There is a reason actors fight for the chance to play the bad guy. The lines are great, the costumes are awesome, the songs are spectacular, their schemes are brilliant, the villains often look much sexier than the heroes, they have their fair share of Cool Planes, Cool Cars and Cool Boats to flaunt, and they don't have to spend the whole shoot pretending they are nicer than anyone they've ever met. No, seriously; it's psychological!
Plus, there are all those wonderful toys!
Why is all that true? Why does the bad guy get all the cool stuff? The more interesting the bad guy, the more interesting the story. It really is that simple. You don't have a story unless you have conflict. The bad guy in most cases is the conflict.
Plus, there are all those marvelous toys... Wait, we already said that.
Compare Good Is Boring. Contrast This Is Your Brain on Evil, Being Evil Sucks (which deglamorize it), and Hate Sink (villains who deliberately lack any cool/redeeming traits). See also Balance Between Good and Evil. Those wonderful... Ahhh, forget it. The reason Love to Hate exists. Dark Is Not Evil, Noble Demons, and some types of Anti Heroes are able to harness the coolness of evil without the actual evil. Compare the subtrope Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster! when criminals are consciously portrayed as cool by the work itself. Compare Draco in Leather Pants when the coolness of the evil (among other things) makes fans think the baddie should be a good guy. Compare also Fame Through Infamy when being infamous is seen as as cool as being famous.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Films Animated
- Films Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Professional Wrestling
- Video Games
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- The Canadian Sleeman Breweries recently launched a new ad campaign playing up the bootlegging activities of the company's founder John Sleeman. It also plays up George Sleeman, whose business was threatened by prohibitionists who'd managed to get anti-liquor laws passed in his hometown, after which he ran for mayor himself and repealed the prohibition laws.
- Jaguar's ad featuring Jag-driving Evil Brits, with the tagline "It's Good to Be Bad."
- Almost any villain in The Lion King Adventures would have to qualify. Hago, Scar, Death, Interceptor, Shocker, Nyoka, Virusi, and many more...
- Princess Jody's Legion of Doom-type organization "Injustice Unit Patrol Squad" in Super Milestone Wars.
- In The Official Fanfiction University of Middle-earth, this gets deconstructed with the subject "Evil Is as Evil Does 101", taught by Sauron himself, to teach that Evil is more than calling yourself evil because it's cool and dark and edgy. Like causing a river of blood, at least.
- Child of the Storm has Lucius Malfoy. The guy's as evil as they come, but he's also A Man Of Wealth And Taste, an even bigger Magnificent Bastard than Nick Fury himself, he's pragmatic, ruthless and proves that, despite the fact that he actually needs his Classy Cane to walk after Nick Fury destroyed his knee the night after the attack on Godric's Hollow, he is personally very dangerous by killing Baron Von Strucker. And it's recently been revealed that he's been manipulating everyone, good guys and bad. At the start, he managed to weld together an impromptu alliance of some Death Eaters and HYDRA, along with Gravemoss. Now, he's the undisputed Master of HYDRA with vast financial resources after inheriting or being granted control over a significant number of Death Eaters accounts, much of which is being invested by the Goblins on the London Stock Exchange, and he has command of the Winter Soldier. He's evil, but he's got style.
- The second book introduces us to Dracula, a Man of Wealth and Taste (well, vampire, technically), who's a Physical God and Wicked Cultured, displaying (usually) impeccable manners in addition to Physical God levels of physical and psychic abilities, and being incredibly skilled in psychic combat as well.
- In The Fire of Futures Past, Bonnie (Experiment 149)'s response to being the villain of Nani's story is just the third word of this trope. She likes the idea of being the bad guy so much that she impatiently gets Nani to skip to the climax.
- Queen of All Oni initially plays this straight, but the second half of the story averts it hard. At first, Jade is essentially the same character, with the addition that she's now a villain, and generally just succeeds where other villains failed just to prove that she can, without really acting truly "evil" (at one point she organizes a complex scheme to steal the Dog Talisman for no other reason than to make her dog immortal). But Reality Ensues and between the continued Shadowkhan corruption, and a Trauma Conga Line she slowly becomes worse and worse and starts crossing the Moral Event Horizon repeatedly, and becoming less and less sympathetic. Lampshaded by the author at one point:
Eduard Kassel: I am sure many of you are disappointed, wanting a cool villain Jade. Well, you had her, more or less, for a while. This story has been about exploring Jade's fall to darkness, not celebrating it. And my explorations, in planning this story, lead me to evil not being a toy. And as you give yourself to darkness, bit by bit you lose yourself to it.
- Invoked in Kara of Rokyn. Wrestler Jara is a "heel" because she likes playing the villain and going wild on her adversaries, to her audiences delight.
Jasmine stood up, smiled, and preened herself for the crowd. There were boos, but, satisfyingly, a few cheers. Lots of guys like to see the heroines take a beating, she reflected, and that's what I'm here for.
- Uncle Deadly of The Muppets. He's a sinister-looking and eerie ghostly dragon Shakespearean actor. Being a Muppet, this trope is subverted for most of his appearances; in The Muppet Show he was only scaring the cast for fun and pretending to be evil, and in the 2011 movie he performs a HeelFace Turn and has his Moment of Awesome right at that point.
- Chaos epitomizes this trope in Warhammer 40,000. Then again, so does the Imperium...
- Also, Kharn the Betrayer. Seriously, what a great guy!
- From the spinoff Dawn of War computer games: Eliphas the Inheritor is universally considered one of the top five characters, as is Gorgutz 'Ead 'Unter. Mainly because Eliphas is almost painfully badass with a dark charisma and Gorgutz is awesomely insane.
- Magic: The Gathering reintroduced the Phyrexians, who want to corrupt and assimilate the entire multiverse. Naturally, half the fan base takes their side. 51%, at last count, in fact.
- They eventually took over the world they were invading, and there's a persistent myth that it was a popularity contest and that 51% "vote" was what doomed Mirrodin. (Actually, with set lead times, New Phyrexia was finished and printed before Scars of Mirrodin even came out, and plans for corrupting Mirrodin went back to the original block, but the "popularity contest" myth is engaging enough to hang on.)
- Exalted: Infernals are widely considered to be way more awesome than Solars. The Solar charmset is generally viewed as kind of bland (the overriding theme is "I am really good at this" with a few paragraphs for each Charm describing what they are good at and how that is expressed), while Infernals do things like turning a glass of water into a tentacle or undergoing mitosis. Solars have an ascension path of "Solars with higher Essence", while Infernals can forge themselves into new Primordials. Abyssals, the other equivalent of Solars, on the other hand, are much less popular due to flaws in their Charmset and limited support for character paths other than "angsty penitent" or "kill the world and piss on the ashes".
- The Ebon Dragon is seen as this as a portion of the fandom, even the point of his character is the opposite.
- For Iron Kingdoms players, much of the appeal of the evil factions is how cool their models look. In particular, Cryx's popularity was only partially due to their power level in Mk 2; a lot of the rest of it was the armies of cyborg zombies, sexy but sadistic satyr buccaneers, and malevolent ghosts, backed by scuttling, buglike black-iron warjacks and led by machine-liches.
- The Imperium in Strike Legion has this going for it by being an Expy of the Imperium of Man, but they go MANY extra miles, possessing armies that include Godzilla type monsters, MANY forms of super soldiers even deadlier than its Space Marines, and MonsterClowns that include lightsaber wielding Expys of The Joker.
- Two of the most popular of the Loads and Loads of Races in Dungeons & Dragons are the Drow and Tiefling, for a combination of this trope and Evil Is Sexy.
- Drow were the original "evil PC race" of choice, thanks to their combination of the inherent popularity of elves with more explicit and overt sexual overtones. They were one of the major reasons that the Forgotten Realms eventually overtook Greyhawk as the most popular default setting, and by 4th edition, were so popular that they were one of the "intrinsic races" deemed vital for presentation as part of the adaptation of the Realms to that edition. In 5th edition, whilst plagued by rising voices complaining they possessed Unfortunate Implications, they still remained one of the most popular playable races, and even made it into the core player's sourcebook, such is their popularity.
- Tieflings were originally introduced as little more than half-orcs for the Planescape setting; people cursed with distant demon, devil or other evil planar creature ancestry, which resulted in them being perceived as inherently tainted and shunned. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, they became immensely popularnote . In 4th edition, they displaced the older half-orc as the "evil-touched" race of the first player's handbook, with designer commentary in a preview sourcebook openly stating that they were chosen due to their popularity, and their popularity stemmed from their status as "the bad boys/girls race". They likewise made it into the player's handbook for 5th edition, and if anything their popularity exploded in the late 2010s, where they developed something of an LGBT Fanbase.
- The Shakespearean characters every actor wants to play are his most notorious villains, Iago of Othello, and the eponymous Magnificent Bastard of Richard III. Similarly, every actress wants to be Lady Macbeth, his greatest villainess. The roguish buffoon Falstaff was so popular that Shakespeare gave him his own spin-off comedy in which he is the protagonist. (By royal command, no less - Queen Elizabeth turned out to be one of Falstaff's admirers.)
- Similarly, the really cool characters in opera are not the tenor good guys, but the jealous/mad/pervert baritones and the creepy basses who sing low notes of Doom. Who would ever prefer the nice, boring tenor Don Ottavio to the Magnificent Bastard Don Giovanni? Or, in Der Freischütz, prefer the utterly bland Max to the ribaldly malevolent Kaspar?
- And one of the greatest soprano roles in the entire repertoire is the evil Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, despite having only two solo arias — they're both complete show-stoppers, especially "Der Hölle Rache köcht in meinem Herzen" ("Hell's vengeance boils in my heart").
- Despite the fact that The Phantom of the Opera is an obsessive, controlling, homicidal, textbook 'bad boyfriend', he is inevitably the one the audience roots for. You'll have to scour through hundreds of Phantom/Christine Shipping Fan Fics to find one Raoul/Christine, and it's better than even money that actors would rather play the Phantom. Why? Raoul is a largely ineffective ponce; Erik drops chandeliers on people. Plus, in the case of the musical, he gets all of the cool songs and a stylish black cape.
- Cats has Macavity.
- Christopher Marlowe was good at writing this type of character; the best-known example is Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus, but Tamburlaine of the play of the same name and Barabas of The Jew of Malta also qualify. Oh, and the evil ghost Machiavelli.
- Mr Doolittle of My Fair Lady is an amoral drunkard, but for all his faults, "With a little bit of luck" is so charming, we can't help but think this guy cool.
- The entire point of the Villains Tonight! stage show on the Disney Cruise Line, featuring Hades, Maleficent, Ursula, Jafar, Yzma, Captain Hook, Cruella DeVil, and Dr. Facilier all together in one show!
- In Pokémon Live!, Giovanni, Team Rocket, and even the Rocket Grunts completely steal the show.
- You can't possibly toss a ball into a room filled with Elisabeth fans without hitting someone who loves the show because of Death, whether it be All Girls Want Bad Boys or Love to Hate. He's snazzy in every version. Into Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous? There's Uwe Kröger and an entire fleet of Takarazuka actresses. Adore Hell-Bent for Leather? There's Mark Seibert and the rest of the new Deaths in the German/Austrian productions. Somewhere in between? Hello, Máté Kamarás. The show is very often marketed as a love story between Elisabeth and Death, and/or a triangle if you add Franz Joseph.
- István a Király: Given that it's a historical rock opera, István is the eventual winner. However, Koppány is a Walking Shirtless Scene with far better songs, three hot nymphomaniac wives, and he is usually played by veteran rock singers with a powerful voices in contrast with the young tenors cast as István.
Ooh, look, toys!