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Can You Name All Villain Archetypes?

by Greer | Content Lead | Writing Tips | Characterisation

What type of villain intrigues you most? The Anti-Villain? The Beast? The Mastermind? If you are not up to speed with your villain groups, have no fear! There are a fair few to get your head around, each with their own unique set of characteristics. Here we present some common villain archetypes you could use in your writing. Which would you like to write next?


The Anti-Villain


They could almost be the good guys if not for some key elements. They have a sympathetic motivation or possess appealing characteristics, perhaps with justifiable goals or even a nice side.

The readers know why they should be disliked - their words and actions will always sell them out - yet there's no denying the pity you naturally feel when you consider the position they are in. Example: Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter)



The Beast


A classic animalistic villain whose goal is to terrorise and attempt to defeat the main character, the Beast is a literal monster who cannot be reasoned with. This villain could be a one-off, over-powered being creature or several dangerous creatures stalking the main characters.

The fear stems from their lack of humanity, driven on instinct and has no capacity for sentimentalities. That said, they often derive no apparent pleasure from the harm they cause. Example: The Shark (Jaws)



The Machine


Similar to the Beast yet with one major difference: the Machine is a technological construct, and is therefore lifeless and incapable of pain, fear, and emotion. Whilst the Beast can be trusted to stick to basic animal instincts, vulnerable to fear themselves, the Machine can seem damn-near-unstoppable based on its one-track mind.

They may simply have one goal, and nothing is permitted to stand in their way to completing their mechanical process. Example: Terminator (The Terminator)



The Mastermind


Overseeing a brilliant, diabolical master plan, the Mastermind is dangerous for being the thinker. Always several steps ahead, they are typically gifted, evil geniuses who attempt to defeat the protagonist mentally as well as physically.

Their weapon is their mind, and their intelligence will be keeping them safely out of harm's reach as their schemes unfold exactly as planned. They can usually only be stopped through sacrifice or somehow undermining their plan with finding a weak link in their otherwise strong chain. Example: Lex Luther (Superman)



Evil Incarnate


The Evil Incarnate villain personifies evil itself, offering little in the way of character development or backstory. This type of evildoer serves as an unrelenting obstacle in the hero’s journey. Their evil deeds are urged on by a pure desire to cause pain, and searching for a reason will only lead to disappointment.

They are unlikely to form any real attachments to anything, including other living things, and often display narcissistic tendencies. The more destruction they can cause in anyone, the better. At least to them. Example: The Original Joker (Batman)



The Henchman


Essentially the villain’s sidekick, the Henchman does the dirty work of the Mastermind. What they might lack in brains, they make up for in brawn and sheer obedience. They should not be dismissed as simple underlings, the Henchman can cause serious damage on their own even without orders.

Modern takes of this sort of character can often lead to a 'redemption' character arc as they start to dis-align themselves with their villain boss, but the standard Henchman arc will be brutal and loyal to the end. Trust them at your own peril. Example: Boba Fett (Star Wars)



The Bully


A straightforward opposition to the protagonist, the bully is not about to take over the world but instead dish out some strong power-play against the other characters. Typically, the Bully will possess something the hero does not: more strength or wit, a position of power, or influence over a grander being to name just a few possibilities.

This advantage is what they will typically rely on to cause hurt or trouble. Many may just be mean for no discernible reason other than it being part of their personality, whilst others may have a back story that explains their oppressive tendencies and provides a touch of humanity to their actions. Example: Nurse Ratched



The Fanatic


The most erratic and unpredictable villain from our list: the Fanatic is driven by an extreme ideology. That ideology propels them into a deplorable immoral belief that fuels their twisted mission.

The danger of a Fanatic is that logic rarely sticks. Their way of thinking is unlike others, and often their behaviours and actions make little to no sense as they fulfil their ritualistic 'destiny'. This does not necessarily mean they come across insane, though it does help identify them faster. Instead, a Fanatic - who could have a mass of followers of their own - is often very capable of planning and acting in a way which will avoid unwanted attention. Not knowing who is the extremist can be more terrifying than knowing. Example: John Doe (Seven)


What type of villain intrigues you most? The Anti-Villain? The Beast? The Mastermind? If you are not up to speed with your villain groups, have no fear! There are a fair few to get your head around, each with their own unique set of characteristics. Here we present some common villain archetypes you could use in your writing. Which would you like to write next?


The Anti-Villain


They could almost be the good guys if not for some key elements. They have a sympathetic motivation or possess appealing characteristics, perhaps with justifiable goals or even a nice side.

The readers know why they should be disliked - their words and actions will always sell them out - yet there's no denying the pity you naturally feel when you consider the position they are in. Example: Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter)



The Beast


A classic animalistic villain whose goal is to terrorise and attempt to defeat the main character, the Beast is a literal monster who cannot be reasoned with. This villain could be a one-off, over-powered being creature or several dangerous creatures stalking the main characters.

The fear stems from their lack of humanity, driven on instinct and has no capacity for sentimentalities. That said, they often derive no apparent pleasure from the harm they cause. Example: The Shark (Jaws)



The Machine


Similar to the Beast yet with one major difference: the Machine is a technological construct, and is therefore lifeless and incapable of pain, fear, and emotion. Whilst the Beast can be trusted to stick to basic animal instincts, vulnerable to fear themselves, the Machine can seem damn-near-unstoppable based on its one-track mind.

They may simply have one goal, and nothing is permitted to stand in their way to completing their mechanical process. Example: Terminator (The Terminator)



The Mastermind


Overseeing a brilliant, diabolical master plan, the Mastermind is dangerous for being the thinker. Always several steps ahead, they are typically gifted, evil geniuses who attempt to defeat the protagonist mentally as well as physically.

Their weapon is their mind, and their intelligence will be keeping them safely out of harm's reach as their schemes unfold exactly as planned. They can usually only be stopped through sacrifice or somehow undermining their plan with finding a weak link in their otherwise strong chain. Example: Lex Luther (Superman)



Evil Incarnate


The Evil Incarnate villain personifies evil itself, offering little in the way of character development or backstory. This type of evildoer serves as an unrelenting obstacle in the hero’s journey. Their evil deeds are urged on by a pure desire to cause pain, and searching for a reason will only lead to disappointment.

They are unlikely to form any real attachments to anything, including other living things, and often display narcissistic tendencies. The more destruction they can cause in anyone, the better. At least to them. Example: The Original Joker (Batman)



The Henchman


Essentially the villain’s sidekick, the Henchman does the dirty work of the Mastermind. What they might lack in brains, they make up for in brawn and sheer obedience. They should not be dismissed as simple underlings, the Henchman can cause serious damage on their own even without orders.

Modern takes of this sort of character can often lead to a 'redemption' character arc as they start to dis-align themselves with their villain boss, but the standard Henchman arc will be brutal and loyal to the end. Trust them at your own peril. Example: Boba Fett (Star Wars)



The Bully


A straightforward opposition to the protagonist, the bully is not about to take over the world but instead dish out some strong power-play against the other characters. Typically, the Bully will possess something the hero does not: more strength or wit, a position of power, or influence over a grander being to name just a few possibilities.

This advantage is what they will typically rely on to cause hurt or trouble. Many may just be mean for no discernible reason other than it being part of their personality, whilst others may have a back story that explains their oppressive tendencies and provides a touch of humanity to their actions. Example: Nurse Ratched



The Fanatic


The most erratic and unpredictable villain from our list: the Fanatic is driven by an extreme ideology. That ideology propels them into a deplorable immoral belief that fuels their twisted mission.

The danger of a Fanatic is that logic rarely sticks. Their way of thinking is unlike others, and often their behaviours and actions make little to no sense as they fulfil their ritualistic 'destiny'. This does not necessarily mean they come across insane, though it does help identify them faster. Instead, a Fanatic - who could have a mass of followers of their own - is often very capable of planning and acting in a way which will avoid unwanted attention. Not knowing who is the extremist can be more terrifying than knowing. Example: John Doe (Seven)


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