The Best Movie Villains
What does it take to make the top 10?
1. A great, not good, great movie.
2. The villain needs to become bigger than just the movie, ascending into the larger pop culture.
3. Great quotes and/or unbelievably memorable scenes
I have labored over this more than a grown-up should, espcially a grown-up with a job. Perhaps the psychology of me working on this would make a great blog post for someone else. Considering the pre-list was over 1200 words, I should stop rambling and get to it.
10.Wicked Witch (Margaret Hamilton) from The Wizard of Oz
You know how some villains seem cliche? You watch them and you think, “Man, how many times have you seen a character like that?” The reason that some characters are cliche is because somebody, somewhere did the character first and was incredible. First of all, just the name Wicked Witch is cliche now. How about over the top villain death scenes–cliche. Was there one earlier or better than “I’m melting, I’m melting.” Think about it, at least 2/3’s of you when water has been splashed on you has reenacted that scene. She’s so evil she even threatens perhaps the cutest dog in movie history. I’m sorry, did I fail to mention the flying monkeys? How awesome are you if your minions are flying monkeys?
9. Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) from Fatal Attraction
There’s a lot of ideas out there on how marriages can stay together. Some states, including Arkansas, have covenant marriages which make it harder to get divorced. I am a big believer in pre-marriage counseling, where you talk about issues in marriage before they become fights. A new idea I am considering is making watching this movie required for a man where I perform his wedding ceremony. I think it would keep men on the straight path. She is crazy. I mean crazy with a capital K. 3 things to consider: 1) she boiled their family pet, a bunny 2) she had the family going crazy by taking their kid to an amusement park and making them believe the kid had been kidnapped 3) you know you had to change your pants when she raised up out of that bathtub. Krazy!
8. Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) from It’s a Wonderful Life
We talked earlier about cliched villains. Does it get more cliche than the sinister greedy old man pushed around in a wheelchair? (My Democrat friends may feel free to remember the images of Dick Cheney from Obama’s inauguration and laugh. My Republican friends may feel free to get mad at me for bringing it up) Maybe not, but in 1946 it wasn’t cliche. It was the creation of one of the most evil characters of all time. One that has been copied many times but never done as well as in this Christmas classic. He drove the nicest man in the history of movies, George Bailey, to almost commit suicide. “You’re worth more dead than alive?” Why? Because someone else in the town was becoming successful? Over what to Mr. Potter was not that much money? Just because he didn’t like him? Just for fun? Yikes.
7. Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson) from 101 Dalmatians
With all due respect to Glenn Close, who has already been honored on this list, the animated Cruella is the great villain. Mind you, Close did a great job recreating that character in a live action film, but the cartoon character was phenomenal. You may be thinking that there shouldn’t be an animated character on this list. You may think that’s just for kids. (Clearly, you don’t know me) There have been some great animated villains, and this in part is a tribute to all of them–Ursula, Jafar, Scar, the Wicked Stepmother. But Cruella is definitely the best. Think about it. She gathered all the dalmatian puppies in town. Why? So that she could skin them to make a coat, a disgusting evil fact that I wonder if our kids are really thinking through as they are watching. Shouldn’t that make this movie PG-13? Also, let us not forget that she has her own song.
I’m sure my daughters would rather I post a link to the Selena Gomez version–not happening.
6. King Edward I, Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) from Braveheart
This is perhaps my only indulgent choice. Perhaps this villain is not as epic as some of the others, but let’s be clear. This is the villain from the best movie ever. Therefore, he is in. If I were a woman, I could have included Meryl Streep from The Devil Wears Prada. If I were my daughters, I might would pick the stepmother from A Cinderella Story, or Another Cinderella Story, or Please No, Not Another Cinderella Story. Anyway, he brings that calm, calculated evil. He’s not really getting too worked up. He’s just perpetrating evil acts on Scotland, just because he wants more power. He also has a long, lingering over the top death, highlighted by him being unable to speak as his daughter-in-law is telling him that she is pregnant with someone else’s, not his son’s, child.
A compilation of his sinisterness (is that a word?):
(My favorite is when the guards see that it was the king that through that dude out the window and they take off running. “Nope, didn’t see anything.”)
5. Clubber Lang (Mr. T) from Rocky III
With all due respect to Ivan Drago, Clubber Lang is the best of the Rocky villains (With the possible exception of Adrian whose wet-blanketness sours much of the movies. I’m sure some would be offended at the suggestion that Adrian is a villain, but I stand behind it.) If you watch it now, you would think that’s just Mr. T being Mr. T. But no one had ever heard of Mr. T, this was his debut. This shtick was brand new, and it was incredible.
To write the quotes from his best scenes would be an insult to this performance and stretching the English language beyond its capacity, so here you go:
Case closed. Clubber Lang is in the top 10, and I pity the fool who disagrees.
4. Keyser Soze (????) from The Usual Suspects
Is it possible to do this villain justice without giving away spoilers? We will see. I know that the movie has been out since 1995, but just in case, someone reading this hasn’t seen the movie, I can’t give it away. Know this, this is one of the best plot twists ever, on par with The Sixth Sense and Empire Strikes Back. Is there more than the plot twist that makes him great? Yes. His origin story that Verbal tells of a rival gang kidnapping his family. Rather than giving in, he kills his own family. His legend grows throughout the region and ultimately the world. Yeah, I would think it would. Yikes. (Wait a minute, Pastor. You shouldn’t be celebrating an awful story like that. Response: aren’t we talking about villains, the worst villains? We can do cutest most wholesome villains another time. You can bet Swiper the Fox will be near the top.)
3. Joker(most notably Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger) in Batman and The Dark Knight
If you want to talk about highly trivial issues that I really think about, here is one: was Heath Ledger better than Jack Nicholson? I have an opinion in my heart that I am not ready to put in print for literally dozens of people to read. (Let’s not minimize the work of Cesar Romero as the TV Joker which included a ridiculously, awesomely bad movie. Or the work of, get ready, Mark Hamil aka Luke Skywalker as the voice of animated Joker on the TV series and movies) The Joker can do some of the most heinous criminal acts and make you laugh while he is doing it. I’m pretty sure I could write 1000 words on scenes and quotes on why the Joker is awesome. Maybe another day. Rather than do that I’ll just show you a couple:
Best magic trick ever?
Joker’s tribute to #10
2. Hannibal Lecter(Anthony Hopkins) from Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Red Dragon
We will start with a couple of great facts. He was only on screen for 24 minutes, but dominated the movie (reported as a record, but it isn’t). He also never blinked when he spoke. If you never noticed that (I didn’t), this explains in part why he was so creepy. One more, the actual quote is “Good evening, Clarice,” not, “Hello, Clarice.”(Quick disclaimer: Hannibal Rising with Gaspard Ulliel as Hannibal was not great and didn’t answer all my questions. That kid did a good job and the movie was a little better on 2nd viewing. Anyway, when we talk about Hannibal Lecter, we only mean Anthony Hopkins.) The craziest thing about this movie is that you are watching it and you find yourself rooting for him a little bit. Rooting for him? A cannibal? That’s just how cool this character is and what a great acting job Hopkins did.
Please, enjoy this:
1. Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones and I suppose, Hayden Christensen) from the Star Wars movies.
I don’t know what I expected to come bursting through that door into that spaceship after those soldier things with the white suits and masks killed all those other soldiers with the ridiculous hats, but what it was that came through there scared me but good. I mean he came in there all huge and stuff, with the scary breathing. Then he picked up that one dude with one hand and choked him. Then later he choked that other dude from a distance by moving his two fingers close together. Man! If that was all there was, he would have been top 10. But the more the movies progressed the better and more complex Vader became. He turns out to be the good guy’s real dad and redeems himself in the end. (That’s a longer discussion for nerds only, me included. How much redemption can someone that evil find in that one moment? My brief initial thought, not enough to warrant being able to go to green force glow heaven with Obi-Wan and Yoda. Furthermore, why does he get to be young in green force glow heaven and Obi-Wan doesn’t?) Sorry about that. I could talk about this all day. Did I mention that the quote, “I find your lack of faith disturbing is my ring-tone?” Anyway, then 15 years later we find out he was a cute kid growing up, an annoying angst ridden teen, an even more annoying young adult. What, am I supposed to be conflicted about him? No, pure evil and the best movie villain ever.
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