Breaking Bad 

10 Best TV Shows Where The Villain Is The Main Character

Not every TV show protagonist is a paradigm of good. Some are actually villains, all things considered.

People love to watch TV shows about good people overcoming the odds and heroes stopping evil. However, many people often like to look at the other side of the fence. Several shows have become massive ratings’ darlings and critically acclaimed series where the villain is the main character.

RELATED: Breaking Bad: 10 Things You Forgot From The First Episode

Many of these shows have focused on a character that was good at one time but soon fell from grace and ended up as the villain he never expected to be. Other shows started with a bad person, but the series tried to make him as sympathetic as possible, despite doing bad things throughout the show’s run. Whether watching a tragedy in action or a terrible person doing terrible things, these shows make watching television a very different experience.

Breaking Bad

Walter White In Breaking Bad

Walter White didn’t start as a bad man, but he was a terrible human being by the end of Breaking Bad. In this AMC series, White learned after his 50th birthday that he had lung cancer. It was Stage III, and he would die. Wanting to help secure his family’s financial future, he chose to use his knowledge as a high school chemistry teacher to become one of the most notorious meth dealers, and Walter White set his fate in motion as he plunged deeper and deeper into depravity.

The Shield

Vic Mackey from The Shield

The Shield is not a police procedural, despite the main characters being cops. Vic Mackey is one of the best cops in Los Angeles, but he is also one of the dirtiest. Based on the real-life Rampart Division, Mackey sets the tone in the first episode when he shoots and kills a cop who planned to turn him in and then sets it up to blame the criminals. As the series went on, Mackey’s team went deeper and deeper into their own criminal activities that even their good work as cops was tainted.


Hannibal TV Series Mads Mikkelsen

Hannibal is one of the shows where the villain is not a good man turned bad, but an evil man who does bad things. The series, a prequel to Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon, has the FBI Behavioural Science division team up an FBI profiler with a forensic psychiatrist. What no one knows is that the psychiatrist, Hannibal Lecter, is a cannibalistic serial killer. The series lasted three seasons as Lecter’s secrets came to light.

The Blacklist

James Spader as Raymond Reddington in The Blacklist

The Blacklist is an interesting series, as it has a bad man trying to do good things. However, as is the case with most villains, he is doing his good deeds for his own reasons. James Spader is Red Reddington, one of the most notorious criminals on the FBI Most Wanted list.

RELATED: The Blacklist: Every Main Character, Ranked By Likability

The Blacklist starts when Red turns himself in, voluntarily, after years of the FBI never catching him. However, he offers the FBI a deal. If they keep him out of prison, he will help them catch the most dangerous criminals in the world, which he has on his blacklist.


Michael C Hall as Dexter looking up

In Dexter, the villain of this series only kills bad guys, making him almost an antihero in the form of Marvel’s The Punisher. However, despite who he kills, Michael C. Hall’s Dexter Mogan is still a serial killer, which makes him a villain in the law’s eyes. He keeps from succumbing to his inner demons by only killing other murderers. However, his actions often backfire and hurt those he loves, and the people who die because of his actions are as much his fault as anyone.

The Sopranos

Meadow asks Tony whether he is a mobster in The Sopranos

One of the most successful television series where the villain is the main character is HBO’s The Sopranos. In this series, James Gandolfini is Tony Soprano, a mobster in New Jersey who leads his criminal organization. To make him more sympathetic, he is also a family man, trying to raise his own family. He has his own problems separating the two families, seeing a psychiatrist to help him deal with his issues.

Peaky Blinders

Grace and Tommy reunite in London in Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders is a British television series about a crime family rising to power after World War I. While the family in the series is fictionalized, it is based on a real-life youth gang that used the same Peaky Blinders name in the early 20th century.

RELATED: Peaky Blinders: 5 Reasons Tommy Is The Better Character (& 5 Why It’s Arthur)

Peaky Blinders features an ensemble cast, but all the leads are part of the Shelby family, the Peaky Blinders gang leaders. This includes Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby, the leader of the gang.

Bates Motel

Norma and Norman bates sitting in a bed in Bates Motel

Bates Motel is the prequel series for the horror movie Psycho. In this series, serial killer Norman Bates is just a teenager living with his mother, who in Psycho was a dead body in a rocking chair. Vera Farmiga is Norma Bates, and Freddie Highmore is Norman Bates. Both of these characters were prone to make terrible decisions, Norman succumbing to his mental illness and Norma doing anything to protect him. The final season of Bates Motel basically tells the story of Psycho with a very different ending.

Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire tells the story of the organized crime families during the Prohibition era in Atlantic City. Martin Scorsese was involved in the series, which speaks volumes, and he directed the Boardwalk Empire pilot episode. It was a hit and ended up running for five seasons on HBO. Steve Buscemi headlined the drama as Nucky Thompson, a powerful political figure involved with the mafia. Michael Pitt is the secondary star, a former protege of Nucky who also deals in organized crime after serving in World War I.

Mr. Robot

Elliot Alderson In Mr Robot standing in the street with his hood up

Mr. Robot is an interesting case of a villain serving as the lead of the series. Rami Malek is Elliot Anderson, a hacker with social anxiety disorder. His father died when he was younger, and Elliot now sees him as a hallucination that goes by the name Mr. Robot. However, as the four seasons of the series progress, it becomes obvious that Elliot and Mr. Robot are the same. He has dissociative identity disorder and his “evil side” is the head of the terrorist organization. It is like Fight Club for television.

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