Your web-browser is very outdated, and as such, this website may not display properly. Please consider upgrading to a modern, faster and more secure browser. Click here to do so.
The way I see it, the way to make a truly memorable villain is a lot like making art.
Anyone can make a good villain, and anyone can make good art (as banal a phrasing as that is). All it takes is an idea and the proper application. A good villain, much like good art, will make you stop and, for at least three seconds, will evoke a basic response. “Ooh, he’s a bastard,” or, “Ooh, what a beautiful landscape.”
Then there’s the villain we love to hate, or art we love to look at: these aren’t particularly challenging, probably. A villain which might push the viewer to vocally yell out against the villain, even if the villain is from a comic or a novel. A piece of art which will hold attention for nearly fifteen to twenty seconds, something which makes a statement which might stir up feelings of beauty or despair in the viewer.
I think what makes a truly great villain is the same as what makes truly great art. Great art will challenge the viewer; a perception once held may be shaken to its core. The viewer might think to him/herself, “Maybe I was wrong,” or “Maybe he/she’s right.” The viewer might walk away from the experience and find their day-to-day life given a new perspective, and may even change the person’s behavior to some individually significant extent.
In turn, a great villain will truly make you question which side you’re really rooting for. A great villain can be charming, or sympathetic, or just so believable in his convictions that some part of the viewer will start to wonder if maybe the villain is actually a tragic hero destined to fail.