.
14. Vivian from Legally Blonde
Okay, Vivian is a pretty complicated fictional character. She’s honestly detestable at the beginning of the movie, but we’d argue that by the end — she proves to be a good person. First of all, the main reason she’s even considered a villain is just that she’s engaged to Elle’s ex. Um, not her fault.
Then, she ends up being super nasty to Elle. But, did Elle not go through all the effort of getting into Harvard just to steal Warner back from Vivian? You would be kinda rude to her, too. Plus, at the end of the day, Vivian realizes that Warner is trash, and she and Elle join forces. It mostly seems like Vivian’s just trying to survive in the very male-dominated field of law.
13. Tai from Clueless
While Tai is only a bad guy for a little bit of Clueless, we can totally understand why she becomes mean for a while. She’s just hanging out, living her life, when Cher decides Tai is some kind of desperate loser in need of a makeover. While the main character’s intentions are good, she makes it her mission to change Tai and make her one of the “cool girls.” Granted, Tai turns into a huge jerk for a while, popularity is basically a disease, but Cher literally made her that way. Plus, Tai is pissed because Cher forced her to stop talking to Travis, a boy she really likes, and chase after Ethan, a huge jerk who’s completely in love with Cher.
12. Sandman from Spider Man 3
Talk about sympathetic fictional villain. Sandman from Spider-Man 3 is definitely a classic, understandable bad guy who you just can’t help but feel bad for. He’s portrayed as a very honorable dude with good intentions, who’s really doing the best he can for his daughter. Oh yeah, his daughter is like, terminally ill, too, which is why he’s robbing banks and getting involved in all sorts of evil-ness — he’s desperate to support her. So yeah, it’s hard to even call the guy a villain in the first place.
11. Chauncey Leopardi from Freaks and Geeks
Chauncey from Freaks and Geeks is a classic fictional villain. He’s the school bully who spends almost all of his time torturing Sam, Bill, and Neil. But, he’s not the coolest himself, and it’s obvious he’s seriously insecure. While he is straight-up evil at times, he has a sympathetic moment when he visits Bill in the hospital. Okay granted, he gave peanuts to Bill (who’s deathly allergic to peanuts) and that’s why they’re in the hospital. But he genuinely regrets the whole thing and has a monologue where he’s apologizing to Bill and admits the reason he’s so mean to them is because when they were younger they seriously excluded him and never invited him to hang out. Basically, high school is rough, and it seems like Chauncey just wanted to fit in.
10. Sid from Toy Story
Sid from Toy Story is a seriously misunderstood fictional villain. Yes, he’s generally creepy and just kind of a weirdo, but he doesn’t do anything that actually warrants being called a villain. His biggest crime is taking apart toys and screwing around with them. Toys that he has no idea are capable of thinking, talking, feeling, etc. Who among us didn’t pull apart our toys and rough house with them? He’s a kid! We’re just saying, Sid really didn’t do anything he knew was wrong.
9. Gaston from Beauty and the Beast
Hear us out! Gaston from Beauty and the Beast is a total douche. He’s basically the stereotypical high school jock who treats girls like crap. While he is a total creep to Belle and is unbearably arrogant, he has pretty legit reasons for trying to steal Belle away from, y’know, the MONSTER who kidnapped her. Yes, Belle and the Beast fall in love in a seriously Stockholm Syndrome-like way, but can you blame Gaston for trying to rescue her back from the beast who captured her against he will? Call us crazy, but that sounds like a hero. We know he’s a misogynist though so we’re not saying ALL his motives are understandable.
8. Sharpay Ryans from High School Musical
Sharpay Evans is a great example of a female fictional villain who was mostly just a victim of misogyny. Now, we’re not saying she wasn’t seriously shallow, rude and pretty manipulative. But she was honestly just trying to survive in a cliquey high school that can be toxic for a young woman! Plus, her parents suck, which always makes for a sympathetic villain.
But listen, Sharpay spent her entire life trying to succeed in theater. She and her brother, Ryan, dedicated every second of their lives to the stage. Then Troy, the jock, and Gabriella, the new girl, come in out of nowhere and steal the leading role from her? Not cool. Plus, everyone just seems to hate her because she’s super girly and not “chill” like Gabrielle.
7. Ursula from The Little Mermaid
Can we all just agree that Ursula is a misunderstood, fictional villain and that King Triton is the true villain in The Little Mermaid? Granted, she does steal Ariel’s voice, but it seems like her motives come from years of experience in the patriarchal, undersea world ruled by Triton. She’s an outsider — a strong and powerful woman who Triton has banished (for what reason, BTW?), and she does everything she can to help the marginalized groups of the ocean survive under his rule. She takes Ariel’s voice because she knows that for a woman to succeed, she has to be small and silent — something she learned the hard way. We’re just saying, Ursula’s just trying to survive in a man’s ocean.
6. Regina George from Mean Girls
Regina George is another fictional villain who just shows that high school can turn even the most well-intentioned girls into pure, pure evil. She is manipulative and awful, but you get the feeling that it’s really all for her own survival. Her mom is totally clueless and only wants her daughter to be popular, and her friends are just as mean as she is. Plus, the whole part where she’s desperately trying to lose weight just shows the amount of self-hatred she possesses, which is always heartbreaking to see in a teenager. Regina is evil, but it mostly seems like she’s just trying to survive high school the only way she knows how.
5. Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter
Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter is another fictional villain who was doomed from the start. His parents are Death Eaters who are incredibly loyal to Voldemort. However, by the end of the series it’s pretty clear that those who are “loyal” to Voldemort are mostly just terrified of him. When Dumbledore dies, it’s pretty clear that Malfoy is just trying to do right by his parents and protect himself from the Dark Lord, but can’t do it because (way) deep down, he might just be good. He just can’t bring himself to kill Dumbledore, because most of his evil tendencies are just an act to stay in his father’s good graces.
4. Plankton from Spongebob
Aside from being tiny and adorable, it’s hard to truly view Plankton as a villain. First of all, the little guy is seriously lonely. He lives in the sad, cold Chum Bucket with a computer wife that he had to build himself. Also, he’s just trying to run a successful business but always loses business to the Krusty Krab. Basically, Plankton’s villainous ways are just a product of the capitalist, undersea society in which he lives. He has to be cutthroat to get by! Plus, can’t we all agree that Mr. Krabs is about as evil and greedy as they come?
3. Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada
Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada is a really complicated fictional villain. Most of the time, she’s incredibly cold and pure evil, but by the end of the movie, you realize she’s a totally sympathetic character. First of all, you don’t get to be at the top of your industry by being nice to everyone. Especially not as a woman.
Miranda had to work her butt off to get where she is, and she’s not gonna let apathetic Andy scoff at her life’s work. So, that’s understandable. Plus, we realize she had to give up a lot to be successful. She never gets to see her kids, and her marriage is falling apart. Which is like, so typical for women with successful careers. We’re just saying, a man with her tendencies would most likely not be viewed as a villain at all.
2. The Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz
The Wicked Witch of the West is another fictional villain who should honestly not even be considered a villain at all. Why is she so wicked? Maybe because a house just landed on her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, and killed her. Maybe her sis was evil, too, but it seems like the only crime the Witch of the West committed was trying to seek justice for her sister. All she wants is her dead sister’s ruby red slippers back. Slippers that Dorothy stole off the feet of her corpse. Like, can you blame her for being kind of pissed?
1. Loki from Thor
Loki is another great example of a fictional villain who was kind of doomed to be a villain from the start. Loki spent his entire life being lied to about his background, and was constantly being compared to his super-hunky brother, Thor. The whole time, he’s just trying to prove himself to Odin (his adoptive father), himself, and the world. Odin even admitted that the only reason he ever kept Loki around was for political leverage. Um, ouch?
Also, Loki’s just insanely clever, so it’s kind of hard to not be impressed by him.