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Pixar Villains With Sad Origins You Can't Help But Sympathize With

Updated May 2, 2021 384 votes 59 voters 1.7k views11 items

List RulesVote up the Pixar villains with the saddest origins.

Protagonists like Buzz Lightyear, WALL-E, and Nemo all have stories we know and love, having been the primary focus of Pixar films over the years. But how about those Pixar villain origin stories? After all, they say a story is only as good as its antagonist, and Pixar has had some great baddies we've loved to hate since the studio burst onto the scene in 1995 with Toy Story.

And while villains like Ratatouille's Skinner and Coco's Ernesto de la Cruz have basically zero redeeming qualities whatsoever, Pixar has also given us a few villains we can't help but feel a bit sorry for from time to time. Syndrome idolized Mr. Incredible as a kid only to be rejected by his hero in the end. Lotso ended up being unceremoniously replaced after being accidentally abandoned at a picnic. Stinky Pete was left to collect dust on shelves for literal decades. We don't always see eye-to-eye with Pixar villains, but sometimes we can sympathize with their plight.

  • Photo: The Incredibles / Buena Vista Pictures

    As the old saying goes, you never want to meet your heroes. Young Buddy Pine, Mr. Incredible's No. 1 fan, learned this the hard way. Buddy was so obsessed with Mr. Incredible's amazing feats of derring-do, he wanted to join him as a sidekick called "IncrediBoy." Although Buddy was a technical genius even at that young age, bringing a child along to fight supervillains seems like a pretty bad idea from the jump - we're looking at you, Batman - and Mr. Incredible promptly shut Buddy down.

    And it's hard to blame him! The battlefield is no place for a child. But, good old Robert Parr could've let the kid down a little bit easier. Sure, he was a bit annoying and didn't know how to take no for an answer, but he was an impressionable kid. The fact that Buddy Pine ended up becoming the villainous Syndrome later in life due to this childhood rejection only solidifies the unavoidable truth that Mr. Incredible could've handled the whole situation a lot better than he did.

    Tragic backstory?
  • Photo: Ratatouille / Buena Vista Pictures

    With a name like "Anton Ego," it's not surprising this food critic ended up being one of the primary antagonists in 2007's Ratatouille. That's a name that just screams, "I'm a self-entitled villain!" And though Ego clearly reveled in coming down hard on restaurants in his vocation - his writing room is shaped like a coffin, after all - by the end of the film, he ends up remembering what began his love affair with food in the first place. 

    Ego is a great example of a well-done film villain. For much of the runtime, he's a scary figure who can ruin the reputation of a restaurant with his pen. By the end, he ends up investing in a restaurant with Remy and Linguini, and the audience has genuinely seen his demeanor change over time. He begins the film by claiming, "I... take cooking seriously, and no, I don't think anyone can do it." But by the end, his attitude has changed as he states, "Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere."

    Tragic backstory?
  • Lotso, the villainous bear from Toy Story 3, is not exactly the most beloved character in the Pixar canon. In fact, it's hard not to feel a sense of satisfaction when he gets strapped to the grill of a truck at the end of the movie. After everything he put our beloved toys through? And all the other countless toys before that? That strawberry-scented bear got what he deserved.

    But that doesn't mean his backstory isn't tragic. After being accidentally left behind on a picnic by his original owner Daisy, Lotso and Daisy's other toys Big Baby and Chuckles trekked all the way back to her house, only to see that Lotso had been replaced by another Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear. Well, this sparked an angry fire in that pink bear, and Daisy's betrayal changed him into the kind of toy that would deliberately cause harm to others in order to get what he wants. Lotso's origin is an interesting corollary to Jessie's from Toy Story 2; both backstories do a solid job of highlighting the deep traumas such a betrayal can cause in one's life.

    Tragic backstory?
  • 4

    Stinky Pete Was A Lonely Toy Who Sat On A Shelf, Perpetually Unopened

    Photo: Toy Story 2 / Buena Vista Pictures

    Was Stinky Pete a selfish dude? Did Stinky Pete nearly doom Woody to a sterile life lived in the confines of the Konishi Toy Museum? Was Stinky Pete a complete and total creep? Yes, yes, and yes. And no one would ever defend this smelly, old prospector or his devious machinations in Toy Story 2. But if you take a second to think about his background, the reasoning for his petulant attitude and selfish ways begins to come into focus.

    Pete spent the majority of his life stuck inside a box on a dime-store shelf, waiting to be bought by a child who wanted to play with him. Eventually, adult collector Al bought him as he tried to complete a Woody's Roundup collection to sell off for big money. Can you imagine being stuck in a box, year after year, just wanting to be loved by a kid? Even Bubble Boy got out to explore the world, and he was born without an immune system. Solitary confinement is enough to drive the sanest man crazy.

    Tragic backstory?