Warning: Spoilers ahead
There’s something about villains that’s incredibly attractive. Whether it’s their complexity or because they’re generally more relatable, most of the times –at least in my case– we want them to win. One great reason is that in most stories heroes are so morally superior to any human being that we can’t really relate to any of them. We know they have to win because they’re doing the right thing, but we don’t really get to connect with them. On the contrary, villains show us their human essence and make us confront ourselves on a moral level. We can get inspired by the deeds of a hero, but we don’t really feel an urge to follow their steps (we should, but that’s not really what happens). Villains or antagonists also represent our need to succeed. Let me explain it. If you think about it, most film villains are powerful beings capable of getting their way. Through most of the plot, they achieve all their purposes, until the end when they’re defeated by the hero. However, through almost ¾ of the movie we see how, through their wits and inventiveness, they manage to succeed their goals. Now, if we think about it, they’re also proof of drive and resilience: no matter the obstacles, they always have something that pushes them to overcome anything in their path. For this and many other reasons, we always aim for villains to win, even when we know that in 95% of the films this won’t happen. At least there’s a 5% that make us feel satisfaction when they do make it. Take a look at these 10 films where antagonists get their way: 1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Dir. Jonathan Demme
Hannibal Lecter made his way to the top list of serial killers in fiction. Although the police relies on his insight to capture another serial killer, his villainous mind helps him escape from prison in order to continue with his cannibalistic lifestyle.
2. The Hateful Eight (2015) – Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Audiences didn’t really fall for this Tarantino’s movie, and one of the main reasons was the lack of a heroic figure. We let his violent style slide because there’s generally a bigger cause. However, in this film, that’s not the case. Every character, as the name suggests, is a horrible person. Although we root for one of them, at the end of the day evil still manages to win.
3. The Dark Knight (2008) – Dir. Christopher Nolan
The Joker is one of the most complex and complete villains of film history, and particularly in this movie, he stands out. While many think evil was defeated by locking him up at Arkham, he manages to defeat his enemy by destroying his public figure and all that Batman represents, thus the psychotic grin at the end.
4. No Country For Old Men (2007) – Dir. Ethan Jesse Coen & Joel David Coen
Considered as one of the best modern westerns, No Country For Old Men makes an important twist for conventional movies of the western and in general. This genre’s formulaic plot usually revolves around a hero going to a town, saving it, and silently leaving it to continue his task in life. Here it’s the antagonist who makes a mess in the town, murders, and safely abandons it to continue his killing path.
5. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – Dir. Irvin Kershner
Many might disagree with me by saying that at the end Luke and Leia are safe and sound, but think about it: Luke ends up losing his hand, Han Solo gets frozen in carbonite, and more importantly, Emperor Palpatine is alive and kicking. Although we know that the story continues, if there’s something Star Wars has taught us is that, no matter what, the dark side is hard to defeat.
6. Match Point (2005) – Dir. Woody Allen
Here there’s not much of an extremely villainous character messing around, since it’s a story that deals with totally relatable events. Chris Wilton marries a wealthy woman and at the same time maintains an affair with an American actress. When he finds out that she’s pregnant, he decides to kill her, so his wife and family don’t know about the affair. A stroke of good luck changes everything.
7. Se7en (1995) – Dir. David Fincher
We’re all familiar with the story of the serial killer who murders people and each assassination represents the Seven Deadly Sins. Due to John Doe’s wits, he manages to turn the events in his favor and ends up getting his way.
8. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – Dir. Roman Polansky
Rosemary’s Baby has become a classic of horror films. After dreaming that she’s raped by a demon, a woman finds out she is pregnant. Throughout her pregnancy, she feels that there’s something wrong with her baby and ends up giving birth to the Devil’s child. Evil wins when Rosemary grabs her baby and rocks him, accepting to raise Satan’s child.
Movies are a great way to escape from our daily routines and pour our wishes and desires in a cathartic visual experience. If you want to learn more about it, take a look at these Reasons Why Movies Can Be The Best Shoulder To Cry On. You might also be interested in these 5 Independent Psychological Horror Films That Will Give You Many Sleepless Nights.