Behind any hero, there is a villain. From the hero’s past, an accident (usually involving something glowing), or even out of nowhere, these characters arise and find themselves on center stage as they fight and try to bring our beloved heroes down. Villains, however, are almost as important as the heroes themselves. They create tension, cause tough choices to be made, and they’re frequently the climax of the film. We love a good villain, and it’s time they were celebrated.
With the recent Deadpool movie and the rise in comic book movies, we have seen epic villains in just about every blockbuster film this past decade. Not every movie bad guy has been memorable, so let’s look back on some of the great big screen villains.
In this list, we will be looking at all types of movie villains, those who don’t talk, those who are animated, and some that don’t even make it to the end credits. This is a ranking of villains and an appreciation of these amazing characters. So, let’s begin.
(This article will contain mild spoilers)
10. Ajax aka Francis
Appearance(s): Deadpool (2015)
Actor: Ed Skrein
Ajax, the villain (not to be confused with the dishsoap of the same name), is a fantastic compliment to Deadpool. He is harsh, British, and can’t seem to take a joke. His seriousness throughout the film helps Deadpool shine as he continually ignores and deflects the onslaught of verbal spitfire Ryan Reynold’s character throws. In a film full of humor and ridiculous moments it is only fair to have a serious character oppose Deadpool. He is the anti-Deadpool and with each scene he is in you can’t help, but want to see his ass kicked. Though he may not be a very momentous villain, he sure did help Deadpool rise up in this wild ride of a film.
9. John Doe
Appearance(s): Se7en (1995)
Actor: Kevin Spacey
Shrouded by mystery, John Doe comes into the film at a climax and completely takes over each seen he is in. Se7en creates a narrative of a serial murderer that is always one step ahead of detectives played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt. Every turn as they chase him, they are falling deeper and deeper into the path John has created for them. Kevin Spacey’s amazing acting ability shines as he plays a man doing God’s work, turning a sinful town into his playground. Once John Doe is revealed, the movie shifts and tensions skyrocket even when victory seems so close. By the time the movie ends, you’ll wonder what just happened and why some boxes should be left alone.
Appearance(s): Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), Thor: The Dark Wars (2013)
Actor: Tom Hiddleston
Thor’s brother Loki is a villain you can’t help but love to hate. He has his heroic moments, but he always seems to revert back to his villainous ways. Originally appearing in Thor, we see Tom Hiddleston play the god of mischief and chaos. He is whimsical and witty, while also being very intelligent. Loki is a great villain because during his tricks and deceit he is actually calculated about his tricks. He is fully aware of his surroundings, knowing what he can work with when it comes to creating chaos. During The Avengers, we see what he is capable of, we see that with the right motives he can turn the world into his dollhouse. Tom Hiddleston’s acting is fantastic as he plays a lighthearted villain, something that isn’t easy to do well. Loki is a villain that blurs the line between dangerous and helpful, he is always on the fence and it’s never clear if his “helping” is actually helpful at all. With Loki returning in Thor: Ragnarok, it seems his trickster ways will likely continue for years to come.
7. Deputy-Minister Mason
Appearance(s): Snowpiercer (2013)
Actress: Tilda Swinton
Deputy-Minister Mason is a villain we all aspire to beat. In Snowpiercer (which we call one of the most underrated sci-fi movies), opposing a working class revolution run by Chris Evans as Curtis Everett, Mason embodies high class elitism. She is the right hand to Minister Wilford, as they control a massive ark of a train through an ice age climate, changed through global warming. She wears fancy clothes and is disgusted by the hard working laborers of the back of the train. The back of the train becomes this fortress of poverty as it’s neglected and pushed deep with hardships given by her. Mason shrugs her shoulders at these hard workers as she sees them as nothing but meat. She is easy to dislike as she comes off as a rude person who cares little for others and is willing to do anything for her own well being even if it means hurting others. As the movie goes on you just can’t wait until she gets what she deserves.
6. Michael Myers
Appearance(s): Halloween 1,2,4,5(1978 – 1989), Halloween: Curse of Michael Myers(1995), Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later(1998), Halloween: Reserrection(2002), Halloween(2007), Halloween II(2009)
Actors: Nick Castle, Dick Warlock, Brad Loree, Tyler Mane
Michael Myers is one of the original slashers in cinema and he has been around for almost 40 years. He doesn’t speak and somehow finds himself killing year after year in his hometown in Illinois. With a traumatizing childhood and a long stint in an insane asylum, Michael Myers brings terror to those that either mirror his family or are related to him. He is a slow moving killer that creeps up on his victims and appears almost out of thin air. He is seemingly invincible and is almost impossible to reason with, which makes him so daunting. The original film features Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, as she is stalked and haunted by Michael. This movie made Jamie Lee Curtis the scream queen of the 70’s, which was destiny considering her mother was Janet Leigh of Psycho fame. Michael Myers screamed fame out of people and hopefully will continue to do so, even though plans for future films have collapsed.
Appearance(s): X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: First Class, X:Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse (2000 -)
Actors: Sir Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender
Without a doubt, Magneto is one of the most powerful mutants around. His ability to bend metals to his will is dangerous and he definitely knows how to use it. First portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen, he comes off as a mysterious man with a grudge against those that displace others. The original film begins with him entering a concentration camp during WWII where his powers first come out. Then later in life he fights for the equality of mutants as the world sees them as a dangerous group of animals, which reflects his past hardships. He is willing to do anything for the good of mutant-kind even if it means hurting regular people along the way. Both Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender portray Magneto a little differently as his character ages. Ian McKellen gives him the personality of a man that has been aging in hardship and struggles, while Michael Fassbender portrays him as a young man willing to do anything for people that feel like outcasts. In these films Magneto is a villain created from difficult decisions and the power to make a difference. Throughout the series we see that his powers help him realize that he is someone who can change the world and that’s why he can’t sit idly as his fellow mutants get hurt even if the X-men stand in his way.
4. Hans Landa
Appearance(s): Inglorious Basterds(2009)
Actor: Christoph Waltz
Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of Hans Landa, an SS Colonel during WWII nicknamed “The Jew Hunter” as he searched for Jewish people hiding in occupied France. That description of him alone is enough to dislike the character. He is deceitful every step of the way, and dominated the screen whenever possible. His personality would switch from happy-go-lucky to complete intimidation as he got what he wanted. His intelligence is a key factor in what made this character so great. He is multilingual and knowledgeable on many different subjected creating a villain that seemed nearly impossible to overcome. Quentin Tarantino is known for making great characters and with Hans Landa “That’s a Bingo!” for him as well.
Appearance(s): The Lion King (1994)
Actor: Jeremy Irons
Scar is the quintessential movie villain. He is a deceitful, power-hungry lion that is willing to do anything to become the King of the pride. This movie would not be what it is today without Scar. He is the commander of the crazy hyenas, played by Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings. Scar proves that his familial ties won’t hold him back when it means becoming king. He is a lion with a mission and he is willing to bring you to tears to get what he wants. Jeremy Irons voices Scar perfectly, giving him a dark menacing voice that fits his appearance and persona. As a child I used to be scared of Scar, he didn’t care for those around him and fought for himself rather than for others. He wasn’t a lion you could reason with and that’s why Scar is an incredible villain.
2. Darth Vader
Appearance(s): Star Wars Episodes IV – VI (1977 – 1983) Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Actors: (Voice) James Earl Jones (Filmed) David Prowse
A list of villains would not be complete without Darth Vader. He wears all black and has a raspy muffled voice, what more can you ask for? He is fueled by many different emotions, from love to anger. He is motivated by a deep love for his family while also being completely maddened by the fact that he is so different from them. He obviously wants to connect with his children and wants them to see that his side is the righteous path. His power has skewed his mind into thinking that the dark side will bring peace to his life. All the while the nasty Emperor Palpatine, who convinces him that the dark side is the side of power and stranglehold peace, is controlling him. Darth Vader is an amazing villain who is struggling with himself as he fights the world around him and his inescapable family. His original plans of the Galactic Empire controlling the nearby systems changes once Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia arrive in his life, completely disrupting everything. In the original trilogy Darth Vader sets the stage and it’s up to all of the other characters to fight against this powerful, intelligent sith lord.
See Also: All Upcoming Star Wars Movies
1. The Joker
Appearance(s): The Dark Knight (2008)
Actor: Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger, like Christoph Waltz, won Best Supporting Actor for his role as a villain. The Joker has always been the yin to Batman’s yang. He is full of illogical choices and has a knack for causing chaos around him. Batman is a hero for justice and the citizens of Gotham while the Joker is a villain for chaos and it’s all for his joy. The Joker is a character with almost a non-existent backstory that is fueled by causing as much destruction as he possibly can. He is a villain everyone loves to watch, he is a man with a plan and he sure as hell wings that plan every second of the way. Health Ledger’s acting ability is amazing in this performance as he shows that the Joker isn’t in it for fame, riches, and power like most villains, he is in it to cause Batman a little pain and blow stuff up in the process. From the opening bank heist sequence to the end, this movie is all about the Joker and it will always be a testament to how great of an actor Heath Ledger was.
Honorable Mentions: Hannibal Lecter, The Wicked Witch of the West, Sauron, Freddy Krueger, T-1000, Agent Smith, Anton Chigurh, and Mr. Freeze*
*I’m only kidding — Mr. Freeze is the worst.