Not all villains are evil by nature. Some of them are simply products of their environment and upbringing, and these kinds of villains don’t even desire power or anything material. These are movie villains who can easily draw your sympathy with their justifiable goals.
Of course, the filmmakers still had to double down on their atrocious and violent methods to remind viewers that they’re supposed to be bad guys despite their almost noble pursuits. The following movie villains might as well be anti-heroes because of their agreeable objectives.
Killmonger (Black Panther)
Even T’Challa in the MCU‘s Black Panther had to rebuke his forefathers and ancestors for their isolationist policies and ideals, which left the rest of their brethren in a sorry state anywhere else in the world. And the product of this isolationist policy was Erik Killmonger himself, the Wakandan royalty who saw the injustice against his people while Wakanda pampered itself in secrecy and comfort.
So it’s not unheard of for some of the audience to root for Killmonger, who only wanted to give oppressed African-Americans a fighting chance. And sure enough, they made his methods too violent or too radical– even going as far as wanting the African nations on top of the hierarchy as absolution because he’s supposed to be the villain.
Thankfully, T’Challa sought a more diplomatic method which is somewhat on the safe side, but that’s a topic for another time.
Koba (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)
Koba’s story in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes isn’t too dissimilar to Killmonger’s plight in Black Panther. Before he gained sentience and human consciousness, he was a mere chimpanzee guinea pig for huge pharma corporations that prized profit above cure. Koba was subjected to all kinds of harm and torture until Caesar rescued him, and they formed their own civilization.
So when human society fell apart due to the Simian Flu and a nearby human colony was encroaching on ape space, Koba wanted to wage war against them. It’s understandable due to his prejudice against humans and their xenophobic tendencies towards other species. Hell, even humans don’t like other humans. But Koba marinated in his hatred too much, and if left unchecked, he would have been no better than the humans he hated so much.
Roy Batty (Blade Runner)
Some villains aren’t even hateful or vengeful. Others like Roy Batty from Blade Runner just wanted to live and be granted rights as sentient beings. He was an android with artificial intelligence who became a fugitive after his refusal to be destroyed or decommissioned, and this painted a target on his back for blade runners or android hunters.
But because the greedy and amoral corporations ruled this cyberpunk world and the androids were mere slaves, Roy Batty became a criminal. In truth, all he wanted was a dialog with the Tyrell company’s owner to beg him to extend his life.
The belated sequel Blade Runner: 2049 continued this saga for the androids and their fight for their rights in the most endearing way.
There are also movie villains who will make you scratch your head and will make righteous authority figures look villainous. Magneto from 20th Century Fox’s X-Men films is one such figure. He was a Jewish holocaust survivor and a mutant to boot. He only wanted a safer space for his kind, but humans being humans, kept exercising their xenophobia and fear of the unknown.
So Magneto had no choice but to go to war against humanity and Charles Xavier, who kept condoning their oppressors. It’s been proven many times in the comic books that Magneto was often right, and Professor X was merely blinded by his idealism (though vice versa also applies).
Either way, Magneto remains one of the most understandable villains in pop culture.
Poison Ivy (Batman & Robin)
It might be the worst Batman movie of all time, but Batman & Robin unveiled a silver-screen adaptation of Poison Ivy, one of Batman’s most conflicting villains. Like in the comic books, Ivy here is an eco-terrorist who only wanted to repopulate the world with plants– except she’d also be murdering a lot of people in doing so.
Surely, the film’s writers could have come up with better ways for Poison Ivy’s plans to bear fruit (pun intended) without murder. She’s supposed to be the villain and the bat-faced millionaire with mommy and daddy issues is supposed to be the hero; so Ivy was dialed down when in reality, she could have easily become a pop culture rallying cry against Global Warming.
Barbossa (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)
Say what you will about Barborssa in the first Pirates film, but you have to remember that the whole Black Pearl crew mutinied against Jack Sparrow– their former captain. And they also deemed Barbossa as someone who represented their well-being– and he did; he practically succeeded in uncursing all of them.
Seeing Jack Sparrow in later films, he’s also a bit of a clever scumbag. He almost always abandons his crew, he betrays everyone all the time, and he’s too drunk to reason with. He has a good moral compass when it comes to slavery and human trafficking, but most of the time, it’s as broken as his magic compass.
In hindsight, you can view Barbossa as more of a frustrated second-in-command who got fed up with his incompetent captain (who got them cursed).
Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
As destructive and hypocritical as he is, Tyler Durden still has some good points about consumerism and conformity. It’s just that his methods were too anarchistic and chaotic to actually resolve the problems he wanted to eliminate. Really, the whole of Fight Club was just Tyler Durden having a slow burn and a simmering tantrum over modern society as a coping mechanism.
But he did want frustrated and misbegotten people to have a bit of self-realization and actualization– to avoid getting into soft slavery through debt and steer clear from the pressures of society. All that fair point was sadly lost in the pseudo-masculine rambling and feeding into their anger issues.
Joaquin Phoenix as Joker in the 2019 film, Joker represents what society considered its dregs– at least in the film universe (though it somewhat mirrors the socio-economic state of our world too). The poor, the marginalized, and the psychologically and mentally ill whose needs are ignored while being ridiculed, whether vocally or subtly.
So despite the Joker’s depiction of wanton violence and gruesome acts, you can almost feel sympathy for him. What else could he do? The only other option was to die like a crippled dog on the streets; his cries for help were ignored both literally and figuratively.
Francis Hummel (The Rock)
The Rock is not a film about Dwayne Johnson, thankfully. It’s an old action flick where the villain, Francis Hummel, was a General in the army who got fed up with the military’s poor treatment of veterans and their families. Hummel just wanted the government to honor the men who served under him. They were never recognized or honored since they did the dirty work– black ops stuff.
So he threatened the whole country with a bunch of rockets and stole $100 million so he could distribute it as a pension for his soldiers and their families. The rockets are too extreme, of course, but Hummel had to look like a villain.
King Kong (King Kong)
Even the latest iteration of King Kong, which was Peter Jackson’s 2005 film, still painted the giant ape as a villain during the final act despite giving him the antihero status early on. His point was he just wanted to be returned to his habitat with someone to keep him company.
It’s human greed that’s the real villain here; Kong just wanted something that would provide him some solace and peace in his new enslaved state, which had to be a blonde theater girl from Brooklyn, but at least he had good taste.
But there’s no denying it; Kong did nothing wrong. Now he’s in Harambe heaven.