It is hard to forget the creepy small-screen killers with their macabre one-liners, deranged cackles, insatiable appetite for blood, and ability to keep it cool under pressure. These charismatic villains have become some of TV’s most memorable, and for better-or-worse, most adored, characters. Whether we love to hate them, love to fear them, or are intrigued by their ability to keep cool, there is something about these on-screen killers that keep us glued to our screens.
Check out our top 10 list of insanely addictive TV villains we feel guilty for loving.
10. Dexter Morgan
Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), the titular antihero of Showtime’s Dexter, is a serial killer who preys on other Killers. By day, the character works in the Miami Metro Police Department as a blood analyst. But when it comes time to kill, Dexter dons a dark rubber apron, plastic face shield and gets ruthless on vermin. In fact, he is thought to have murdered upwards of 100 of them. Dexter has been extensively psychoanalysed online, with some psychologists suggesting the murderer fits the bill of a psychopath, sociopath or person with antisocial tendencies. Others, however, are inclined to believe he is simply a loner who has been manipulated by his tragic past and psychopathic father.
“I love Halloween. The one time of year when everyone wears a mask… not just me. People think it’s fun to pretend you’re a monster. Me, I spend my life pretending I’m not. Brother, friend, boyfriend – All part of my costume collection. Some people might call me a fraud. Let’s see if it will fit. I prefer to think of myself as a master of disguise.”
NBC’s Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is a psycho with a passion for art, fine clothing, and, of course, lavish dinners with his victims – or rather – they are the dinner. The killer is a narcissist with an unhealthy interest in the show’s protagonist, his former patient, Will Graham. The killer, known as the Chesapeake Ripper, has thought to have murdered at least 62 people during his TV tirades.
“First and worst sign of sociopathic behavior, cruelty to animals.”
8. Tony Soprano
Mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) has been categorised by most psychoanalysts as a sociopath. The criminal and killer who runs a powerful criminal organisation under the guise of Waste Management, had viewers rooting for and even becoming emotionally invested in him. After seven years of treatment, and in the show’s finale episode, his therapist was finally convinced that Soprano was indeed a sociopath, who was treating her therapy sessions as a game.
“This isn’t painful. Getting shot is painful. Getting stabbed in the ribs is painful. This … isn’t painful. It’s empty. Dead.”
7. Joffrey Baratheon
Unlike the majority of villains on this list, Game of Throne‘s Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) didn’t emotionally manipulate his viewers. Most, and hopefully, all, who watched the tirades of this evil git couldn’t wait to see his life come to an end. He horrifically injured, tortured his victims, and did so without being charming or attempting to cover up his actions. While there is no doubt Joffrey was remarkably evil, he did seem to have a slither of humanity about him. “I also tried to find the more sympathetic side of Joffrey,” said Gleeson in an interview with Herald Sun. It’s quite a small side and not one that people would necessarily see, but there was a side. He was insecure, he wanted a stable family environment, and he wanted to be loved. I enjoyed playing that side — and the crazy psychopathic stuff.”
“Everyone is mine to torment! You’d do well to remember that, you little monster.”
6. Tate Langdon
Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), the ghost murderer from season one of Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology series, managed to entice viewers despite his horrific wrongdoings. The 17-year-old psychiatric patient is both manipulative and charismatic, building a relationship with his psychiatrist’s daughter. In life Tate committed a mass shooting at Westfield High, killing 15 students. Following the shooting, he was killed in his bedroom by a SWAT team. Ever since his death, Tate has been living as a ghost in The Murder House where his reign continues, as he commits rape, murder, and emotionally manipulates Dr Harmon’s daughter, Violet.
“The world is a filthy place. It’s a filthy goddamn horror show. There’s just so much pain, y’know?”
5. Ramsay Bolton
Game of Throne‘s Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) is a raging psychopath with a morbid sense of humour.
The character has fed both living and dead people to his dogs, murdered infants, and not to mention skinned and tortured people. Unlike his psychopathic counterpart Joffrey, he likes to draw out his kills, whilst teasing, laughing and going all-out-insane. While his tirades are certainly more enjoyable to watch, there is no denying that at-one-point-or-another, everyone wanted to see Ramsay Bolton dead.
“This isn’t happening to you for a reason. Well, one reason: I enjoy it! If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
4. Jim Moriarty
Sherlock‘s Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) is a villain with a theatrical flair. The character is one of three of the show’s geniuses. While Sherlock and his brother Mycroft both display symptoms of being high-functioning sociopaths, Moriarty has a darker quality. The villain is a mastermind who has orchestrated several attacks in order to gain the attention of Sherlock, for whom, his interest borders on obsession.
“Kill you? Eh, no. Don’t be obvious. I mean I’m going to kill you anyway someday. I don’t want to rush it though. I’m saving it up for something special. No no no no. If you don’t stop prying I will burn you. I will burn the heart out of you.”
3. Ed Nygma a.k.a The Riddler
Gotham‘s Ed Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) is a former forensic scientist who worked for the Gotham City Police Department. The character, who has a fascination with riddles, spiralled into the path of insanity after murdering Kristin Kringle’s boyfriend. He later began to date Kringle, but his relationship ended rather abruptly when he strangled her to death. The character has a sort of weird, quirky charm about him despite being inherently evil.
“What do a dead man, a cruise ship, and an emu have in common?”
2. Norman Bates
Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), the titular antihero of A&E’s Bates Motel, shows little signs of being a psychopath, despite the name of the novel that came before, and the subsequent film. Instead, the character is sensitive, emotionally raw, and appears to be experiencing symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder, mixed with a drive to kill. The character really came to life in the show’s final season, when all hell broke loose and ‘Norma’ took over. Norman certainly isn’t a tradition villain, managing to win the hearts of many, despite his murderous tendencies.
“We just don’t belong in this world anymore, Mother. We’re broken. We’ve tried. We want peace and happiness, but the world just won’t allow it. So let’s take ourselves out of the equation. Because whatever there is after this, we will have peace. And we will be together. We can have peace, and we can be happy. You just have to trust me.”
1. Jerome Valeska
Gotham‘s Jerome Valeska (Cameron Monaghan) is one of several main antagonists in the hit Fox TV series. Although it has yet to be confirmed, he is thought to be the young origin of The Joker, sharing both The Joker’s appearance and manic behaviour. Described as a curse on Gotham, the villain killed his mother, and upon his escape from Arkham, went on a manic murderous spree fuelled by fits of laughter and crazy incoherent speeches. The character’s initial reign ended in a blood bath but also influenced a slew of copycat killers.
“Oh, you know how mothers are. She just kept pushing. And I’m like, ‘fine, mom. Be a whore. Be a drunken whore even. But don’t be a nagging drunken whore…you know? Don’t come yell at me to do the dishes if you’ve been banging a clown in the next room! You know?”
Special Mention: Oswald Cobblepot
Gotham‘s Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a The Penguin (Robin Taylor) has several human qualities about him that make him likeable, despite his vicious tendencies. The character has an insatiable drive to be King of Gotham, and is willing to manipulate other’s weaknesses to get there. Despite his villainry, he has a deep love for his family.
“Dear me. A mallet. That’s, um… useful.”