There are a lot of bad guys in dystopian lit and sci fi.
There are some truly notable bad guys out there, but let's focus on one of the most iconic:
Now, in the Star Wars series (we're talking original here, I'm not on speaking terms with things associated with Jar-Jar), there were two main baddies. Darth, and the Emperor.
But when you think about the series, you don't think about the Emperor as much--or at least, I don't. You think about the heroes--Luke, Leia, Han (*sigh*Han)--and then you think about Darth.
Of the two, the Emperor is the more evil. But Darth is the more memorable.
Because Darth Vader has a mask...and he takes it off.
I don't just mean that he has a plastic helmet and he takes it off--although, obviously, he does.
What I really mean is that there's more to him--over the course of the original trilogy, you find out not only who he really is, but also why.
The Emperor has no mask. He shoots lightning from his fingers and that's that. But when Darth slashes Obi Wan Kenobi with his red light saber, you eventually find out why, and what it must have meant to him, too.
When you look in the Emperor's eyes, he's soulless. He's just, pure and simple, evil.
But when Darth takes off his mask and looks at Luke--there's something more there. History, background, motive, desire. Love. Hate.
I thought about this as I read MOCKINGJAY (omg, you guys, that last chapter!!!). No spoilers, here, but if you've read the first two books, you know that President Snow is a bit of an Emperor. And, honestly, I felt that he was a bit of a weaker character for it.
To me, the much better villain is the one you can understand. The one you can almost sympathize with. The one that if, given different situations in your own life, you think you might have become.
Although, please, don't cut your son's hand off with a lightsaber. That's taking it just a tad too far...