The Gray Man was Netflix’s most expensive movie, but it didn’t exactly pay off, as it earned some of the streaming platform’s worst reviews. However, one positive factor that both critics and viewers agreed on was Chris Evans’ over-the-top performance as the villain, Lloyd Hansen, who was arguably more likable than the titular character.
But The Gray Man isn’t the only movie whose antagonist has gotten a warmer reception than the protagonist. Between a terrifying New York butcher, the God of the Dead, and even the devil himself, Redditors related to these villains more than the heroes.
Gangs Of New York (2002) – Bill the Butcher
Randombharti points to Gangs of New York when it comes to more likable villains than heroes. The Redditor mentions, “I watched Gangs of New York a few days ago and Bill the Butcher is much more interesting than Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio,) who I found very dull and uninteresting. Maybe it was because of the Daniel-Day Lewis who was absolutely amazing.”
Daniel Day-Lewis brings an intensity to any role more than any other actor, especially when it comes to his villainous performances. And it’s Lewis’ extreme method acting that makes the film so great. As Bill the Butcher has a glass eye, Day-Lewis learned to tap his with the edge of a knife, which can be seen in the film. And compared to Vallon, who is such an underwhelming character, viewers end up rooting for Bill.
Hercules (1997) – Hades
Kakashi68 thinks Hades (James Woods) was way more likable than the titular god in Disney’s Hercules. Hercules (Tate Donovan) himself, despite having such an interesting background and rich history in Greek mythology, comes off rather unmemorable in the 1997 animated film.
Hades, on the other hand, is way more interesting and entertaining, and despite being the God of the Dead, instead of being scary and macabre, he gives audiences the most laughs. Some think Hades’ actions were justified too. Hades is also what made the Hercules TV series continuation so great, as Woods returned to voice the character for every episode, which gave the Disney show more production value than any other Saturday morning cartoon.
Training Day (2001) – Detective Alonzo Harris
Brash_Creature comments, “Training Day. Man, that is the best bad guy of all time. Denzel is brutal.” Training Day is one of the most intense crime thrillers of the 21st century and sees Denzel Washington in one of his greatest roles, Detective Alonzo Harris.
However, being a cop doesn’t mean that he’s the protagonist by any means, as he’s one of the dirtiest and corrupt movie cops who treats his peers terribly and even holds them at gunpoint. But he still does it with that inherent charisma and charm that Washington brings to every role. The performance and character far outshine Officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), the protagonist of the movie who is unlucky enough to be assigned to Harris.
Thor: Love And Thunder (2022) – Gorr the God Butcher
From one god to another, only this time it’s Norse mythology, as Aramiss134 argues that Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) was way more likable than Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in Thor: Love and Thunder. The Redditor comments, “At the risk of sounding like an awful edge lord, I was much more interested in Gorr’s story than what we got from the Thors in the last one.”
While likable might not exactly be the right word for Gorr, his intentions do make sense, and Bale’s performance elevated the character from a simple villain of the week. And as many critics and fans think the God of Thunder was dumbed down and became the comic relief in his own movie, which led to many siding with the film’s antagonist.
Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Hans Landa
It’s hard to call any one character in Inglourious Basterds the protagonist, as the film has a multi-stranded narrative with an ensemble cast. But whether it’s the Basterds or Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), GunMuratIlban thinks that Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) was way more likable. The Redditor posits, “He was a completely fresh face for us non-Germans. So seeing this unknown, middle-aged man absolutely stealing every scene he’s in was crazy.”
It’s again hard to call Hans likable, but between his cartoonishly large pipe and his failure to understand what “bingo” means, he certainly provides a lot of entertainment. Hans has some memorable one-liners too, which make it almost impossible to hate him.
Batman Returns (1992) – The Penguin
Mirabem thinks Batman Returns’ Penguin (Danny DeVito) is way more likable than Batman (Michael Keaton) himself, crediting the actor as to why. The Redditor notes, “Danny DeVito as the Penguin. Enough said.” But the same could be said for any Batman villain, even the most recent portrayal of the same character in The Batman.
Two-Face and the Riddler stumbling over each other in Batman Forever is endlessly entertaining, And Jack Nicholson’s Joker in 1989’s Batman makes viewers grin like they’ve inhaled the villain’s laughing gas. But the over-the-top performance from DeVito makes viewers miss him whenever the movie cuts back to Bruce Wayne, even if he is by far the sleaziest big-screen Batman villain.
Black Panther (2018) – Erik Killmonger
Ok-Leather-3695 believes that Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is more likable than King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), and while some might argue that’s blasphemy, there’s no denying how well-written of a character the antagonist is. The Redditor adds, “Killmonger would’ve made an interesting King.” The user is not wrong, and Marvel Studios is probably kicking itself for deciding to kill him off.
Not only is he one of the coolest MCU villains but he could have had a redemption arc that led to him becoming the king of Wakanda. That could have worked especially well given that Killmonger is one of the most sympathetic villains in cinema, so it isn’t all that much of a stretch. It would have made for a great passing of the torch too.
Collateral (2004) – Vincent
HoyaSaxon thinks Tom Cruise’s Vincent, a traveling hitman in Michael Mann’s Collateral, is way more likable than the poor taxi driver (Jamie Foxx) who is stuck driving the assassin around. The Redditor posits, “Vincent is admirable for his professionalism, skill, and ruthless single-mindedness. I would venture to say that Vincent is akin to an amoral samurai; he has a strict sense of professionalism and code, but lacks an essential tether to humanity.”
Most of Michael Mann’s villains follow the same formula, as Heat’s Nail Macauley exudes absolute coolness and oozes swagger with his tailor-made suits. However, as cool as Vincent is, it was Foxx who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.
Misery (1990) – Annie Wilkes
If there’s any specific group of villains that aren’t remotely likable, it’s horror villains. They’re mostly masked killers and completely creepy, but DisasterPeace7 still believes that Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) is more likable than Paul Sheldon (James Caan) in Misery.
The Redditor thinks the villain has become more popular than the protagonist, and they’re not wrong, as Bates’ performance is often referred to as one of the greatest horror performances of all time. Nobody is relating to an evil nurse who is threatening the life of a bedridden man with broken legs, but the performance is just that phenomenal.
The Devil’s Advocate (1997) – John Milton
It doesn’t matter what type of movie it is, whether it’s a comedy, action, or drama, audiences know by now that Al Pacino will bring so much ferocity to it, and his character will have at least one meltdown. That’s on full display in The Devil’s Advocate, as he plays the devil in human form.
Boastar believes that despite literally being the devil, he is still more likable than the protagonist, Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves.) The Redditor notes, “Al Pacino as the devil in The Devil’s Advocate is way cooler than Reeves, and also thoroughly outplays him.” And as the film ends ambiguously, there should absolutely be a sequel with Pacino reprising the role.