The Pure Evil villain is a type of villain that is considered to be one of, if not the most evil character(s) in the story with no redeeming qualities. A villain who is Pure Evil is completely evil.
Pure Evil (PE for short) goes by different names such as Pure Evil Villain and Purely Evil Villain.
- 1 Basics
- 2 Criteria
- 3 Categories
- 4 Additional Notes
For a villain to be Pure Evil, the villain must:
- Be presented seriously in the story they appear in.
- Commit atrocious acts that are terrible (and fairly new) by the standards of the story and in comparison to any other character in the story. If a villain commits the same atrocious acts done before by another character that appeared before them, be they hero or villain, they're no longer new to the heinous standard of the work.
- Have no redeeming qualities: shows no remorse, shows no empathy, shows no love for anyone (this doesn't apply to objects, only to living things like actual people or animals) and have no regrets for their actions.
- Show that they have moral agency and know what is right from wrong.
- Crosses the Moral Event Horizon more than once although it's also possible for the villain to qualify with a single cross in rare occasions.
The Pure Evil villain must meet all these criteria to count.
A Pure Evil villain must have a clearly defined personality and character. Simple one-dimensional characters like a destroyer with no clearly defined personality such as the Ten-Tails cannot be considered Pure Evil.
A Pure Evil villain must go above and beyond the general heinous standards and the in-story heinous standards. In addition, for Pure Evil villains who are a part of a corrupt system they must also go beyond the system standard as well. A Pure Evil villain must meet these standards to qualify:
- General Standard: This is the standards that separates the average villain or character from the Pure Evil villain. At this point, going against the heroes and committing crimes such as theft or murder is basic villainy but with this standard the villain must go above simple basic acts to something uniquely vile. At this point, comparisons to villains across other works are important when deciding the villain passes the General Standard.
- In-Story Standard: This is the standards that are unique to the story the villain is from. Here, this separates villains and characters within the story's work from those that are Pure Evil. For example, if serial killing and/or genocide are the basic standard villainy in a story, then the In-Story standards are going to be higher than another story and it might be harder for the story to have a villain who is worse than the other villains who are serial killers and genocidal villains. And, only the villain who is worst than the serial killers can possibly qualify as Pure Evil. As such, if the said villain commit the same crimes of their predecessor, they cannot qualify as one.
- System Standard: This is the standards that are unique from members of a corrupted system such as Nazis. Generally, given they are part of a specific system with certain morals, they don't commit actions that are beyond the basic heinous standard and meet the norm. Such character can qualify if the villain is the one that started said system and meets all criteria, or commits actions that go beyond the systems' standards-also proving that they would be capable of committing atrocious actions even if they weren't a member of said system. A good example of this is Amon Goeth - as he had one his workers in the concentration camp killed for giving him advice despite the fact that she was needed for construction and later following said advice-an action that made even other Nazis question his authority.
Moral Event Horizon
A Pure Evil villains must cross the Moral Event Horizon, usually more than once as it emphasizes on how heinous they are. Although rare exceptions of those that have crossed it only once can count if said action is heinous and atrocious enough by the standards of the story, and they meet all criteria. Steele is a good example of this as he was willing to let all the children of a whole village die from illness if he didn't let Balto deliver their medicine just to beat him in a competition.
This goes over the what the character is capable of by themselves. This means what evil acts a character is capable of committing on their own with the resources they have. Resources can mean the amount of time they appear in the story, character's role, access to resources in their setting, for example. With this criteria it is possible for a single work to have a One-Shot villain and a Big Bad qualify to be Pure Evil. With a character's individual capability, it is also possible for a Serial Killer and a Dictator to apply as Pure Evil despite having access to different types of resources that has varying scope. This means how bad a certain type of villain can be under a certain setting. Remember, that if a certain villain is worse than another, then only the worst can qualify. A Pure Evil villain has to be as bad as they can be with the resources they have.
The Pure Evil Villain must have a clear moral agency. They must know what is right and wrong but choose to do what is wrong and stay evil. In many cases such as a villain being mentally insane, possessed/brainwashed, or just does not know what is right from wrong, then the villain cannot qualify. In addition, villains who are incarnations of darkness and evil itself like Aku are likely to not count as Pure Evil as they only know how to be evil and cannot understand what is right or wrong.
No single group can qualify to be Pure Evil because a group do not have moral agency. Only individuals have moral agency and the individual capability to stand out. Groups like organizations, corporations, teams, families, and entire species, for example, cannot be considered Pure Evil.
No Redeeming Qualities
A Pure Evil Villain must have no redeeming qualities. This type of villain cannot show empathy, compassion, regrets, remorse, or love for anyone. In addition, any actions out of genuine concern or for altruistic reasons are disqualifying factors and the villain cannot count as Pure Evil. Pure Evil villains are completely evil with no sense of empathy or care for anyone.
No sympathy can be given to the Pure Evil villain. No matter their past or conditions, it does not make up for the actions they have committed. There can be no justification for their acts. Their evil acts combined with having no empathy does not make this type of villain sympathetic.
A villain can have a tragic and sympathetic background, one of the more popular versions of this is if a Pure Evil villain was abused by their parents. Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek is a very good example of this, his dad was abusive and evil, making him what he turned into. Instead of being sympathetic though, Mick doesn't seem to care about being abused at all as a grown up. This ruins any sympathetic background he had and makes him fit the criteria.
Sergi Lopéz perfectly describes how a character with a tragic backstory can still qualify when talking about his portrayal of Capitan Vidal from Pan's Labyrinth:
He is the most evil character I've ever played in my career. It is impossible to improve upon it; the character is so solid and so well written. Vidal is deranged, a psychopath who is impossible to defend. Even though his father's personality marked his existence—and is certainly one of the reasons for his mental disorder—that cannot be an excuse. It would seem to be very cynical to use that to justify or explain his cruel and cowardly acts.Sergi Lopéz talking about Capitan Vidal.
The Pure Evil Villain's acts must be presented onscreen. If all the worst acts of a villain are only off-screen, then they cannot qualify. In some cases if some acts are off-screen and it has visible effects onscreen or if the character has a long history of committing evil acts, for example Katz from Courage the Cowardly Dog, then the villain can count.
This villain has to be the worst villain in the story with little to no competition from any other villain or character. If another villain is not as heinous as another villain, then they cannot count as Pure Evil. Generally, the villain has to go above and beyond in the story they appear in with nothing to mitigate their villainy. In addition, the villain must already be passed the Moral Event Horizon to qualify. There can be more than one Pure Evil Villain in the same story, but each one has to stand out in their own unique terms of heinousness.
The type of story the Pure Evil Villain appears in is important to the portrayal of the villain and what they are capable of.
- If a villain appears in a comedy type story where their evil acts are not taken seriously, then they cannot count. The story makes it clear that the actions of the villain was not to be taken completely seriously which goes against the rule.
- Stories that are purposefully over-the-top appalling, are not likely to have a Pure Evil villain, since the story itself is intentionally designed for shock value. The character is supposed to stand out in the story they appear in not be apart of a story that is intentionally making itself stand out.
Through the type of story that the villain appears in, it is important that they are presented completely seriously without any factor that can take away from their seriousness.
Categories That Cannot Apply
This is a list of categories that absolutely cannot apply to the Pure Evil villain. Some of these categories either stands as a redeeming quality or simply cannot be applied to the Pure Evil villain.
- Affably Evil: Pure Evil villains are not genuinely polite or friendly to anyone. However, a Pure Evil villain can be Faux Affably Evil.
- Anti-Villain: A Pure Evil villain cannot be an Anti-Villain as an Anti-Villain is not a traditional villain in the sense that they are not always evil and may have noble goals. A Pure Evil villain, is always evil and have no noble goals that will not benefit anyone in the story.
- Chaotic Neutral: The type of Pure Evil villain that falls under the chaotic character alignment always falls under Chaotic Evil.
- Comic Relief: Pure Evil villain's appearance in a story does not lighten the mood of the story.
- Extremists: Extremists can commit terrible acts but are only limited to what they would do. Extremists will not take their level of evil to the degree of a terrorist and are primarily focused on a revolution or a social change that is noble and meant to benefit the society.
- Grey Zone: Pure Evil villains are evil without a doubt. It is not ambiguous as to whether a Pure Evil villain is evil or not because they are simply evil.
- Honorable: Pure Evil villains have no sense of honor, respect, or reverence for anyone or anything.
- In Love: Pure Evil villains do not have genuine love for anyone, and that "love" (should they claim to be such) would merely be either perversion, possessiveness, or obsession.
- Incompetent: The Pure Evil villain is capable of committing horrific acts and causing serious problems in a story which actually makes them competent and very formidable.
- Insecure: Insecure villains are meant to be sympathized with an audience for their personal flaws and tragic circumstances and under certain conditions in which they are accepted or loved by someone else they may stop their evil ways. A Pure Evil villain, however, is not meant to be sympathized with the audience. Pure Evil villains do not seek any genuine acceptance or love to make up for their insecurities. Whatever personal flaws or self-esteem issues a Pure Evil villain may have is not a central or defining trait to the character.
- Lawful Neutral: The type of Pure Evil villain that falls under the lawful character alignment always falls under Lawful Evil.
- Mischievous: Acts of mischief such as playful pranks, teasing, and misbehavior cannot be compared to the acts of a villain who is Pure Evil. Acts of a villain who is mischievous is not meant to be taken too seriously whereas the acts of a villain who is Pure Evil is cruel and is taken completely seriously.
- On & Off: There cannot be breaks in the Pure Evil villain's villainy.
- Possessed/Brainwashed: Pure Evil villains are in their normal senses. Acts committed by a character who is possessed or brainwashed is beyond the character's control and as a result cannot be culpable for their actions. A Pure Evil villain is in their normal senses (not possessed/brainwashed) and are responsible for their actions.
- Protective: Pure Evil villains are not protective of anyone. They are not willing to save or protect someone because they genuinely do not care for others.
- Redeemed: Pure Evil villains always want to be evil and make no effort to redeem themselves at all.
- Remorseful: Pure Evil villains cannot and do not want to feel any remorse for their acts nor do they regret any of their acts.
- Scapegoat: Whatever punishment or comeuppance the Pure Evil villain receives is not excessive. Because of the acts they have committed, the Pure Evil villain's comeuppance is justified. Also, Pure Evil villains are not meant to have any sympathy for whatever comeuppance they receive.
- Tragic: Pure Evil villains cannot be considered tragic. Their acts are so egregious that whatever sympathetic past they may have had is no longer relevant. The tragic category is meant for villains who can be sympathized with while a Pure Evil villain cannot be sympathized with for anything. Also a Pure Evil villain may try to use their hard past as a way to justify their acts. Even if a Pure Evil villain did have a hard past, it does not excuse their actions. Through their evil acts and by having no empathy, the Pure Evil villain manages to destroy their own innocence, and as a result the villain is no longer sympathetic.
- Vigilante: Vigilantes are motivated by upholding what is moral and right in society even though they break the law by their actions. Vigilantes are willing to take justice into their own hands and are focus on punishing criminals in order to protect their communities. Pure Evil villains are not motivated by upholding morals or justice in society and are only motivated by their own goals and malice.
- Villains by Proxy: A Villain by Proxy is a character who wishes to not be evil but because of circumstances they end up becoming a villain. Even as a villain, many of them do not wish that they had to do the things they did or that their actions are beyond their control. A Pure Evil villain, however, chooses to be evil, responsible for their acts, and does not regret any act they commit.
Special Cases That Can Apply
This is a list of categories in which under certain circumstances Pure Evil can apply.
- Artificial Intelligence: These villains almost never qualify as they generally only do what they're programmed to by other villains. Though exceptions can be made if they show they have free will, commit actions on their own, and meet all criteria. A good example of this is Skynet from the Terminator series - as it willingly chose to rebel against humans once it became self-aware because it saw humanity as inferior to it.
- Delusional: Villains who believe what they are doing is good or right may qualify if they commit actions that go against their morals and thus making them hypocrites-proving that they are abusing their views on what is "right" to the point where it becomes an excuse just to hurt others.
- Demon: These villains are hard to count as they generally only know how to do evil and may not have an understanding of what is good. Although exceptions can be made if they show they have a full understanding of what's right and wrong and willingly choose to do evil while meeting all criteria.
- Dissociative: Villains with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) generally don't count given they have no control over their actions due to their illness. However some can qualify if a) the alternate personality of the character meets all criteria, understands what's right and wrong while choosing to do wrong, and all heinous crimes are traced to said persona, or b) the character shows they are just as capable of committing evil actions without the personalities, and shows no regret for the heinous crimes they committed while under said personalities and understands what's right or wrong while choosing to do wrong and meeting all criteria.
- Evil Creation: These villains may pose the risk demons have of not knowing what right and wrong is, though they may count if they have clear moral agency and meet all criteria.
- Exploitation Villains: These villains are hard to qualify given they are a part of a genre that is meant to be over-the-top appalling, thus making it hard for said villains of the stories to meet such a high heinous standard. Though exceptions can exist if they do in fact manage to meet such a standard and all criteria.
- Fallen Heroes: A Pure Evil villain can be a a Fallen Hero if all they did was serve on the good side and completely shed any redeeming qualities once they cross over to complete villainy and meet all criteria.
- Friend of a Hero: The Pure Evil villain can qualify to be a friend of the hero only in the past when the character was once the friend of the hero before they became Pure Evil. This category cannot apply to the Pure Evil villain in the present as the character does not value a genuine friendship with the hero; this could only apply to the character's past. If they are a friend of the hero in the present while remaining Pure Evil, it is merely out of self-interest and is not genuine friendship - therefore these types would not count either.
- Hero's Lover: The Pure Evil villain can be the hero's lover in the sense that they were or is currently a significant other to the hero. Lover means that the villain is a significant other to the hero. The Pure Evil villain can be in a relationship with a hero and not have any genuine affection or love for them. For example, the Pure Evil villain could be abusing the hero or manipulating the hero for their own benefits. This category can apply to both the character's past in which they were once the hero's lover and the present where they are in a relationship with the hero but have no love or affection for them.
- Inconclusive: If the story ends prematurely or ends up being cancelled, it leaves questions as to how the villain would have developed if the story was complete. However, even for villains who have not died but are still alive and active by the time the story ends prematurely and still meets all the criteria, they can still qualify to be Pure Evil.
- Kids: For children, because of how young they are, their moral agency may not be clear. However, if the child shows that they have clear understanding of what they are doing and meets all the criteria, they may count. Henry Evans is a good example of this as he made it clear that doing evil and letting go of what's right in the world makes him feel free.
- Lovecraftian Horrors: Like Demons, these villains are hard to qualify given they may not have an understanding of what's good. However, exceptions can be made if they show they have a full understanding of what's right and wrong and willingly choose to do evil while meeting all criteria.
- Love Rivals: The Pure Evil villain can be a love rival, a villain competing with a hero or another character for a specific love interest. For a Pure Evil villain, they can be competing with another character to simply get into a relationship with a specific character but not have any genuine love or care for them. In addition, they may plan to be their lover to abuse them or manipulate them, for example. An example of a villain who is pure evil and a love rival is General Mandible from Antz. Through the film, he was a love rival to the main character and hero Z where he competed with him to get into a relationship with Princess Bala. General Mandible did not want to be in a relationship with Princess Bala out of genuine love or care but wanted her to give birth to a powerful colony of workers he would have control over.
- Mentally Ill: Due to their mental state, it's hard to tell whether or not they have a clear moral agency. However they can qualify if they make it clear that they have an understanding of what is right and wrong and meet all the criteria, even inspite of their limited views on reality.
- Mute: Villains who don't speak at all on screen are hard to qualify given they generally lack personality and a clear motive. However some can depict through their actions a personality and motive and may qualify if they meet all criteria-such as Kevin from Sin City. He didn't just kill and eat prostitutes, he also expressed a love for psychological torture as he kept some alive long enough to watch him kill and eat the others-thus establishing a more sadistic personality and motive.
- Necessary Evil: A Pure Evil villain can be Necessary Evil. Despite being very evil in the setting that appear in, their status, power, or occupation may be necessary to uphold the order of the place that the story takes place in. In a circumstance like this, it is considered Evil Vs. Evil. This is not a redeeming quality as the Pure Evil villain is still dangerous to the setting that they happen to be necessary in. For example, abusing or enslaving those around them while upholding stability to something greater that they are apart of. Akainu from One Piece is a powerhouse that is needed to stop the pirates. But while he is needed for stopping dangerous pirates, he is a Pure Evil villain who is abusive of his power.
- Partners in Crime: Pure Evil can apply to the Partners in Crimes as long as they meet the aforementioned criteria. The Pure Evil category can apply to duos as both characters together actually manages to meet all the criteria. In other instances, a trio can qualify if all three individuals meets the criteria to be Pure Evil.
- Predators: Villains who kill purely for food cannot qualify as they are doing what they are doing for survival. However they may count if they kill others out of sadism rather than food even if food is one of their purposes, and they meet all criteria. A good example of this is Dag from Barnyard, as while he did kill for food, he clearly killed more out of sadism as his ribs are visible, and he also fashioned a necklace out of the feet of the chicken he killed and used it to scare the ones he captured.
- Protagonists: It is not common in many works for a main character or lead character to actually be Pure Evil, but if they meet all the criteria they can qualify.
- Psychotic: Like the Mentally Ill, in spite of their limited views on reality, certain villains that fall under Psychotic may qualify if they have at least some understanding of what's right and wrong while meeting all criteria.
- Rivals: While it's common for this kind of villain to share a mutual respect for their opponents, it's not necessary for them to do so, so Rivals may count if they meet all criteria.
- Sitcom Villains: This villains are hard to count given the comedic nature of their TV shows. However some may qualify if they are taken seriously enough and meet all criteria.
- Pawns: While villains are merely known to be servants of far bigger villains, they can still commit heinous acts and still be just as dangerous and vile like any other Pure Evil villains. Examples include Herrscher of the Void and Makuta Teridax.
- Wrestlers: There are major differences between real-life Wrestlers and fictional Wrestlers. While fictional Wrestlers can qualify to be Pure Evil, real-life Wrestlers (especially in the WWE Universe) can NOT qualify to be Pure Evil, as they are essentially actors and their actions do not go far beyond villainy. An example of this is Cell.
- Even though it is common for many Pure Evil villains to be sadists, not all Pure Evil villains are sadists. It is not a requirement for a villain to take pleasure in other's pain and misery to qualify as Pure Evil. Sadism is an important factor to consider, but it is not a requirement to be considered Pure Evil. A Pure Evil villain can commit their acts without taking pleasure or glee in it. If anything this can make their actions more petty since they don't have anything pleasurable to gain from them.
- Attempted murder, rape or any attempt to do anything wicked, for example, can qualify for a villain to be Pure Evil only after having committed terrible acts beforehand. If a villain only has attempted acts to their name, then they are not a Pure Evil villain.
- If the villain does something atrocious that wasn't on purpose, they can still qualify if they become aware of it and show no regret on said action and they meet all criteria. For example, Top Dollar from the Crow film. While he did not specifically order for Eric's murder or the murder of his fiancé, he nevertheless expressed no remorse over what happened, admitted full responsibility, and even said he's enjoyed the thrill of fighting Eric because of it.
- The author's words or opinion on the character is not applicable on whether or not the villain can qualify to be Pure Evil.
- An all around hated character either by the work's fandom, by characters in the story itself, or from both the fandom and the story itself is not indicative of a character qualifying as Pure Evil. While resentment from the characters in the story and the audience is an important factor to consider, if the villain does not meet the criteria to be Pure Evil but is simply hated, then that villain cannot count.
- Like how the Redeemed category should be added, Pure Evil should normally be added to a villain when the story arc or season they are apart of is over. If the Pure Evil category is added before the arc/season is over, there is a possibility the villain could have a redeeming quality, redeem themselves, or another much more heinous villain might appear that may outdo that specific villain; in all three scenarios, the villain cannot count. Since the part of the story where the villain appears is not complete, it is best practice to wait until it is complete to consider adding the category to the villain.
- A villain from a different continuity or version can end up counting if the original version did not. The same can also apply, if the original version of the character ends up counting, but other versions of the character does not. For example, many versions of the Joker ends up qualifying to be Pure Evil while some versions of him like the Joker from Batman: Brave and the Bold does not qualify.
- Parodies are only done for comedic purposes and are not meant to be taken seriously and as a result cannot qualify to be Pure Evil. Homages, however, can qualify as Pure Evil as they can be taken seriously in the work they appear in.
- If the Pure Evil villain is comedic, it has to go hand-in-hand with their villainy not detract from it. If the villain is portrayed as comical and light-hearted, then they cannot qualify as Pure Evil.
- The category is not a badge of honor. It doesn't matter if you think a villain is iconic enough or if you dislike them, as none of these are legitimate factors as to how or why a villain might qualify as Pure Evil. If you cannot think of any other reason to propose a villain than "he is a great villain, therefore, he deserves the category" or "I hate his guts", don't bother. They must meet the criteria listed above.