Throughout time, there have been many memorable villains. Darth Vader, Sauron, Hans Gruber (say what you want about Die Hard, Alan Rickman was genius in that role), The Joker, Lex Luthor, Moriarty, Magneto, Loki. The list goes on and on. And that’s just in fiction. There have been plenty of real world villains out there too.
If you’re looking for the perfect villain, though, there is one that’s hard to beat.
Let’s say I’m writing a movie. It focuses mainly on two characters. The first is a guy who goes around being nice to everyone he sees. The second is a murderer who beats orphans to death with puppies. By the end of the movie, it’s a pretty safe bet that the audience would hate the second guy more. However, I could change that by having the first character say three little words: “I’m a Nazi.”
Suddenly, the man who beats orphans to death with puppies isn’t the worst person in the movie.
It’s true. Since the end of World War Two, Hitler and his Nazis have been the villains in more things than probably anyone else. Just hearing the word Nazi is usually enough to get blood boiling. That’s why, to this day, politicians use the word to describe the opposing political party. It’s meant to paint them in the worst possible light.
Obviously, what Hitler and his Nazis did were horrible, horrible things, but does that make them the worst of the worst? What makes people feel that way?
Is it the number of people that he had killed?
It’s estimated that Stalin had more people killed than Hitler did, yet history is slightly kinder to him. And Mao is estimated to have had more people killed than both of them combined. I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere, but I have yet to see a movie, book, or TV show that has Mao as the bad guy. Do we not care that he ordered the deaths of more people than anyone else in history just because it happened in China?
Is it the blatant racism, mostly directed towards the Jewish people?
The ancient Egyptians were also particularly cruel to the Jews, enslaving them and working them to death on the pyramids. Outside of the Bible, however, I haven’t seen any stories about their exploits portrayed in entertainment.
Is it a combination of both? Is it something else? Or is it something that is completely undefinable?
I don’t know. What I do know is that if you want your villain to be completely hated, slap a swastika on them and your job is done.