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Likable Villain

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"Villains aren't bad guys. They're just... misunderstood. Villains know what they want and they go for it. I can respect that."
Marina, Splatoon 2

This is the Super-Trope for the cases where villains have qualities that make them more likable. This kind of thing easily leads into Anti-Villain when more than a smidgen of these tropes is added. See also the Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness. Contrast Hate Sink (which is when a character is intentionally made to be unlikable) and for some examples, Complete Monster (where the villain is so repugnant and despicable that there's nothing positive to say about them).

May or may not be Unintentionally Sympathetic.

Evoking Admiration

For the audience:

  • Evil Is Cool: Audiences find the villain to be awesome.
  • Love to Hate: The audience loves the villain precisely because of how vile they can be.
  • Magnificent Bastard: The audience likes the villain because their plans are far grander in scope and execution than those of the heroes.
  • Rooting for the Empire: The audience actually wants the bad guys to win.

Attachment to Other People



  • Affably Evil: The villain is a friendly sort in spite of having evil intentions.
  • Friendly Enemy: The bad guy is so chummy with the hero that it's easy to forget that they are the hero's enemy.
  • Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: The villains are friendly and polite, while the heroes are rude jerks.

Good Intentions

  • Obliviously Evil: The villain doesn't know that what they're doing is wrong.
    • Non-Malicious Monster: A non-sapient creature that isn't malevolent and is only acting out of animal instinct with no concept of morality.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The villain believes that their actions are okay if the result is making the world a better place for everyone.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The villain is only doing wrong because they have noble intentions.

Having a Sense of Humor


For the audience:

  • Strawman Has a Point: The audience agrees with the points made by the character they are supposed to be against.



For the audience:

  • Villains Out Shopping: Showing the bad guys taking a break from villainy and doing the same things normal people do is a good way to humanize them.


For the audience:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: The villain dies and their death is portrayed as sympathetic.
  • Harmless Villain: The villain is incapable of being a real threat.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: The villain keeps failing and getting humiliated no matter how hard they try.
  • Jerkass Woobie: The audience feels that even though this character was bad, they still didn't deserve the misfortunes they suffered.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: A henchman who is too nice and ineffectual to be evil.
  • Mook Horror Show: The hero beating up the bad guys is shown from the bad guys' perspective and has the hero portrayed as being like a movie monster.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: An unfortunate character's misery drives them to attempt to cause a lot of destruction and death.

Sex Appeal

For the audience:

  • Draco in Leather Pants: The audience portrays a character as being nicer when they are canonically a horrible person.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Villains are considered especially attractive by the audience.
  • Foe Yay Shipping: Fans ship the hero with the villain.

Understanding Their Point of View

  • Freudian Excuse: A villain or jerk is the way they are because of something bad that happened to them in the past.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Someone who takes a life is portrayed as having a sympathetic and justifiable reason for killing the person.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Someone admits feeling bad for the bad guy.

For the audience:

Alternative Title(s): Likeable Villain