Unforgettable villains: Villains on TV shows that we love to hate

Season 8, episode 5 (debut 5/12/19): Lena Headey.photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Season 8, episode 5 (debut 5/12/19): Lena Headey.photo: Helen Sloan/HBO /

Villains on TV shows have a way of captivating our attention and never letting go. Whether it’s their cunning schemes, ruthless nature, or complex personalities, these characters keep us hooked and invested in the story.

From Cersei Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones to NBC’s Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal, there are many popular villains on TV shows that have become beloved by audiences. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of these iconic characters and explore why they are considered some of the best villains in TV history.

Unforgettable villains on TV: Cersei Lannister – Game of Thrones

Villains on tv shows we love to hate: Unforgettable tv villains
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister – Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO /

Cersei Lannister is widely considered one of the best villains in TV, due to her complex and layered character development. From the beginning, Cersei is a character with a strong personality and a desire for power.

She is willing to go to great lengths to protect herself and her family, even if it means committing heinous acts. What makes Cersei such a compelling character is that she is not simply a one-dimensional villain.

Throughout the series, we see different sides of her personality, including her vulnerability, her love for her children and her complicated relationship with her brother Jaime. Her backstory and family relationships also add depth to her character, making her more than just a typical villain.

Lena Headey’s portrayal of Cersei is also a major factor in why she is considered one of the best TV villains. Headey captures Cersei’s cunning and manipulative nature perfectly, as she is able to convey a wide range of emotions through her performance.

Whether Cersei is plotting her next move or dealing with the consequences of her actions, Headey always brings depth and nuance to the character.  Her legacy as a beloved and hated character will continue to be felt long after the end of Game of Thrones.

Unforgettable villains on TV: Joffrey Baratheon – Game of Thrones

Villains on tv shows we love to hate: Unforgettable tv villains
KYIV, UKRAINE – FEBRUARY 16: Irish actor Jack Gleeson who played Joffrey Baratheon on the HBO television series Game of Thrones speaks with Ukrainian actors during an event at the Young Spectator’s Theater in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 16, 2023. Jack talked with Ukrainian actors in an informal setting and took part at a briefing for media representatives. (Photo by Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /

Joffrey Baratheon, played by Jack Gleeson, is one of the most detestable characters on TV. His sadistic nature and lack of empathy make him a character that viewers love to hate.

However, it’s also his unpredictability and the sheer level of evil he exhibits, that make him such a compelling character. Viewers can’t help but tune in to see what kind of horrible act he will commit next.

Joffrey is the eldest son of Cersei Lannister and King Robert Baratheon (his actual father is revealed to be Jaime Lannister). He becomes King of the Seven Kingdoms after his father’s death, but quickly reveals himself to be cruel and tyrannical.

Joffrey enjoys causing pain and suffering to those around him and takes pleasure in making impulsive and violent decisions. Gleeson effectively captures Joffrey’s arrogance and sadism, portraying the character’s inner turmoil in a convincing way.

Gleeson’s acting helped to bring Joffrey to life in a way that left a lasting impression on audiences.  While he may not be considered the best villain on TV shows by all audiences, his character certainly left a lasting impression on those who watched the show.

Unforgettable villains on TV: Walter White – Breaking Bad

Villains on tv shows we love to hate: Unforgettable tv villains
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) – Breaking Bad _ Season 5, Episode 16 – Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC /

Walter White, the protagonist of the AMC TV series Breaking Bad, is not typically considered a villain in the traditional sense. However, over the course of the show, he transforms from a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher, into a ruthless drug kingpin.

While he may not fit the traditional mold of a villain, his complex character arc and outstanding performance by Bryan Cranston makes him one of the most compelling and memorable characters in TV history. Throughout the series, Walter White becomes increasingly ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to protect his drug empire.

He lies, manipulates and even murders those who stand in his way. What makes Walter such an effective character is the way in which his character evolves over time.

At the beginning of the series, he is a sympathetic character who is struggling to provide for his family. However, as he becomes more involved in the drug trade, he becomes more morally ambiguous and eventually transforms into a full-blown antihero.

Cranston perfectly captures Walter’s descent into darkness and is able to convey a wide range of emotions through his performance. Whether Walter is scheming, calculating, or vulnerable, Cranston always brings depth and nuance to the character.

Unforgettable villains on TV: Frank Underwood – House of Cards

Villains on tv shows we love to hate: Unforgettable tv villains
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – MAY 08: Actor Kevin Spacey attends Netflix’s “House Of Cards” for your consideration event at Netflix FYSee Space on May 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images) /

Frank Underwood, portrayed by Kevin Spacey, is the main character and villain of the political Netflix drama series House of Cards. He is a conniving and ruthless politician who will stop at nothing to achieve power and control.

His character is often cited as one of the best villains in television due to his intelligence, manipulation skills and the depth of his character. What makes Frank Underwood a compelling villain is his calculated and strategic approach to achieving his goals.

He is willing to manipulate, deceive and even harm others in order to advance his political career. Underwood’s charisma and ambition are on full display as he navigates the complex political landscape of Washington, D.C.

Spacey brings a chilling intensity and charisma to the role that draws viewers in and keeps them engaged. His ability to convey a wide range of emotions, from ruthless determination to vulnerability and self-doubt, makes his portrayal of Frank Underwood unforgettable.

Unforgettable villains on TV: Hannibal Lecter – Hannibal

Villains on tv shows we love to hate: Unforgettable tv villains
MILAN, ITALY – JANUARY 16: Actor Mads Mikkelsen is see outside the Zegna show during the Milan Menswear Fall/Winter 2023/2024 on January 16, 2023 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Valentina Frugiuele/Getty Images) /

Hannibal Lecter, portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, is the titular character and villain of the NBC TV series Hannibal. He is a brilliant psychiatrist, a cannibalistic serial killer and is widely considered one of the most iconic villains in TV history.

There are several reasons why Hannibal Lecter is the best villain on TV shows. First and foremost, Hannibal’s intelligence and sophistication set him apart from other villains.

He is a cultured and refined individual, with a taste for the finer things in life, yet he also possesses a ruthless and sadistic side. This combination of high culture and brutal violence makes him a uniquely captivating villain.

Hannibal is also a master manipulator. He is able to charm and deceive those around him, including his psychiatrist colleague Will Graham, who is tasked with catching him.

This ability to manipulate others, allows him to remain a step ahead of his pursuers and evade capture for an extended period of time. Mikkelsen brings a captivating and nuanced portrayal to the character, with his icy demeanor and subtle facial expressions, conveying a sense of menace and intrigue.

His performance in Hannibal is chilling and unforgettable, making him one of the most memorable villains in TV history. Finally, Hannibal’s unique psychology and motivations make him a fascinating character to watch.

While he is undoubtedly a villain, he is also a complex and multi-faceted character. His cannibalism is not just a gratuitous plot device, but rather a manifestation of his twisted desires and psychological abnormalities.

Unforgettable villains on TV: Conclusion

These are just a few examples of the most popular villains on TV shows we love to hate. These characters are beloved because they are so well-developed and multidimensional.

While their evil deeds may make us cringe, their complex personalities and motivations keep us coming back for more. The complexity and multidimensionality of these villains is what makes them so captivating and unforgettable.

They are not one-dimensional bad guys, but rather fully-realized characters with their own unique motivations, backstories and personality traits. As viewers, we may not always agree with or condone their actions, but we are compelled to watch and understand their journey.

These villains often serve as foils to the heroes of the story, highlighting the flaws and weaknesses of the protagonists and making their triumphs all the more satisfying. Ultimately, it is the combination of strong writing, compelling performances and intriguing character development that make these villains so popular..

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