Crafting a good hero and villain is among the most challenging yet essential parts of filmmaking. A lot goes into making them work, including forming a dynamic between the two based on themes and conflicting personalities. When done right, the hero-villain dynamic can present audiences with interesting thoughts to ponder, exciting memories based on dialogue and exchange, or both.

Related: Disney’s 10 Best Animated Female Villains, RankedWith the rise of animation, audiences have been treated to a wide variety of amazing heroes and villains. Many of them have great dynamics, and the power of animation allows for more interesting and complex explorations than in live-action.


Basil and Ratigan — ‘The Great Mouse Detective’

Ratigan taunts Basil about his disguise

The Great Mouse Detective was an important movie for Disney. Its success restored faith in its animated films and helped to pave the way for the Renaissance of the 90s. A major reason for that success was the dynamic between the Sherlock Holmes-inspired Basil of Baker Street and his arch nemesis, Professor Ratigan.

Related: 10 Best Disney Characters With The Perfect Voice ActorsBasil and Ratigan’s conflict is a clash of egos. Both are determined to prove that their intellect is superior, which results in mutual displays of theatrics and showmanship as they try to outsmart the other. Their clash of intellect also shows how the two choose to use their gifts, with Ratigan choosing to help himself while Basil helps others.

Scar and Simba — ‘The Lion King’

Scar tells Simba about the elephant graveyard

The Lion King was originally seen as a side-film to fill time while Disney’s top talent worked on Pocahontas. Ironically, the latter would become one of Disney’s worst regarded movies, while the former is the highest grossing traditionally animated film of all time. A major reason for this success is the story of prince Simba and his jealous uncle, Scar.

The film begins with Scar in a position of power of Simba, using his cunning mind to manipulate the young prince into precarious situations to have him killed. Coincidentally, both of them see the position of king as a blank check to do whatever they want. This changes by the film’s end, where Simba, having understood the weight of the crown, is able to overpower his uncle.

Frollo and Quasimodo — ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’

Frollo tells Quasimodo to stay in Notre Dame

While not a failure on release, The Hunchback of Notre Dame remains one of the less-appreciated films of the Disney Renaissance. This is thanks to the film’s polarizing tone, especially revolving around the annoying gargoyles. However, one place audiences agree the film excelled at is the relationship between the hero, Quasimodo, and his master, Judge Claud Frollo.

Related: 10 Disney Films About Outcasts Finding Their PlaceTheir dynamic is a harsh look into abusive relationships, with Frollo doing everything in his power to make Qusimodo fearful of the world and feel worthless. Fortunately, Quasi finds support through new friends, and eventually tells Frollo that men like him are what makes the world cruel. This helps to solidify the movie’s message about what makes a monster or a man.

Moses and Rameses — ‘The Prince of Egypt’

Moses and Rameses embrace after years apart

This animated remake of The Ten Commandments is one of the best animated movies few people know about. It manages to capture the epic nature of the 1956 film through powerful musical numbers and gorgeous hand-drawn animation that rivaled Disney. Where it truly excels is in the brotherly turmoil between Moses and Rameses.

Unlike in the original film, Moses and Rameses’ family feud is made into the driving conflict. This allows for a stronger dichotomy of love vs duty, presented as religious duty with Moses, and political duty with Rameses. The drama that unfolds as the brothers try to cling to their love for one-another while becoming increasingly radicalized is easily some of the most emotional and dark in any animated film.

Mr. Incredible and Syndrome —’The Incredibles’

Syndrome comes to gloat to Mr. Incredible

During the golden age of superheroes, a young boy named Buddy wanted to help his idol, Mr. Incredible. Once the superheros were made illegal, Mr. Incredible settled down to have a family while Buddy invented weapons and made a fortune. Once ready for revenge, he lures Mr. Incredible, who is unfulfilled with civilian life, to his private island to test his weapons on.

While Pixar has plenty of memorable villains, the dynamic between Mr. Incredible and Syndrome stands out thanks to how real it feels. Both of their stories are centered around wounded pride and the unhealthy ways. What sets them apart is that, at his core, Mr. Incredible is still a hero who wants to save others, while Syndrome just wants to prove that he’s better even without powers.

Gru and Vector — ‘Despicable Me’

Vector shows off his Piranha Gun to Gru

When audiences think of Illumination’s Despicable Me franchise, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t a commentary on generational conflict. Yet that is a major theme in the first film, as demonstrated by Gru and Vector’s clash. While Gru is an established villain with an evil lair and plenty of minions, he finds himself being one-upped by a younger villain with bigger plans.

The film makes good use of showcasing this battle between generational villainy through Vector’s newer gadgets and Gru’s team of minions. It also touches on themes of classism and nepotism given Vector and Gru’s upbringings and pathways to success. On a more metal level, it can also represent the rise of Illumination themselves as they became a contender in the world of children’s animated films against Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks.

Megamind and Titan — ‘Megamind’

Megamind's attack on Titan didn't quite work

The 2000s had several spoofs on the traditional superhero stories, but Megamind tried something new by focusing on if the villain finally defeated the hero. This results ins some provocative themes of nature vs nurture regarding good and evil, and the differences between doing good for the right and wrong reasons. This comes to a head when Megamind attempts to create a new superhero by giving powers to a cameraman named Hal.

Related: The 10 Most Powerful Animated Movie Characters, from ‘Kung Fu Panda’ to ‘Megamind’Though he is given powers similar to Superman, Hal, or Titan, only wants to be a hero to get the girl. When that fails, he turns to selfishness, and even Megamind calls him out for squandering his gifts. In contrast, Megamind uses his intellect and inventions to save the city from Titan and discovers that he enjoys doing good.

Po and Shen — ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’

Po attempts to convince Shen to let go of his past

The Kung Fu Panda franchise has seen some of the greatest villains in DreamWorks’ lineup. While Tai-Lung was a wonderful force to push Po into becoming the Dragon Warrior, Lord Shen would prove to be his greatest challenge. Along with his impressive army, Shen also had a personal hand in shaping Po’s life.

Part of why this dynamic works because Po and Shen serve as mirrors of one-another. They are people who have been shaped by trauma, but they approach it in different ways. Po makes peace with his past and moves towards a brighter future, while Shen clings to the past and tries to fill the void with conquest.

Hiccup and Grimmel — ‘How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’

Hiccup and Grimmel the Gristly from How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Throughout his time as a dragon rider, Hiccup has had to contend with some powerful foes, including terrifying dragons and bloodthirsty warlords. However, his greatest challenge would come from a dragon hunter named Grimmel the Gristly. Seeing Hiccup’s efforts to improve human-dragon relations as an insult, Grimmel makes it his mission to destroy Hiccup’s dream and his dragons.

Related: ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and the Power of the Reluctant OutcastBoth of them are intelligent tinkerers who use their mind to make up for their physical weaknesses. However, while Hiccup sees the benefits of working with dragons, Grimmel sees them as pests to be destroyed for sport. This makes Grimmel an effective mirror of what Hiccup’s life could have been like if he’d killed Toothless.

Puss in Boots and the Wolf — ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’

Puss in Boots meets with a mysterious wolf

This most recent of DreamWorks’ releases sees Puss in Boots on a quest to claim a wish and reclaim his lost lives. During the journey, he is stalked by a white wolf who seems to have it out for him. Knowing that his scythe could end Puss’ journey with a single stroke, Puss finds himself battling against fear with every step.

Themes of accepting one’s mortality are front and center in this film. The more Puss tries to run from this fact of life, the more terror the wolf sows when he appears. This ends up coming full circle when the wolf reveals his name and why he is pursuing Puss in the first place.

Next: Officially 18: The 10 Best Movies That “Became Adults” in 2022


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