Sometimes it seems like every villain is obsessed with murdering the hero of the story. (Or making the hero realize they're alike.) But it's not true — in fact, some of the best villains have their own goals, and the hero just happens to get in the way. Here are some great villains whose schemes don't revolve around the hero.
Sure, everybody loves Wrath of Khan. And the Joker is obsessed with Batman, to the point where when the Joker believes Batman is dead, he "goes sane" and gives up his life of crime. The Master just craves the Doctor's attention.
But these characters work so well, partly because they're the exceptions. Captain Kirk flew around the galaxy for years, stopping power-mad tunic-wearers and insane computers, before he had a rematch against someone who had a grudge left over from their first encounter. The Doctor is just this weird stranger who shows up out of the blue and suddenly ruins everything a baddie has worked for. The serialized adventure hero often works best when he or she is up against
But because everybody loves the handful of truly great stories where the villain has a personal animus against the hero, that's often all we get. It's been years and years since Doctor Who has had a Big Bad whose goals weren't exclusively aimed at destroying or compromising the Doctor. Arrow season two was all about a villain who wanted revenge on Oliver (and it was terrific.) Sleepy Hollow is now all about Ichabod's dysfunctional relationships coming back to bite him. Every other reimagined superhero story is changed to make the villain's mission more personal.
And it's easy to see why — creating a personal hatred or obsession with the hero makes the villain understandable, and is easy to dramatize. It brings the big, operatic story down to a micro level. It's one way to create villains who aren't just cardboard maniacs who want to take over the world for no particular reason. And it feels slightly more mature to create a villain whose villainy is entirely founded on relationships.
But this idea also has the effect, over time, of cheapening the heroism. The hero isn't someone who saw terrible things happening and decided to stand up and do something about it — instead he/she is just cleaning up his/her own mess. And the villain with a personal vendetta is also a well that you can't go to too often, or it just gets old. And in real life, sometimes people actually are just selfish, sadistic assholes, who really do want power over other people for its own sake.
So here are some villains whose goals are their own, and if the hero got run over by a truck, the villains would just rejoice that there was one less obstacle in their path:
All the villains in RoboCop
Gang boss Clarence Boddicker's plan is to get rich by establishing a vice monopoly that feeds off the labor brought in to building OCP's Delta City community. Meanwhile, the corporate bosses just want to get rich(er) off of the RoboCop program, not caring whether it works or not. They just don't count on Officer Murphy's tenacious boy-scout instincts surviving his dismemberment and subsequent resurrection.
Almost every James Bond villain
At some point, James Bond's enemies do start getting mad at him (and in the books, SMERSH votes for Bond to be "killed with ignominy," a particularly memorable phrase that I've always wanted to use in a sentence.) But for the most part, Bond's baddies have their own objectives that revolve around power or racial purity, or getting control over a solar-powered super-weapon. Or making women stop being allergic to chickens. James Bond is the archetypal "show up and ruin a complete stranger's day" hero.
General Zod in Superman II
General Zod and his minions take over the planet Houston (aka Earth) simply because it happens to be nearby. And because they can, and because it serves Zod's endless need for planetary domination. Of course, they become obsessed with taking Superman down later in the movie — but when they first execute their plan of conquest, they don't even know he's on the planet. Also, in the first movie, Lex Luthor's crazy real-estate scheme has nothing to do with Superman per se, but Lex does become obsessed with figuring out Superman's weakness as a contingency, in case the big boy scout shows up.
Darryl Revok in Scanners
In David Cronenberg's movie about warring psychics, mad telepath Darryl Revok plans to take over the world by dosing pregnant women with a drug that will turn their kids into 'scanners', ripe for conversion to his cause. The plan was in effect long before hapless hero Cameron stumbles into his way.
The Cylons in Battlestar Galactica
The Cylons' plan is to exterminate any and all organic beings, period. It doesn't matter whether they're Adama or the lowliest grunt on the Galactica. Of course, in the rebooted version, this eventually becomes somewhat muddled because we learn that their actions are entirely motivated by their daddy issues about the Final Five — but we try not to think about that last season.
Davros and the Daleks on Doctor Who
Similarly, the Daleks are almost always motivated by their hatred of all non-Dalek life forms. Their endgame is the extermination of all non-Dalek life, although they're willing to enslave humans when it suits their purposes. They hate the Doctor because he's gotten in their way, and it's been hinted that the Doctor has made them worse by opposing them. But as recently as "Journey's End," they had a scheme to destroy the entire universe, and they actively tried to prevent the Doctor from showing up and interfering — if the Doctor hadn't found a way into their pocket universe, they would have happily carried on with their universe-obliterating plans.
Burke and the Company in Aliens
Burke, the slimy representative of the Company, simply wants to retrieve the xenomorph for his employers' bioweapons division. He doesn't care what happens to Ripley or any of the others who come along with him. When they set off for the colony, he doesn't even know about the alien's life cycle and is unaware that he might need the others as vessels for the creatures. Ripley and co. are simply cover for his expedition.
Skynet in The Terminator
On a similar note, Skynet and the Terminators may be focused on the destruction of Sarah Connor and her son John, but in most versions of the story it's nothing personal. John Connor is just a really successful leader of the human resistance, and Skynet wants him out of the way so it can finish wiping out or maybe subjugating the remains of the human race. (And likewise, the baddies in James Cameron's Avatar have nothing personal against the Na'vi, who just happen to be sitting on a big chunk of Unobtanium.)
Thirdspace Aliens in Babylon 5
The Thirdspace Aliens, mysterious and malevolent beings feared even by the Vorlons, believe themselves to be the only creatures worthy of existence. Heroes mean little to them. Their aim is simply to destroy everyone and everything, anti-life made manifest.
The Network in The World's End
Without going into too many spoilers for this relatively recent film, this is definitely a case where Gary and his friends just happen to get in the way of a plan that's already well in motion when they arrive.
Prince Nuada in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
The exiled Prince Nuada wants to destroy humanity — a species he sees as having betrayed his elven race — by reactivating the indestructible Golden Army. He never intends for Hellboy to wade into the fray.
Belloq, Dietrich and the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark
All the baddies in this movie are after the supernatural powers that would be unlocked by the Ark of the Covenant. Dietrich and the Nazis want to harness it for the war effort, while Belloq just wants it all for himself. In either case, Indiana Jones is just the fly in the ointment.
Gozer in Ghostbusters
Your average run of the mill god, hailing from some horrible extradimensional plane, her plan is to bring about the end of the world after being summoned by the unholy union of Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis. The Ghostbusters aren't even gods and, therefore, remain beneath her notice. Likewise, in Ghostbusters 2, Vigo just wants to get out of his painting and rule the world by possessing the nearest convenient baby. He doesn't even know who the Ghostbusters are.
Darkseid in the DC Universe
Although his motivations can vary from story to story, his primary goal is to use the Anti-Life Equation to drain all free will from the universe. Superman and his allies are mere gnats to be swatted away in the pursuit of this goal.
Galactus from Marvel Comics
The oldest being in the universe and godlike to boot, Galactus is — depending on who's writing him — often above the concerns of petty heroes. His only concern is to find worlds to devour, in order to sustain himself.
The Smiler from Transmetropolitan
A madman who becomes President just so he can mess with America and see how far he can push the country before it drops over the edge, the Smiler doesn't care what protagonist Spider Jerusalem (or anyone else) thinks of him.