Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy Villains by Ben Kuhlman
A while ago, I started thinking about the connection between a good sci-fi/fantasy story and a good villain. A really scary, truly evil villain can make a story. I thought it would be fun to think about these villains and their worlds and try to explain how it sometimes seems like the villain is more important than the hero.
Here are ten of the best examples of these villains I could think of, in order of effective nastiness.
10 – Jael, Joram, and Thiago, Daughter of Smoke and Bone
I struggled a little with including this series. But I think the good outweighs the bad here. It’s also one of the most original stories on this list. Joram is the evil emperor of the angels, bent on exterminating every single Chimaera in his world. The twisted villainy of Jael almost outshines Joram in the second book and becomes the focus of the third. Thiago, the White Wolf, makes the second book much more frightening, though. Karou is forced to live in close contact with this monster, who is always on the edge of killing her – or worse.
9 – El Patron, The House of the Scorpion
El Patron is an aging drug-dealer and de facto king of his own country. He creates clones, such as Matt, the protagonist, so that he can harvest organs from them and prolong his life. Unlike his peers, though, he refuses to stunt the development of his clones. He also maintains an army of “eejits,” prisoners implanted with chips that control them, making them mindless slaves. He spies on his family, and he murders innocent people if he sees them as a threat to his power. Watch out.
8 – Steelheart – title character of Steelheart
In a world of super-heroes, Steelheart is one of the most powerful. He kills David’s father, and he establishes a kind of kingdom over Chicago (or what’s left of it). He sets up a network of advisors who help him maintain power, and he closely guards the secret of his weakness. Oh, and he also transforms the majority of Chicago into solid steel. Steelheart can fly, change any inanimate matter into steel, and can hurl blasts of energy. He’s like an evil Superman. It’s a scary world he lives in.
7 – Queen Levana, Cinder
Levana is the queen of the Lunars in this book. Of course, Levana wants to take over the Earth, and she apparently has superior technology, psychic powers, warriors with psychic powers, and highly trained cyborg assassins who are strategically placed all over the Earth. And, just to make things easier for herself, she created and spread a plague that kills millions of Earth people but doesn’t harm Lunars. Clearly, she’s not nice.
6 – Galbatorix, Inheritance Cycle
I don’t love this series. The best feature of the series, though, apart from Arya (like a female Legolas with magic), is the bad guy. He’s a traitor to his fellow dragon riders. He killed almost all of them, in fact, and stole their secret hearts to increase his own power. He’s been alive for hundreds of years. His dragon has grown as big as a small mountain. He’s a powerful bad dude.
5 – Setrakus Ra, Lorien Legacies
The Mogadorians are locust-aliens, like the aliens in Independence Day, who move from planet to planet using up resources. Setrakus Ra is the super-powerful leader of these aliens who confronts and kills almost all of the Loriens. He’s mean, cold, and he seems to enjoy his job. He’s also the author of the Mogadorian “Bible.” He’s a super-nightmare.
4 – Orannis and Hedge, Old Kingdom Trilogy
Nix’s imagination is strangely eclectic, and the world of the Abhorsens is a blend of fantasy and realism. Hedge is a necromancer, and he uses his power over the dead to try to free the greater evil – Orannis. Orannis is a world-destroying evil force, captured and imprisoned in pieces in the Old Kingdom. Nix is a master of creating frightening and complex scenes with strange magic and surprises. It’s a dark story with these two creeping around.
3 – Mayor Prentiss, Chaos Walking
The Mayor is a horribly bad guy. He’s manipulative, brilliant, charismatic, and powerful in both military and psychic ways. He runs a small village on the edge of a human colony on a strange planet, and his town – partly because of his leadership – has done some horrible things. More than this, he has his whole town convinced that he’s good. He’s not.
2 – Voldemort, Harry Potter
Ah, Voldemort. The whole series starts with an evil wizard killing two innocent parents – while trying to kill a baby. He has almost limitless power. He’s capable of almost any evil. He has a whole belief system that puts ordinary humans and wizards – muggles and mudbloods – beneath him. Rowling’s particular genius, in my opinion, isn’t only the cute surprises of the Knight Bus or moving pictures or Diagon Alley. It’s the horror of Voldemort. Just think about horcruxes for a minute: Voldemort had to find a safe place to stash a bit of his soul, kill someone, split a piece of himself off, and then seal it up somehow. How sick is this guy?
1 – Sauron, The Lord of the Rings
While few people can readily explain exactly what Sauron is, it’s clear that he has massive supernatural power and hordes of evil monster followers. The missing ring has weakened his power, but it’s clear that getting it back would be disastrous. The scariest part is how weak the “good guys” are against him. Sure, Legolas and Aragorn can slice and dice orcs for hours, but what is that against the “all-seeing eye”? And what can Gandalf really do against him?
Ben Kuhlman is a 7th grade science, social studies, and reading teacher in the Chicago area. He loves to read YA of all kinds, but his “comfort zone” tends to be speculative fiction. He was a co-founder and regularly helps moderate #TeachWriting on Twitter, is active with #EdCampChicago, and is vigorously searching for more and better ways to integrate the many disciplines and topics he teaches. He can be found on Twitter at @bkuhl2you and blogs at benkuhlman.net.