Cersei Lannister, GOT Series
It’s hard to really “like” Cersei- but she makes the most fantastic villain. And I love a good villain. Like most of the other villains here, if you think about it, she does have some reason for being so – at least in the GOT books I’ve read so far. After being shipped off to marry Robert Baratheon, who was clearly still infatuated with Lyanna Stark, and watching him being unable to keep it in his pants for several years- I can see why there’s some bitterness there.
Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights
I’m unsure whether I can refer to him as the villain of the novel, as Cathy was just as bad, but Heathcliff is one of the best “nasty characters” I have encountered. Though he’s ruthless and manipulative, and a tyrant- I can also feel sorry for him at points.
Mustapha Mond, Brave New World
Possibly the least “villain-like” villain of the dystopian world. He is remarkably similar to what I suppose we could call two of the heroes of the novel: John “the Savage”, and Helmholtz Watson. He’s also similar to Bernard Marx, a character who I thought would be a hero, but in actual fact turned out to be a massive hypocrite. Mond has a library of banned books, and though he puts forward some very valid reasons for the societal construction we see in Brave New World, we also learn he was once in exactly the same position as Watson, Marx, and John. In place of choosing becoming an exile though, he backed down in order to remain in the society he lives in.
Gil-Martin, The Confessions of a Justified Sinner
In a similar sense to Mustapha Mond, Gil-Martin is a highly charismatic villain. He is charming, witty, and can push his point so far as to make other characters (specifically Robert Wringham) believe he is right. Some critics have argued that Gil-Martin is actually an example of Robert’s divided self, and demonstrative of a split personality- though this is complicated by other characters seeing him. This also makes him one of the most interesting villains on the list.
The White Witch, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
A classic villain. I am not going to debate that this villain is a villain without cause (other than being power hungry)- I just loved her character. Because sometimes purely evil characters are the only way to go. I always remember imagining The White Witch as highly glamorous. Other than C.S.Lewis’ amazing narrative skills, she really brought The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to life for me- because when you’re five she is a seriously scary character.
Alec D’Urberville, Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Alec is a character who in some ways matches the archetypal villain in appearance. He has well-styled facial hair, and preys on an innocent female protagonist. However, Hardy left it open to interpretation in the novel as to whether Tess was seduced, or raped by Alec. Once you take this into account, and the fact that Alec does later offer to marry Tess, does this make him so much of a villain? Needless to say, we had many heated debates on this during university seminars.
Lady Macbeth, Macbeth
Okay, I have to say: if Lady Macbeth hadn’t been living in the 1600’s then she would have been either a brilliant business woman- or a serial killer. She has ambition. She’s a little bit nuts, but she has ambition by the bucket load. And nowhere other than some blood-splattered social climbing to channel it.
Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter Series
She was terrifying in the films, and even worse in the books. Though intelligent, scheming villains are scary- villains that are loose canons are sometimes even worse. Bellatrix definitely fits this last category, being highly unpredictable and a little bit nuts.
Mrs Danvers, Rebecca
The creepiest villain on this list. She’s a horrible, insidious presence in Manderly mansion, preserving the memory of Rebecca (the first wife of the protagonist’s husband), and basically just making life hell for the unnamed female protagonist, whom Danvers sees as trying to replace Rebecca and her memory.
The Grand Witch, The Witches
Another children’s literature villain: I was scared of her when I read the book, and this was only cemented in place when I watched the film. Roald Dahl captures the very idea of “don’t trust appearances” in this book, with horrific effect on my overactive imagination as a child. Every woman in the supermarket could’ve been a witch for all I knew. I really feel as if in this novel Dahl gives us a little bit of the style found in his more sinister adult books, which I’ve seen in Waterstones recently, and plan on buying (I’ll review them if I do guys).
Tamora, Titus Andronicus
A good villain is just plain evil, but a great villain has a reason for being that way- as some of these villains should hopefully have proven. Tamora is/was the Queen of the Goths, before her defeat and being presented to the emperor, Saturninus, as one of the spoils of war by Titus Andronicus. After marrying the emperor, she sets out to basically ruin Titus and his family. And pretty much succeeds. She’s having an affair with Aaron the Moor, and when caught out by Lavinia (Titus’ daughter) and Bassianus, Tamora has Bassianus murdered and then allows her sons Chiron and Demetrius to rape and mutilate Lavinia. At this point she lost my sympathy. Titus Andronicus is probably Shakespeare’s most gruesome play, and believe me what you see above is indicative of it as a whole. Tamora is a powerfully written villain throughout.
There you go, 11 of the best “nasty characters” on offer. This post could’ve been a lot longer, but I did reign myself in a bit. Do you have any more suggestions? If you do, leave them below with a reason why…