5 Villains Who Will Break Your Heart

Geek Culture
Magneto by John Byrne, image © Marvel Comics
Magneto by John Byrne, image © Marvel Comics

I’m attended a Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention and I attended a workshop on villains that set me on the journey to this post.

The panelists included F. Paul Wilson, Gregg Hurwitz, Jamie Freveletti, A. Scott Pearson, and James Rollins. When asked a question about villains, Rollins, the author of the bestselling Sigma Force series, said he liked the villains that touch readers. “If you can make the reader cry when you kill the villain, that’s powerful.”

That sent my brain down the path of villains who tug at the heartstrings more than they should. They don’t deserve to win, but seeing them lose isn’t as satisfying as you’d think it should be.

1. The Master from Doctor Who, as played by John Simm.

They’re the last two of their kind, locked in perpetual combat but neither truly wants the other dead. Even as he lays dying, the Tenth Doctor urges his foe to regenerate but the villain refuses.

2. Magneto

Always my favorite comic villain, Magneto has a perfectly good reason to protect mutants, since he saw his original family destroyed in the Holocaust. Especially at the end of X-Men First Class, he seems more right than Xavier.

3. Frankenstein’s Monster

“We belong dead,” says the Monster to his created bride in Bride of Frankenstein.

He loathes his existence, his creator hates him and he has no place in the world. It’s no wonder he turns to villainy but it’s a tragedy in the truest since of the word that the world will never accept him.

4. Lucretia in Spartacus: Vengeance

She’s spent the last two seasons manipulating, murdering and forcing her pet gladiator to have sex with her. But she loves her husband and desperately wants a child. Given what she goes through in Vengeance, her final scene is both chilling and heartbreaking.

5. Mordred

King Arthur’s bastard son never had a chance. In some tales, he’s a complete villain, but the legend works best when he’s a son in bad circumstances trying to do the right thing but never gets a chance because everyone hates his mother. No one wants to see him beat King Arthur. No one wants to see Arthur kill his son, either.

*Note: Yes, Darth Vader should be on this list. Except that his story in the prequels just doesn’t hit as hard emotionally as it should.


[This post originall ran in April, 2012]

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4 thoughts on “5 Villains Who Will Break Your Heart

  1. In a world with universal healthcare, there would be no Flint Marko or Walter White. Two-Face and Darth Vader are just broken. Magneto, Lex Luthor, and Dr. Doom are all trying to make the world a better place in their own way. There are few villains that you can’t feel at least a little sorry for. The exceptions are the truly evil: Nurse Ratched, Dolores Umbridge, etc.

    Oh, and Vicky from Fairly Odd Parents, Cruella DeVille, Ms. Trunchbull, Annie Wilkes, Bellatrix Lestrange. Why is it that the best evil villains are women?

  2. Actually, one of my favorite sad villains is Hannibal Lector. If you read the books and KNOW why he is the way he is and the things he overcame to become a doctor as well as doing the public service of wiping out people who truly need it, he is an Anti-hero if there ever was one.

  3. Mr. Freeze from the DC Animated Universe is flat-out the definition of sympathetic villains.

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