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A film still from the Great Train Robbery, a robber shooting at the projection screen.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A villain is an "evil" character in a story, whether an historical narrative or, especially, a work of fiction. The villain is the bad guy or heavy, the characters who fight against the hero. A female villain is sometimes called a villainess.

A villain's disposition towards evil distinguishes him from an antagonist. For example, Javert in Les Misérables is an antagonist: He opposes the hero, but does so by such means and under such pretexts as not to become entirely odious to the reader; he may, in fact, even repent, be redeemed, or become a "good guy" in the end. (A villain is virtually always an antagonist, but an antagonist is not always a villain.) The villain is also distinct from the anti-hero, a character who violates the law or the prevailing social standards, but who nevertheless has the audience's sympathy (and may be or become good-hearted), and is therefore the real hero of the story.

In spite of being the target of the audience's hatred, the villain is an almost inevitable plot device and often – perhaps more than the hero – the central theme of the plot. Villains are also often criticized as being melodramatic.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Villain" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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