Villains Wiki

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Villains Wiki
The protagonist doesn't have to be likable or moral or a good guy... He just has to be interesting!
~ George R. R. Martin.
Before the age of the twilight set upon the Gods, a legend rose to claim his place among them. And even though Kratos sat on the throne as the new God of War, he was haunted by visions of his family, a family he himself murdered. But the hands of Death could not defeat him, the Sisters of Fate could not control him, and on this day, the man, the legend, Kratos, will have his revenge.
~ Gaia narrating about Kratos, the protagonist of God of War series.

A villainous protagonist, or protagonist villain is a character who is the central focus of a story, but isn’t the hero of its story. In short, these villains are the main characters of their own stories. Due to them being the protagonists of the story (and in many cases, knowing their motives) the audience commonly nickname them "anti-heroes".

Villainous deuteragonists and tritagonists fall under this category too.

There can be more than one villainous protagonist in a same story, but each one has to share the same amount of screen time in order to qualify. In video games, any playable character(s) can qualify (e.g. Michael De Santa, Franklin Clinton, and Trevor Philips, who are the protagonists of Grand Theft Auto V). Also, former protagonists who became antagonists (usually due to a tragic event in their life) can also be included, given that they played a large part in the story, even if they no longer function as heroes. (e.g. Darth Vader, Rex Dangervest, Nolanverse's Two-Face)

Such characters can be found in almost every work of fiction, however, they are quite uncommon in works aimed for children, as these protagonists are usually meant to convey moral values. Examples of children's entertainment protagonist villains are: Bowser and his paper counterpart, Bowser Jr., Wario, Megamind, The Grinch, and Felonius Gru.

Some can be falsely seen as the "protagonist hero" as he/she is seen on the cover of the movie/book and there for the reader/watcher are being lured to believe that the character is the main hero of the story, while they are in fact the main antagonists. One example is Major Chip Hazard from Small Soldiers.

These characters are rarely Pure Evil, because it is very unlikely and odd for a leading character to actually be that evil. In addition, protagonists that are villainous usually set the villainy standards in their story. However, protagonists can still be Pure Evil if they have no redeeming qualities and the surrounding characters are visibly distressed or repulsed by their actions, thus meaning that they meet the criteria (e.g. Patrick Bateman, Louis Bloom, Frank Underwood, Light Yagami, Kurt Kunkle, King Richard III, Quentin McNeil and Henry). In addition, horror works and exploitative medias often feature purely evil protagonists who are meant to be feared as mascots of their own franchise (e.g. Chucky, Michael Myers, Sweet Tooth and Alan Yates).

They are the exact inverted opposite of heroic antagonists.

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