The 2010s might just have been the “Decade of the Villain.” That period of 10 years brought fans across multiple mediums and genres some of the most memorable baddies to ever stalk the realm of fiction, and said antagonists brought with them countless reasons for fans to curse their names and wish they’d never been created.
It is an overarching tragedy of fiction that the villains we enjoy the most also tend to be the ones who hurt us the most. By harming, tormenting, or outright eliminating characters that the audience cares about, a villain can make an indelible impact on a fanbase and forever change the course of a story - and just because their actions are fictional doesn’t mean they’re not also traumatic. All villains hurt to a certain extent, but some hurt just a little bit more than others. The 2010s were a decade in which some particularly hurtful evildoers came to the forefront.
- Photo: Game of Thrones/HBO
The actions of Daenerys Targaryen in the final season of Game of Thrones were especially hurtful to the show’s fanbase because they carried with them a serious element of betrayal. Once considered by many to be the show's primary protagonist, Daenerys’s sudden heel-turn was so surprising and so complete that it caught most off-guard - including the countless citizens of King’s Landing who felt the fury of her flame.
Dany’s dragon-fueled destruction of the city led directly to the demise of several fan-favorite characters, including Jaime and Cersei Lannister, and Sandor Clegane. It also ruined fans’ last hopes of Game of Thrones finding a happy ending, though those who still thought that was a possibility probably hadn’t been paying much attention to prior events.
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- Played By: Emilia Clarke
- Photo: Game of Thrones/HBO
Throughout the course of his several seasons on Game of Thrones, Tywin Lannister never so much as raised a hand against another character, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t enact great horrors in his own indirect way. In fact, Tywin was so well known for his evil machinations that he even had his own theme song that accompanied his most heinous acts.
Fans of the show will never forget the events of the “Red Wedding,” in which several of the series’ protagonists - including Robb, Catelyn, and Talisa Stark, and the direwolf Grey Wind - were all gruesomely slain on Tywin’s orders. As if that wasn’t cruel enough, he later condemned his own son Tyrion to perish - though thankfully that only lead to Tywin’s own well-earned demise.
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- Played By: Charles Dance
A children’s movie might not be the place one would expect to find an emotionally harmful villain, but that’s exactly what 2010’s Toy Story 3 delivered in the form of Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear.
In the heart-rending climax of the film, Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear betrayed Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys, condemning them to a slow-moving conveyor belt that led directly into an incinerator. Though the crew was saved by the aliens and their deified claw at the last moment, that didn’t change the fact that - for a brief moment - everyone in the audience had to emotionally prepare for the impending melting of Woody the Cowboy and Buzz Lightyear.
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- Played By: Ned Beatty
As the God of Mischief, Loki’s actions have traditionally been more annoying and frustrating than they have been tragic. After making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in 2011’s Thor, Loki’s machinations caused no shortage of strife for the God of Thunder, but he didn’t really make a true emotional impact until 2012’s Avengers - when he stabbed both a beloved character and an entire fanbase in the heart.
Loki’s cruel slaying of Agent Phil Coulson may have eventually been unwritten by the existence of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but that doesn’t take away from the tragedy of the moment. In subsequent adventures, Loki’s nefarious plotting also directly led to the demise of both his adoptive mother and father, and then eventually cost him his own life in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame - all of which took a serious toll on the God of Thunder and audiences alike.7842Are you hurt?