The one most important characteristic in every villain.

Bad guys.

Every show has them.

But how do you make sure that your bad guy isn’t . . . well . . . bad.  (And I’m not talking Michael Jackson “Bad,” btw.)

I’ve seen a few shows and read a few scripts lately, which have all suffered a similar flaw in the construction of their “bad guy”.  So I spent some time over the holiday weekend thinking about some of my favorite bad boys and remembered why they were my favorite . . .

And you know what it was?

No matter how bad they were, I loved them . . . even just a little.

It’s a simple rule, but it’s easily forgotten.

Think about your favorite evildoers in your favorite stories  . . . Javert, Dracula, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter . . . there is something about them that no matter how villainous they may be . . . no matter how many things you wish they hadn’t done . . . you still love them just a bit.  (A quick tip on telling whether a villain has made its ways into the hearts of audience members?  If people want to dress up as the character for Halloween, the Author has done his/her job.)

Fail to make sure your audience feels this way about your villain, and, well, you’ll end up with a moustache twirling cliche that won’t move your audience and won’t move tickets.

(For more classic storytelling techniques, check out this book – it was written for screenwriters, but I find it to be a bible for writing musicals especially).

Who is your favorite villain?


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  • David Merrick Jr. says:

    Michael Riedel?

  • Sage says:

    professor moriarty from the new Sherlock Holmes movie and Hannable Lector.

  • Yosi Merves says:

    Scar from “The Lion King” is probably my favorite musical villain. I don’t really consider Javert a villain as much as a man restricted by his moral code. Is Sweeney Todd a villain?

  • Mozz says:

    Hannibal “I’m having an old friend for dinner” Lecter. I don’t know if I would ever want to be that bad, but I do want to be that witty.

  • Noah Befeler says:

    Thenardier is the real villain in Les Mis, and he’s as lovable as they get!

  • The “producer” is always the angel and the villain…

  • Kristopher says:

    I’d say the judge is the villain in Sweeney Todd…an example of a villain I actually don’t like one bit. But I suppose it works because Sweeney is a protagonist whose actions are difficult to justify, overall.
    Javert is definitely an antagonist, and I personally would call him a villain, albeit one justified by the state.
    I’ll throw Ebeneezer Scrooge out there as a favorite villain of mine; another example where the lines are blurred.

  • Rich Mc says:

    I question this assertion as there are some notable exceptions; for example, who could find anything to love in either Freddy or Jason (at least in their early flicks) and just try to find their costumes in the stores around Halloween!

  • Two of Disney’s greatest animators (Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston) wrote a book called THE DISNEY VILLAINS in which they analyze different Disney villains and what makes for a successful villain in their films. It makes for an interesting read and might serve as a good resource for people writing shows with villains in them. That being said, most of my favorite Broadway shows do not have villain characters.

  • Frederic Tacon says:

    The Leading Player in Pippin.

  • Kevin McMullan says:

    I’ll bypass Cruella de Ville (I think she’s going to get a lot of votes, maybe I’m wrong) in favor of Kathleen Turner’s Mom in “Serial Mom.”

  • Jenna says:

    The Joker, but please, any deities who might be listening, never a Batman musical. Never.

  • J. says:

    I agree with this comment 100% The Joker is the best, but please no Batman musical.

  • J says:

    The Phantom of the Opera is the villain, but even though he kills lots of people I am always hoping Christene picks him over Raul at the end.

  • Cam says:

    I don’t know if I’ve ever loved a villain. I don’t know if my opinion is in the norm or not.
    Now Darth Vader, I didn’t like until the end when he saved his son. And Hannibal? no way at all! Too evil. He can burn in hell.
    Scrooge? I felt sorry for him. So he’d be a villain I liked or loved if you could call him a villain.
    Snow White’s stepmother no way! hated her!
    So my point is that I see the villain as someone who is so bad that I would always want the hero of the story to win! No matter who.
    I don’t have a favorite villian, but Darth Vader could be one, but only because he changed at the end of the movie.
    Now someone like Jesse James could be a hero or villan depending on your perspective. They say that his family was murdered so although he’s been villanized, I could see where some people would have loved him and rationalized his crimes; thereby validating his actions. But I’d have wanted him stopped too; so I would have backed Clint Eastwood in his quest to stop him any day.

  • Favorite villain? Easy, Aaron the Moore from Titus Andronicus.

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