Superman. Captain America. Wonder Woman. Spider-Man. The Marvel and DC universes are full of admirable heroes that are meant to inspire fans. Their adventures remind us that it's important to be brave and proudly stand up for what is right. Many of these iconic characters have their own movies, and there are plans for so many more popular heroes to appear on the big screen -- but there's a change on the horizon... villains are poised to take the lead in at least two cinematic universes.
Warner Bros. has a bright future in mind for the heroes of the DC Extended Universe. Fans will be treated to Aquaman, Shazam! and Wonder Woman 1984 over the next couple years. The Scarlet Speedster and the Dark Knight are also getting their own movies (eventually), but the studio has ambitious plans for its evildoers. Warner Bros. has multiple projects in the works to highlight Joker and Harley Quinn, as well as plans for Black Adam, Deathstroke, Lobo and, of course, Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad. Lex Luthor told Deathstroke in Justice League that they have to "level the playing field," and it looks like that's exactly what Warner Bros. is going for while also highlighting its big heroes.
Over at Sony, the studio is creating an all-ages animated universe packed with potential for its wall-crawling heroes, but the studio's live-action universe is heading in a different direction. Sony's Venom-verse aims to put several of its Marvel villains front and center. Sony reportedly has plans for two of Spider-Man's classic foes: Kraven the Hunter and Mysterio. Characters who have tip-toed the line between anti-hero and villain are also stepping into the spotlight: Black Cat, Silver Sable, Morbius and Venom.
Unlike Warner Bros. and Sony, Marvel Studios has not announced any plans to give its villains their own movies (Thanos' turn in Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled sequel aside, that is), but the studio is clearly making its bad guys more captivating. Black Panther's Killmonger is widely praised as being not only one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most compelling foes, but also one of the best villains from any comic book movie. And after a decade of waiting, Thanos finally took the lead in Infinity War, and many fans believe the Mad Titan is a fascinating and persuasive antagonist.
Heroes give fans an ideal to strive towards, but the saying "a hero is only as good as their villain" exists for a reason. Antagonists can also teach fans valuable lessons, and a fan doesn't need to root for a bad guy to feel emotionally invested in the story. Some of these rogues reveal what could have happened to heroes if they took even a single step in the wrong direction, setting an unstoppable downward spiral in motion - after all, it was Joker who tried to prove that one bad day could reduce even the sanest man alive to lunacy. Bad guys have the potential to bring up debatable topics (e.g. Thanos' view on overpopulation and distribution of resources). Maybe the villain's way of getting their message across is clearly wrong, but do they have a valid point?