In film and popular media franchises, it’s not uncommon for villains to become fan-favorite characters. These characters, whether born of circumstance or poor moral alignment, can be both fun and thrilling to watch. The supposed bad guys becoming popular often leads to them having more time in a franchise, and that allows them to go through narrative changes and character growth.
Large film series like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Animated Universe are great examples, as they both allow characters to return through a continuum of movies and shorts. As a result, their villains may have to change sides for the greater good, allowing them to become heroes in the face of greater dangers.
10/10 Bucky Barnes Retook Control Of His Life
One of the greatest redemption stories in the MCU is about Bucky Barnes. The former best friend of Steve Rogers was turned into a mind-controlled assassin by Hydra and used to harm millions. Although he spent decades as the Winter Soldier, Bucky is eager to turn over a new leaf when presented with the opportunity in Captain America: Civil War.
Once given his freedom, Bucky moves to Wakanda to unlearn his Winter Soldier programming. After its success, he’s one of the first allies that Steve calls on in Avengers: Infinity War, and he’s an instrumental part of the battle that follows. The role of hero may still be new to him, but he’s pursuing it with great success.
9/10 Harley Quinn Stays True To Herself
The iconic partner of the Joker, Harley Quinn is no stranger to violence or committing criminal acts. Her live-action rendition is forced into saving the world in the 2016 Suicide Squad, but she doesn’t start to show her true nature until she ends her relationship in Birds of Prey. In the film, she becomes hunted by a crime boss but teams up with other powerful women in Gotham.
The story is fun, lively, and full of action. Coincidentally, these are all traits that describe Harley as she strives to stay true to herself. While she still behaves in less-than-heroic ways at times, she is learning to care for those around her while attempting to do the right thing. This includes stopping other villains like Black Mask and saving the life of Cassandra Cain.
8/10 Lex Luthor Chooses The Winning Side
Lex Luthor is known for going where the action best suits him. He’s a character who prioritizes self-preservation and success, and this remains true in DC’s, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. The movie is the epic conclusion to many animated films, and it doesn’t shy away from the violent acts committed by Darkseid.
Lex is one of the few who survive the decimation of Earth, and he ends up using his position in Darkseid’s army to feed information to the heroes. He is revealed to their agent on the inside, and he helps them infiltrate Apokolips. This is a turn for his character, as he chooses to risk his life for the success of the greater good.
7/10 Megamind Always Had The Makings Of A Hero
The Dreamworks film Megamind is a fun twist on the classic superhero story. Megamind is an evil genius and a supervillain who rarely succeeds, but that changes when his latest scheme invokes the death of the hero, Metro Man.
Megamind quickly realizes his life’s lack of purpose without an enemy to face, so he creates a new hero to protect their town. When this new hero decides it’s more fun to be the villain, however, Megamind realizes the error of his ways and steps up to save the day. He falls in love along the way, makes new friends, and learns that he can succeed without being the bad guy.
6/10 Loki Attempts To Save The Universe
One of the MCU’s most notorious villains is Loki, the brother of Thor. Loki has been in the MCU for a long time and has taken up an antagonistic role since his first appearance. Although Loki’s schemes have been foiled each time, he continues to fool everyone he comes across, including those he meets in Thor: Ragnarok, the film where he finally takes a more heroic stand.
The film points Loki in a new light, as he returns to Asgard to aid Thor in the defeat of their sister Hela. He fights alongside Thor and his friends in the final battle and chooses to leave their destroyed home with the rest of his people. He continues this streak of heroic sacrifice in Avengers: Infinity War when he attempts to stop Thanos despite the danger to his own life.
5/10 Venom Chooses The Human Race
A symbiote initially sent to Earth in search of a planet with inhabitants that can be devoured, Venom becomes an invaluable companion to journalist Eddie Brock. The two of them end up as symbiote and host by accident but quickly end up being the driving force against Carlton Drake and his organization that has been experimenting with symbiotes and humans alike.
The majority of the film shows Venom as eager to finish his mission, but he has a change of heart due to his time with Eddie Brock. His new experiences encourage him to help protect Earth from his kind. After they defeat Drake, Eddie and Venom remain bonded and stop crime in San Francisco.
4/10 Snape’s Secrets Turned The Tides Of War
In the Harry Potter franchise, the character Severus Snape always had a gloomy presence in the life of his students. His dour personality and attentive gaze often got in the way of Harry’s plans, and for most of the franchise, it appears as if he has bad intentions, especially when he is the one responsible for Dumbledore’s death.
This narrative is flipped in the second Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as Snape is killed, and he releases his memories for Harry. These memories reveal that Snape has been acting as a double agent for the Order of the Phoenix, and was an instrumental part in their fight against Voldemort.
3/10 Otto Octavius Is Returned To His Right Mind
The MCU delved into the concept of the multiverse in Spider-Man: No Way Home and the film saw the return of many characters from the previous Spider-Man franchises. One of the characters returned is Otto Octavius, whose mind had been corrupted by his mechanical limb’s artificial intelligence.
Octavius is returned to his right mind in the middle of the film, however, as Peter Parker cures him of the limb’s control. He becomes immediately happier and chooses to aid Spider-Man when the group has their final confrontation against the Green Goblin.
2/10 Gru Chooses Family Over His Evil Schemes
The film Despicable Me is popular among families, and for good reason. The story follows Gru, an evil supervillain who adopts three orphan girls in his attempt to steal the moon. While the girls are meant to be a means to an end, Gru gradually forms a bond with each of them and nearly risks the success of his plan to attend their dance recital.
By the end of the film, he chooses to trade the stolen mood for the safety of the girls, solidifying his choice to step away from evil and focus on his new family. In the sequel film Despicable Me 2, Gru becomes a secret agent who stops villains, all while being a devoted father.
1/10 Maleficent Attempts To Undo Her Mistake
Disney’s Maleficent is a live-action retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but it is told from the villainous Maleficent’s point of view. As the story goes, Maleficent curses princess Aurora to prick her finger on a spindle and fall into eternal sleep. This curse is meant to take place on the princess’s sixteenth birthday, and while Maleficent watches Aurora grow up from afar, she begins to care for the girl.
After realizing that she can’t bring herself to harm Aurora, Maleficent does everything in her power to break the curse. When all else fails, Maleficent offers the sleeping Aurora a kiss on the forehead. The sweet and maternal action is what awakens Aurora, simultaneously saving the princess while showing how deeply Maleficent cares for her.
NEXT:10 Disney Villains‘ Darkest Plans