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20 literary antagonists that you secretly love

Whilst chatting to Kath the other day I mentioned how I had a bit of a thing for the villain of a book I was reading at the time and she agreed wholeheartedly. This got me thinking and I came to the conclusion that in most of the books I’ve ever read,  I’ve definitely had a soft spot for the baddie. I wondered, does this happen to other readers? Who better to ask than you at FRA.

Here are the results of our poll.

Harry Potter

It will come as no surprise to any Harry Potter fan that Severus Snape tops our poll, whilst in the end we discovered that perhaps he wasn’t quite so villainous as we thought, for the first 99% of the series he was as bad as they come.

Harry Potter US
Harry Potter UK

Running him a very close second is Sebastian Morgenstern of The Mortal Instruments. What’s not to love about this beautifully evil, half demon experiment? Used and abused by his father and then his ‘surrogate’ mother, all he ever needed was someone to love him. Mortal Instruments box set UK/US

The Mortal Instruments box set US
The Mortal Instruments box set UK

Better known as a romantic hero, than for his final years of vengeance in the second half of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff comes in at number 3. His complicated, mesmerising and altogether bizarre nature makes him a rare character, with components of both the hero and villain aplenty.

Wuthering Heights US
Wuthering Heights UK

Moriarty, Oh that dastardly villain, the bane of Holmes’ career. Or as Holmes said himself “He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organiser of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city…” However bad he may be, enough of you have a soft spot for him that he makes number 4 in our poll.

Sherlock Holmes US
Sherlock Holmes UK

Lestat de Lioncourt, Anne Rice’s delectable vampire is our fifth most adorable villain. It seems there are plenty of you out there willing to offer him a nibble on your neck.

Vampire Chronicles US
Vampire Chronicles UK

Voldemort. Poor misunderstood Tom Riddle, how could he not be in our top ten? He tried everything possible to make us hate him, yet how could we not adore this little boy abandoned  in an orphanage  and who just wanted Dumbledore to like him?

Harry Potter
Harry Potter

Draco Malfoy is our third but not last Harry Potter villain, it seems JK Rowling has a knack for inventing lovable rogues. Another youngster manipulated into being villainous by his parents.

I’m definitely with those who find Hannibal Lecter strangely alluring. Suave, sophisticated, intelligent, dangerous… Really, really dangerous. Just don’t accept his invitation to have you over for dinner.

Silence of the Lambs US
Silence of the Lambs UK

The determined Javert is next, single minded in his pursuit of justice and of Jean Valjean. His life that of self denial, a man with no vices but for an occasional pinch of snuff. It seems there are plenty of us who would enjoy corrupting this this bastion of society.

Les Miserables US
Les Miserables UK

At number ten we have another Potter Villain for you, Bellatrix Lestrange. Whilst her literary character has little to redeem her, it seems Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of Bellatrix in the films has softened your hearts.

Harry Potter

Shakespeare provides us with our number eleven. Iago the deceiver, a Machiavellian schemer and a master manipulator. Bringing his victim to his knees without ever risking his own reputation.

Othello US
Othello UK

Is Death truly a villain? Enough of you think so for him to scrape into our top thirteen. Tired of his job and confused by humanity’s ability to be capable of such beauty and yet so much ugliness.

The Book Thief US
The Book Thief UK

The Book Thief

The last of our stand out results comes from the master of Horror, Stephen King. Randall Flagg appears in many guises throughout King’s literary library but he’s probably best known as the intriguing and intoxicating antagonist in The Stand.

The Stand US
The Stand UK

So there we have it, our top thirteen villains that we cannot help but love a little bit. There were over a hundred different choices and some notable characters are missing from our top thirteen, so here’s a few more of your favourite bad boys and girls.:

Black Jack Randall – Outlander

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty

Amy Dunne – Gone Girl

Pennywise – IT

Jaime Lannister – Game of Thrones

Tyrion Lannister – Game of Thrones

Leave your vote


  • Shannon says:

    I find it disappointing that you chose to devote so many slots on this list to the Harry Potter series. There are so many more books, even in modern times, that deserved more recognition.

    • Kath says:

      Our polls are done according to votes by you on our FB page, we don’t choose anything, nor devote any book. We don’t even get a choice, we just add up your votes. 🙂

  • Cheryl Viuhkola-Pelletier says:

    The Talented Mr. Ripley…

  • BookNerdGirl says:

    What about Dustfinger, from INKHEART–Complex, talented, and mysterious?

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