Where would literature be without villains? If there were no human evils to overcome, heroes would not embark on adventures. Damsels would not need rescued. For just about every hero in a novel, there is an evil personified in a living individual. The characters of Bleak House are tormented by the rigid, vile Mr. Tulkinghorn (among a host of other bad guys!). The Bennet sisters face a lesser but just as insidious evil in the form of the manipulative, seducing Mr. Wickham. And, of course, Harry Potter goes up against the diabolical Lord Voldemort, to save all of wizarding kind. Authors simply know that as difficult as life can be, often life itself isn’t enough of a challenge for a main character. There must be evil individuals in that character’s life, to further complicate their decisions and even to lead them astray for a time. Sometimes these evils are obvious, and sometimes they’re more cunning… such as the evil of a friend who gives bad or selfish advice.
Cinema has no end of diabolical, fearsome and even likable villains, but literature has an even deeper wealth of truly despicable figures (Dickens in particular can lay claim to a great number of them), who embark on unforgivable actions and give the hero or heroine of the tale no end of emotional trauma and bad experiences.
Fortunately, what fiction also teaches us is that in the end, good wins. The villain may get the upper hand for a time, but he or she will get a nice comeuppance in time, whether that is a bullet as a result of their general unkindness or merely being ostracized from society and left to live out life with a truly silly and insipid wife. One could argue that without the villain, the hero would never become heroic, for he would have no chance to show his goodness, his selflessness, and his true heart… either to win the girl, to save the day, or simply to survive.
Herein, you will find a motley crew of nasty, diabolical, backstabbing, murdering fiends that all are memorable in some way, even if it’s simply for the fact that we utterly despise them. I’d say “enjoy,” but…