5 Baddies With Tragic Back Stories

Rob Lewis
Movies Harry Potter
Movies Harry Potter Star Wars Comics

In any movie, television show, or comic book involving a good guy versus a bad guy, two things are bound to happen: good will triumph over evil, and we really want that evil to suffer. But what if that evil is already suffering? Let’s take a look at five fictional baddies with tragic back stories.


This classic Disney villain is certainly more than we originally thought she was. Is she powerful? Yes. Is she complicated? Probably more than any of us ever realized. Or, at least that’s what the most recent movie incarnation showed us.

Maleficent’s lover betrayed her when he cut off her fairy wings and broke her heart in the process. Such a deed can’t be explained away as simply being a cruel misdeed by some horrible human being. No. She was in love with this man, and, as well all know, love makes people do crazy things.

Here’s Why Her Story Is Actually Kind of Tragic

Imagine trusting someone enough to the point where you allow yourself to be vulnerable. Now imagine trusting someone that much and you’re a magical being? Not only are you assuming that people won’t attempt to harm you for being different, but that they’ll also accept you for who you really are. That has to take a lot of trust. Then imagine that trust being betrayed in an instant. That’s what happened to Maleficent.

What’s almost sadder about her story is that despite all of this, she still shows glimpses of having a good heart. Take, for example, when she saves Diaval‘s life by turning him into a man, or when she feels pity for Sleeping Beauty and decides not to kill her despite being in a position to do so.

While Maleficent may not have redeemed herself completely by the end of her story, it’s easy to see where she gets her villainous tendencies from.

Gellert Grindelwald aka Percival Graves

When Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them came out in late 2016, we were introduced to a cast of new characters now dwelling within the Harry Potter universe. One of the more noteworthy additions was Gellert Grindelwald aka Percival Graves aka the second most powerful dark wizard of all time (next to Lord Voldemort).

If you haven’t seen the film yet, don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you.

What you do need to understand, however, is that he wasn’t always a dark wizard, or even a bad guy at all really. He just “sadly lost his way.”

Dumbledore was considered the most powerful wizard of all time during his life. It was no coincidence that both he and Gellert Grindelwald became close friends. They also shared one common interest: using their status as powerful wizards to protect the world. Except, their desired outcomes and methods certainly differed quite a bit.

Here’s Why His Story Is Actually Kind of Tragic

Gellert Grindelwald wanted to control the world and felt that it was his ‘sense of purpose.’ Dumbledore, on the other hand, had witnessed his sister get brutally beaten while he was powerless to stop the attack. This resulted in his father seeking retaliation, and his mother being killed.

Dumbledore wanted to help the world, help wizards and witches, help muggles (humans), help everyone. Grindelwald just had a very large ego that he wanted to satiate by any means necessary.

Things came to a boiling point when Grindelwald and Dumbledore wanted to continue on a path together to forge their new revolution, and Dumbledore’s brother chose to step in and stop it. Cut forward to a duel between Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth in which their sister Ariana was accidentally killed. You can see why there was no turning back for Gellert Grindelwald.

Grindelwald fled to evade prosecution for his misdeeds and would later justify any actions going forward by stating it was: “for the greater good.” A sad example of how sometimes even the best intentions can lead to the worst possible outcomes.

Hal Jordan aka Green Lantern aka Parallax

parallax comic

Sometimes, a tragedy can bring even the best of us to our lowest moments. One big difference is that most ‘regular people’ would never kill in retaliation. Another difference is that most people aren’t superheroes.

Hal Jordan aka Green Lantern was the original Earth incarnation of Green Lantern. Before he received his powers, he was a war hero, so he was no stranger to putting the lives of others before his own. Hal was the epitome of what a superhero is and should be, which is why the Justice League invited him to join. In fact, he was considered to be one of the core members of the group.

Here’s Why His Story Is Actually Kind of Tragic

Everything in Hal Jordan’s life changed the day his beloved home of Coast City was destroyed.

You may wonder: “how could the destruction of Coast City cause one of the greatest superheroes to turn bad?” Parallax was an evil entity trapped inside of Hal’s central battery (you know, the thing he carried around with him to charge his ring). Over the years, Parallax was slowly influencing Hal Jordan through the central battery itself. This sequence of events was influenced by his one-time Lantern Corps trainer, Sinestro.

Hal Jordan was so distraught by the heinous crimes he committed while under the influence of Parallax that he ultimately sacrificed himself to reignite the sun and ensure the safety of Earth and the rest of the Lantern Corps as well. He was a hero to the end, but he paid the ultimate price.

Hannibal Lecter aka Hannibal The Cannibal

hannibal lecter silence of the lambs anthony hopkins

Hannibal Lecter, by all accounts in the movie and book iterations, was a regular child with extraordinary intelligence. That was until certain events brought out the worst in him.

As an eight-year-old living in war-torn Lithuania, a young Hannibal Lecter along with his parents and sister had to leave their estate to escape Hitler’s Blitzkrieg. His family retreated to the forest and stayed in a nearby lodge until, sadly, a German bomber attempting to disable a Soviet tank killed his parents.

Only Hannibal and his sister, Mischa, survived the attack but a group of former Lithuanian collaborators turned looters captured them and wound up killing and cannibalizing Mische. Lecter escaped, but not before losing his faith in the existence of God, humanity, or justice in this world.

Here’s Why His Story Is Actually Kind of Tragic

After Hannibal became an orphan, he protected younger children from bullies. He would often give the younger children treats and let them tease him about being mute. He was seemingly trying to cope with things the best he could.

Hannibal went to live with his aunt and uncle, both of whom he cared for. Especially his aunt. It took the death of his uncle to set Hannibal over the edge, as he would go on to murder his uncle’s killer to avenge his uncle’s death. That was first of his killings. It would not be his last.

With everything Hannibal Lecter went through, and as smart as the man was, could you blame him for being a little unhinged? Could you really blame him for being a little twisted? Hannibal Lecter’s horrible childhood and the personal tragedies he experienced certainly don’t excuse his horrible crimes. They do, however, contribute to twisting the psyche of a genius mind who had seemingly good intentions early on in life. “When genius fails to help the world, the world forever suffers.”

Emperor Palpatine aka Darth Sidious


Do you remember being a teenager and having a rebellious phase? Well, let’s just go back to that time, and imagine you also had, oh I don’t know, thousands of midichlorians racing through your body, and no idea what midichlorians were or how powerful they made you? Yeah. Well, add that to an angst-ridden teenager, and you get one of the most powerful sith lords of all time.

Here’s Why His Story Is Actually Kind of Tragic

Darth Sidious wasn’t always that way. In fact, he was born to a somewhat normal family on Naboo. Here’s a brief description of a young Palpatine pre-murderousness Sith lord:

“Intelligent and highly ambitious, Palpatine desired his family to take on a more active role in Naboo’s politics, both to increase their own wealth and power, and also to help their home-world make the transition into the modern galaxy.”

He ultimately wound up killing his father at the behest of his Sith master, Darth Plagueis. Even that was done under Plagueis’ manipulation of the force. Palpatine was a troubled child, but he wanted to help his home-world grow and prosper. He wasn’t looking to kill; he was just a child who his family didn’t know how to deal with. His parents weren’t known force users, so how could anyone help him realize the right ways to use his powers? This is how the Sith Lord was able to stalk Palpatine, pose himself as a businessman for years, and eventually convince the young man to kill his father to fulfill his destiny. It’s a truly tragic tale.


Rob Lewis
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