- Villain always wanted to be the best at something but the only thing he/she was good at was illegal. Oh well.
- Villain thinks that everyone thinks like him/her and thus has spent his/her life trying to stay one step ahead of other people's (imagined) nefarious plans.
- Villain actually has a very kind heart but is stuck in a cycle of punishing him/herself for an (imagined?) crime by making him/herself commit inexcusable acts. (e.g. the villain loves animals but, because she blames herself for her mother's death, she punishes herself by mangling the pets of others)
Revenge against society for the death of a loved one
jealous of someone who has been deemed 'special' from birth
sees someone who has done them wrong as an extension of something larger and wants revenge. i.e., one police officer arrests father, villain believes that the arrester was a police officer and the police are part of the government, therefore the government must go
Wants one thing and is willing to do anything to get it
Is attempting to resurrect someone, and that magic is messy, dangerous and deadly
Believes that he or she is an extension of the divine and can do no wrong
I always appreciate a villain who's out to get what they can, while the getting's good.
This isn't an evil mastermind hell-bend on world domination: this is the sociopathic rogue who's picking pockets and telling smooth lies; someone who would sell out a friend if it guaranteed making a new, more powerful friend; an opportunist snagging the valuable leavings in the wake of something much bigger and more sinister. Maybe these guys don't precipitate much great evil on their own, but they're interesting to watch because they're opportunists who are willing to do questionable things for their own profit.
They're sometimes even foiled against other, more potent villains, which seems to be a great tool for getting the audience to relate to this "anti-villain." (And don't we all aspire to that, to have multi-dimensional bad guys who aren't created just to stand in the hero's way?)
Examples I can think of are Thenardier from Les Mis (foiled against the revolution), Crawley from Good Omens (foiled against the rest of Hell), Jayne from Firefly (foiled against the authorities), and good old Al Swearingen (foiled against either Tolliver or Hearst, your pick). Any other good ones I'm missing?
So, maybe there's something someone wants to adopt. Anti-heroes are big these days, but anti-villains might have a story to tell, too.
My 3 year old says he likes to see villains who are villains for the fun of it, who just enjoy being evil...I wonder what this says about me as a parent? I'm going to run with this, but feel free to use it, too.
Villain is a sociopath/pychopath (And a particularly evil one at that.)
Some event causes their sociopathy/psychopathy to leave them and they want their old "I don't care about anyone" mindset back, so they decide to act as horrible and awful as they can until they are desensitized to the emotions of those around them.
(In my story, reality warpers enter a universe where mental disorders suddenly get converted into super powers by some hard to explain event, so that's how the villain loses their sociopathy)
Fear. "I didn't mean to kill everyone at the circus. I was just trying to keep the clowns away from me."
Caring about one person no matter the cost to others. "My wife needs a kidney and she's far down the list, so I'm going to steal medical records and kidnap potential donors until I get her what she needs."
Parents brutally murdered for no other reason than prejudiced. So you decide to kill every last one of them no matter what it takes or how long it takes. There is nothing that you will not do to avenge the death of your loved ones. You may even sell your soul of the devil ha the right plan for you.
- Because they feel they have no choice. The society they come from has deemed them an inferior or undesirable for some reason (perhaps there's a caste system, or they are of a certain race, or deformed in some way) so it was going to be a life bowing on the bottom rung of society while everyone else walked all over them, or carving their own niche outside the bounds of society. So they're aiming to be THE crime boss, or bringing down society to their level, or taking it over.
- Because they feel they have no choice - they were born into this and the only way one leaves this kind of life is in a coffin.
- They feel humanity (or whatever) has so much more potential, is being held back etc. They're going to help it by breaking society and bringing in a new world order. Of course people are lazy and scared and blind, so they'll cling to the current system for dear life and oppose this revolutionary individual and their vision for a bright new future
- They came from an entirely different culture with an entirely different set of ethics and social norms, and are unwilling to change simply because the society they are now a part of frowns on killing someone who insulted you and doesn't believe you should own whatever you've got the cunning and strength to take.
- Spent their life living by the rules, paying their taxes, being nice to little old ladies and still got screwed over by life. The drug dealer down the street has a better car then me, works less than me... clearly crime pays. So want to be the richest criminal ever (so greed, laziness and a feeling of being social betrayed)
- They just want to have fun. Unfortunately for the world the things they find fun are chaos and catastrophe. Explosions, fire, panic, making good people fall and bad rise (before making them fall as well)...
- They're dedicated to advancing the interests of their family, or their nation or their species. So they're taking the fight to their enemies, finding the magical weapons that'll secure the power etc