Cooking Up an Antagonist? Here Are 4 Main Ingredients You Should Include
Every hero needs a villain.
Call them what you want: enemy, foe, nemesis, or just plain ol' bad guy, the antagonist in your film is just as important to your story as your protagonist. This opposing character is essential for putting the hero through their paces, challenging them, and standing in their way of attaining their external and internal goals. But how do you know if you've got a worthy adversary on your hands? StudioBinder has put together a really helpful infographic based off of a video essay by Michael Tucker of Lessons from the Screenplay that lays out some essential elements and qualities that make for the perfect antagonist, all through the lens of The Dark Knight.
Check out the infographic below and then keep scrolling for more discussion on antagonists.
As you'll see, the "ultimate" antagonist is good at attacking the hero's weakness, forces the hero to make choices they might not be ready to make, is fighting to reach the same goal, and in the end, causes the hero to grow.
Now, this doesn't go for super villain characters alone. Virtually every film genre has an antagonist: Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs (horror/thriller), Bill Lumbergh in Office Space (comedy), and Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (drama). There are even so many different types of antagonists that fit into archetypal categories, like the "anti-villain" (Darth Vader), the "authority figure" (Gny. Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket), the "mastermind" (Verbal Kint from The Usual Suspects), and the "femme fatale" (Catherine Tramell from Basic Instinct...or any female villain in any film noir ever).
But even though the traits, motivations, and modus operandi of an antagonist can be quite varied and diverse, learning the basic principles of how their interactions with the protagonist can push the narrative forward will help you craft a story full of dynamic conflict.