How the Increasing Complexity of Cinematic Villains Allows Them to Garner Greater Audience Sympathy

In a fairly comprehensive and truly insightful video essay, Jared Bauer of Wisecrack talks about the history of cinematic villains and how they evolved over the decades – from the 1950s through today.

In the 1950s a villain was an enemy with evil intentions. Yet starting the 1960s, the line between good and bad began to blur. Villains may still act badly, but characters such as Killmonger of Black Panther and Thanos of The Avengers show that the increasing complexity and perception of nobility behind their intentions allow them garner more sympathy from the audience, particularly in current times.

Something is happening with today’s villains. In this Wisecrack Edition, we argue that a shift is occurring in how villains are made. To understand what the shift means, we survey cinematic villains from the 1950s to today.