The Anti-Villain is a villain with heroic goals, personality traits, and/or virtues. Their desired ends are mostly good, but their means of getting there are evil. Alternatively, their desired ends are evil, but they are far more ethical or moral than most villains and they thus use fairly benign means to achieve it, and can be downright heroic on occasion.
They reach a kind of critical mass that makes them more good than normal villains but not quite heroes, blurring the line between hero and villain the same way an Anti-Hero does.
Anti-Villain is an attempt to humanize, to lighten up, a villain as opposed to Anti-Hero, which has a tendency to darken the hero. Side by side, it can become hard to tell them apart. The only reason some would even be considered evil at all is because they're the Designated Villain. Despite this humanizing characterization, they are rarely less dangerous; heroes won't know what to expect when their enemy offers cookies and then attacks their reputation, without giving them an excuse to rationalize killing them.
They are probably well aware that what they're doing is "evil", unlike the blinded Knight Templar, but strive to maintain a facade of good PR. They'll see it as a viable means to a (possibly) good end.
Alternatively, their desired ends are evil, but they are far more ethical or moral than most villains and they thus use fairly benign means to achieve it, and can be downright heroic on occassion. There are 4 different kinds of Anti Villians on this scale. Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 are evil at their worst, although they average out at a darker shade of grey, on rare occasions they can be good. Type 4 characters are a light grey at their worst, and good characters aimed at greater goods at their best. Scale Of Anti VilliansType 1: Noble Anti-VillainMusic for the First Half of the Article
Although he chooses to be evil and may in fact embrace his villainous reputation, when the time comes for him to walk the walk, he turns away. This type of anti villain has a set of standards, certain lines that he will never cross. As such, he is the first one to say Even Evil Has Standards when faced with someone who offends said code of conduct. Unlikely to Harm someone but will help someone. Often accompanied by a Morality Pet. Alternatively, villainy is just a job to put food on the table, thus it's never personal. Placed higher on the evilness scale than type 2 because villainy is a choice for them rather than something that they are driven to. The type 1 is the common definition of the Anti-Villain.
. Hit Man With A Heart
.a Minion with a lack of understanding of what evil is
.A villian who would Never Hurt an Innocent
.A villian wouldn't Hurt a Child
.Some Ineffectual and Sympathetic Villains
.a darker Noble Top Enforcer
Here are Some examples:Type 2: Tragic Anti VillianMusic for the Second Half of the Article
It's obvious that these types of villains don't WANT to be evil, circumstances just make them out to be. They may act out of Undying Loyalty or love for someone or maybe they're simply fighting for their own survival. Others are broken cuties who have snapped and want to end their suffering by destroying everything. Usually they are suffering from their alignment. The characters garners our sympathy not because their goal is good but because we can see how the true villian made them the way they are. Often suffer from a damaged psyche.
.My loyalty to an evil Master
Here are some examples:Type 3: Well-Intentioned Anti-VillainMusic for the Third Half of the Article
This Well-Intentioned Extremist may believe in a good goal, but use whatever means there are to achieve it. The sympathy the audience can garner for this character comes from the fact that they basically share the same goal as the hero, but are pragmatically, expediently, or pessimistically, ruthless about it. They can very much be conscious about their morally questionable actions, but feel that there is no other way. Common antagonist in White and Grey Morality scenarios and relatively likely to be redeemed if shown the error of their ways depending on how "extremist" they are. These Anti Villains may become more malicious true villains, but they are more likely to either stay in this category or possibly morph into a Type 2 Anti-Villain. The Type 3 can also be a revolutionary of some sort, fighting against the main character only due to their affiliation to some government or organization, and usually fighting for a noble cause. Alternatively, they may not even realize what they're doing is wrong or making things worse in the first place.
.the Well-Intentioned Extremist
Here are some examples:Type 4: Designated VillainMusic for the Final Half of the Article
These characters either lack any villainous traits whatsoever or have so much concern over others that any signs of villainy are nearly completely drowned out. Frequently, these characters are called villains only because they fight against the hero. Basically, these guys are NEVER actively malevolent. They usually have some other reason for opposing the hero besides evil schemes. Ironically, these characters can be extremely dangerous to the hero as their high skill at arms/competence more than makes up for their lack of vileness. Fighting them also poses a moral dilemma which can also sap the hero's morale. It is at this point where an Anti-Villain starts to blur with the Heroic Antagonist
.more benign My Master
.Right or Wrong
.Noble Top Enforcer
.Most Ineffectual and Sympathetic Villains
. Harmless Villians
Here Are Some Examples: