In Defense of the Villain’s Monologue

"I could kill you, but first let me tell you the things you'd only get to ponder for a few minutes anyway. What could go wrong?"
“I could kill you, but first let me tell you the things you’d only get to ponder for a few minutes anyway. What could go wrong?”

We know how it goes. The villain did everything right, catching our heroes by surprise, and it looks for certain like evil is going to win. The protagonists are trapped, trapped by the villain with no escape. The only possible way our heroes could possibly win is if there was some unforeseen issues in the villain’s plan, if there was some major setback.

And then it happens. The villain makes the worst mistake he possibly could: he sits down to explain everything. He gives them the why, who, when, where and how. In other words, the villain’s monologue.

This seems to happen all the time, so you’d think that supposed masterminds would be intelligent enough to realize they should avoid that at all costs. As great as the temptation may be, keep your mouth shut — one hundred percent of the times a villain decides to explain everything, he loses. Now you might say, “But Kay! Correlation and causation and blah de blah stuff!” and I say sure. But 100% is still a dangerous percentage to mess with.

Readers go after writers for this all the time as a poor story-telling mechanic, movie critics go after films for the same thing, and it goes on and on. It’s a standard thing for villains, and widely seen as a bad idea.

But let’s face it. Getting so close to taking over the world is no small accomplishment. Many villains have been waiting for years to pull off their grand scheme, or they’ve consistently been the underdog and finally have a chance to be the winner. Villains have sob stories about terrible childhoods and all sorts of things. Getting to finally vanquish your enemies is no small feat, especially when everyone loves your enemies and hates you.

Villains just want a little recognition! And I think it’s fair. They made a master plan and carried it out flawlessly for years until they were in a position to be the very best. When I was a kid I just wanted my macaroni pictures put on the fridge. And sometimes I was denied. If I had taken over the world I’d at least want my death and doom certificate framed. There was also no way on earth I could wait for years and years. An hour at most. Maybe. On a good day.

Sure villains are bad. But you can’t deny that it takes a lot of intelligence (or constant dumb luck) to pull off what they do. At the end of the day it’s fair for these poor guys to want to share their success. (Besides, haven’t you seen Megamind? Once you’re in control, life gets boring.) Being a dictator with no opposition gets really tedious. Sure they probably had to kill thousands to get to where they were, and sure, maybe society now suffers endlessly to support and worship them, but hey, life is still tough.

Have you ever seen a good villain monologue? Who is your favorite villain of all time, whether they won or not?

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10 thoughts on “In Defense of the Villain’s Monologue

  1. I have role played out several villain characters in the past three years, and one thing that I always accept is that they don’t always win, but boy do they have fun while causing trouble.

  2. Bester had a nice one in the fourth season of Babylon 5, but at least he had the sense to wait until his plan was successful before he said anything. I always liked Bester.

    1. Haha. Keeping quiet is definitely the hard part. At least if these other villains waited maybe five minutes they could brag all they wanted.

      I’ll have to look up this Babylon 5 though! I think I might have heard of it, but I have no clue what it’s about.

      1. Definitely check it out! It’s an old sci-fi television series with lots of fantasy elements. And collapsing governments! And plenty of intrigue! Good times!

      2. I’d definitely recommend it. Bester (a recurring character rather than main character) is played by Star Trek’s Chekov, and is surprisingly dark and creepy!

  3. You just caused me to think back on all of my villains. I don’t think I’ve ever let any of them go on too long. Susan usually gets more information later as to their motives.

    I can’t think of any villains that I like from books or movies. I suppose my all-time favorite would have to be Bowser from Super Mario World. 😉

    1. There would really not be a lot of things more demoralizing than being told how you were outsmarted while simultaneously being beaten to a pulp. Literally kicking them while they are down haha.

  4. I always thought that villain monologues only seem really bad when the motive attached to them is ridiculous or completely business-driven. The villain who is trying to ‘conquer the world’ recites his monologue and seems stupid because he should be smarter than that. His goal was to get the world, why does he care what the main character thinks? The villain who is trying to murder the main character because of the crippling debt the main character caused him to accrue; he can revel in his victory because the motive was emotional.

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