Every movie has a protagonist. There is a central character that we, as the audience, are meant to follow and root for as they face several challenges and grow as individuals. Most of the time, the protagonist and their friends come out on top, thus saving the day and creating a new era of peace and prosperity. That said, not every storyteller plays by these rules. Several times in film history, a writer had the gall to portray the villain as the character who won in the end. These movies become extremely memorable by portraying the characters we're rooting for in a state of loss and despair.
What makes it even more impressive is, when you consider the standard tropes of sci-fi and fantasy movies, the hero is typically a "chosen one" who is prophesied to bring balance to the world. When, suddenly, the villain actually gets what they want (in a believable way), it's much more shocking. Several sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero movies have dealt with the idea of allowing the villain to accomplish their goal. Be prepared to give in to despair and run for your lives as we explore 15 films where the bad guy shockingly won in the end.
15 ZEMO IN CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Marvel hasn't been the best when it comes to their villains, but they were determined to right their wrongs when moving into Phase Three. Opening with Captain America: Civil War, we get a look at Helmut Zemo, who lost his family in Sokovia (due to the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron), and was determined to enact his revenge on Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Because of this, he plays an intricate game in which Bucky is framed and the Sokovia Accords are introduced, thus dividing the team apart.
That said, Zemo does get apprehended by Black Panther at the end of the film and is taken prisoner by the CIA.
However, when Everett Ross is talking to him, Zemo says how he didn't really lose in the end: the Avengers didn't reunite at the end of the movie. Instead, Tony and his team stayed in America under the rules of the Accords. Cap and his team left to become the Secret Avengers and took the Winter Soldier to recover in Wakanda. Going into Avengers: Infinity War, the team was divided and had to overcome their differences to band together once more. This was all because Zemo got what he wanted in the end.
14 MAGNETO IN X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
After the X-Men trilogy came and went, FOX decided that their next step was to move backward and show Xavier and Magneto as friends. When the two began working together, it was their goal to gather as many scattered mutants as they could to form a team to help relations between humans and mutants across the world. However, as we all know, it wasn't long before humans ran their own agenda and the mutants got the short end of the stick. That was when Xavier and Magneto had differing ideals that caused them to be rivals for the rest of time.
While the initial antagonist of that film is killed, the casualty of it is that Magneto becomes the antagonist. He inadvertently causes Xavier's paralysis before taking a group of their mutants and leaving the area. Having seen his own goals met (including the death of Sebastian Shaw), Magneto goes on to form the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and became the nemesis to Charles Xavier and the X-Men. Apart from being a great movie, it does an excellent job of setting up the ideology behind Magneto's ideas, goals, and beliefs about mutants in relation to the rest of the world.
13 LEX LUTHOR IN BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
No matter how you feel about it in the end, you can't deny that Lex Luthor had a very interesting portrayal for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Being portrayed by the quirky Jesse Eisenberg, it's clear that Warner Bros was going for a younger and more demented take on the character than what most people were used to at the time. While the reasoning behind his motivations were unclear, we knew that Lex Luthor had the same goal in the movie that he's always had: to cause the death of Superman and gain more knowledge to get ahead in the world.
This time around, he just decided to use the Dark Knight of Gotham City to do his dirty work for him.
At the end of the film, Luthor does get both Superman and Batman to duke it out while he uses the Kryptonian technology to turn General Zod's body into Doomsday. After creating the monster, Superman and Batman begin working together, but not without casualties of their own. In order to kill the monster, Superman has to give his life. Luthor's monster may be destroyed, but he got what he wanted. Furthermore, the pieces were set in place for him to reappear in the future.
12 GREEN GOBLIN IN THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a mess of a film, having too many plot threads and villains to be able to properly juggle. One of the new characters introduced is Harry Osborn, who just so happens to be a long-time friend of Peter Parker (which was never explained in the previous movie). However, Harry isn't exactly the same bright-eyed kid that Peter once knew. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness, Harry needed to come up with a way to allow himself a shot at living. He eventually discovered that Spider-Man's blood was the key to unlocking the secret. When Spidey wouldn't give it to him, though, Harry started to go mad.
Trying to use biological tech to fix himself, he was turned into a demented goblin-like character. He decided to take the fight straight to Spider-Man and found Gwen Stacy with him. He decided to capture Gwen and fight the wallcrawler. While Spider-Man did defeat his old friend, Gwen was killed in the battle between the two. Later on, Goblin was placed in the Ravencroft Institute. However, there were pieces in place for him to escape the prison and in the end, he actually succeeded in destroying Spider-Man's personal and superheroing life.
11 LOKI IN THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Thor's adopted brother, Loki, was always going to cause problems. After being imprisoned on Asgard following the events of The Avengers, he was a background character for the next film (at least the first half of it). Once Frigga is killed by Kurse, the Dark Elf, Loki starts to unhinge a little bit. Because of this, he and Thor then have to work together once more in order to stop the Dark Elves, prevent Malekith from using the Aether, and restore order to the Nine Realms.
While they go to fight the villains, though, Loki seemingly dies at the hand of the Dark Elves.
However, he merely faked his death so he could take the opportunity to enact his own plan. He overthrew Odin and masqueraded himself as the King of Asgard and people were none the wiser, as Thor and the rest of the Asgardians thought he had died. The next time we travel to Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok, it's clear that Loki has been ruling all of this time and succeeded in what he set out to do in the first Thor movie. While his reign in Asgard doesn't last long once Thor returns from his quest to seek out answers to his dreams, it's still a victory.
10 DARTH VADER IN STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Darth Vader is one of the best villains ever put on screen. After his introduction in A New Hope, it was clear that this was a dark figure to be feared. However, he was fighting the Chosen One named Luke Skywalker. He put up a great fight and even killed a Jedi, but Darth Vader was going to be no match for the plot. At the end of the first movie, the Death Star is blown up and Darth Vader is defeated. However, the Dark Lord of the Sith wasn't going to go down so easily and was prepared to get his revenge on the ones who screwed up his plans.
In the subsequent The Empire Strikes Back, Vader comes back with a vengeance. The Rebel base at Hoth is assaulted in the opening moments of the movie. By the film's end, Vader captured Han Solo and gave him to the bounty hunter, Boba Fett. He then cut off Luke Skywalker's hand and told him of his true parentage, thus screwing with his mind. He also managed to take over Cloud City and force Lando to betray his friends. Vader won by the end of that movie, in what has become one of the most memorable, and best, movie endings of all-time.
9 SANDMAN IN SPIDER-MAN 3
Spider-Man 3 was another Spider-Man movie that resulted in the death of a franchise, but it had a sympathetic villain in the form of Sandman. Flint Marko had it rough when his daughter was diagnosed with a serious illness. He did everything he could to help her, but when he was wanted by the police, there wasn't much he could do without putting her in harm's way. This led him to get sand powers while hiding from the police, which he used to try and steal money to help get his daughter the help that she needs.
He teamed up with Venom at the end of the movie to capture Mary Jane Watson and bring an end to Spider-Man.
While the Sandman was fairly subdued when Spider-Man and the New Goblin joined forces, he didn't die. As a matter of fact, at the end of the film, he talks with Spider-Man and says how he just wanted to help his daughter. He then leaves in a puff of sand, never to be seen again. He doesn't get captured and he gets to go free in order to give his daughter the aid she needs. In that sense, although not as villainous as the others on this list, he got what he wanted.
8 HYDRA IN CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Right from the start of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it's clear that S.H.I.E.L.D. is keeping secrets from Steve Rogers, leading him to understand that the America he woke up to isn't the America that he knew during his time in World War II. They were involved in shady dealings and had several things to hide. However, it was even more shocking when it was revealed that HYDRA had been growing like a parasite inside S.H.I.E.L.D. for decades, only coming out during their most opportune time to strike. Their ultimate plan was to use the Helicarriers to destroy all potential threats across the entire world.
While Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon did stop their plan with the Helicarriers, HYDRA still succeeded in dealing a major blow to the government and S.H.I.E.L.D. as a whole. By killing a lot of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives, they managed to take over the organization. On top of that, S.H.I.E.L.D. was disbanded at the end of the film due to how much losses they took. While it was brought back in Avengers: Age of Ultron, HYDRA still succeeded in destroying the organization that fought them all those years ago as a way of getting revenge for World War II.
7 VOLDERMORT IN HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE
The Harry Potter series was always building to the resurrection of Lord Voldemort since the days of the very first movie, The Sorcerer's Stone. Thanks to some clever spell-casting by Peter Pettigrew, the Dark Lord was able to come back in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. After that, it became a battle for Hogwarts to convince the Ministry of Magic that their enemy had once again returned to power. While he remained in the shadows for several months, he eventually revealed himself and began operating out in the open.
By the time Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince came out, Voldemort was finally ready to make his move.
By concocting a plan at Hogwarts at the start of the year, he and his Death Eaters began moving the pieces across the board. After hunting a Horcrux with Dumbledore, the moment of truth came when Harry and the Headmaster returned to the school. At the observatory, Death Eaters entered the scene and Draco Malfoy intended to kill Dumbledore but couldn't do it. Because of this, Snape was the one to cast the curse and kill the Headmaster, leaving Hogwarts in disarray. In that moment, Voldemort had won the day.
6 SURTUR IN THOR: RAGNAROK
When we first see Thor in Thor: Ragnarok, he is imprisoned by Fire Lord, Surtur. They have a conversation in which the fire demon states that he is the one prophesied to bring about Ragnarok and can never truly die until he brings an end to the realm of Asgard. Thor defeats him with relative ease and takes his crown to be stored in Odin's Vault. Then, everything goes downhill from there after Odin dies and Hela returns to the Nine Realms with a vengeance. Having taken over Asgard, not even Thor's newfound lightning powers are enough to stop her and save his home.
The team contemplates leaving the planet, but Thor reminds them that Hela would just track them down. That's when they come up with a clever solution: cause Ragnarok. Loki resurrects Surtur with his highest level of power and the giant, fiery demon fights Hela. All of the Asgardians escape on a ship and Asgard (and Hela seemingly) is destroyed by the Fire Lord. While it did result in the death of the main antagonist, Surtur did win against the Asgardians in the movie. He ended up dying himself, but his hatred of Asgard was more than enough motivation to keep moving.
5 OZYMANDIAS IN WATCHMEN
Watchmen is a complex novel that makes for a complex movie. Directed by Zack Snyder, it was the man's first foray into the superhero genre. The movie exists in a world where superheroes are a topic of controversy. Most of them had retired, but when one is shockingly killed, they spring into action once more. The heroes start putting the pieces together to discover that there's a much larger game being played by a rich man known as Ozymandias. However, he's not a standard villain.
As a matter of fact, Ozymandias wants nothing more than to see the world be at peace and for any and all war to be over.
Because of this, he hatches a plan where massive world cities would be destroyed and Dr. Manhattan would be framed. The thinking behind this is that the world would the unite under a common enemy and remains at peace. As a matter of fact, Ozymandias's plan works and the world unites under a single banner. Even the Watchmen themselves have qualms with trying to bring an end to this, as exposing Ozymandias would mean that the world would go back to the way it once was. Even Dr. Manhattan understood the importance (and brilliance) of this move.
4 THE JOKER IN THE DARK KNIGHT
The Dark Knight is often cited as one of the best superhero movies, taking ideological characters and forcing them to both fight for the soul of Gotham City in a way that captures Batman and Joker's relationship while still portraying one of the most memorable crime genre movies of all-time. Of course, the reason that The Dark Knight was so well-loved and is still considered one of the best by today's standard is because of Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker. This version of the Clown Prince of Crime doesn't want anything other than to watch the world burn and prove that chaos reigns supreme.
He is constantly developing plans where he comes out on top and using whomever he can to see his goals met. His ultimate plan comes in the form of killing Rachel Dawes and turning Harvey Dent into a binary killer because he was known as Gotham's "White Knight." And The Joker succeeded in his plan to turn Harvey Dent, as the plan also transforms him into the villain Two-Face. The Jester of Genocide was captured by Batman, but the damage had already been done. Harvey Dent was now irredeemable and Batman was framed for his murder. Gotham was never the same.
3 LADY EBOSHI IN PRINCESS MONONOKE
It's worth admitting that there is no real villain in Princess Mononoke. The interesting observation of Miyazaki's film is that there are no good guys and bad guys -- only people that have different perspectives and act appropriately based on them. That said, when dealing with the concept of a Forest Spirit, it's easy to see Lady Eboshi as a villain for a time, as she attempts to kill the spirit and give its head away.
Despite the intervention of Ashitaka as he tries to reason with Eboshi, she goes through with her plans.
Near the end of the movie, the Forest Spirit is in the process of transforming into the Nightwalker. While it does this, Eboshi pulls the trigger on her gun and decapitates the Forest Spirit. She does get her comeuppance when a wolf's head slides by and bites her arm off, but she still succeeded in her goal. Furthermore, the Nightwalker, despite having its head returned, doesn't go back to its oasis in time to change into the Forest Spirit when the sun comes up.cb Because of this, the spirit vanishes and the forest never remains the same. Lady Eboshi did what she set out to do.
2 AZOG IN THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
It's quite easy to hate The Hobbit trilogy for trying to do too many things and shove in too many references to The Lord of the Rings. You do have to give it props, though, for trying to make the hatred of the Line of Durin much more personal. In the films, Thorin and his relatives are hunted by Azog the Defiler, who swore to end the Line of Durin. Azog was already responsible for the death of Thror, Thorin's grandfather and inadvertently Thrain, Thorin's father.
The Pale Orc constantly hunts the dwarves throughout the trilogy and leads the orcs during the Battle of the Five Armies. When Thorin, Dwalin, Fili, and Kili go after the orc, he was prepared. Enacting his plan, he killed both Fili and Kili before partaking in a one-on-one duel with Thorin Oakenshield. The two had an intense battle over a thinly-iced lake. While it seemed like Thorin won the battle, Azog fought so brutally that he ended up stabbing the Dwarf Prince. Thorin took the opportunity to kill the orc as well, but the damage was already done. With Thorin, Fili, and Kili all dead, the Line of Durin was destroyed.
1 THANOS IN AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Few people were sure what Thanos was going to do to the Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War. We knew that he would be hunting down the Infinity Stones and putting them in the Infinity Gauntlet, but Marvel kept information so close to the chest that no one was sure how it all would go down. Much of the trailers only showed him with two stones in the Gauntlet, so many people were surprised when he showed up in Wakanda and had five of the six.
Thanos went through an intense journey to get all of the Stones as well as a portion of self-sacrifice.
He travels to Wakanda to get the Mind Stone from the Vision, and it all goes downhill from there. Scarlet Witch destroys Vision to prevent Thanos from getting it, but the Mad Titan simply rewinds time and rips the Stone from the android's head. After placing the stone in the Gauntlet, Thanos snaps his fingers and destroys half of all life in the universe. The film ends with Thanos on a farm, smiling because he knew he accomplished his goal. Talk about a painful final shot.