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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).

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Evoking Admiration

  • Evil Is Cool: Audiences find the villain to be awesome.
  • Worthy Opponent: Someone admires their adversary for being a challenging and honorable opponent.

For the audience:

  • 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.

Showing Attachment to Other People

Bravery

Friendliness

  • 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.
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  • 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

Intelligence

For the audience:

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

Morality

Normalcy

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.

Pitifulness

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:

May or may not be Unintentionally Sympathetic.


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