Top Ten Movie Villains of All Time

Introduction

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.

I'll get you my pretty...and your little dog too!  Muahahah!
I'll get you my pretty...and your little dog too! Muahahah!

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.

Runaway and never return
Runaway and never return

9. Scar

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.

I'll be back
I'll be back

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.


Kneel before Zod!!!
Kneel before Zod!!!

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.

6. Voldermort

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

5. Mary

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

Luke, I am your father.
Luke, I am your father.

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.

Whatever doesn't kill you...only makes you stranger....
Whatever doesn't kill you...only makes you stranger....

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.....


1. Humanity

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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Comments 24 comments

Mel Jay profile image

Mel Jay 3 years ago from Australia

Great hub - not sure who I think is worse out General Zod, The Joker, Darth Vader and Voldemort. Actually I think I quite like Darth, Voldemort is worse than Darth as he has no redeeming features whatsoever. Probably one of my worst villains in movies is Hannibal Lector. Thumbs up!


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 3 years ago Author

Oddly enough, I still haven't seen "Silence of the Lambs" or any of the films featuring Hannibal Lector. I keep telling myself that I'm going to see them all one of these days, but I never gotten around to it. lol. Although I really do want to see them someday; particularly "Silence of the Lambs", as i've heard nothing but good things about it.

As for Voldermort, you do have a point that he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but to me at least, he wasn't as interesting as the other villains that I had outrank him, as I usually prefer more complex villains to be honest. Don't get me wrong, I do think Voldermort is a bit of a complex character as well, but i just find Vader to be more interesting because of his backstory....(even though that was kind of ruined by the first two prequels to star wars, but still....)

anyways, i appreciate you stopping by to read my hub, and thanks for sharing some of your thoughts with us. :)


marwan asmar profile image

marwan asmar 3 years ago from Amman, Jordan

I am not sure, when I think of villains I think of gangsters like the roles played by James Cagney, but maybe these are too old now, and I am just a reminscing dinasour


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 3 years ago Author

well as i said in the hub, it's all opinionated anyway. just because i didn't list any villain you thought should've been on the list, it doesn't mean that my opinion is any more right than yours. It's probably either I didn't see any of the films your talking about, or we might have differing opinions on them. it could be for a number of reasons, but it's still good to hear some of your thoughts as well from a fellow movie fan. thanks for stopping by to share some of your thoughts with us.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 3 years ago from Australia

G'day Steven and it's nice to see villains getting some credit :)

I can't argue with you #1 she scared the dickens out of me when I first saw the WoO way back when I was about 5 or 6 years old.

One I would like to put up is Kevin Spacey as John Doe in 'Seven' !

In my mind a very disturbing character !


Hezekiah profile image

Hezekiah 3 years ago from Japan

Nice list there, Another good classic one is Bennet from Commando !!


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 3 years ago Author

@hezekiah

Thanks. I'm glad you liked the list. As for Bennet, I can't say I remember Commando too well, but then again, it's been like over ten or so years since i've seen that movie. damn, ill have to rewatch it again sometime. anyways, thanks for stopping by.

@agvulpes

Damn, I forgot all about Kevin Spacey in "Seven." You're right that he did play a great villain in that film, as I can't believe I left him out. Oh well. We'll just say he makes my number 11th pick then. anyway, thanks for stopping by again, as it was a pleasure seeing you.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 3 years ago from UK

Ah - a great list here - some of my favourite villains. I also am partial to Alan Rickman's two great villainous turns- the awesome Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the scenery chewing Sheriff of Nottingham in the otherwise mediocre robin Hood Prince of thieves. I suppose Hannibal Lecter is kind of a antihero but Hopkins did a great job with him too. Glen Close's psycho stalker Alex is worth a mention too. One could always add another ten to the list I suppose. great hub!


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 3 years ago Author

Yeah, that's true. Im currently doing the same thing with my top ten guilty pleasure films of all time, as i had to sadly leave a lot of them out of my first one. therefore, im currently working on a second top ten of that list, so i guess i can always come back to this later on, and create another one for the villains. thanks for the tip, and i loved the men in tights film too, as that one still cracks me up to this day. lol.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 3 years ago from Australia

G'day Steven here is another one to throw into the mix!

Gary Oldman playing Dracula in the movie 'Dracula' (one of my favorite movies) You know I almost felt sorry for old Drac... almost ;)


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 3 years ago Author

Good recommendation. Another great film I still need to see. Thanks for the suggestion, as ill be sure to look into it.


Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

Nice list and hub. Joker is without a doubt one of the villains ever. Also I totally agree with the comment about Hannibal Lector.


Nickalooch profile image

Nickalooch 3 years ago from Columbia, MD

I am thrilled you brought up The Devil and Humanity. Both of those themes can bring up so many great potential stories. There is nothing uglier then how vicious humanity can be, and of course the Devil is the ultimate incarnation of evil which is what makes him a great villain for cinema. Great hub


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 3 years ago from Upstate New York

An interesting take on this topic. I would pick Darth Vader ; also Lord Voldermort. The rest...well...no.

Like you said, it's a matter of opinion. I thought yours were certainly interesting and well-written, as always.


amandajoyshapiro profile image

amandajoyshapiro 3 years ago

Excellent point about The Wicked Witch. Even a character from my grandparents' generation will haunt children for as long as they can see that movie. Just timeless.


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 3 years ago Author

@mike robbers

To be completely honest with you, I still haven't seen "Silence of the Lambs" or any of the movies featuring Hannibal Lector. All those films are up there with other movies like Citizen Kane that I keep telling myself I'm going to watch someday, but i never get around to it for some reason. lol Oh well, I'm sure ill find time to see those eventually. Anyway, thanks for stopping by. :)

@nickalooch

Thanks Nick. I think you made a lot of valid points there.

@Paradise7

Thanks paradise.

@amandajoyshapiro

Yeah, I think she's arguably one of the most iconic villains of all time, so how can i not put her in there somewhere? Anyway, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us. :)


Fullerman5000 profile image

Fullerman5000 3 years ago from Louisiana, USA

I was about to say no Hannibal. Need to get on that Steven. I would have to add Agent Smith, Hannibal and Al Pacino's devil in Devil's Advocate. Great list though.


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 3 years ago Author

Oh yeah i forgot about agent smith and the devil in advocate. those are some good suggestions. I'll definitely keep them in mind for my next list on this topic. thanks for the feedback. :) lol


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 3 years ago from Australia

G'day Steven, this hub is like a magnet, every time I think of a 'villain' I just have to come and check who else has added to the list. lol

Here's another I can't see on the list, he is from the classic movie 'Psycho'

and the actor would be Anthony Perkins a very-very disturbed young man.

I hope you 'enjoyed' the movie. :)


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 3 years ago Author

lol Damn, that's another old film that i keep meaning to see, but i always end up putting off because newer films have to take higher priority with me these days. however, ill definitely check it out though. thanks for the suggestions. :)


Ben Blackwell 3 years ago

This is a good article. I haven't seen all of these movies, but I have seen enough to enjoy this. Good job.


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 3 years ago Author

Thanks. I'm glad you liked the list. :)


hlwar 2 years ago

What a fun list! There's one or two I'm not familiar with, however, I agree with those I do know - especially excited to see Scar make the cut! XD

(I thought Michael Shannon's portrayal of Zod was quietly poignant, and the only good thing to come out of "Man of Steel". He did justice to Terence Stamp's iconic performance, while also building on the character's motivations and emotions.)


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 2 years ago Author

That's cool. I honestly liked Man of Steel though, but I can see why others wouldn't like it. As for Michael Shannon, I thought he did a great job as Zod as well for all the reasons you just stated.

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