What makes a great movie villain? The answer will probably change depending on who is answering. For me, the character has to be one evil SOB. A great bad guy is one whom you despise. When the movie's hero takes them down, you feel like the world is a better place now that they have been dealt with.
This doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the antagonist's actions during the film. It is quite the opposite. A good baddie makes the movie more enjoyable. Sure, you're cheering against them and think they are evil, but it is fun watching them cause chaos.
So here are my favorite bad guys of all time in the movie world. I chose not to pick any historic figures. That's unfair. Any movie with Hitler in it would make the list since Hitler is one of the most, if not the most, evil person known to walk this planet. So the characters on this list must be fictional people. Also, there are going to be spoilers. If you see a movie on the list you haven't seen but plan on it, you may want to avoid the list. You have been warned.
10. Darth Vader - "Star Wars": OK, why is Darth so low on the list? He redeemed himself at the end. So he went from being this evil killing machine who force choked people to death for making snarky comments, to a dude who brought balance to the Force by killing the Emperor and saving his son's life. While Vader's actions in "Return of the Jedi" made him into a good guy, you can't discount how bad the man was in "A New Hope" and "Empire Strikes Back". He blew up an entire planet! Then he goes on and freezes a man alive. He was not a good person and for most of the series you're hoping Luke decapitates the cyborg.
9. Commodus - "Gladiator": The young emperor probably would have made this list if the only things he did were kill his daddy, frame Maximus and order the death of Maximus' family. That's pretty cold stuff. But the entire movie he is trying to bang his sister. On top of that, he threatened to kill said sister's young son. His demise was one of the only times I've ever actually condoned cheering in a movie theater.
|Commodus was born to be a Philadelphia sports fan.|
8. Warden Norton - "Shawshank Redemption": Warden Norton, played superbly by Bob Gunton, was the type of villain you hate because he is such a coward. He never does his own dirty work. He just uses his position to influence and order others. Norton never murders anyone like Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown), and doesn't rape anyone like Bogs (Mark Rolston), but he orchestrates Tommy's murder and knowingly withholds information that could clear Andy Dufresne's (Tim Robbins) name. It also pisses you off that he gets off light. Bogs is paralyzed for life, Hadley will probably serve life in prison after a career of torturing and killing inmates, while Norton gets off with a painless death. Yeah, he's dead, but I'm pretty sure Hadley and Bogs would prefer that fate to their own.
7. The Joker - "The Dark Knight": As silly as the idea that the Joker could bring a city to marshal law with the help of street thugs and some escaped criminally insane inmates, his character was awesome. Going into the movie, you knew Batman was going to win. He had to, right? Despite this knowledge, I still went into the final 30 minutes of the movie thinking the Joker was going to get the better of Batman and it wouldn't be until the third movie that Batman overcame the crazy clown. You can't mention director Christopher Nolan's Joker without giving props to Heath Ledger's performance. I'm fairly certain without him this movie doesn't get critical and fanboy love it does. It really proved the point that comic/superhero movies only go so far as the villain, and the Joker was the best we've seen.
6. Febre (Man in Black) - "The Musketeer": This was a terrible movie. It was a different take on the classic "Three Musketeers" and fell flat in just about every way. The one place where it excelled was the Tim Roth's portrayal of Febre. There is one scene where Febre kills d'Artagnan's father and rides away as the man's wife cries over his body. Febre then comes back into the screen and without a word cuts the woman down, and rides away again. And that is the very beginning. He continues this ruthlessness and unnecessary killing throughout the film and it becomes the only thing you're looking forward to other than this crappy movie ending.
5. Cool Ethan - "Slackers" - Yes, this is a obscene college comedy, but the character of Cool Ethan is in my top 10 characters, not just villains, of all time. He may not be the killer/evil genius that everyone else on this list is, but it doesn't make him less of a bad guy. The movie could have easily been made into a college horror movie and Cool Ethan would have been the stalking killer. If it weren't for hilarious lines and mannerisms, he's not that far removed from being that guy you're scared will follow someone to all their classes, steal that person's stuff and then kill them in the end. Cool Ethan does the first two, but then just tries to get our heroes expelled rather than kill them in the end.
4. Hans Gruber - "Die Hard": Has there ever been a calmer or cooler bad guy in films (Well, No. 1 on this list probably beats him out...)? Did he ever lose control of the situation? He was unarmed and staring his enemy in the face, yet was brilliant enough to create an alias and remember a guy's name from the building directory. He calmly shoots people in the head because they don't give him what he wants or because he knows killing Ellis will mess with McClane's head. Even at the end, you think there is a chance he might get a final shot off at McClane as he's about to plummet to his death.
|Don't let the whimpy gun fool you, |
Hans Gruber will pop you in the skull.
3. Neil McCauley - "Heat": McCauley (Robert De Niro) is similar to Vader, in that he has some redeeming qualities. There are times where the audience probably feels as though McCauley is the protagonist of the film and they end up rooting for him. I kind of held that against Vader but not McCauley. The difference is you could argue Vader saved the entire galaxy from a genocidal maniac. McCauley was a criminal, and although Van Zant crossed him, McCauley executed him and Waingro. Yes, both those men were criminal, and Waingro was an especially sick dude, but McCauley didn't murder them to help the world. He did it because they crossed him and ruined his perfect crime. As much as you want to root for McCauley, he murdered police several people, including police officers. He's not a good person.
2. Kurgan - "Highlander": Did you love Clancy Brown in "Shawshank Redemption"? Well "Highlander" is the best work he has done in movies. Kurgan is an immortal with one thing on his mind: becoming the one and winning the prize. For centuries he murdered men, women and children as he searched out other immortals to kill. The fact he uses a sword for all of his murdering probably makes him that much more intimidating and awesome when it comes to a bad guy. That and the fact he just has no moral compass.
|Imagine this dude chasing you and threatening to cut off your head.|
To Kurgan, humans are insignificant. He kills them with no remorse and takes pleasure in it. Finally, he just looks like a bad man! He is physically imposing, has the voice that would haunt your dreams and he actually succeeds where countless Bond villains failed when he killed Sean Connery.
1. Kaiser Soze - "The Usual Suspects" (HUGE SPOILER!): The scariest thing about Soze isn't that he kills anyone who gets in his way and also anyone who could be considered a loose end. It's that he is smarter than everyone. The other characters in the movie try to get a step ahead of him, but they are playing from behind from the get go and never have a chance to catch up. The result? Soze gets exactly what he wants and any witnesses to his crimes are dead. On top of that, he sits in a police station for hours, right in front of police officers and government agents who would have their careers made with a bust of one of the world's most notorious criminals, and calmly spins a tail that leaves them thinking another man is Soze. Oh, and unlike every other guy on this list,Soze wins.