Differences between a villain and an anti-hero

MrKiwi

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Evening... or morning... (whichever's your case) I've been reworking some of my characters (for different projects) and I noticed I had an issue. Is this character relevant? Is it good or evil? Where did it came from?

And many other questions, but in terms of the second one of these (good or evil), I realized, I don't know what's the difference between a villain and an anti-hero. So how do I setup this character? What are its intentions? Its purposes?

So, I decided to start this thread hoping you could share some of your opinions and knowledge about this: what are the main differences between a villain and an anti-hero? And maybe some examples? :kaoswt:

I'll be looking forward to your answers :)
 

samkfj

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Anti-heroes still operate within the guidelines of the "greater good" but do so with flawed reasoning or actions. There's various types of anti-hero, so it's not always just the style of good guy that does bad or questionable things.

One type is the one most people think of when they imagine anti-heroes; the bad but still kinda good guy. For instance, the Punisher who kills his enemies vs Spiderman that has them imprisoned. The Punisher does what normal heroes would consider "bad" or "villainous." He's still a "good guy" because he doesn't go after heroes, but he'll kill a lot of bad guys. For these bros--the end always justifies the means.

There's also the hero that differs drastically from the traditional hero. For instance, a traditional hero might be seen as brave and strong; but, an anti-hero may be seen as cowardly and weak. Still a heroic character, but not in the traditional sense.

You also have your hero that goes against the current; which is basically a hero that does it their way, contrary to social or accepted norms. For example, a teacher that instead of teaching traditionally, does something completely different that defies the norm. Something like Jack Black in School or Rock, or that crazy lady from the magic school bus.

There's various kinds of anti-heroes, so it's a very broad topic.

Villains however... don't operate for any good. They exist for themselves, their agenda or just because. They might be motivated by wealth, revenge, sex, power--it doesn't matter... they all believe in what they're doing is what's right.

The biggest difference between the anti-hero and the villain is that the anti-hero is still a hero, meaning they will still eventually clash with the villain. They might be similar in some aspects, but they're far from the same.

Those are the bare basics of it.
 
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Countyoungblood

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Deadpool is an antihero. Some might say THE anti-hero. Id look at him to get a feel for what people might expect from the antihero archetype.
 

pasunna

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just the authors opinion
villains that got cool act is anti hero
for real any villian that got more screen time
you will know more about him/her other side
and hardly any villains will got only bad side and bad motivation
but mostly they got not much screen time to sell their hero act…
 

Tiamat-86

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anti-hero is like jessie, james, meowth from team rocket.
villian is just someone staight up evil wanting to ruin everything
 

Ratatattat

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From Oxford dictionary: "a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes."
From Wikipedia: "An antihero or antiheroine is a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities and attributes such as idealism, courage and morality."
My takeaway from these definitions, as well as my own experience with villains and antihero characters, is that antiheroes are protagonists while villains are not. The example that first jumps to my mind for an antihero (besides Deadpool, who has been mentioned already) is
Beatrix Kiddo
from Kill Bill. She is the protagonist, or "hero" of the films, but she is not necessarily a heroic person.
She was an assassin before the timeline of the films, and has no problem killing a kid's mom in their own home. Despite a few redeeming moments such as sparing the daughter as well as that Yakuza kid, she still is purely driven by revenge and will kill anyone who gets in her way.
Are these the qualities of a "true" fiction hero? Definitely not! But she is not the villain of the films, either. Bill and the others are. Thus,
Kiddo
is an antihero.

In all honesty, the line is pretty blurred. Villains can be super fleshed out and dynamic characters that may even evoke sympathy, while antiheroes can be so un-hero-like that we wonder how we're even able to sympathize with them at all. So, I think the "who is the protagonist of this story" question is generally a good way to make the distinction.
 

mlogan

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I've moved this thread to General Discussion. Please be sure to post your threads in the correct forum next time. Thank you.

 

kairi_key

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I don't really like to look at characters through moral lens of good vs. evil, except for when the story calls for it. I like to think of opposing force as rather antagonists, rivals, or big boss rather than villain. Thus, personally, I don't see how making sure whether the character is anti-hero or villain really benefit the story.

But from what you asked, I think the question returns to whether you can tell if the character is good or evil. If they're good then probably more anti-hero and vice versa. You don't have to really think of it based on some universal good or evil. Instead, try to think about it through the main narrative, and comparing to specific ideals held by both sides. Why does the character in question act not in accordance with the protagonists? How is the character related to the core theme or moral of the story? Keep answering their motivation and you'll probably know. But as for my advice, it doesn't really matter much lol.
 

Failivrin

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A villain is simply the embodiment of a negative outcome that the player wishes to avoid or the audience wishes to refute. Some of the best villains are simply mirror images of the hero/heroine minus all the good qualities. For example, Darth Vader is explicitly represented as what Luke will become if he turns to the Dark Side. Great villains like Vader, Maleficent, or the Joker don’t want to kill the heroes: They want to make a mockery of what the heroes stand for. The hero triumphs partly by power, skill, or cleverness, and partly by proven moral quality.

Anti-heroes are, well, a different story. There are two major kinds of anti-heroes, which I will call heroic and tragic.

Heroic anti-heroes defeat villains through superior power, skill, and cleverness—but they are seriously lacking in moral quality. The Punisher would be an example of this kind, but not all anti-heroes rely on brawn. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is an anti-hero who relies on cleverness and saves many lives despite being a self-proclaimed sociopath. In Thailand, where I live, there is a famous anti-hero named Sri Thanonchai who saves Thailand mostly by playing cruel jokes on people.

The tragic anti-hero is the opposite of the heroic. They have moral quality but lack power, skill, or cleverness. The best example I know is Winston Smith from 1984. Winston lacks some moral qualities but he has the basics ingredients necessary to stay human in an inhuman world. He sees right through the villains but is incapable of outsmarting them, escaping them, or attracting others to his cause. He finally breaks under torture. Although Winston is killed, tragic anti-heroes like Othello or Harvey Dent/Twoface can even become villains after they’re broken.

A story can contain both heroes and anti-heroes. For example, the Turks and Rufus Shinra from FFVII are heroic anti-heroes. At the beginning of the series, they oppose the heroes, and by the end (Dirge of Cerberus), they are working together--but morally speaking, they never change sides. They always do whatever's in the best interests of Shinra. Their moral weakness makes them incapable of tough decisions or sacrifices, so it's up to the real heroes to fill the gap. An interesting relationship develops in which the Shinra folks have a dependent rivalry with Cloud and his gang: They're not really on the heroes' side, but they need the heroes to do the things they can't.
 
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gstv87

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anti-hero is like jessie, james, meowth from team rocket.
team rocket is comic relief.

villian is just someone staight up evil wanting to ruin everything
Mr Freeze? Lex Luthor? Magneto?
Freeze didn't want to *straight up ruin everything*, he wanted to save his wife and his plan backfired.
Luthor? he raised a genuine concern: "This Superman is an alien.... what are we going to do about every other potential alien out there? We let them all come here, we lose Earth as we know it."
Magneto? he got tired of being treated like a monster, so he became the monster. He's the reverse Superman: "You don't want me as an equal? Fine, I'll be your opposition then!"

not every "villain" is evil.
that's why there is the term "protagonist" and "antagonist".
Spawn is not a hero, but he's the protagonist.... Blade? same thing.... Wolverine? Jessica Jones? Rorschach? they're no "heroes".
 
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CraneSoft

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The defining difference between the two is not about good and evil, but rather, the actions they partake in.

An anti-hero is called such simply because their actions end up being heroic in some form - even if it is not their best interests to do so. Ie. Anti-hero unknowingly saves a bunch of people by just killing the one villain he wants dead.

Villains are the polar opposite, they commit atrocities and crimes that are unquestionably evil. Whether or not their ultimate goal is good in nature doesn't matter.
 

Elissiaro

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Antiheroes are good, in comparison to the villains they face. But they're not always nice.

Beating up the villains henchmen for information isn't nice. But if it is vital to stopping the end of the world, or finding the mass murdering villain, it can be considered good.
Insulting and backtalking the team leader isn't nice, but uh... If you still work with the team to save the kidnapped villagers...

Villains meanwhile, can be nice, but they're not good.

Trying to end all war is nice, but forcefully taking over the world to do it, is evil.
Fixing the enviroment is nice, breaking in and destroying all the cars in the city is evil.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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TLDR: The difference is the anti-hero is the protagonist and the villain is the antagonist. An anti-hero does not fit the typical hero archetype.

Lots of really good definitions and opinions here already. My two cents...

Anti-hero is really just the not-so-average hero. He's the protagonist, but probably not the one you would expect to be the protagonist. Take for example the movie Willow. Willow could be considered the hero archetype in this case because he fits the general roll very well. He's nice and polite, he genuinely cares about the other characters, he wants to help because it's the right thing to do, etc. Madmartigan fits the anti-hero archetype well because (at least in the beginning) he's only helping because he thinks doing so will serve his own best interests. He's selfish and he doesn't care about the greater good in the slightest bit.

I see the villain as the antagonist. Also, I don't really like the term villain, but I guess it fits well enough. The perfect villain is probably a whole other topic in and of itself. The villain, however, is known to be the villain from the beginning. Not to say we know their identity from the beginning, but there should clearly be some villainous force to contend with.
 

Conflictx3

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I would strongly suggest the 2nd season of Daredevil if thats still on netflix that season directly discusses the blurred lines between hero vs anti-hero through daredevil, punisher and elektra.

i think the definitions here are good except for one thing, alot of people are saying the villain does bad things to ruin/hurt others. thats not true, remember the villain is an extremist who thinks his idea and actions will IMPROVE things, even if by improving they mean destroy. Their are some who destroy for the fun of it as well but they're the minority.

The Villain and the hero both want to make things better whatever that may mean. The Anti-Hero just doesn't like change.

The Villain might see a flaw in society, in people, government, or might see the entire planet as better off enslaved or destroyed altogether.

The Hero might see the same flaw but on the opposite spectrum, or maybe the Hero wasn't a hero at all but as the villain began to take action the hero see's the wrong doing and steps up to do the right thing and gets wrapped up. theres a million ways a "Hero" is born but there always in stark opposition of the villains ideal.

Now the ANTI-HERO is more so out for themselves. The have no desire to make the world better and their beliefs aren't exactly in opposition of the Villain. its more so the Villains actions disrupt the ANTI-HERO's life in some way or another and thus the Anti-Hero must exterminate the threat to return to his/her way of living. sometimes this tends to escalate into the anti-hero thwarting the villains world ending plan but truth is the anti-hero doesn't care too much about the villains plans but stops it because the anti-hero knows it will cause MORE disruption to their life. most anti-hero's i know usually sigh heavily before stopping the big bad death ray. this tells me "I don't really care, but i guess i HAVE TO, or it will be hard for me to go back to drinking myself under a table in some random bar tomorrow if i don't"
 

FirestormNeos

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Plain Hero: Actions ultimately contribute to greater good, the methods used to get there are ideal.

Anti-Hero: Actions ultimately contribute to greater good, the methods used to get there are not ideal.

Anti-Villain: Attempting to contribute to greater good, but would ultimately fail (either because their methods will not have the desired outcome, or because the positive impact of the desired outcome is not worth the negative impact of the methods).

Plain Villain: Actively trying to make things worse/Their desired outcome is a bad thing.
 

gstv87

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but if plain villain seeks to actively do evil and succeeds, shouldn't anti-villain succeed at doing evil by doing good deeds the same way the anti-hero succeeds at doing good by using not-good methods?
 

Conflictx3

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but if plain villain seeks to actively do evil and succeeds, shouldn't anti-villain succeed at doing evil by doing good deeds the same way the anti-hero succeeds at doing good by using not-good methods?
questions like that are how great novels/games/television shows are born!
 

Darth Equus

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Shadow and Kefka from FF6 are good examples of an anti-hero and a villain, respectively.
 

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