Recently I had a little "debate" with a couple of friends about the villain Bane (played by Tom Hardy) from The Dark Knight Rises. My occasional guest on Swords and Space Radio, Stephen, felt that Bane wasn't so great. I beg to differ, however -- I thought he was a great villain, and that's not just because I really like Tom Hardy's work.
Bane was just very savage and powerful (he almost killed Batman and completely took him apart), yet at the same time witty but not so overpowering as to be invincible -- he had his weakness in his mask which added some interesting nuance (a little Darth Vader-esque). He was also clearly evil, but had some human elements to make him more real and not one dimensional -- like his clear love/compassion for Miranda/Talia.
In my view, the most important thing that made Bane great was the fact that he was a militant revolutionary (usually they’re the good guys) who cloaked his revolution under the guise of “liberation” (like real world revolutionaries do). Often, the bad guys represent the forces of law and order (again, thinking of Star Wars here) and its the rebels/revolutionaries who are the protagonists (consider how popular that butcher Che Guevara is). But Bane and The Dark Knight Rises gave us a little taste of what revolutionaries are really like. Here's Bane's Blackgate Prison speech which exemplifies his revolutionary demagoguery, as with the Bastille, turning vile criminals into victims (although interestingly, the film wasn't that black-and-white because the criminals therein were unjustly imprisoned, but the point is that violent revolution is never the solution).