If you’re like me, you love villains. A brilliant villain makes the movie or book more interesting. He or she also elevates the stakes and brings the conflict to life. But what lifts a villain to the coveted, blood-spattered A-list?

A few character traits:

  • appears unbeatable, is stronger than the hero/heroine
  • isn’t interested in rebuilding after the apocalypse but loves power
  • maybe had a part in the world’s demise in the first place
  • has some understandable motivations or a tragic backstory,
  • attracts a like-minded following:
  • rules with fear and/or violence
  • mirrors the hero or heroine
  • is devoid of human compassion
  • wears a mask (an actual mask or masks his true intentions)

Some Memorable Dystopian Villains

  • The Terminator: this flesh-coated assassin with an unbreakable exoskeleton terrified the shit out of audiences in the 1984 movie. But during the sequels, the cyborg developed human-like traits and even protected the main characters. Arnold Schwarzenegger portrays this iconic role which made the Terminator an item of our pop-culture subconsciousness. With the developments in cloud computing and artificial intelligence, could a T-1000 enter our future?
  • Agent Smith: What would the Matrix movie trilogy be without this anti-viral antagonist who can clone himself? He even has a sense of humor and delivers some of the most memorable sci-fi punchlines. Hugo Weaving is a character actor who excels in his portrayal of undying AI-Smith. The Chosen One (wonderful Keanu Reeves as Neo) sure has a handful battling this bad guy. Agent Smith is the right hand of a bigger, more sinister system, and he personifies the evils of trusting machines with strategic decision making for humankind.
  • The Governor of TWD: The Walking Dead cast bulges with exceptionally well-crafted characters. It’s a stroke of genius by the scriptwriters to make “normal” humans more lethal than the undead walkers. Listing all the marvelous baddies in TWD would take forever. My personal favorite will always be the Governor who is possibly the most despicable in Walking Dead history. He takes people who ask for help and forces them into gladiatorial battles with zombies. But he has a soft spot (a zombie daughter), besides a backstory offers some understandability to his motivations. A great post-apocalyptic storyline changes a character: what used to be a decent human being turns into a monster or vice versa.

Sources for More Villainous Inspiration

The top 5 post-apocalyptic movie villains:

Apocalyptic antagonists that nearly ended the world:

All The Villains So Far In The Walking Dead:

Header image credit: The Terminator, 1984, copyright: Hemdale Film.