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"One of the glories of Los Angeles is its modernist residential architecture, but Hollywood movies have almost systematically denigrated this heritage by casting many of these houses as the residences of movie villains."--Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) by Thom Andersen

A film still from the Great Train Robbery, a robber shooting at the projection screen.

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A villain (also known as, "black hat", villainess in its feminine form) is a fictional character, whether based on a historical narrative or one of literary fiction. Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines such a character as "a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; or a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot".

Its structural purpose is to serve as the opposition of the hero character and their motives or evil actions drive a plot along. In contrast to the hero, who is defined by their feats of ingenuity and bravery and their pursuit of justice and the greater good, a villain is often defined by their acts of selfishness, stupidity, evilness, craziness, cruelty, cunning and displays immoral behavior that can oppose or pervert justice. The antonym of a villain is a hero.



  1. Evil or vicious character or behaviour.
  2. A vicious or treacherous act.

Portraying and employing villains in fiction

The actor Tod Slaughter typically portrayed villainous characters on both stage and screen in a melodramatic manner, with mustache-twirling, eye-rolling, leering, cackling, and hand-rubbing.

Villain archetypes

The fairy tale genre utilises villains as key components to push the narrative forward and influence the hero's journey. These, while not as rounded as those that appear in other forms of literature, are what is known as archetypes. The archetypal villain is a common occurrence within the genre and come under different categories that have different influences on the protagonist and the narrative.

False donor

The false donor is a villain who utilises trickery to achieve their ends. Often the false donor will pose as a benevolent figure or influence on the protagonist (or those associated with them) to present them with a deal. The deal will present a short-term solution or benefit for whoever accepts it and, in return, benefit the villain in the long term. During the story's climax, the hero often has to find a way to rectify the agreement in order to defeat the villain or achieve the happy ending.

Similarly, the devil archetype is one that also makes an offer to the protagonist (or someone associated with them) and appeals to their needs and desires. However, the devil archetype does not hide their intentions from the protagonist. The subsequent story often follows the protagonist's journey to try and annul the agreement before any damage can be done.


The beast is a character who relies on their instincts and ability to cause destruction to achieve their ends. The evil intentions of their actions are often easily identified, as they act without concern for others (or their wellbeing) or subtlety. The rampaging villain can take the form of a very powerful individual or a rampaging beast but is still one of the more dangerous villain archetypes due to their affinity for destruction.

Authority figure

The authority figure is one that has already attained a level of command and power but always craves more. They are often driven by their desire for material wealth, distinguished stature or great power and appear as a monarch, corporate climber or other powerful individual. Their end goal is often the total domination of their corporation, nation, or world through mystical means or political manipulation. Often this villain is defeated by their own greed, pride, or arrogance.


The traitor is a villain who emphasizes the traits of trickery, manipulation and deception to achieve their goals, which is often to offer or supply information to the protagonist's opposition to halt them on their journey; often in exchange for their own freedom or safety. The traitor's goals are not always evil but the actions they commit to reach their goal can be considered inherently evil.


See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Villain" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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