A common movie trope in movie villains is their absolute lust for power. Villains like Ares (Wonder Woman), Ajax (Deadpool), and Aldrich Killian (Iron Man 3) all have simple motivations like controlling or destroying the world, that always just ends up at “haha, I’m so evil.” It’s even worse in older Disney movies like The Little Mermaid, Snow White or Cinderella. However this trope is getting pretty old, and recent movie studios have realized this. Movies that came out in the last year or so have been much more conscious of this trope in their villains, such as Thanos (Avengers Infinity War), who truly believes himself to be the good guy.
That’s not to say that no movie before the past year has risen above this trope. For example Saw, the horror movie that came out in 2004—and its many sequels—deals with a murderous, psychotic genius with a twisted set of morals, the Jigsaw Killer. But instead of the typical horror slasher villain who just enjoy killing for no good reason, his motivations are a bit more interesting. He builds elaborate traps for his victims, where they usually have to overcome some flaw of theirs if they want to escape. If they can’t, their failure gets themselves or someone else killed. He does this because he values life over anything. He believes everyone else should too… by any means necessary. While his values may be flawed, and he’s still undeniably a psychotic murderer, he’s driven by something other than simple black and white evil. He believes himself to be a good guy, or at least to be helping those he traps.
A recent example of the villainy for good trope is the superhero hit movie Infinity War, and its villain, Thanos. For anyone who hasn’t seen this movie, he believes that by committing genocide and killing half the living beings in the universe, the remaining half will thrive. He believes this to be the only course of action to save the entire universe. He’s not a cold unfeeling monster either. He spares multiple people’s lives, and cries tears when he must kill the one thing in the world he loves. He believes himself to be doing the ultimate act of goodwill. Really, what person would truly believe their willing actions to be evil?