12 Memorable Villains of Fiction

Villains of Fiction


I love to read dark fiction, so not surprisingly, I encounter lots of villains in my reading. Putting together my 12 most memorable villains of fiction was disturbingly fun! 

Many on this list are adept manipulators, some are well known among readers, and some are not. And, the main character in the book I just finished (A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne) could possibly top this list. But, I felt weird about including him since the book isn’t coming out until November.

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Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

12 Memorable Villains of Fiction

Dr. Alan Forrester
All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker (Spoiler Discussion)
Why are psychiatrists so often creepy villains in fiction? This one was arrogant and diabolical, too.

Amy Dunne
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Possibly the most manipulative character I’ve ever read. But, her husband almost deserved her. Almost.

Annie Wilkes
Misery by Stephen King
A terrifying version of fangirl-ing. More power to you if you can get that vision of Annie hammering Paul’s ankles out of your head.

Bull Meacham
The Great Santini by Pat Conroy (my review)
Maybe the worst Dad in literature. But, he also had a sense of humor that made reading him slightly less traumatic.

Double Eagles
Natchez Burning by Greg Isles (my review)
A group rather than a person, but this is a dangerous splinter group of the KKK that reigned in the 1960’s and was even more ruthless than the regular KKK. The fictional Double Eagles is based on the real life “Silver Dollar Group.”

Jake the Bartender
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (my review)
The first of two sociopathic boyfriends on this list.

Joseph Castleman
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
A bit of a different type of villain than the others on this list. He’s not downright evil, just completely self-centered, oblivious, and expects to be coddled. His poor wife…  

Miranda Priestley
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
The boss from hell. Except also thoroughly entertaining for readers…

Nate Piven 
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (my review)

Again, not as evil as some of the other villains on this list. But, a pretty unabashed and callous manipulator of women. I remember thinking when I read this, “this perfectly portrays dating in NYC!” 

Oliver Ryan
Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Here’s the first line of Unraveling Oliver, told from Oliver’s perspective:

I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.

Olivia Foxworth (aka the Grandmother)
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Locked her grandchildren in her attic for years. I should probably include Corrine Dollanganger (the mother) on this list as well, seeing as she agreed to her mother’s diabolical plan.

Stephen DeMarco
Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering
The second sociopathic boyfriend on this list. But, definitely worse than the first one (Jake the Bartender from Sweetbitter).

What villains of fiction do you love to hate?

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  1. Great list, Sarah and quite a few I haven’t read. I’d add two AWFUL husbands: Jack Angel from Behind Closed Doors and Paul Strom from Best Day Ever. Both were creepy, narcissists who I loved to hate!

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I haven’t read either of those!

      Posted 11.3.18 Reply
  2. Lakshmi wrote:

    I’ve been wanting to read Sweetbitter, good to see it on someone’s list! That and Misery. Also, wow, I kind of want to rinse out my brain after reading Flowers in the Attic; Corrine is just as bad isn’t she? (…Doughnuts…)

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
  3. UNRAVELING OLIVER was a book I couldn’t put down, and Oliver really was the worst– but I HAD to know where the story was going!! Amazing Amy freaked me out– so diabolical!! TELL ME LIES is on my TBR. Can’t wait to meet and hate Stephen!!

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
  4. MaryBeth Long wrote:

    Such a good list. Poisoning her own kids has to qualify Corrine D. as an honorable mention.

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
  5. Susan wrote:

    I loved your list! It made me think of 5 memorable villains I have encountered this year in my reading life. I hope you like my additions to your list/idea.

    Angela from the book “The Wife” by Alafair Burke. This story is very similar to Gone Girl perfect for fans of that book.

    Polly from “Sunburn” by Laura Lippman. Polly is about as messed up of a character as you can get! So juicy and interesting to read.

    Zach is very definitely a menacing bad guy from the book “I’ll be Your Blue Sky” by Marrisa De Los Santos.

    Floyd from “And Then She Was Gone” by Lisa Jewell. Floyd was a very complex, devious, bad guy with layers some might even have sympathy for him.

    Finally, Geo from “Jar of Hearts” by Jennifer Hillier. Geo is a very complex villain. I felt all sort of emotions reading this book and that character. Definitely not a all good or all bad character you should read the book and decide for yourself.

    Amazing how some of these characters stay with you. I read most of these books months ago.

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
  6. I totally agree with the ones I’ve read so I’m off to check out the others.

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
  7. Gabby wrote:

    OMG the grandma from Flowers in the Attic was the wooooooorst! That whole series is such delightful trash (I read all of them in high school).

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
  8. LuAnn wrote:

    I’m still creeped out from the movie version of ‘Misery’. Not sure I want to read about it too. I’m sure the book version would be worse.

    Interesting question. I’m going to have to put my thinking cap on for that one.

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
  9. Rory wrote:

    Yes to most of these. Annie Wilkes made my list, as well as Corinne (because she left her children there!).

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yep – I kind of viewed Corinne and her mother as one evil pair.

      Posted 11.3.18 Reply
  10. Vicki wrote:

    I loved Annie Wilkes in Misery. Such a great book and movie! I saw Misery when I was in NYC in 2015. Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf did a great job!

    I wanted to strangle Oliver not long after I started listening to the book so I stopped. Maybe I should give it another try.

    I bought the first Dollanganger book, Flowers in the Attic, when it was first published. I loved it and bought the others as soon as they were released. I agree, the mothers would have never won “best mother” awards.

    I’ll have to check the other books out.

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Oliver definitely became much more complicated as the book went on…it was like peeling back the layers of an onion.

      Posted 11.3.18 Reply
  11. Angela wrote:

    Haha, yes to Miranda! I can’t believe that anyone’s boss is this rude and out of touch with reality, but I’m sure it happens! Their poor assistants!

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      And it was based on a real person!!

      Posted 11.3.18 Reply
  12. renee wrote:

    What a fun post idea! I’d have to add Joe from You by Caroline Kepnes. He’s a huge sociopath but I one of my very favorite villains ever

    Posted 10.23.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I haven’t read that one!

      Posted 11.3.18 Reply
  13. Jo wrote:

    Yes, Amy Dunne is one of the most manipulative, sociopathic characters that I’ve ever read!
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/top-ten-tuesday-182/

    Posted 10.24.18 Reply
  14. Santini is an all-time favorite of mine (the book I mean). Remember when the old Roseanne show ended with Dan as Bull and Michael O’K reprising his role as Ben? lol (abuse isn’t funny–just that the scene in Roseanne was). My law firm friends and I thought Miranda was a pretty decent boss….just sayin’. I’m reading The Wife right now!

    Posted 10.24.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I didn’t see that episode of Roseanne but am now going to have to try to find it out YouTube!

      How’d you like The Wife??

      Posted 11.3.18 Reply
  15. Annie Wilkes is so creepy. I love that book (and movie). She’s one of my favorite Stephen King villains.

    Posted 10.24.18 Reply

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