Khan Noonien Singh.
Based upon the list above and many more names we could add to it, villains are cooler. Super heroes may be more heroic, they may save more people and they may do the right thing. But, when it comes down to it, villains are just cooler.
Here are a few reasons.
Villains generally have better weaponry. Darth Maul had his double-bladed lightsaber which was better than Obi-Wan’s regular lightsaber. Goliath had his massive armor and spear which were way better than David’s sling and stones. It really helps the story out when the villain has a better weapon. The ultimate victory of the hero is made that much better when he or she not only has to overcome the villain, but the villain’s awesomely superior weaponry. That’s what makes David’s victory over Goliath so much more impressive. Goliath may have been cooler and may have had the better weapons, but he was still defeated by a shepherd boy with some rocks. We could also add Gideon to that list who defeated the Midianites with some torches and pots, like a biblical Samwise Gamgee.
To be honest most sidekicks are pretty lame. Robin wears green tights, Spock rarely gets the alien girl and no one can understand Chewie. Villains are rarely hampered by lame sidekicks. Villains like to work alone. Even when a villain is on a team, there’s always the possibility that he might destroy the team on a whim and start from scratch. One of my favorite scenes from Tim Burton’s Batman is where the Joker asks his right-hand man, Bob, for a gun. The Joker then proceeds to shoot Bob with the gun. That freedom to act on impulse and not be hampered by some prepubescent boy wonder makes villainy far more appealing and much cooler.
A Chance at Redemption
The best part about villains is that there’s the opportunity for redemption. There’s nothing better than seeing a villain finally find redemption, even if it’s the last thing he or she does. The moment when Darth Vader rescues his son by killing the Emperor is powerful, it’s what we want to see happen. Heroes may go through seasons of doubt, but they never need full redemption. Villains, with their evil actions and despicable deeds, need redemption and that’s what we want to see. That’s why Nebuchadnezzar is such a fascinating figure. Even though he conquered Jerusalem, sentenced Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to the fiery furnace, and wrestled with pride, he still found redemption. And even though we may not be as wicked or evil as Darth Vader, it’s nice to know that we have the chance for redemption as well.
In our worst moments we may look at a villain and wish that we could be in those wicked shoes. Sometimes we may wish that we could act on impulse, give into our darker desires and let our inner villain out to play. In every narrative, though, the path of the villain doesn’t end well. Giving into our impulses and acting on our desires would also lead us to a place we don’t want to be.
We can live vicariously through the villains we see but we need to embrace the hero that lies within. God didn’t create us to be villains in this world, he created us to be heroes for his Kingdom and to reveal it wherever we go.
With or without a cape.
Why else do you think villains are cooler?