irredeemable Villains
Book Lists

Top Fictional Villains List

The redeemable villain is one of my favorite tropes and, as a reader, I have fallen in love with many a bookish bad boy. There is nothing quite like the love-to-hate relationship a reader develops with the villain(s) of a story, especially when that villain has depth of character. Being bad for a good reason goes a long way toward establishing a brilliant character arc. Still, for the character to be truly forgiven they must show growth or remorse, or at least possess some other redeeming quality.

Redeemable Villains

Let’s take Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, for example. Despite her terrible treatment of her assistant, Andrea, at the end of the movie, she still writes the most incredible commendation letter to Andrea’s prospective new employer. She goes as far as to say that the editor would be stupid if he didn’t hire her. Add to that the smile she bestows on Andrea in her closing scene, which bears a signature stamp of pride, and we can’t help but think fondly of the villainous Ms. Priestly as the credits roll.

Darth Vader, is another great example of villain redemption done well. Despite his decades-long descent into darkness, Darth (Anakin Skywalker) ultimately saves his son and kills his emperor master. It was his love for Padme and their children that finally brought him back from the dark side (say it with me: awwww).

Fictional Villains

But what about the utterly irredeemable villains? Those who are evil right down to the marrow of their bones. It’s been said that no one can be all good, or all bad, but some truly heinous characters have been created in popular culture.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more notorious…

Famous Fictional Villains

  • Hannibal Lecter: There is something truly sinister about the cannibalistic serial killer. Unlike monsters of myth, Hannibal represents the absolute worst of mankind making it a very real fear. A highly intellectual psychopath capable of true evil who is simultaneously charming… I’m far more afraid of that than the big bad wolf.
  • Pennywise: I don’t find the dancing clown remotely scary, but that’s only because I haven’t watched the movie 😉 I do know, though, that he is the furthest thing from a clown… ancient shapeshifting demon is more accurate, I believe, though I don’t care to confirm it!
  • Sauron: the dark and terrifying lord who ruled over Mordor.
  • Hamlet: the prince of Denmark is admittedly more of an anti-hero than a villain, but his misogynistic treatment of Ophelia can never be forgiven.
  • Lord Voldemort: he who shall not be named
  • Cruella De Vil: There’s a special place reserved in hell for people who are cruel to animals. Cruella is the vilest Disney villain, in my opinion… and in theirs too, it would seem, as her name literally translates to cruel devil.
  • Lex Luthor: I have watched and rewatched every Superman movie from Christopher Reeves’ seventies debut to Henry Cavill’s current swoon-worthy portrayal. I own every season of Smallville. I am a Superman stan, y’all. And no one gets under my skin more than this bald bastard. Lex Luthor is a power-hungry, megalomanic creep and I wish Superman wasn’t so honorable and would just get rid of him already.
  • Freddy Krueger: Freddy Krueger was the worst type of human while still alive, so what remains after his death is nothing less than unholy. Growing up, Freddy was without a doubt the movie villain that kept me up at night.
  • Thanos: If it wasn’t for the MCU, I would never have heard of Thanos, but he is one of the most powerful characters in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Considering his life’s ambition is to successfully perform The Snap and eliminate 50% of all living things, it’s not hard to see why his villainy is legendary.

All these villains are infamous, and you have most likely heard of them even if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie. But as this is my blog, written from my experience, I wanted to create a list of villains I have had personal experience with… my villainiest villains, if you will! Please be warned there may be minor spoilers ahead.

It is also a measure of how emotive the book is that three of my most hated villains are all characters from A Little Life.

Some of My Most Despised Book Villains

  1. Brother Luke from A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Brother Luke is so vile, deplorable, so despicable (I could come up with synonyms for days) that he seems almost inhuman. How one person could commit the atrocities he commits to anyone, let alone a child, is beyond belief. His crimes are numerous and reprehensible. There is not a single molecule of redemption to be had here, which is why Luke claims the number one spot. (even though technically this list is in no particular order).
  2. Percy Hamleigh from The Pillars of the Earth. William is not just spiteful, petty, and hateful, he is a certifiable psychopath and a sexual sadist. He derives pleasure – emotional and sexual, from others’ pain. Though he does eventually get what he deserves, the wheel of justice moves slowly and he inflicts his brutality on the rest of the book’s characters for most of his far-too-long life.
  3. Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. Again, even though this list isn’t in any order, I have placed the revolting half-blood above Lord Voldemort himself. That’s because, quite simply, I hate her more. Umbitch (typo intentional) made her first appearance in Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, but her reign of pink terror continued through to the bitter end.
  4. Doctor Traylor from A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Doctor Traylor is a next-level sicko. A murderous sadist, his abuse is all the more unforgivable considering his profession. As a psychiatrist, he is supposed to help people.
  5. Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. Having directly or indirectly caused the death of every character we loved in the HP series, Voldemort needs no introduction. What he needs, is a nose.
  6. Caleb Porter is another abusive sadist from the pen of Hanya Yanagihara, and my third and final villain of A Little Life. The worst thing about Caleb is that he was a beacon of hope in the cloying dark of Jude’s life, so his betrayal was so much worse.
  7. Old Nick from Room by Emma Donoghue. Hell itself is not punishment enough for men like Old Nick. Men like this do exist and are the reason that women can never truly feel safe. The fact that this sort of thing has happened in real life makes it that much more chilling.
  8. Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid’s Tale earns my final spot. No woman should ever aid and abet in the subjugation of other women, and the crimes that Lydia committed against the handmaid of Gilead were not just criminal but sick. Not even choices made toward the end of The Testaments could redeem her.

That’s my list and I am sure I’ll be adding to it, but these eight monsters have evoked my most emotional outbursts.

Who are your most despised villains? The ones you truly love to hate?