The 50 Best Movie Villains
Posted by dorian on June 25, 2009
From Times Online
June 24, 2009
Heroes get all the hype, but deep down, we all love a good villain. I can take or leave the square-jawed boy scout, the do-gooder who gets the girl and saves the day; but the villain is a different kettle of genetically modified laser wielding fish altogether.
Villains have more fun and get most of the best lines. Movie history is littered with fiendish foes, evil overlords and malevolent masterminds we loved to hate. The summer blockbuster is the perfect breeding ground for evildoers and this year’s pageant of box office behemoths provides rich pickings, from robots out for revenge to muggle-hating wizards.
We’ve scoured exotic locations from hollowed-out volcanoes to secret space stations; dodged doomsday devices and nefarious plots, even sat down with some fava beans and nice Chianti; all to bring you the best of the worst. So sit back, relax and enjoy as we run through the villains that are good at being bad in our list of 50 fiendish movie villains.
50. Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) – Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
If you take all of the ingredients that constitute an evil mastermind and turn them on their head in a comedic bizzaro world, you end up with Mike Myers the crackpot crimelord. He’s the epitome of camp cruelty and the only villain on this list to own a tank of ill-tempered sea bass.
49. Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
There’s a few key characteristics that mark your card as a terrifying movie villain. Cannibalism, a mask made out of human skin and a propensity for slaughtering your victims with a chainsaw are just three of them.
48. Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) – Rocky IV (1985)
He’s 6’5”, 261 pounds and he killed Apollo Creed. Rocky’s hard punching uber-Soviet makes the weight on our villainous countdown.
47. Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) – The Matrix (1999)
Hugo Weaving’s virtual villain is the personification of The Man. His bland attire, ruthless precision and belief in the system is the perfect representation of middle-management automata; the real villains of the average moviegoer’s life made flesh for Keanu Reeve’s hero to beat upon before uttering some kind of heart skipping inflection like ‘Whoah’.
46. Kevin (Elijah Wood) – Sin City (2005)
Who could’ve picked the saviour of The Shire as a skin crawling near mute serial killer with a taste for human flesh?
45. Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen) – Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Give a man a razor blade and he’ll maim a half dead policeman. But give that man access to the ‘Super Sounds of the 70s’ and he’ll turn that torture into a cultural phenomenon.
44. Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston) – The Three Musketeers (1973)
The cartoon-like nemesis of the swashbuckling musketeers is a near-perfect villain and proof of the fiendishness well groomed facial hair can extol.
43. John Doe (Kevin Spacey) – Se7en (1995)
He cut off Gwyneth Paltrow’s head, an action sure to generate a strongly worded letter of complaint from Chris Martin at the very least. A brilliant Kevin Spacey brings a disturbing logic to this madman’s actions.
42. The Child Catcher (Robert Helpmann) – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
As a child, few characters were scarier than the greasy, long-nosed Child Catcher, who complete with hook, net and horse-drawn cage haunted many an afternoon. The overtones to the darker side of society are hard to avoid, which makes Ian Fleming’s creation unpalatable even today. Roald Dahl wrote the movie’s script.
41.The Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
Some of the villains on our list are terrifying, only one has threatened to cut Kevin Costner’s heart out with a spoon. Foes must be fiendish, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun; as demonstrated by Alan Rickman’s superb turn as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the laughably inaccurate Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
0. Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Until J.J. Abrams’ recent re-boot Star Trek films weren’t all that scary (or even all that good). Khan is the exception, widely regarded as Best in Show for the sci-fi franchise’s rogues gallery.
39. Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) – Unforgiven (1992)
Gene Hackman’s cold, gritty and wholly unlikeable small town Sheriff is perfectly placed in this post-modern appraisal of the western genre. Dagget is a masochistic tyrant and truly terrifying in a genre which has struggled for iconic enemies.
38. Jason Voorhees (Steve Daskewisz) – Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
An unstoppable juggernaut of death, wielding a machete and wearing a goalie mask, what more could you want? Few villains have the staying power of the Camp Crystal Lake killer, he even took on the future in the hilarious Jason X.
37. Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) – Basic Instinct (1992)
As terrifying as Sharon Stone’s deviance into the political arena, Catherine Tramell is one part sexually aggressive sociopath, one part classic femme fatale and definitely one of the most evil women to grace the silver screen.
36. Cruela De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson) – 101 Dalmatians (1961)
From her unsubtly symbolic name to her hideous appearance, Cruela is as overtly evil as they come, yet, as with all good villains, she maintains a healthy fan base able to overlook her manic attemps to skin puppies.
35. Mrs Iselin (Angela Lansbury) – The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Angela Lansbury’s saccharine sleuthing in the television drama Murder She Wrote is a world away from her superb performance as the manipulative, politically ambitious mother in this Cold War thriller.
34. The Hunter – Bambi (1942)
Not all villains have to be seen to be believed; and the cruel-hearted huntsman who gunned down Bambi’s mother is a case in point. While our other candidates are cold-hearted killers and intergalactic attack dogs, the hunter makes the grade simply as the source of more childhood tears than an inappropriately chosen shampoo. And to think the sawdust stuffed head of Bambi’s mother still takes pride of place in an animated cabin retreat somewhere. Despicable.
33. Hal 9000 (Douglas Rain) – 200:1 A Space Odyssey (1968)
While Kubrick was a bit out with his time-frame, he was spot on with his villain.
32. Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) – Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Successfully killing children, teenagers and nosey adults over an eight film, 25 year lifespan makes the Elm Street murderer a worthy inclusion on our list. Something about that hat and those claws still leaves us shuddering.
31. Frankenstein’s Monster (Boris Karloff) – Frankenstein (1931)
Karloff is outstanding in any of his numerous horror roles; this is probably him at his best.
30. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
He-who-must-not-be-named has terrified a generation of young readers who saw the muggle-hating dark lord brought to terrible life by Ralph Fiennes in the astronomically successful film franchise.
29. Phyliss Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) – Double Indemnity (1944)
Barbara Stanwyck’s irresistible performance as the double-crossing dame in this superb 40’s flick practically ushered in the era of the femme fatale in film noir. Witness the uncompromising self-awareness she demonstrates before shooting the man she has fooled into killing her husband: “I never loved you, Walter, you or anybody else. I’m rotten to the heart”.
28. Emperor Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow) – Flash Gordon (1980)
His wardrobe made Ming look more Elton John than emperor of the universe, but the green-blooded ruler of Mongo is every inch the intergalactic villain. Not only does he torture his own daughter and enslave millions under his rule of terror, he also attacks Earth out of boredom; villainy of the highest order.
27. Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) – Back to the Future (1985
If intergalactic overlords and maniacal killers are the stuff of fantasy, the school bully is a character everyone the wrong side of the tracks can relate to. Big, dumb and egotistical, Tannen is the archetypal bully no matter where in time we find him.
26. Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) – Blue Velvet (1986)
A violent sadist with a penchant for rape and torture, Booth is a psychotic underworld boss and a brilliant role which revived Hopper’s then flagging career.
25. Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) – No Country For Old Men (2007)
Sure he’s got a bit of a silly haircut, but that’s the only part of this hitman that isn’t 100 percent calculated evil. He kills without conscience or query and his only pause for consideration is during a coin toss to determine his victim’s fate.
24. Frank (Henry Fonda) – Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Henry Fonda was one of the heroes of Hollywood’s western production line. That was until the great Sergio Leone turned him into a cold-blooded child killer. Fonda was reluctant to take on the mantle of the villain, even turning up on set with contact lenses and a beard to help the audience accept his new persona. Thankfully Leone didn’t agree and a brilliant blue-eyed beast was born.
23. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Anthony Dawson) – From Russia With Love (1963)
The Bond franchise has villainy aplenty and a rogue’s gallery that could have dominated the vast majority of this list. Blofeld is the best of the bunch and carries the torch for 007’s opponents. Why? As well as heading a sinister criminal organisation, Blofeld is the pin-up-boy for evil geniuses. Scar? Check. White cat for fiendish stroking? Check. Console of buttons guaranteeing a creative demise for those who cross him. Check.
22.The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) – The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Wicked Witch is a startling anomaly in what’s supposedly a gentle children’s movie. Her cackle alone is enough to terrify the average toddler and with an army of flying monkeys at her command, the witch tosses beautifully crafted insults like candy to terrified babies before disappearing off in a puff of smoke.
21. Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) – Superman (1978)
Even Kevin Spacey’s regrettable recent depiction has done little to tarnish the appeal of the man who opposes the Man of Steel. Luthor’s insidious intentions are the antithesis of the cape-wearing boy scout and Gene Hackman’s magnetic performance is a blueprint for blockbuster movie villainy and even more remarkable when you remember he was playing a cultural icon of truth and justice.
20. Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) – M (1931)
So good is Peter Lorre’s performance that my skin crawls every time he utters: “That’s a nice ball you have,” to a child he later molests and kills. It’s all in those large, knowing eyes, and Lorre’s appearance is every bit as arresting as his performance in Fritz Lang’s classic.
19. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) – The Shining (1980)
Jack’s certainly not a dull boy and Nicholson is at his maniacal best in his portrayal of Stephen King’s writer come madman.
18. The Alien (Bolaji Badejo) – Alien (1979)
If movies have taught us anything it’s that if there is life outside our solar system it’s not going to be friendly. According to Hollywood, aliens will either strip mine our planet’s resources, hunt us for sport, or simply burst out of our chests during mealtime. The latter is the arena where Ridley Scott’s iconic critter operates, and the face sucking, acid-bleeding Alien comes out ahead of strong competition in the space race.
17. The Shark – Jaws (1975)
So profound was the psychological impact of Spielberg’s shark that vast swathes of America stopped going to the beach during the summer of the movie’s release. It’s easy to see why. Despite the wholly inaccurate depiction of sharks in the wild, a fake rubber fin and a blast of his theme music can still empty the water quicker than a rogue Babe Ruth bar.
16. Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) – Goodfellas (1990)
An aggressive psychopath with a hair-trigger temper. He’d be funny if he wasn’t so terrifying, and you’re never sure if he’s about to crack a joke or your skull.
15. Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) – Cape Fear (1962)
De Niro did a job in the remake but nothing touches Robert Mitchum’s chilling portrayal of meticulously plotted vengeance in this timeless thriller. Max Cady is an ex-con with a long memory who hunts down the family of a witness who testified against him with delicious malice. It’s testament to Mitchum’s talent that he carries this off while still oozing charisma at every turn.
14. Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) – A Clockwork Orange (1962)
Alex is a charismatic yet psychopathic youth whose pleasures include classical music, rape and ultra violence. Quite apart from the brutality he demonstrates in the movie, it’s Alex’s detachment from common morality and his inability or unwillingness to differentiate between acts of good and evil that truly disturbs.
13. Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) – Schindler’s List (1993)
Fiennes’s calculated cruelty as the Plaszow death camp commandant is a chilling reminder of the human capacity for evil and the monstrous actions of the Nazi regime. While his use of Jewish internees for target practice is instantly jarring; the subtlety of the actor’s portrayal underpins Goeth’s inhumanity, acting as a profound reminder of one of humankind’s darkest chapters.
12. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – The Terminator (1984)
Perhaps the only thing scarier than man is machine: fear of technology has been the overriding theme in movies from Metropolis to The Matrix. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator was unlike any mechanical menace that came before it. The cold, calculating and methodical way he dispatches his victims encapsulates the inhumanity at the heart of our obsession with mechanical malice.
11. Michael Myers / The Shape (Nick Castle) – Halloween (1978)
Monsters and mayhem are never far from October 31st, nor is a lumbering silent killer wearing a cheap William Shatner mask. It’s the silent inevitability of Myers that makes him so terrifying. Like all good villains you can’t keep him down for long.
10. Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) – Die Hard (1988)
Smart, charismatic, German and fashion-conscious; Rickman’s Gruber is everything a good villain should be. Gruber is Rickman’s second entry in our top 50, in what was his Hollywood debut. He remains one of the forefathers of over the top action movie villainy to this day.
9. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) – Wall Street (1987)
A villain of a different nature, but one who’s no less worthy of his place on our list. Michael Douglas is superb as the Wall Street investor every bit as reptilian as his name suggests. Despite dealing in dividends and dollars rather than doomsday devices and dominion, he’s every inch the arch-villain with a disdain for his peers and a jarring sense of ethics, or indeed the absence of them, which sets him quite apart from decent hardworking cinemagoers like ourselves.
8. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
The cold sadistic tyranny that Ratched demonstrates is frightening enough, that she exerts it over those supposed to be in her care is what really leaves me shaking. Louise Fletcher’s pitch-perfect performance led to a wholly deserved Oscar.
7. The Joker (Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger) – Batman films
The clown prince of crime has attracted top drawer acting talent throughout his on-screen career and George Romero, Jack Nicholson and the late Heath Ledger have all added their own vision to this most unique of villains. Both of the former bought colour and insanity to a dandy-like adversary, but it’s the late Ledger’s salivating performance that bought The Joker’s seething psychopathic self to life.
6. Count Orlock (Max Schreck) – Nosferatu (1922)
The villain of this early silent take on Bram Stoker’s blood-sucking bad guy laid the foundations upon which the conventional cinematic vampire has been based to this day. Many have imitated Max Schrek’s villain, but few have been able to recreate his alarming on-screen presence, and sound or no sound his appearance is still enough to challenge your intestinal authority.
5. Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) – Fatal Attraction (1987)
Glenn Close’s bunny-boiler is terrifying not only when flying into jealous rages at her married lover and his family, but also in her calm demeanour as she considers and carries out these acts. Alex Forrest is a compelling character because everyone can relate to her spurned advances and the basic human need to feel loved.
4. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) – Psycho (1960)
What makes Bates so terrifying is that he appears normal, and it’s only towards the film’s stunning climax – when that pesky oedipal complex kicks in – that we learn the extent to which he has lost his mind. Perkins was the prototype for the attractive, articulate yet psychotic villain that has become the mainstay of spine tingling psychological thrillers ever since.
3. Henry F. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) – It’s a Wonderful life (1946)
The purest representation of greed and miserly misery caught on celluloid, Henry F. Potter spits venom at every turn in Capra’s masterpiece. He’s the antithesis of Jimmy Stewart’s ‘heart of gold’ hero George Bailey, and exists without a shred of redemptive quality to counter his greed, malice and downright evil towards the good people of Bedford Falls.
2. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) – Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Despite coming a very close second, Anthony Hopkins’s courteous cannibal is still a terrifying prospect. Lecter’s calm demeanour, articulate manner and moral vacuum tick all of the boxes for cinematic psychological torture, while his penchant for human flesh crosses one of society’s final taboos. He’s visually striking too and the facemask and restraints have become a cultural icon outside the movie’s terrorising context. Despite his intelligent, controlled exterior there still lurks a vicious killer as seen during a frenzied attack when he bites the nose off a security guard and wears his face to escape.
1. Darth Vader (David Prowse) – Star Wars (1977)
The embodiment of evil, Vader drew boos from cinemagoers even before he’d choked his first officer. This instant recognition of his villainy, alongside his for-all-ages evil appeal propels the Sith Lord to the top of our list. Few on-screen characters generate such an instant emotional reaction from audiences, yet alongside such pantomime villainy Vader also manages to instil a sense of genuine evil. That expressionless helmet leaves no moral compass from which audience’s can draw empathy or understanding, and the hypnotic rhythm of his respirator points to something mechanical, perpetual and unstoppably evil that jars with every fibre of the cinemagoer’s being as if death itself had walked on screen. Evil of epic proportions.
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let’s add a few more, shall we? here’s one:
baby jane (bette davis) in whatever happened to baby jane, 1962