Best Movie Villains (Part 1, Honorable Mention)
Wow, this was significantly harder than I thought it would be. Not because I can’t come up with 10, it’s because I take this stuff way too seriously and my list is way too big. So how do you narrow down such a big list? Answer: by adding some mini-lists. So, before we jump into the primary list, I would like to honor a few of the great villains that didn’t quite make it.
Top 3 Over the Top, Unbelievable, So Bad They Were Good Villains Played by Fairly Notable Actors.
3. Qualen (John Lithgow) from Cliffhanger
Back in Sylvester Stallone’s heyday he was saying yes to just about anything as long as it involved him looking bowed up and he was playing the down on his luck stud who needed a chance at redemption, i.e. Demolition Man, Judge Dredd or my favorite: Over the Top aka Rocky 4.5: Rocky is an Arm Wrestler Now. Out of this genre comes Cliffhanger with Stallone as a mountain climbing guide recovering from a tragic accident where a friend dies. Lithgow in his most over the top role to date (he is 3 years away from 3rd Rock from the Sun) is completely unbelievable and super-evil. He drops pearls of nastiness such as: “You want to kill me, don’t you, Tucker? Well, get a number and get in line.” and “Kill a few people, they call you a murderer. Kill a million and you’re a conqueror.” Very nice. Of course, the movie is going to end in fisticuffs and in the real world it would have ended with Stallone flexing at him and Lithgow passing out, but Qualen’s sheer evil makes him last a lot longer in movie world. Qualen is absolutely ridiculous but in an incredibly memorable and awesome kind of way and deserves some recognition.
2. Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) from Speed
Nothing says memorable villain than a legitimate actor playing a heinous, over-acted villain who is exchanging witty repartee with one Keanu Reeves. Relive some of these verbal masterpiece exchanges here. Shooter from Hoosiers and Neo from Matrix going head t0 head, a battle of wits to the end. Add in a performance from uh, you know the girl that starred with Stallone in Demolition Man, Sandra something (she’ll never amount to anything) and a bus making a jump over a broken road and you have and Oscar-winning movie. Did you know Speed won two Oscars? I didn’t think so. Payne is sinister, smart and has one of the best super villain deaths: decapitation on a train.
1. Khan (Ricardo Montalban) from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
This incredible performance was heightened by the fact that Montalban was in the middle of his epic run as Mr. Roarke. So for anyone who didn’t remember his character from the one episode of the original Star Trek TV series, his casting in this role was funny. This made it even better:
Seriously, does anyone believe that Mr. Roarke was ever this buff? I’m sure someone will want to convince me that this is completely real. Good luck with that. This role also gave us one of the most melodramatic, spoofed scenes in all of movie history:
Anyway, if I keep talking about this, he will make his way into the real top 10. Ok, one more: his dying quoting of Moby Dick is perhaps the best death speech. . . ever.
I initially had it in my head that I was going to make it the top villains only from movies that I really like, but the more I took suggestions and thought about it, I felt that the list needs to be epic villains from epic movies. It couldn’t simply be the best villains from my favorite movies. So that necessitated another honorable mention list:
The Top 3 Villains From Non-epic Movies That Cloften Thinks Are Awesome But For One Reason or Another Are Not Quite Worthy
3. Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) from the Back to the Future trilogy
Quick, quick name something else he has been in. Yeah, I had nothing. Perhaps an Ed, Freaks and Geeks, or Ghost Whisperer fan had something, but I didn’t. Bonus points if you knew him as Moose from his one episode of Facts of Life. (I love IMDB) In BTTF, he played himself as a teen, an adult, an old man, a distant ancestor in the wild, wild, West, as a punk, a wimp, a millionaire gambler, etc. What diversity. Also, whether you realize it or not, you most likely have some Biffisms in your life right now. Ever knocked anyone on the head and said, “hello!”? Biff. Have you ever said, “what are you looking at b***head?” Of course not, you are too nice for that, but maybe you have heard someone else say that. Anyway, again, Biff. Most importantly, “Make like a tree and get out of here.” Classic Biff.
2. Cyrus “the Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich) Con Air
John Malkovich is great in, well, everything that he does. The fact that he was willing to give us a vintage, over-acted, over the top villain performance is really a public service. That it was in one of the best brainless, obligated-to-stop-and-watch-if-on-TNT movies (a future movie list, to be sure) ever is even better. Sing it with me now, “Oh, nothing could be sadder, than the agent lost his bladder in the . . . airrrr-plane.” I could fill this blog with great quotes, but it would be easier for you and me if you just watched the movie. I will give you just one more, “It’s not difficult to surmise how Nathan here feels about killing guards; and my own proclivities are, uh, well-known and, uh, often-lamented facts of penal lore.” Big fan of ostentatious vocabulary words and phrases, big fan.
1. Magneto (Ian McKellan) X-Men movies
I have to admit that I am disappointed in myself. He should be on the real list. He is cool, calloused, focused, occasionally conflicted, Gandalf (I mean McKellan) is a great actor, and he has an intimidating metal helmet. I could go on and on. He looks like he’s just an old man in a freaky outfit and metal helmet but demolishes people, bridges, buildings and doesn’t blink an eye. Why not on the big list? X-Men, though I love the movies, are not quite “big” enough for the list, but his cool demeanor and him being smarter than let’s say everyone, made it very very close. “Are you a God-fearing man, Senator? That is such a strange phrase. I’ve always thought of God as a teacher; a bringer of light, wisdom, and understanding. You see, I think what you really fear is me. Me and my kind. The Brotherhood of Mutants. Oh, it’s not so surprising really. Mankind has always feared what it doesn’t understand. Well, don’t fear God, Senator, and certainly don’t fear me. Not any more.”