Content warning: violence, pedophilia, abuse, sexual assault.
Like any story about gangsters, the cast of Peaky Blinders is made up of murderers, scammers, thieves, and manipulators. Almost all of the characters are inherently evil, but fans still love them. Cillian Murphy’s Thomas Shelby is a great example of an evil character who is complex, and thus, compelling. He’s not evil for the sake of being evil, which is why fans root for him.
The Shelbys are often seen as the good guys when compared to the Peaky Blinders’ enemies – people like Luca Changretta or Father Hughes. No matter what extreme measures Thomas and his family take against their foes, fans support the Shelbys. Even so, there’s a clear sliding scale of evilness on the show.
Updated on July 24th, 2021 by Svetlana Sterlin: Peaky Blinders villains have a notorious reputation for violence, abuse, and ruthlessness. What sets the antagonists of this show apart from others of their kind is their complexity. For instance, Alfie Solomons teeters between Good Guy and Bad Guy for much of the series, though his level of deception and overall evilness doesn’t change – only his loyalty does.
13 Grace Shelby
Thomas’s wife is introduced in season 1 almost as a villain. She begins as an undercover agent trying to bring Thomas’s empire down. While she works with Campbell to uncover the Peaky Blinders’ crimes, she performs some questionable deeds, misleading Thomas, manipulating him, and ultimately betraying Campbell.
However, Grace is trying to serve a good cause in bringing down what she believes is an evil organization. Eventually, she comes to empathize with Thomas and understands that Campbell’s heart isn’t in the right place. On the other hand, Grace doesn’t have all of her morals sorted if she’s supporting someone like Thomas, who leads a violent gang.
12 Alfie Solomons
Alfie is hard to pin down since he can’t seem to make up his mind about whose side he’s on. He changes just as much as the circumstances around him do, but the fact remains: he takes any opportunity he can to gain power, no matter who he ends up siding with.
He has no trouble manipulating others, including Thomas, as long as it gets him what he wants. He’s even willing to let others die for his needs. Though he’s technically a good guy by the end of season 5, he’s not a good person at his core.
11 Michael Gray
Michael begins as a seemingly innocent child who, when brought into the Shelby household, has little trouble adjusting to the criminal lifestyle. When he gets the chance to exact revenge on Father Hughes, Michael carefully plans the murder. Though his first kill is understandable, given his traumatic past at Hughes’ abusive hand, it is by no means justifiable.
Furthermore, Michael goes on to fight, kill, and manipulate without any provocation, just to get what he wants. By season 5, he cements his place in Peaky Blinders as an antagonist when he tries to wrest the reins from Thomas. Michael becomes more powerful when he pairs up with Gina, his cunning wife.
10 Linda Shelby
The way Linda treats Arthur is the first sign of her evil nature. She manipulates and even tries to kill Arthur after he chooses Thomas over her. Throughout the show, especially in season 5, Linda pushes Arthur to change his ways to suit her desires, but in doing so, erases Arthur’s true identity.
Linda is one of the most disliked characters in Peaky Blinders, largely because of her conniving schemes to usurp Thomas and gain control of her household, which she shares with Arthur. Though this can be seen as admirable, given Arthur’s brief attempt at redemption, trying to murder her own husband is a few steps too far.
9 Gina Gray
Gina herself doesn’t get involved in violence, but she uses other tools to get what she wants. In the world of Peaky Blinders, she’s only considered evil because her agenda is in direct opposition to Thomas’s.
Gina also turns Michael into someone even his own mother doesn’t recognize. She’s skilled in persuasion, manipulation, blackmail, and strategizing. This doesn’t make her inherently evil, but her choices do.
8 Darby Sabini
Darby Sabini is the main antagonist in season 2 of Peaky Blinders. Viewers’ first impression of him is marked by his brutal and violent meeting with Thomas after he infiltrates his Eden Club.
Sabini’s vendetta against every member of the Shelby family is so strong that he’s willing to kill innocent people just to get to Thomas. He is the first real threat fans see in the show and the first time it seems like the Shelbys are really in danger.
7 Luca Changretta
Luca Changretta is one of the only antagonists in the show who actually manages to kill a Shelby. After he kills John, it becomes clear that this man is the greatest threat the Shelbys have faced up until this point.
He manages to manipulate Polly, attempts to kill Arthur twice, plots to murder Thomas, and eventually murders John – all in one season. Changretta may have had a strong motivation for his actions, considering the circumstances of his father’s momentous death, but his actions chill audiences to the core.
6 Chester Campbell
As a law enforcer, Campbell is someone who’s supposed to be one of the good guys, but he’s a corrupt police officer. His intentions become skewed when his mission to bring down the Peaky Blinders turns into a personal vendetta.
Campbell becomes totally consumed by his obsession with Thomas Shelby, which leads him astray in his duty to protect the public. As a result, he adopts violent, abusive tendencies, and is seen venting his pent-up anger by sexually assaulting women, including Polly. He doesn’t have a good reason to act the way he does, and his actions have some of the most devastating consequences. Campbell is also aware that his actions are wrong, but he persists in following them through.
5 John Shelby
Like the other Shelbys, John lives up to the family’s notorious reputation. Even though he’s different to his older brothers, John still has a mean streak in him; he’s blown up trains, has one of the highest kill counts in Peaky Blinders, destroyed pubs, torn apart clubs, and detonated the house of Field Marshall Henry Russell.
All in all, he’s erratic, violent, and dangerous. He shows little remorse for his actions and doesn’t always have the best reasons or thought processes before he acts. This unpredictability makes him even more dangerous – and evil – than antagonists like Changretta, even though John dies by his hand.
4 Thomas Shelby
Thomas may be the protagonist of the series, but that doesn’t mean he’s a good person. In fact, he’s closer to an anti-hero than a protagonist, but perhaps season 6 will see this change. As it stands, Thomas is the mastermind behind the Peaky Blinders’ operations.
The gang is known for concealing razor blades in their hats, which they use to blind and otherwise maim enemies. Thomas seems to have transformed during his time in the war, where he was violent, stole horses, and killed other men. Upon his return to Birmingham, Thomas makes many enemies with his immoral criminal activities. He rarely hesitates before hurting or even killing others, especially when money is involved. However, at some points in his journey, it almost seems like he’s on his way to redemption – or at least remorse.
3 Arthur Shelby
From the beginning of Peaky Blinders, the three oldest Shelby brothers are portrayed as coldhearted, ruthless, and extremely violent. However, it’s clear from the get-go that Arthur is on another level to John and Thomas.
In season 2, Arthur beats a young man to death in a boxing ring, burns down a pub with John, kills Billy Kitchen, and goes on rampages of anger where he beats up anyone he sees. Worst of all, he never shows remorse – except for a brief time under Linda’s guidance. Even after teetering in the right direction, Arthur chooses to return to his life of crime and violence.
2 Father John Hughes
Father Hughes exudes an eerie, unsettling aura from the moment he’s introduced on the show. At first, his evil nature comes across in subtle ways, but when viewers learn of his pedophilia and his abuse of Michael, the perception of his character changes.
Father John Hughes is one of the main antagonists of season 3. He’s a masterful manipulator and one of the only villains to truly get to Thomas. He blackmails him in order to get the Shelby to do his bidding. Hughes himself rarely gets his own hands dirty, though, and prefers to send his henchmen to terrorize the Peaky Blinders. Where other characters don’t show remorse, Hughes actually appears to enjoy taunting his enemies.
1 Oswald Mosley
A character based on a real-life politician, Mosley is depicted as evil through his fascist politics. On a smaller scale, he’s disrespectful to Thomas and Lizzie. He doesn’t have the need to resort to petty crime as the Peaky Blinders do in earlier seasons, but his evil is much farther-reaching.
The meat of his role as an antagonist will likely be explored in season 6, but even in his short time in the Shelbys’ lives, he’s managed to turn Thomas’s world upside-down. Mosley stands against everything that is good in the world: peace, equality, freedom, and love.
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