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"As he had all the wickedness against which damnation is denounced and for which hell fire is prepared, so he had virtues which have caused men in all ages to be celebrated."
Edward Hyde (no relation), on Oliver Cromwell.

The Anti-Villain is a villain with heroic goals, personality traits, and virtues. Their desired ends are good, but their means of getting there are evil. Alternatively, their desired ends are evil, but they are far more ethical or moral than most villains and they thus use fairly benign means to achieve it, and can be downright heroic on occasion.

They reach a kind of critical mass that makes them more good than normal villains but not quite heroes, blurring the line between hero and villain the same way an Anti-Hero does.

Anti-Villain is an attempt to humanize, to lighten up, a villain as opposed to Anti-Hero, which has a tendency to darken the hero. Side by side, it can become hard to tell them apart. The only reason some would even be considered evil at all is because they're the Designated Villain. Despite this humanizing characterization, they are rarely less dangerous; heroes won't know what to expect when their enemy offers cookies and then attacks their reputation, without giving them an excuse to rationalize killing them.

They are probably well aware that what they're doing is "evil", unlike the blinded Knight Templar, but strive to maintain a facade of good PR. They'll see it as a viable means to a (possibly) good end.

It's also possible to have a normal villain and turn them into an Anti-Villain over time by detailing their Start of Darkness, giving them a Dead Little Sister, a Morality Pet, kind episodes, or otherwise retconning them into submission. A Freudian Excuse may explain their actions, but rarely changes them into an Anti-Villain.

Villain types particularly prone to Anti-Villain-dom (though each has its share of flat-out villains, too) include:

See also Villain Protagonist, Hero Antagonist, and Minion with an F In Evil, as well as No Place for Me There . Another way for the Anti-Villain to transcend conventional morality is to completely, utterly set aside limitations and achieve a moral fluidity that prevents himself from crossing the Moral Event Horizon, becoming The Unfettered. For a broad covering of what Anti-Villains can be, see the Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains. Compare Sympathy for the Devil, Cry for the Devil, and Satan Is Good. See also Evil Virtues.

Compare and contrast Unscrupulous Hero, a character who is often essentailly a villain working for the heroes because Even Evil Has Standards.

Examples of Anti-Villain include: