What components make a “bad boy” or “bad girl”? Is it the way they walk? Is it their smirk, the one that makes you feel like your body is uncontrollably melting all over the place? Is it because they seem callous or cruel to others but very deep down in your bones you believe you can be the exception? Is it their hair? Their eyes?
Many of us, in our lifetime, have had a crush on a “bad boy” or “bad girl,” and our feelings were unquantifiable and confusing —but they felt right and perfect and wonderful at the moment. There’s something about a bad boy/girl that makes us feel all the feelings, even though we know those feelings are probably unsustainable. Because, according to fiction, bad boys and girls break our hearts.
In fact, TV and movies taught us a LOT about bad boys and bad girls. In almost every story, there’s always a “bad” person who is attractive, funny, smart —but definitely “bad news.” He or she is a heart-breaker. But we somehow allllwaaays root for them. Here are some of those fictional characters that totally defined what being a “bad boy” or “bad girl” meant:
Kathryn Merteuil, Cruel Intentions
When I say “manipulative,” you say “Kathryn!” …You know the rest. Kathryn Merteuil is the protagonist in Cruel Intentions, a twisted ’90s film that we all know and love. Bad girls and guys either come from the “wrong side of the tracks,” or they come from TONS of money which gives them a sense of entitlement and courage that most people shouldn’t have in high school —according to Cruel Intentions. Kathryn is the latter. Basically I can’t give away the movie without telling you why Kathryn is a “bad girl,” but just know that she does a lot of terrible things and is still very, very attractive.
Jess Mariano, Gilmore Girls
I have something to tell you guys. I never watched Gilmore Girls. Like I didn’t intentionally not watch Gilmore Girls, but I didn’t have cable and yadda yadda yadda. I have seen enough of the show to know that Rory has some boyfriends and I have enough friends that are proper millennials who have opinions about the show. The whole point of this tangent is that Jess Mariano is really hot and apparently a really good bad boy. From what I understand, Jess basically stole Rory from Dean and is also really attractive. I also understand that Rory probably can’t be stolen from a dude, but you know. Jess is classic bad boy and also does this:
Santana Lopez, Glee
Santana Lopez is cruel, judgmental, harsh, and very, very bold. Santana is from Lima Heights, which we are supposed to assume is basically the “other side” of Lima’s tracks —though it is hard to imagine any part of Lima being “bad.” When Santana is angry, she will tell you off in Spanish, knock over chairs, or make you wish you were never born. When Santana is happy, she will still insult you and your entire family.
Beyond all of that though? Santana is sweet, loving, loyal, and super hot.
Okay before you think I’m crazy, listen to this. We were kids (or most of us were) when Hook came out so it’s weird to think “what a hottie” about anyone in that movie. That being said, Rufio was the dude. Rufio was tough, hip, and so strong. Though obviously everyone rooted for Peter to get his ish together and take back the lead from Rufio, I have always been impressed with Rufio’s attempt to keep his control. Duh! Of course he should. He’s a bad boy for life. (I mean, not for life since he dies. Spoiler alert.)
Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
OK, so James Marsters is super sexy. Spike is a vampire and also one of the most pivotal characters on the show. Also he loves Buffy and that always makes a bad boy hotter. Falling in love with the versatile, complex, badass female lead will always, always make a male “bad boy” hotter.
Eric Northman, True Blood
Basically all vampires are bad boys and girls because, I mean, they eat blood and sometimes kill humans for a living. They prey on vulnerable people and have superpowers and love the night. They are bad to their very core, and I love it. Eric Northman in True Blood especially. Eric, who is at one point protagonist Sookie Stackhouse’s love interest, is a thousand years old and comes from royal Viking descent. He’s snarky, smart, owns a vampire club, and wears a lot of leather. He’s a dreamboat.
Regina George, Mean Girls
Regina George is a bad girl in a weird sense. She doesn’t do anything stereotypically bad —like go to detention or steal stuff— but she is a bad bad girl. In fact, she’s a mean girl. Regina George is the queen of the school and everything everyone does is because of Regina George. She is mean, intimidating, and selfish. But you know —she’s played by Rachel McAdams. Hello.
Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter
Don’t ever tell high school Jess Tholmer that Draco Malfoy is making this list. When I was younger, I had absolutely no interest in “bad boys,” and especially not ones that tried to ruin the lives of my GOLDEN TRIO. That all being said, Malfoy is a really complicated character. He is a “bad boy” for sure —his father is made of gold, his hair is slicked back and platinum blonde, he’s in Slytherin for the love of pete. Malfoy is a bad boy, but he ends up not being absolutely terrible. He’s also very attractive.
Betty Draper, Mad Men
Betty Draper, played by the amazing January Jones, has an incredible character arc. Since Season 1 of Mad Men, we see Betty go from pure(ish) housewife to resentful, mean-spirited ex-wife who hates Don and his new wife and basically destroys Sally Draper, her daughter. But Betty is shockingly beautiful and desirable, even if she’s wrapped in her own hatred and vices.
Loki is the ultimate, mythological trickster. He’s smart, cunning, mean, has great super powers, and he’s also Tom Hiddleston in the Marvel movies. Need I say more?
Tim Riggins, Friday Night Lights
I jumped on the Friday Night Lights boat really late, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s up with Tim Riggins. Riggins is the ultimate bad boy because his heart is so big and pure and kind. Sure, he doesn’t have a functioning family unit, and sure, he drinks a lot (a lot for a high school student), and his hair is long and greasy and he’s not a model student buuuut he is the best. Not only is he crazy talented, he really is smart and sweet and the best kind of friend to have on your side. Riggins, you are the sexiest human.
Vince Howard, Friday Night Lights
Yo, I’m not saying that I think Vince is hotter than Tim Riggins but I am very much saying that I think Vince is as hot as Tim Riggins. Vince is very different from Tim, but both are talented, kind, loyal, and super, super hot. Vince is confident (to a Smash-like level sometimes) and great at what he does (football, if you don’t know what Friday Night Lights is) but he can certainly get himself into trouble. I will not launch into an entire rant about why Vince has to be the way he is (parents, hello?) but all of the “bad boy” stuff he does comes from ultimately caring for his mother and the love of his life Jess. MICHAEL B. JORDAN PLAYS HIM SO OBVIOUSLY HE IS ON THIS LIST.
Bender, The Breakfast Club
Defining a “bad boy” gets tricky, and definitely when it comes to Bender in The Breakfast Club. Bender is in detention, but so are a bunch of non-“bad” boys and girls. Bender like…smokes and swears and lights matches with his teeth, and he’s very confident. He also goes by his last name, which I feel happens a lot of bad boys —but he also came from a family that really hurt him. He’s sweet, and sensitive, and deep. Maybe he is the ultimate bad boy and all of the aforementioned qualities really drive it home. Bender, we love you.
Honorable mentions: Cersei Lannister —and basically everyone on Game of Thrones, Daniel Desario from Freaks and Geeks, all other Slytherins, and Gaston. Obviously.