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Great Movie and TV Villains

Updated on May 30, 2013

I like evil people. Not real evil people like Josef Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, Whitey Bulger or Jerry Sandusky, but fictional characters who can make a movie, TV show or book rise above the rest. And I’m not talking about live action cartoon characters like Freddy Krueger, Chucky or Leatherface. I’m talking about seemingly normal people with several screws loose. The type that would not get a notice if you passed them on the street. But you would not want to be associated in any way with them.

I have listed below several of my favorite evil characters. They are in no particular order (except for the last two). Notice I said favorite, not the most evil. These people are compelling, interesting. amusing and dare I say, occasionally humorous.

(Before I mention them, here are a few that didn’t quite make the list: Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) Damages; Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) The Sopranos; Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) Psycho; Randall Flagg (the personification of the devil in several Steven King books, most notably The Stand); Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) Sons of Anarchy; Gemma Teller (Katey Segal) Sons of Anarchy, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) Breaking Bad; The Governor (David Morrissey), The Walking Dead


Annie Wilkes
Annie Wilkes | Source

Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) Misery

This character was invented by Stephen King for his novel Misery in 1987. Actress Kathy Bates won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the psychotic ex nurse in the film version of the novel in 1990.

Romance novel writer Paul Sheldon, suffers two broken legs in a serious car accident in the remote Colorado mountains and is rescued by his “biggest fan”, Wilkes. She brings him to her home to nurse him back to health. She is a sly, mercilessness and dangerously disturbed woman who hides her craziness behind a cheery façade. Sheldon learns from a scrapbook left lying around that Annie was a pediatric nurse who had 11 babies die in her care. She becomes enraged when she reads his latest book in which he kills off her favorite character. She forces him to write another book which brings the character Misery Chastain back to life. She psychologically and physically tortures the writer (played in the movie by James Caan) by keeping him tied to the bed, breaking his ankles and cutting off his thumb.

Jules Winnfield
Jules Winnfield | Source

Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) Pulp Fiction

Partnered with Vincent Vega (John Travolta) in this Quinton Tarentino classic, he plays a merciless, and terrifying hit man who loudly quotes a biblical passage (Ezekial 25-17) before he wastes his hapless victims. He is truly a scary character, one I would not want to run into. Jackson received an Oscar nomination for this role for Best Supporting Actor. But myself and critics believe he really stole the show.

Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) Goodfellas

Pesci is teamed with Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro in this Martin Scorsese directed, organized crime drama. DeVito is an loud, angry, psychopath with a violent, hair trigger temper. It gets him into trouble when he beats a “made man” to death in a barroom fight and again when he shoots and kills a clubhouse boy for mixing his drink improperly (played by a young Michael Imperioli, later Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos). As shown in the below clip, even his friends are scared by it. He is violently “whacked” years later for the murder of the “made man”. He played a similar role a few years later with DeNiro as Nicky Santoro in Casino.

…..You think I’m funny? Funny how?

Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) The Shining

Another Stephen King character, Torrence is a troubled, alcoholic writer who signs on with his family to be the winter caretaker at a remote, closed hotel, deep in the Colorado Rockies. In the book, King, developes the character of Torrence as a fairly normal man being driven crazy by factors outside his power, (a common King vehicle) in this case the haunted hotel. In the movie, Nicholson brings out the violence and creepiness of Torrence. The ultimate scene in the movie is when he chases his terrified wife (played by Didi Conn) through the hotel. (see clip below) ….Here’s Johnny!


Here's Johnny!

“Paulie Walnuts" Guiltier (Tony Sirico) The Sopranos

Paulie Walnuts is the violent and highly paranoid underboss of the Soprano crime family. Similar in personality to Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas he has done his share of despicable acts and murders, including the homicide of his mother’s friend for a few dollars she had. Paulie is a violent, murderous thug despite his Roman Catholic upbringing, He describes Purgatory in the hilarious scene below to fellow gangster Christopher Moltisani . This is proof that Paulie is not only crazy, he’s delusional. Oh and the nickname "Paulie Walnuts"? He got that when he hijacked a truck he thought was full of TVs and contained only walnuts!

Paulie Walnuts

Clay Morrow, The leader of Sons of Anarchy
Clay Morrow, The leader of Sons of Anarchy | Source

That leaves my two favorites. I found it tough to decide who is better (or worse!) Both are very violent, but compelling characters. Both are ruthless and successful leaders. After careful consideration I have made my decision.

Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) Sons of Anarchy (SOA)

is my second favorite villain. One of the co founders and former leader of the California motorcycle club he has led the gang through running guns for the IRA, running protection rackets and keeping the town of Charming free of drug dealers. All the while battling with rival gangs, Federal agents, White Supremacists and others. He is paranoid and ruthless. Anyone who gets in his way, he kills or has killed. In the first season, he attempts to kill fellow gang member (and his stepson Jax’s best friend) Opie with a car bomb. Instead he kills Opie’s wife (and mother of his two children). Later, he attempts to kill his step-son’s girlfriend, a promising young surgeon. The plot fails, but her hand is smashed, ending her surgery career.. But the worst was when he murders his old friend and fellow gang founder, Piney in cold blood.

Clay is deposed as the leader of SOA by Jax in the last episode of last season. He is thought of as old, paranoid and overly violent. Many members of the club, including Piney, objected when he led the gang into a highly dangerous venture with Mexican Drug Cartels.

Tony Soprano
Tony Soprano | Source

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And finally number One!-


Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) The Sopranos

Soprano is the acting boss of the New Jersey crime family. He is a quick-tempered and vicious sociopath, but a very good leader of the gang. He has committed many murders and other crimes over the years and earned the respect of his fellow criminals.

Despite his violent leadership of a dangerous crime family, he is a likable character. Great screen writing and acting show his human side as he attempts to balance his “two families”. (the crime gang and his real family-wife Carmela, daughter Meadow, son AJ , mother Livia and sister Janice). One moment he is dealing with gang wars, problems with crime family members or the Feds and in the next scene he is arguing with his wife about the brand of Orange Juice she bought.

Soprano is often depicted as a loving but confused father and son. But that doesn’t mean that, like Clay Morrow, he will not take action against his own family members. He has shot his cousin Anthony to death, has had his daughter’s boyfriend, Jackie Aprile Jr., killed when he gets involved in drugs and suffocates his protégé and wife's cousin, Christopher Moltisanti, after a serious automobile accident. He is also tempted to kill his mother when she conspires with his uncle to have Tony “whacked“.

Tony is also prone to panic attacks. One of the ongoing sub plots of this series is Tony’s ongoing psychological therapy with Dr. Melfi. Through these sessions, the viewer gets a better idea of really what make Soprano tick.


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Who do you like better?

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    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 4 years ago from Cardiff

      Ah what an awesome list of villans! i adore the Sopranoes, Sons and Misery!! All great great pieces of TV/film. Brilliant characters played by even better actors. Nice list!

    • billd01603 profile image
      Author

      billd01603 4 years ago from Worcester

      Thanks for reading Daisydayz; I appreciate it. I'll be reading some of yours soon. But now I'm off to write another Hub

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Bill,

      What a great idea for an article...villains you love to hate! I got the shivers just looking at the photo of Kathie Bates as Annie Wilkes. What evil in the expression on her face.

    • billd01603 profile image
      Author

      billd01603 4 years ago from Worcester

      Thanks Daisy. I appreciate your view and comments

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      hi bill,

      as soon as i saw the picture and read the hub of your article i was drawn to read it. i remember the movie that kathy bates was in when she tied up the poor man. really interesting on how you incorporate evil women as well as men. thanks and voted up.

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 4 years ago from Japan

      Nice hub, I would say Jack Nicholson from the Shining would be No.1. such a classic shot of him through the door.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 4 years ago from Georgia

      Pretty cool list and good idea. The characters you mentioned in the TV shows make the show. We all seem to love a villain. A good writer and actor can make them come alive. I can't watch Misery because Annie Wilkes is so hateful and merciless. Voted up.

    • billd01603 profile image
      Author

      billd01603 4 years ago from Worcester

      Hezekiah, I had a video of the famous scene of Jack Nicholson breaking down the door with the ax, but the author took it down. So I had to replace it with the scene just before it. Thanks for reading

      Torrilynn and Cyndi, Thanks for reading. I'm glad I included Annie Wilkes in the list. I'm getting a lot of feedback.

      What do Annie Wilkes and Jack Torrence have in common (besides being crazy)? They are both Steven King characters

    • profile image

      Roger 4 years ago

      dilldo1603,

      I agree with you on picking Jules Winnfield. It's a shame black people are always up to no good.

    • billd01603 profile image
      Author

      billd01603 4 years ago from Worcester

      Thanks for reading Roger

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