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.
Joffrey Baratheon leads the junior category for “2010s Villain of the Decade.” The young monarch may have only stuck around for a few seasons of Game of Thrones, but he managed to carve out a place for himself in the heads of those who viewed the series - primarily by removing the head of the show's main protagonist.
Joffrey’s order to behead Ned Stark was his most obvious crime against the fanbase, but it was far from his only one. He also directly caused the demise of Sansa Stark’s direwolf Lady, and personally executed Ros, a character that had been around since the beginning of the series. In fact, Joffrey’s actions were so impactful that when his own grisly demise finally came, fans found themselves cheering for the excruciating end of a child - yet another example of the emotional turmoil caused by his very existence.
Played By: Jack Gleeson
The 2010s were the decade of Thanos. After arriving in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2012’s Avengers, the Mad Titan began a campaign of terror that would only end when he gained possession of all six Infinity Stones. On the way to that goal, Thanos snapped Loki’s neck, threw Gamora off a cliff, and crushed the Vision’s forehead - and that was just a warmup for what he did when he finally assembled the Infinity Gauntlet.
With one snap of his fingers, Thanos dusted a full half of the MCU, including such notable names as Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Star-Lord. Of course, it was inevitable that Thanos’s genocidal doings would be undone eventually, but even that came with a heavy emotional toll - with both Black Widow and Iron Man giving up their lives to halt his diabolical plans once and for all.
As if all that wasn't enough, the Marvel Comics version of Thanos also punched a hole in James "War Machine" Rhodes during 2016's "Civil War II" crossover event.
Played By: Josh Brolin
The Walking Dead has been on the air since 2010, but there are those who would argue that the series didn’t really hit its stride until 2016’s Season 6 - which also marked the arrival of Negan, the show’s best and most impactful villain. In his very first appearance, Negan savagely ended two of the show's main characters with his trusty baseball bat Lucille, and then viewers were forced to wait an entire off-season to find out who his victims were.
When Season 7 rolled around, it was revealed that Abraham Ford and Glenn Rhee were Negan’s two unlucky choices. The demise of Glenn, in particular, resonated throughout the fanbase for years to come - making it all the more remarkable when Negan later transitioned from villain into series protagonist in the absence of Rick Grimes.
And if you're a fan of the comics, consider that he ended Glenn in that medium, as well, in 2012's The Walking Dead #100.
Played By: Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Bellatrix Lestrange’s story of villainy had long since been written by the time the 2010s rolled around, but seeing her evil depicted on the big screen opened up old wounds for an entire generation of Harry Potter diehards. 2010’s The Deathly Hallows - Part 1 concluded with one of the saddest demises in the entire franchise, and Lestrange was the one who did the deed.
As Harry and his friends made their escape from Voldemort’s captivity, Bellatrix hurled a dagger at their backs - but it ended up in the chest of Dobby, the sweetest house elf to ever live. His demise set a dark tone for The Deathly Hallows - Part 2, in which Lestrange also snuffed out Nymphadora Tonks among others - and sealed her own vengeful fate, much to the delight of viewers.
Played By: Helena Bonham Carter