Today I would really like to hear from everyone who your favorite sympathetic villain is. They can be an antagonist, an anti-hero, or just a supporting character who happens to be a real bad guy, but also one that you feel for, for whatever reason.
I'll allow you to select from film as well, just so that someone can pick Darth Vader, because even though he doesn't seem very sympathetic at first, once you know his whole back story how can you not pity poor Anakin Skywalker? [SPOILER ALERT] Driven to the darkside by fear and manipulation, forced into the killing younglings and attacking his mentor? Is there a more tragic tale out there?
The character you pick doesn't have to be completely evil, in fact it's best if they're not. They can even be a red herring, like one of my two favorites: Severus Snape from Harry Potter. Professor Snape certainly is a tortured individual, and one who we spend thousands of pages essentially despising on Harry's behalf. [SPOILER ALERT] But once we discover the truth about his past and the full depth of his courage, we really begin to admire him, in spite of some of his distasteful personality traits, or at least I know I did.
Or your character can be even more pathetic, like my second favorite sympathetic villain: Smeagol/Gollum from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit. Like most sympathetic villains it takes quite some time to discover Gollum's past, [SPOILER ALERT] but once we do we certainly feel for him in his experience of being twisted for centuries by the addictive power of the ring.
So who is your favorite sympathetic villain? Try to pick just one but if you must break the rules like me and go with two, I won't really mind.