Who are the most sympathetic movie villains?

Likeable movie villains- perhaps one of the hardest things for a director to achieve, and George Bell ranks some of the best around.

George Bell
25th November 2019
Image: IMDB

No movie is as good as its antagonist. Be it, someone, you love to hate and look forward to whatever grizzly demise they might come to or the character who you might not agree with but sure do feel for. Here are some of the best movie villains that you can’t help but sympathize with.

O-Ren Ishii – Kill Bill (2003)

Quentin Tarantino knows how to make a great villain. But for the most part, they are all villains that we as the viewer despise and just can’t wait for them to be gone like the titular Bill from Kill Bill: Volume 2 or Cavil Candie from Django Unchained. One notable exception is the main antagonist for the first Kill Bill movie, O ren Ishii played by Lucy Liu. As one of the members of the group who attempted to assassinate the Bride at first was just another name on the list. But thanks to a powerful animated segment in the movie we learn the tragic back story of the supreme leader of the Tokyo Yakuza. This coupled with the respectful way she treated both her peers and enemies made her death a satisfying conclusion to the character, but also leaving us feeling melancholy.

'The Bride' confronts O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill's thrilling finale

Roy Batty – Blade Runner (1982)

Most villains have the end goal of world domination, vengeance and unimaginable wealth but the main antagonist of Blade Runner, Roy Batter, only had one goal: live. Played by Rutger Hauer, the rogue replicant started his life as a slave made only to work until his eventual death which any normal person would try to avoid. He spends the movie trying desperately to find a way to extend his life, which is coming to an end thanks to limited shelf life. By the end with him about the die, Batty gives the iconic monologue “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die” which makes his death so impactful as he was just wanted to experience the world like everyone else, but was robbed of it.

The late Rutger Hauer delivers one of cinema's most iconic monologues.

Magneto – X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

In more recent entries in the X-Men franchise, Magneto has definitely been seen as more of an anti-hero, but in the original trilogy, he was the go-to big bad.  A victim of the holocaust, Erik Lehnsherr lost his mother in a sadistic attempt at awakening his powers which left him with permanent trauma. His methods, while questionable, were built on the solid moral ground of equal rights for mutants and humans, and as a result, makes his character more complex and engaging.

Michael Fassbender takes revenge on deserving ex-pats.

Koba – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

While definitely a sadistic murderer whose death we were all glad to see, Koba definitely has justifiable motives for doing what he did. A victim of horrendous animal abuse at the hands of scientists gave Koba a deep mistrust and hatred towards humans and as a result set up certain conditions for war the break out between the humans and apes. The clear PTSD experienced by Koba as well as his physical wounds makes us feel for how badly he must have been treated since birth, and maybe suggesting that his revenge was somewhat justified.

Ceaser and Koba go toe-to-toe on the morality of violence.
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AUTHOR: George Bell
One half film addict, one part computer nerd. All parts Croc lover

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