Cersei might not always have been an antagonist, but given her betrayal of the alliance made in Thrones’ Season 7 finale, she’s earned a spot on this list. Perhaps more so than any other character on the show, Cersei’s always looking out for number one — and thinking of ways to keep herself on the Iron Throne at any cost, even if it means sacrificing integrity or family.
Negan (The Walking Dead)
“Little pig, little pig…let! Me! In!” There’s a reason almost every pop-culture themed store is carrying fake, replica baseball bats with barbed wire. Even though Negan bashed Glenn and Abraham’s heads in, fans seem to love his unique charm and off-color, irreverent humor. More recently, the show explored a more human side of him when he was imprisoned in Alexandria for six years.
Shawn (The Good Place)
For fans who know Marc Evan Jackson as Kevin Cozner, Raymond Holt’s husband on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, seeing him play a demon with no redeeming qualities is a jarring experience. But even though he’s always creating obstacles for our favorite Soul Squad — and trying to find ways to yank them down to The Bad Place — it’s hard not to have some level of appreciation for his dedication and humor.
Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC
Troy Otto (Fear The Walking Dead)
Troy was the worst, which is why he was also the best. His sociopathic tendencies made it hard to control him or his violent impulses, though Madison certainly made a valiant attempt. That said, there were redeeming qualities to the youngest Otto; he seemed to have some kind of affection for Nick and Madison, and did try to help stave off the Proctors when it became clear they were heading for the dam. Apparently he’ll be making a return in Fear’s fifth season, so it’s possible we haven’t seen the last of him.
Michael Langdon (AHS: Apocalypse)
Like Troy, Michael Langdon seems to be a definite villain with sympathetic qualities. In a very real way, villainy chose him rather than the other way around — he was created by Satan, and fills the role of the Antichrist and brings about the apocalypse. In his younger years Michael seemed to regret his violent tendencies and the way they affected the people he cared about, but he eventually grew into the manipulative Cooperative agent with a variety of supernatural powers.
Villanelle (Killing Eve)
“You should never tell a psychopath they’re a psychopath. It upsets them.” Whether she’s taking her boss’s kid hostage or carrying out a scheme of elaborate murders on a global scale, Villanelle’s always up to no good… but in a wardrobe of designer clothes and armed with a sarcastic wit, it’s hard not to love (or love to hate) her. Even Eve seems to struggle with finding that line between empathy and hatred, where the Russian assassin is concerned.
Dean Buscher /The CW
Killer Frost (The Flash)
Caitlin Snow might be the most sympathetic of villains on this list by virtue of the fact that she struggles most with her evil side. Caitlin doesn’t want to be evil or take part in the misdeeds of her alter ego brought forth from her dad’s experiments, Killer Frost. Recently, Frost hasn’t been so much evil as she’s been a part of the team, though some fans have taken issue with her limited screentime and the lack of focus on Caitlin.
The Demogorgon/The Mind Flayer/The Upside Down (Stranger Things)
The Demogorgon and The Mind Flayer are the only non-human characters on this list, but come on. They were freaky. The Demogorgon deserves a place by virtue of the fact that it murdered our beloved Barb (#justiceforbarb), and The Mind Flayer almost destroyed Hawkins and is probably going to make another attempt at it in Season 3. As a whole, The Upside Down is as interesting as it is scary, and it’s a great — if strange — antagonist for this retro sci-fi.
Jeremiah Valeska (Gotham)
The clown prince of crime has (almost, maybe, maybe not) arrived on Gotham. It’s been made relatively clear that first Jerome, then his twin brother, Jeremiah, could evolve into the Joker at some point. The show had to steer clear of giving him that title for legal reasons, as to not overlap with the movies. Lately, though, it seems that might not be the case — Cameron Monaghan recently teased to Entertainment Weekly that “we’ve been given certain liberties in this final season that we haven’t been given before.”
Jordin Althaus/Fox/Universal Television
The Pontiac Bandit (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Whether or not you consider Doug Judy an antagonist, the fact remains that he’s helped and then skirted the law on multiple occasions — and made life hard for his frenemy, Jake Peralta, as a result. That said, it’s always fun to see him make an appearance in whatever zany way he ends up fitting into the season (and he’s scheduled to make an appearance in Season 6, too).
Joffrey Baratheon (Game of Thrones)
Joffrey has earned his place on this list by virtue of the large-scale rage he inspired among fans of Game of Thrones. Any character who can make an entire fanbase cheer at their death deserves recognition. Although there was nothing redeeming about the horrible, sadistic Joffrey, Jack Gleason portrayed him perfectly; the fact that you’re cringing when Cersei’s eldest is on-screen means he did his job well.
Villains. Sometimes we hate them, sometimes we love them, and sometimes... we hate how much we end up loving them.
A good villain adds just as much — if not more — dimension to a story than a worthy hero. A conflicted, multifaceted antagonist with a sympathetic backstory can end up being more popular than the "good guy." But sometimes, all it takes for fans to fall in love are a few timely one-liners, a fantastic wardrobe or an attractive face.
Click through the gallery above for 11 villains from currently-airing shows that we think are great at being bad.