September 21, 2016

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.

4 Essential Principles for Creating the Ultimate Antagonist
4 Essential Principles for Creating the Ultimate AntagonistCredit: StudioBinder

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.

If you want to learn more about how to craft an effective antagonist, check out StudioBinder's blog post here. If you want to check out Tucker's original video essay, you can take a look at it below:

Your Comment

7 Comments

Heath. Heath. Heath. One day the fanboys are gonna realize this performance is overrated.

September 21, 2016 at 11:17PM

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Jake
376

He'll always be the guy that won the Oscar for the "overrated" performance that redefined comic book film baddies. So no, I don't think they/we will.

September 22, 2016 at 5:08AM

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Samu Amunét
Director
384

Not at all. This is an example of true dedication and great performances. The man literally died taking that role and gave his all. Have some respect.

June 16, 2017 at 7:38PM

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Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
460

So they saw a video and said, "Hey, let's do an infographic! Super necessary"

September 22, 2016 at 12:48PM, Edited September 22, 12:52PM

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Works for me - I'm not always in a position to watch a video.

September 26, 2016 at 8:39AM

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Thomas Byrne
Student
139

Valuable insights apparently lost on a lot of back and forth about Keith Ledger. Could it be creating good structure is scarier than a comic book villain?

November 27, 2016 at 11:14AM

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I don’t think that we could easily come up with a better example than the Antagonist in the Dark Knight series. Most of the audience loved this film because of the Antagonist. This strong character actually shaped up the Superhero in this film.
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March 14, 2018 at 2:09AM

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