Naruto primarily follows its titular protagonist, Naruto Uzumaki, as he attempts to make a name for himself and gain the recognition of those who have always treated him as an outcast. Along the way, he encounters many villains. Some don't remain villains for long after being subjected to Naruto's infamous Talk-No-Jutsu, and others remain cold and cruel until their eventual defeat.
Some villains want to harness the power of the Nine-Tails for themselves, while others simply want to cause mass destruction, with Naruto being little more than another shinobi standing in their way. Whatever their motivations may be, many of Naruto's villains end up surprisingly compelling, even if they've committed unforgivable acts. Whether it's due to a tragic backstory or simply an enjoyable personality, there are plenty of bad guys who end up becoming fan-favorite characters.
10 Kimimaro Only Wants To Have A Meaningful Purpose
Introduced during the Sasuke Recovery arc, Kimimaro is — at the time — Orochimaru's most loyal subordinate, as well as the leader of the Sound Five. Not only does he become a fan-favorite villain due to his unique appearance and fighting style, but Kimimaro's backstory is also tragically compelling.
Unless Kimimaro is needed for battle, Kimimaro is kept locked up, due to fear surrounding his unique kekkei genkai. After a fierce battle against Kirigakure, Kimimaro is made the sole remaining survivor of his clan, and he wanders aimlessly without a purpose until he's given new life by Orochimaru.
9 Itachi Goes From Merciless To Incredibly Sympathetic
Itachi originally comes across as one of the cruelest and most brutal villains in all of Naruto. After all, he's solely responsible for the Uchiha Massacre, and the reasoning he gives Sasuke is that he wants to foster his younger brother's hate in order to make him stronger.
The feelings towards Itachi that both Sasuke and the fanbase have been forever changed with the reveal that, in actuality, everything Itachi's done has been for the sake of his younger brother, rather than the lies Itachi fed him. In actuality, Itachi is and always was a loyal Konoha shinobi with the best interest of the village at heart.
8 Pain Will Do Anything For His Version Of Peace
Originally someone who desires peace and a staunch advocate of non-violence, Pain's philosophy becomes corrupted after he, Konan, and Yahiko are tricked by the leader of Amegakure. Becoming increasingly worried about the Akatsuki's influence, Hanzo invites them under the guise of forming an alliance, but turns around and has Yahiko killed instead.
This teaches Pain that a true non-violent, peaceful philosophy is impossible. He instead begins to believe that others can only want to work towards true peace after being exposed to intense despair and suffering, and he sets out to enact this suffering upon the world.
7 Haku Devotes Himself To The Only Person Who Gives His Life Meaning
Similarly to Kimimaro, Haku is treated as an outcast when his father — and subsequently, the entire village — discovers his kekkei genkai. Users are feared because of their use as powerful tools during war, and so they set out to kill the young Haku, whose powers activate and kill everyone there in an attempt to save himself.
After that, there isn't anything left for a cold and hungry Haku except to wander the streets without a purpose. He looks to have given up on everything until Zabuza stumbles across him and gives him a purpose, and while Haku's end due to this is a tragic one, he dies happily knowing that he was of use to someone.
6 Sasuke Is Still A Main Character, Even As A Villain
At the end of Naruto and for the majority of Naruto Shippuden, Sasuke switches from Naruto's teammate-and-rival to being an enemy of the Leaf Village as a whole. Defecting in search of the power necessary to take down Itachi, Sasuke turns to Orochimaru, leaving his allies behind.
Despite all of this, and despite the many heinous acts Sasuke commits as a rogue ninja, it's hard not to love Sasuke regardless. This is especially true due to the majority of the series taking place from Naruto's perspective, who remains hopeful and devoted to bringing Sasuke back even when he's at his lowest points.
5 Zabuza Redeems Himself In His Final Moments
Throughout the majority of the Land of Waves arc, Zabuza is painted as a merciless villain, who only takes Haku in to be used as a tool. However, Naruto is able to see through this facade, and Zabuza's actually shown breaking into tears after Naruto calls out his true feelings towards Haku.
Although Zabuza is originally hired by Gato to assassinate the bridge builder, he turns against his employer in one of Naruto's most memorable early scenes. He loses the use of his arms and manages to fight through a horde of mercenaries with nothing more than a kunai in his mouth before giving a soft apology speech to Haku and passing away by his side.
4 Deidara Uniquely Views Art As An Explosion
Deidara is definitely one of the more eccentric villains out of the Akatsuki, and he quickly gains a fan following after his initial appearance. He combines his artistic side with a love of explosions, creating all sorts of contraptions out of clay that he can then infuse and control with chakra.
Deidara is also one of the few Akatsuki members who's forced into joining after he loses a battle against Akatsuki. He follows his own whims and is simply here to satisfy his own twisted, artistic urges, which many fans can't help but find compelling.
3 Even As A Monster, Gaara Is A Fan-Favorite
Even before Gaara redeems himself and becomes the Kazekage, he gains a huge fan following, with many being drawn in by his unique powers — and his ability to somehow be even edgier than Sasuke. This following only grows as his tragic backstory is revealed, and the audience sees Gaara for the Naruto foil that he is.
Just like Naruto, Gaara is viewed as a monster by his village, all because of the jinchuriki locked away inside of him. Gaara has no one to connect to and no meaningful purpose, which is why he decides to give himself meaning through violence and destruction.
2 Konan Fights Fiercely To Protect Naruto After Pain's Death
Konan is one of the Akatsuki's founding members, as well as one of its most tragic. Instead of being devoted to the organization as a whole, she's mostly solely loyal to Pain, having been by his side for so long and having been saved by him after Amegakure's leader turns against them.
Konan is so traumatized by the events of her past that she doesn't speak during Akatsuki meetings and adapts an icy-cold demeanor. She becomes even more compelling after Pain's death. Since Naruto is the one Pain entrusts his mission of world peace to, Konan rallies all of Amegakure behind him in support and protection.
1 Madara Has A Unique Idea Of Peace
Fans are well-aware of Madara Uchiha's presence within Naruto's story well before he ever makes an appearance, and when he finally does make his way on-screen, Madara certainly doesn't disappoint. He's one of the Uchiha's most powerful members, with not even reanimated versions of the great Kage being able to stop him.
While Madara is made compelling from his fighting style alone, it's his ideology that really hooks fans. Similar to Pain, Madara desires world peace and has an incredibly controversial view on how to achieve it. By projecting his Infinite Tsukuyomi onto the moon, Madara's plan is to trap everyone alive in a happy dream, and he genuinely believes it's the best choice to stop mankind's eventual downfall.
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