Good to be bad? More people often find themselves rooting for villains in movies or TV shows

NEW YORK — More than half (51%) Americans “always” or “often” root for the bad guy or gal when watching a movie or TV show. In a recent survey of 2,011 U.S. adults, three in five (60%) say they watch a series or movie just for the villain.

More than three-quarters (77%) of also note that a villain can make or break the picture. Overall, a quarter of people tend to prefer villains to heroes. Among those 497 pro-evil people, Gen Z respondents (late ’90 babies) attribute this preference to villains’ complexity (69%), while millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) could relate more to their backstory (50%). Gen X individuals (born between 1965 and 1980) are drawn to the antagonists’ more interesting powers (62%).

Gen Z respondents are also the most likely to prefer villains-turned-heroes (45%) over their polar opposite. It’s no wonder 36 percent of all respondents named the anti-hero as their favorite type of character.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Butterfinger to help introduce “Butterfinger Investigators'” newest nemesis, “Robin Fingers,” the survey aimed to discover the affinity consumers have for villains, and if they were viewed just as important as protagonists in pop culture.

What makes the villain more appealing?

Results also show what makes a villain the most powerful. Magical abilities (39%) can do the trick, as well as a high IQ (35%) and powerful tech (34%), more so than many supporters (27%) or lots of money (26%).

According to the poll, the best villains also have unique powers (41%), a sinister voice (39%), and an amazing costume or accessories (37%). The top three accessories for a villain to use? Masks (38%), technology (33%), and swords (30%).

With villains often linked to a story’s key moments, 31 percent say they look forward to their final battle with the hero the most — more so than the villain’s first entrance (22%) and origin story reveal (13%). People’s favorite face-offs include the classic human hero vs. human villain (41%), followed by hero vs. supernatural (36%), and hero vs. machine (32%).

If you’re looking to watch a show or movie with the best villains, action (30%), horror (29%), and thriller (27%) are the go-to genres.


Movie villains steal the show

Almost half (47%) of respondents think the most interesting villains originated from movies (47%), compared to TV shows or series (30%).

Interestingly, people’s villain preferences haven’t changed much since childhood; 43 percent liked scary and funny villains growing up, and 45 percent continue to do so as adults.

While 43 percent say they would be a hero in a movie about their life, 34 percent imagine themselves as the villain.

It’s no secret villains provide much of the entertainment in any story. They’re also often the driving force, most notably by giving the hero a challenge to overcome, without which there wouldn’t be much of a tale to tell.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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