When we think of villains, we immediately hate them. They’re the worst of the worst. The lowest of the low. Usually, we find ourselves, as an audience, rooting against the villain and wanting them to eat shit. But, what about those villains that we love to hate? The ones that make us say, “Goddammit, this wasn’t fucking supposed to happen.” Is it the actor? The circumstances and story before the villain finds themselves murdering? Or the characterization of the villain? Is it the fact that they just don’t give a fuck – or that they care way too much about something (or someone)? Could it be a little bit of all of the above?
There are a lot of things that make a villain, but there are a lot of villains that we hate to LOVE. These villains hold a special place in our hearts because they’re just so good at being bad. Let’s take a look at the 10 horror movie villains we hate to love, and we will end up rooting for ’til the very end.
10. MICK TAYLOR (WOLF CREEK, 2005)
One thing I love (and hate) about Wolf Creek is how much I root for Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) anytime I watch the film. The character of Mick Taylor is based on the stories of serial killer Ivan Milat, who killed people traveling through Australia. With Mick, the Australian hospitality (at first) is so refreshing, but that quickly turns in time, and you’re immediately brought into unforgiving torture. John Jarret plays Taylor as such a captivating type of villain – unhinged, very funny, and charismatic as fuck. Again, not forgiving the terrible and unspeakable things he does to women, but you have to admit he very charming at first. The scariest thing about Mick is that, in true serial killer fashion, there is no real motive. He tortures and kills because he wants to. Villains with no rhyme or reason are always something to root for, possibly only in my opinion.
9. CHUCKY (CHILD’S PLAY, 1988)
The Good Guy doll itself makes you think, “Why would anyone want to buy this for their kid?” Yet, Chucky is something I’d absolutely buy for my future kid in a fucking heartbeat. Chucky is a possessed doll with a potty mouth and a thirst for murder and destruction. Does that make up stop loving him? Quite the opposite honestly. Chucky is a villain you just can’t keep down, even when he’s getting married and having a kid. You can burn him, bruise him, kick him, dismantle and dismember him, but he’s going to come back, thirsty for more.
I recently had the pleasure to watch all of the Chucky films, and I rooted from him One of the best things about Chucky, and a major reason of why we love him, is he is voiced by the undeniable, talented, wonder of a human being, Brad Dourif. He makes Chucky sinister and menacing, things that should turn you off, but you still want to see him hack, slash and verbally assault his way into a body to call his own again.
8. DEATH (FINAL DESTINATION, 2000)
Death is something that comes for all of us sooner or later. It’s a tale as old as time and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. So, who doesn’t love when teenagers bite the dust thanks to it? Death in Final Destination can be compared to the Blair Witch in a sense. They are more of… manifestations of an occurrence that stalks its victims relentlessly until it gets what it wants: their demise. (We love persistence, don’t we folks?) Death in Final Destination is so much fun to watch that it’s impossible not to love it. The more times you see how creative Death can be with his victims, it gears you up for one the next one, and then the next. It’s a little bit voyeuristic on our part, but Death knows how to give us a good show.
7. HAYLEY (HARD CANDY, 2006)
Just like Jigsaw, Hayley is another character with a message to send. Hayley (Elliot Page, Umbrella Academy) is a 14-year-old vigilante who tracks down predators. Hayley aims to make them confess and pay for their crimes by torturing them until she gets the confession and vindication for the victim. With Hard Candy, you’re left in the stickiest of situations. Jeff (Patrick Wilson, Insidious) is, please don’t come for me, a charming fellow (at first), who, when we find out his crime, we realize that he did something VERY wrong.
At the end of the day, you completely root for Hayley. She’s taking “To Catch a Predator” to a whole new level, and you love her for that, or at least respect the lengths she’s going through to take down the bad guys singlehandedly. She’s nothing short of a hero, and our girl walks away with another day saved and another predator off the streets. My new saying is that Hard Candy walked so Promising Young Woman could run.
6. CANDYMAN (CANDYMAN, 1992)
Candyman is one of those villains that I not only root for, but he also breaks my fucking heart. I almost don’t want to call him a villain. Candyman was born from an urban legend, with a backstory of falling in love with a woman that society says he couldn’t love, and he murdered for it.
Candyman himself is such a sympathetic villain, you can’t help but root for him to get what he wants. He’s not only built with a tragic backstory, but it’s almost romantic in a way. It’s brutal, one hundred percent, but with the hypnotic presence of Tony Todd as the lead character, you will swoon your way through the film, even when the pees are flying over you. Now, he seeks to turn that around and torture a whole project complex. You don’t agree with his motives in the slightest, but you have to admit that he’s the smoothest around. It’s going to be interesting to see if Yahya Abdul-Mateen II take the name of Candyman in Nia DeCosta’s reboot.
5. JIGSAW (SAW, 2004)
Currently, I’m re-watching the Saw films with a friend to prepare for Spiral coming in May. Two things jumped out at me. One, these movies are not as good as I remember them being, but the fucking traps are still wild as hell. Two, John Kramer continues to be someone I root for throughout the films.
Jigsaw aka John Kramer is more of a misunderstood anti-hero with “okay-ish” motivations of why he’s killing — I’m sorry — having people make a choice, rather than a full-out villain. Throughout the Saw films, he’s continues to be the main antagonist, even when he’s dead, then alive, then dead again, then alive, but oh wait… he’s dead.
Jigsaw puts participants through a series of “games.” These “games” come at a price, where those who fail to make a choice die and those who complete the tests are grateful to still hold on to their life. Jigsaw holds a pretty strong vendetta in the later Saw films when we learn more of his personal and tragic story. We see WHY he’s killing and the lengths he goes through to get that moral message delivered. You have to admit, even though he seemed extra, you were totally on-board when he laid out his philosophy.
4. MISTER BABADOOK (THE BABADOOK, 2014)
Mister Babadook is a villain to love for the simple reason that he actually helped a family instead of outright hurting them. I mean, yes, he is terrifying and tries to attack, but he also taps into something real, something that no one wanted to face head on in this movie until he manifested– grief and depression. You more or less root for Mister Babadook because of his close association to Amelia (Essie Davis, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries). With Babadook, he’s the manifestation of her mental state, so you want her to get better, you want her to be able to live her life on her terms, and be okay with her son. You end up adoring him because he shows her that what he is can get much worse in time if she doesn’t get her shit together.
3. NORMAN BATES (PSYCHO, 1960)
Norman Bates is not your typical villain. And that’s the way we like him. We first see him as a sweet, awkward, quirky, shy guy. Then, lurking beneath the surface, there’s a dark side to this mama’s boy that no one would ever have anticipated. Of all the villains on this list, my favorite one has to be Norman Bates. He’s the most sympathetic of the characters (besides Candyman) to me. He comes from an abusive household into being by himself, sexual repressed and having a mental illness.
I will absolutely make a Hitchcock list, but Psycho also lays out this movie to that you can understand Norman Bates and his mannerisms. You get to know Norman almost personally, which askew your line of thinking. To make Norman as haunting as he is, Anthony Perkins does the damn thing. Perkins is absolute perfection as a sweet mama’s boy one minute, then his knife-wielding mother the next. You understand him more and more, finally rooting for him not to get caught as the film rolls on.
Recommendation: Watch The Last of Sheila! Directed by Herbert Ross, and written by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim. A great murder mystery, cat-and-mouse game that inspired Knives Out.
2. FREDDY KRUEGER (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, 1984)
There’s a lot of slashers that own your heart, but Freddy Krueger is a slasher that possesses your dreams. (See what I did there?) Freddy’s a lot of things that slasher villains generally aren’t. While most slashers don’t want to toy with you for too long, and just want to get the job done and move on to the next one, Freddy is charismatic, funny, and wickedly powerful. Once you fall down the rabbit hole of the franchise, you root for him every fucking time.. Now- Freddy is still pretty vile at the end of the day. We should never forget that he was a child murderer. However, he’s a creative when it comes to his kills. On top of that, he giving the best one-liners you could ever hope for. We hate to love him, don’t we folks?
1. HANNIBAL LECTER (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, 1991)
There’s no other villain on this list that gives horror fans charm, smarts, spell bounding charisma and brilliant mental manipulation than Hannibal Lecter can. From a respected psychiatrist to a serial killer, you can’t help respect the man. It’s said that Hannibal Lecter was inspired by serial killers and criminal such as Alfredo Balli Treviño, Albert Fish, Monster of Florence and more.
Lecter puts a smile on your face as he dines on your brain and that’s just how you like it. With Anthony Hopkins playing the title role in the notorious Hannibal Lecter franchise (Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon, and Hannibal Rising), it amps this up ten-fold. Hannibal Lecter is an incredibly intelligent and cunning villain, but isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when the time is needed. A man after all of our hearts. Literally.