Top Ten Movie Villains of All Time
It's been often said that a hero is only as great as the villain they fight, and most of the time that does seem to be the case. Although in some cases, a villain can sometimes outshine even the hero, in a movie (i.e. Maleficent in "Sleeping Beauty). Whatever the case may be, villains have always played a huge role in various storytelling mediums ranging from novels, plays to even movies and video games.
That's why I've decided to compile a top ten movie villain list of all time. Take in mind, that this is all opinionated, so there's a good chance that not every reader will find their favorite villain on this list. This can be for various reasons. Either, I just didn't like the villain you love as much, or I might've not seen the film that features said villain before.
Therefore, if I fail to mention a villain you feel should be on here, then I apologize. However, any reader is more than welcome to list their top ten villains in the comment section below. Anyway, without further delay, lets get on with the show.
10. The Wicked Witch of the West
Throughout cinematic history, the Wicked Witch of the West may not have been the most complex villain that was ever brought to the big screen, but she certainly remains one of the more iconic ones to date.
However, why is that for a minute? What was her motivation in the original "Wizard of Oz?" Sure, they mention why she wants to kill Dorothy, so she can possess the magical ruby slippers that she wears, but is that a strong enough motive for us to believe she's a great villain? After all, her character is sort of a one note baddie that our heroes fear, so why is she even being mentioned on this list?
The simple answer to that is Margaret Hamilton's performance elevates the character to such a level that you can't help but admire the character. As you watch the movie, you can tell she becomes immersed into the role completely. Almost as if she's relishing in the part of playing someone so deliciously evil, and wicked, that her performance leaves a lasting imprint on you. Indeed, it's because of her over the top memorable performance in "The Wizard of Oz" that not only helps make the film a timeless classic, but she manages to give audiences one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time.
Whether it's Cruella DeVille or the evil Queen of Hearts, there's no disputing that Disney has always come up with great cinematic villains over the years. In fact, some of them have even managed to outshine the movies they originally starred in like the infamous Maleficent.
And of course, we've also had great comical villains from Disney over the years like Captain Hook, from "Peter Pan", as well. Indeed, animated Disney villains have come in all shapes and sizes, and they always leave a lasting imprint on you to where you can't help but be intrigued by them.
Having said all that, there is one particular villain that stands above them all, and that happens to be Scar, from "The Lion King." It's been said that the film was loosely based on Shakespeare's classic play, "Hamlet", where Scar kills off his own brother, and even tries to kill off his own nephew, so he can inherit the throne for himself. Not only is this villain sinister, but he even manages to make the main protagonist, Simba, believe that he was the one that killed his own father; even though that was a lie.
Granted, I could make a strong argument for a lot of the classic Disney villains to appear on this list, but none of them could hold a candle to the evil wickedness that lies in this animated baddie.
8. The Terminator
I'm sure many fans will argue with me saying how Arnold's iconic terminator role isn't a villain per say, as he's portrayed as a hero in most of the latter movies. However, in the first "Terminator" film, Arnold was the villainous cyborg sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor, who would later end up giving birth to a person that would become humanity's last hope against the machines.
Although Arnold doesn't say that much in the first "Terminator" film, nor does he have the most screen time either, he still manages to steal the whole damn movie to the point that even it's main star, Michael Biehn, was vastly overshadowed by it.
Granted, some could say it might be due to Arnold's star power, at the time, was so huge that it was hard not to love his character, but we also have to take in mind that he wasn't that big of a name, when he first starred in this role.
Of course, I know some of Arnold's die hard fans will argue saying how he's such a charismatic actor that even people back then saw his potential. It's a fair point but if that's the case, then why wasn't his movie about Hercules a success then? I mean if memory serves me correctly, he did make that film first. But then again, his voice was dubbed over in that part, so I guess it's debatable depending on who you ask. Therefore, what is it about his character that makes the T-800 so iconic and memorable?
I know I'm probably in the minority here when I say this, but I think the main reason the character was so iconic was because of how well written he was originally. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) said it best in his line, "He can't be bargained with. He can't be reasoned with. He absolutely will not stop...until you are dead.."
Just the idea of an unstoppable killing machine, from the future, that shows little to no remorse for his victims is not only terrifying, but it's actually a very interesting concept. One that lends itself to a lot narrative possibilities; which makes "Terminator" arguably one of the most underrated movies of all time.
And unlike the other villains on this list, this one became so popular, in his debut, that he was eventually made the good guy in the following sequels to follow up on his popularity. Quite a rare feat for any cinematic villain.
7. General Zod
Although I'm sure Michael Shannon will do an excellent job portraying Zod in the upcoming "Man of Steel", but I haven't seen it yet. Therefore, it's too early to say if he'll do the character any justice, but that doesn't negate how iconic the character was back in "Superman II", when Terrence Stamp portrayed him.
Even to this day, his trademark line, "Kneel before Zod!", has become one of the most famous lines in cinematic history. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator", Zod doesn't say too much in "Superman II", but whenever he does talk, you know he means business. Stamp brings a strong presence to the character, and the concept of a character who has all of Superman's strengths, but none of his moral weaknesses, makes him arguably one of the greatest cinematic villains ever conceived.
Whether you like the "Harry Potter" franchise or not, there's no denying that it's arguably one of the greatest movies series of all time. Not only is the entire series as a whole engaging, but it also has some of the most unique visual effects out there.
However, where would a great movie franchise be without a great villain? Enter Voldermort. Throughout the entire eight part movie series, Voldermort has either been trying to kill Harry Potter directly himself, or he's simply the mastermind manipulating things behind the scenes. Whatever the case may be, he's definitely one of the more unique cinematic villains out there.
Often pushing Harry Potter to his limits, and he's proven throughout the movie series that he's quite resourceful. Taking over Hogartz, and he features one of the most unique backstories ever created for a fictional character.
Warning: Contains Adult Language and Adult Situations. Parental Discretion is Advised
Mary is arguably the most obscure character on this list, but she definitely belongs on it. Mary is essentially an abusive mother, in a movie called "Precious", who does nothing but smoke, watch TV, and collects welfare checks through fraud, as she adamantly refuses to find work.
The film focuses on a teenage overweight illiterate girl named Precious (Gabourey Sidibe), who lives with her verbally and physically abusive mother, Mary (Mo'Nique). Throughout the movie, Mary constantly puts her down, while she even tries to make Precious believe that an education will do nothing for her in the long run.
Mary is not only downright mean spirited, but you can't help but hate her guts for how she treats Precious throughout the movie. In fact, this character is so bad that there was even a scene where she physically abuses a little baby.
If there was ever a character that I found myself despising in a film, then Mary would definitely take that cake. She's not just mean, but possibly the worst mother to have ever been conceived, and the worst part about this is....there's actually women like her that exist in real life....
Granted, there's a tender moment with her character at the end, but it still doesn't make up for how she treats Precious and her baby son, whom she physically abused.
Warning: Possible Spoilers in this Video
4. Darth Vader
Darth Vader is arguably one of the most complex villains in cinematic history. Granted, when audiences first saw him, he didn't seem to be that deep of a character. However, through each progressive film, we've come to find out there's more to him than just being some evil lackey for the empire in a galaxy far far away.
Without giving away too much about this character's origins, Vader was once a Jedi himself who was somehow lured over to the darkside by the evil Darth Sidious. Vader doesn't say much, but his presence and ability to take out his opponents almost effortlessly makes him one of the most intimidating villains of all time.
Add in the fact that he has arguably one of the most tragic backstories ever conceived, then it becomes easy to understand why this character has become one of cinema's greatest villains.
3. The Joker
Whether it's the Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill or even Heath Ledger version, there's no denying that the Joker is arguably one of the greatest villains ever conceived. Over the years, Joker's origin has undergone various changes like most of DC's characters.
However, in spite of these changes, Joker still continues to remain one of Batman's most dangerous adversaries yet. The self proclaimed clown prince of crime has not only spared various times against the caped crusader in comic books, but he's also battled him in the movies as well.
This leads us to the question, "who played the better Joker?" Sure, some might find the charming, campy and over the top performance of Caesar Romero; while others prefer Mark Hamill's voice rendition from the animated series. Heck, some people still say to this day that Jack Nicholson is the quintessential Joker.
However, there is one Joker that stands above the rest, and that one happens to be Heath Ledger's version. Not only does Heath pays great homage to one of the greatest comic book villains of all time, but he manages to put his own take on it, and make it into his own.
The end result is a Joker who's not only funny, but surprisingly scarier than any other comic book villain we've ever seen on the big screen before.
Joker's motives are never exactly clear in "The Dark Knight", but that's also part of his charm. Heath portrays the Joker as a textbook serial killing psychopath, who relishes in the realm of disorder and chaos. Forcing people to choose between their own lives, and the lives of others; while even putting one man's life in danger just to get a few cheap laughs.
2. The Devil
Where would a top ten movie villain list be without at least one mention of the devil, right? Like the Joker, the Devil has been in many movies over the years. Some of the films featuring him have ranged from great to mediocre. Now, I won't pretend that I'm some sort of expert on the devil, nor am I going to lie to my readers acting like I've seen every film to ever feature that red horned son of a b****, as I can definitely tell you that I haven't.
However, I have seen a few of them, and out of all of the ones that I have seen, the one that impresses me the most happens to be the version that appears in "The Devil and Daniel Webster."
The main reason is that whenever I think about the devil, I always find myself thinking that if he was real like the biblical texts describe, then I can imagine he wouldn't come off like an evil person when you first meet him. If anything, you'd swear he was the nicest guy in the world that makes you think he's only looking out for your best interests when in reality, he could careless about your interests. In the grand scheme of things, the devil I always envisioned would be something of a trickster. Someone that knows how to manipulate others into a false sense of security, while always looking to gain the upperhand for himself.
Unlike the Wicked Witch of the West, this enemy isn't quite as easy to spot, as he quietly manipulates things behind the scenes. Stabbing you in the back while smiling in your face, as he pretends to be your friend.
It's often been said that scariest enemies you can have aren't the ones that are easy to spot, but the ones that you don't see coming until it's too late. Although Walter Huston's character prefers the name Mr. Scratch, it's plainly obvious he's really playing the devil, in this film. And, an enemy that pretends to be your friend is arguably the scariest enemy of them all.....
Unlike the other things mentioned on this list, this is probably the most abstract pick out of all of them. In the film, "Rashomon", there's a samurai warrior traveling through the woods with his wife, but they're attacked by a bandit, who ends up having sex with the girl, and the samurai dies.
Later, there's a trial for the bandit, and you'd think the case would be cut and dry, as there was even a witness that saw the whole thing. However, "Rashomon" proves that isn't the case, as each of the four parties has their own point of view on what happened. And, none of their stories are remotely the same. This leads us to question...who's lying? Are they all lying? Or perhaps they're all telling the truth? But if that's the case, then why is each story of that incident different for each party involved?
What I love about "Rashomon" is that it shows the darkside of human nature, and how we often perceive things conveniently for ourselves sometimes. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying everyone is like this, but it's true that most people don't often stop to look at things from other people's point of view. And, it's true that there's always two sides to every story, but which variation of the truth will you choose to believe?
I won't go into too much detail on this, as I already covered most of my thoughts in my review of "Rashomon" a couple of years ago. However, I will say that Akira Kurasawa does an excellent job portraying a dark story about human perception, and how it's in our nature to perceive things that are often favorable to us in some way.
Granted, the film does show some goodness in humanity as well in one scene, but throughout most of it, we see how dark humanity can be when it suits us. Each story is totally false, yet each one contains an element of truth. Which story will you believe?
And to top it all off, each actor was brilliant in their respective parts which made it almost impossible to point out who was lying, and who was telling the truth. It's a brilliant movie to say the least, and it's one of my all time favorites.
Unlike most of the other villains on here, this pick isn't some power hungry villain. Heck, this pick is far worse than even the devil himself. Sure, the devil is evil, and he can tempt others into doing wicked acts. However, we still retain the choice to ignore him; thus proving that the devil only has as much power over us as we allow him to have....that's assuming your religious of course.
Therefore, in the end, what does this pick say about us? That maybe perhaps whether you're religious or not...that maybe....just maybe...we're our own worst enemy.. I mean think about it. Humans are the only sentient known beings on earth that have the capability of doing good and/or bad things. Because in the end, it all boils down to the choices we make in life.
How we choose to perceive things, and how sometimes our own nature can get the better of us. Whatever, the case may be, human nature will always be our own worst enemy....
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