How to Act Like a Villain

Two Methods:Creating a Villainous PersonaAvoiding Stupid Mistakes

Need to prepare for a villainous role? Are you bored of acting like a hero? You might see in movies or comics the good guy always wins against the bad, but the villain looks more captivating and cool. It's not always easy to break out of the "good" shell, but with a wicked look and a disastrous attitude, you can become a villain.

Method 1
Creating a Villainous Persona

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    Dress evil. Black and red are traditionally represented as the color of evil. Evil figures tend to lurk in dark corners and spaces and they often times sneak up behind their victims. Dark or red clothes help the villain camouflage into their sneaky setting. Wearing black and/or red clothing will also visually enhance your dark side.
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    Understand the reason behind your evil motives. Villains tend to be evil due to their negative past and upbringing. There are reasons for being evil and in most comic books/movies the villains weaknesses define their need for power. Take the Harry Potter series for example: Lord Voldemort heard the prophecy that he will not be able to live if - or so he thinks - Harry Potter survives. Because of the prophecy, Voldemort sets out to kill Harry so he cannot be killed himself, thinking that he could be the most powerful wizard in the world.
    • Understanding why your villain (the one you are portraying) is evil will help illustrate your actions.
    • "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another...if I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice. Ha ha ha!" - The Joker from 1988's The Killing Joke. [1]
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    Have tricks up your sleeve. A villain works to destroy/kill/maim the hero in most movies or comic books and they go about it with ease. Villains are witty and knowledgeable in serious conversations/situations and often times they get away with a trick or two before disappearing to go plan their next move. To be witty and devise tricks:
    • Watch and study your opponent and play off of their actions.
    • Listen to what they are saying and reply in a tone that mocks them and insinuates power and knowledge.
    • Use sarcasm and cynicism in simple sentences as demonstrated in this quote from Loki in The Avengers: "I am Loki, of Asgard. And I am burdened with glorious purpose."[2]
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    Have a brilliant yet dangerous mind. Most villains are extremely cunning and manipulative; they know a lot of things about weapons, gadgets, minds, and/or the society that he/she lives in. Villains warp the truth into their own insane lie; they take what they know, use their intelligent mind, and construct an obscure fabrication of the truth - ending in a result of total manipulation.[3]
    • Take Khan from Star Trek Into Darkness (well... all the Star Trek series, really). Khan explains to Captain Kirk the Admiral is evil and used his [Khan's] superhuman intelligence to construct weapons. After finding this story to be true, Captain Kirk agrees to plan vengeance against the Admiral with Khan (with Khan's promise of truce). Once Khan had Captain Kirk's trust he turned to a plan of his own and threatened the fate of the "Enterprise".[4]
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    Be sneaky and isolated. Villains usually behave in a sneaky manner in hopes of manipulating naive individuals to acquire power/wealth/sex, etc. Although some villains gain an entourage, they are very introverted and keep the important features of diabolical plans to themselves. In acting out the sneakiness of the villain try to:
    • Lurk around and move with a sly disposition.
    • Have minimal interaction with the general public or society at large.
    • Do general things alone and confide in no one.
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    Remember that villains do not have friends, they gain followers. It's unusual, though not impossible, to find a villainous character depicted as a self-centered individualist doing his dirty work all on his own (unless you are trying to depict him as a psychopath or sociopath - a la Psycho or V for Vendetta, but this is quite digress-able). They often have an army of minions or bodyguards who praise their path of evil and take on the minor tasks of the villains plan:
    • Dole out diabolical orders to your followers (if any) while keeping secret motives and actions to play out yourself in your quest of destroying good.
    • Be sure to expose your power frequently. This will help your followers understand you have control over them and the evil situation and they are not your friend.
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    Develop an evil grin and stare. Most villains have evil grins pasted across their faces and they are best combined with a nasty expression. Traditionally, theatricality is extremely important in the art of movie-making. However, some advanced directors can direct villains to show zero expressions on their faces. Case in point: The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep elegantly demands orders through soft monotone voices matched with blank, yet sincere, expressions. But generally speaking, it is important for the villain to show how much they thoroughly enjoy the evil situation at hand as displayed by the character Jack Torrance in The Shining played by Jack Nicholson.
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    Define a skill and use it. It's always good to ensure that the villain you are portraying has a particularly destructive skill such as word-play, sword-fighting, gun-slinging, nuclear technology, or political power. Any skill, no matter what, can be used to the villains advantage in an encounter against their foe.

Method 2
Avoiding Stupid Mistakes

Villains usually make the same stupid mistakes, over and over. Here's a few tips to avoid having your evil plots foiled.

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    If you catch the good guy, shoot him! Don't throw him into the shark tank, don't lock him up, don't gloat, don't push him down the shaft of eternal fire. Just shoot him in the head, then shoot him again to make sure.
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    Don't doubt that however secure you think your dungeon is, you're wrong. You can guarantee that somebody will have found a way to escape. If you absolutely must build a dungeon for locking people up, make sure it follows these guidelines:
    • Don't put in a window. The prisoner can't crawl away out of the window if there is no window.
    • Make sure all of the walls are as thick as possible. This stops prisoners from scratching away the mortar, pulling away the stones and making a hole in the wall.
    • Keep the cell keys in a locked box, out of reach of any stick, belt, shoelace or cunningly trained pet.
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    Don't give your henchmen face-covering helmets and generically-sized clothes. This makes it easy for the good guy to disguise himself. At the very least, you need to be able to see the faces of all of your henchmen (I recommend plexiglass visors). Custom-tailored clothes are also helpful, as the poor fit will give the hero away.
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    Don't label the abort button with the word abort. The button labeled with the word abort should do something else, like electrocute whoever pushes it. The actual abort button should be labeled with something inane, such as "make coffee" or "recline chair".
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    Make sure everything has a backup battery and a surge protector. That way, if the good guy cuts the power or detonates an EMP, everything keeps working.
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    Don't store your evil plans on the computer. The computer should contain useless (e.g. funny cat pictures) or harmful (e.g. a virus) items, so the good guy can't download your evil plans. The plans should be written on flash paper (paper that has been converted to nitrocellulose) that will burn up almost instantly.
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    Don't hire henchmen that can be distracted by a pretty girl walking past the front of your evil lair. Usually this means putting a mixture of men and women on guard at the same time, or hiring eunuchs.
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    Don't trust anybody. The rank "most trusted henchman" should only ever be awarded posthumously.
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    If you have an emergency escape vehicle, use it as soon as the good guy enters your evil lair. Don't hang about, you can always come back if your henchmen defeat him.
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    Don't make a CCTV system with any blind spots.
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    Modify your henchmen's guns so that they fire more bullets than usual. This stops the good guy from using the old "count the bullets" trick.
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    Only hire henchmen with, at the very least, basic marksman skills. Henchmen will either pass target practise or be used for target practise.


  • Don't copy ideas; be original.
  • A word of caution: never make your villain use the same trick twice. The audience gets bored if the same trick is used for the umpteenth time. Make sure you arm your villain with multiple tricks to trap the hero. Remember: if the vampire is shown too often on the screen, the public loses its fear of the ugly, old bastard.
  • Give your villain a motive! Most villains have a distinct diabolical motive like urge to earn more money, lust, or ruling over the world. Give them a motive!
  • Talk in an exaggerated tonal variation of normal conversion: it can be excessively serious or excessively comical -- but it's not supposed to be NORMAL! This technique works very well for the characterization of a formal villain. Not all villains need to do this -- sometimes you can get your villain to act extremely normal too -- especially when you plan to write a suspense/thriller.
  • Don't forget one very iconic trait to really bring out the villainy in a character...the evil laugh!
  • Add some makeup, face paint or a thin layer of white powder on your face to appear deathly and scary. Do not do this if your villain isn't supposed to "look" horrifying! Remember, some villains can act villainous even though they do not don face paint!
  • Villains sometimes wear a cloak, so why not add a cloak to your costume?
  • Make sure they have a hiding place, villains hide in an underground base, in a tower, in space or even in the woods. You decide where they live. Sometimes, especially in suspense/thriller genres, villains "work" in plain view. Most western filmmakers have done away with the concept of "villain's lair", but some eastern filmmakers continue to use this concept.
  • Never be too evil, it can get you arrested.
  • If you are going to be a real villain (and that's aiming high) you need a scary name. One that will make everyone fall silent and slink away when it's mentioned. Try here for evil names.


  • Never make villains too evil; if the villain wins all the time and the hero never ever lands a punch, the story gets to be extremely predictable.

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Categories: Acting