Sunday, May 2, 2010

The top 20 movie villains of all time

And those who disagree with me "suck cock by choice." -Deadwood

I think everyones a villain in deadwood. I've only caught a few episodes so far but the hilarious way they mistreat each other and every character in the show is pretty riveting. I love their old-timey foul language. I'm wondering how I missed this show in its prime in 2006.

So in consolidating a top villains list I've asked a few friends their opinions but I've largely disregarded them and tried to go with my gut instinct. I think before starting in I have to establish the things that make these characters I've chosen great villains. I didn't want to pick typical or even obvious choices. I'm hoping that in reading this list you might want to go back and rewatch some of the films these characters appear in and witness their offenses against society again with a fresh perspective.

So what am I looking for in a great villain?

-The intentions of the character. Are they the solid and unquestionable antagonist of the film? For this reason I'm not choosing or including characters like Daniel Plainview since he's the protagonist. I believe a villain is someone you're supposed to root against in a film regardless of the evil shit they're doing. I can't choose someone like Captain Spaulding from Devil's Rejects for the same reasons.

-Memorable. A great villain is a memorable character, usually more so than the hero. This might be because their actions are either so disgusting or frightening or they simply leave a greater impression on the viewer. A screen presence and a resonance with the viewer is why I chose the characters I did. Part of the memorability of a character is the delivery of the lines as well as the visual appeal of the character. Or lack of appeal.

-What makes them evil? What makes them wrong? It's even better when they're in a position of being unwillingly the antagonist. Are they just hardwired to do wrong or is there a moral struggle there? Either way it's interesting whether you have someone whose soul is pitch black or if you have someone whose trying to come to grips with their actions.

So why villains? Why write this post? Well villains have always been the most riveting characters in any film, at least to me. It's more fun to be bad ist the common excuse but let's think about it on a more psychological level. Most of us can't relate to rescuing our daughter from the mob or becoming a jedi. We've never seen Mufasa fall off a cliff and been scarred for life as a result of it or battled robots from the future. We can however, relate to internal conflict and the pressure to conform and feelings of loss, rejection, revenge...villains are weak to human emotion. "The Sith are fueled by their passion". Unlike the protagonists in most films, you can relate to alot of villains in a realistic way. They're motivated by rage, anger, or just out of spite. The best of us are able to rise above that, but for the majority of the human race, people fall victim to character flaws.

Without further ado I'm going to write the shit out of this.

20. Agent Smith-The Matrix.
I figured we'd start off with a chilling and nasty but also a rather bland character. Agent Smith isn't a terribly compelling or even interesting character but you get the sense that he cannot be stopped. He runs the "world" of the Matrix. He can bend the rules of reality. When the protagonist Neo is completely new to the situation and is learning his "powers" Agent Smith uses this to his own advantage. Hugo Weaving is pretty great in the role too, not only playing a singular character but an entire "army" of clones within the Matrix. He proves that you don't have to look abnormal or scarred or have a crazy costume to give off an air of evil. He's just a man in a suit with sunglasses and despite this, he's ominous.

19. Hook-Dustin Hoffman
One of two pirates to make the list, Hook is a pretty goofy character but I will still attest to this day (and possibly due to nostalgia) that Hook is my favorite of Hoffman's roles. Crazy. Classy. Sophisticated and frumpy to the enth degree, he doesn't really fit the bill for a text book pirate. Hook is an eccentric...just look at those goddamn glasses! He's got some good lines too. When I was a kid, Hook was the man, but in the Peter Pan disney cartoon, you just feel bad for him because he's totally inept. In this movie, Hook is like some warped artist who Peter Pan is trying to prevent from painting great things. He lives on a waterworld type air craft carrier and uses like steampunk technology ahead of his time. He also employs Bob Hoskins. Anyone who employs Mario Mario is a worthy and intimidating villain.

18. Amon Goeth-Schindler's List
In addition to having multiple pirates, we also have multiple Nazis on this list. Goeth is the first, and I'll admit I wouldn't have thought to include him if not for the lovely Tyler Lopachin (who is in fact, not a movie villain but rather a small boy who likes movies). This character is the epitomy of evil, without regard for human life. He's not just a Nazi following orders, he's sadistic too. You really get the sense watching him that people like him did exist at one point in time, and in the darker annals of the world, they still do. He's real cruelty personified, and there's almost nothing human about him, despite how he appears clean cut and normal to outward appearances.

17. Oogie Boogie-The Nightmare Before Christmas

Oogie Boogie doesn't really fall into the genuine "evil" category so much as goofy but at the same time, he's really out of place in what's otherwise kind of a kids movie. He puts it over the top. There's characters in this movie who are willing to kidnap Santa Claus and even characters who try to ruin an important holiday. There's only one character though, whose crazy and unscrupulous enough to want to BOIL santa claus and kill anyone who even so much as enters his lair. Even his henchmen (teenagers who run with the wrong crowd) are afraid of him. In a land full of monsters and ghosts and talking trees how can someone be dehumanized to the point where they're unrelatable? Well, not to give any spoilers or anything...but Oogie Boogie is made out of hundreds upon hundreds of insects functioning as a collective. He also sings jazzy sorts of music and gambles with snakes. I think Oogie falls into the realm of being so weird that he makes a great villain, which was important in a movie full of quirky weirdness and twisted morals. They needed someone extreme.

16. Jack Torrance-The Shining
Jack Nicholson's a pretty crazy dude...but when he's psychotic he makes for a great villain. I don't mean like the the Shining he's like axe murderer psychotic, and laughing about it the whole time. You get the sense that a guy having this much fun chasing people to their death is someone that can't be stopped. He's really enjoying this, and there's a serious creepiness and uneasiness about him when he's on screen. He's also probably the only "horror" movie villain (even though I'd venture to say The Shining is more of a thriller movie) to make the list, which means he had to be pretty damn good.

15. Barbossa-Pirates of the CaribbeanFrom the accent to the monkey to the ability to turn into a skeleton in the moonlight, Barbossa is the spirit of piracy. He's the iconography of the profession from the humor of the character to the stench of booze and body odor that almost permeates the movie screen. He can be threatening but in dire straights, he's been known to work with the protagonists. In the first movie however, he's purely an antagonist. He can be charming and civilized but at the end of the day he's THE pirate captain. Jack needs to step aside. As much as I like Hook, and even Davy Jones in the same franchise, neither of them got shit on Barbossa. I feel like this character gets overlooked too with some of the more "high concept" characters in the pirates franchise, but lest we forget the true nature of pirates. Just ignore that stupid pirate code.

14. Hans Gruber-Die Hard
Alan Rickman was born to play villains. In Die Hard, as terrorist/suave meglomaniac, he's one step ahead of Bruce Willis as John McClane throughout the film. While not neccessarily a physical threat, Gruber toys with McClane until he meets his predictable and yet graceful end by falling off of a building. There's something memorable about every villain and I think his death and his accent are the selling points for Hans Gruber. He's considered one of the quintessential dasdardly villain characters motivated by revenge and money, and I just wouldn't feel comfortable making a top 20 without him. For some, when Rickman was cast as Snape in the Potter franchise, it seemed like an unlikely choice. For those of us who grew up with Die Hard, he seemed like a natural for the role.

13. Alec Trevelyan-Goldeneye The Bond series is full of memorable characters, from the Bonds themselves, to the girls to the villains. But most of the villains are remembered for being corny like Jaws or Christopher Walken or Grace Jones being freakishly tall or Odd Job for being freakishly short. None of them are really even matches for James Bond. Blofeld is simply too old fashioned and out of place to be taken seriously. So who is the antithesis of James Bond? His best friend/Cossack traitor Alec Trevelyan. Once 006, Alec fakes Bond out in the beginning of the movie only to later try to seize all the money from England's banks with the threat of a satellite he plans to kill everyone with if he doesn't get it. When Bond calls him a common theif, he tells Bond he has a small mind. How can James bring himself to kill his best friend? Is there any redeemable aspect of this man or is the good in him totally lost? Or was he ever good? Combine this with the fact that he's a physical and intellectual aspect to James Bond and you have a worthy antagonist for just about any film, not just the slightly dated, Goldeneye.

12. Hannibal Lector -Silence of the Lambs
I think including Hannibal on the list is pretty much a given. I really debated it too since I'm trying to avoid horror characters, but for my purposes, this is ONLY inclusive of Hannibal in the original Silence of the Lambs. Despite his lack of screen time (as I learned in a recent trivia game only 15 minutes or so total) he's a really creepy screen presence. I mean...not only is he a cannibal but he's an intelligent sophistcate. There's quite a contrast there. He's a conversationalist who society seems to fail to understand. At the same time, he just might be psychotic.

11. Jabba The Hutt-Return of the Jedi
While not the main villain in Star Wars, Jabbas pretty memorable. Not only is he evil but he's disgusting. Physically unattractive and imposing, surrounded by henchmen and totally amorale, Jabba is not someone you'd want to be chained to, which is exactly the situation Princess Leia finds herself in. Given Jabba's track record of feeding his dancing girls to the Rancor when they try to fight off his sexual advances, Leia's pretty fucked, and not possibly in any good sort of way. Despite all the odds against her though, Leia proves herself as a resiliant heroine when she's able to strangle Jabba to death. For a dirty old slug man though, Jabba has a full arsenal of thugs, torture droids and even a sand pit with a vagina. He might just be one of the most disgusting characters in all of cinema. Revolting as a "person" and revolting physically too, Jabba is well deserving as a back up villain from Star Wars that still makes the cut.

10. Anton Chighur-No Country For Old Men

I realized that in a similar sense to Hannibal, my list will be invalidated if I don't include Lurch here. Now, I realize I'm in the majority here but I don't think this character is nearly as effective as some do. Crazy. Obnoxious. Silent. He's the perfect killer, but highly unlikeable. He lacks personality, but in many respects that failture to humanize him might make him all the more villainous. I think that might be the point of him though, you want him to be stopped but, SPOILERS, he never is. Eventually a car hits him, but that's only a minor deterrant to his rampage, like all other attempts to stop him in the movie. He employs a variety of tactis from compressed air pumps to silenced shotguns and coinflips (which serve no real purpose) to sadistically finish off his victims. Anton is a force of nature in the film, though I didn't find him nearly as memorable as he comes off in many reviews. Regardless of this, he's got a great and unnerving screen prescence and he's clearly the strongest character in this poignant film.

9. Scar-The Lion KingWhile he might be a cartoon, Scar is everything evil. He's physically deformed. He's power hungry. He's lazy. He's got a thick British accent. He kills his own brother. He's a failed politician. There's something very real and very sinister about him for someone whose not even human. His motivation is purely to be in control. Scars got a major superiority complex. He's pretty black to the core, but he's fun to try and attempt to relate to. The fact that Disney gaves him a pretty cool musical number really helps give him an edge too. Eventually, after a climactic battle, Simba doesn't have to lower himself to Scar's level as Scar is betrayed by his own subjects which he promised food to and didn't deliver. A fitting end.

8. That Yellow Bastard-Sin City This guy is a scary and rotten piece of shit. A pedophile whose impossible to be legally repremanded as the son of a senator, Rourke Junior (aka yellow Bastard) goes after the girl he preyed on years ago once his dad is able to use technology to regrow his nuts so he can carry on the terrible family legacy. This guy is so bad he sponsors a farm where another freak eats the women he murders/and or rapes. They mount heads on the wall and feed bodies to dogs. Do you need to hear anymore? You really get to hate this guy and when Bruce Willis decribes the way he smells, you don't doubt it for a second. So what sort of come-uppins can possibly satisfy a sadistic unreedmable assole like this? One of the greatest villain deaths in any movie. Bruce Willis rips his nuts off with his bare hands and proceeds to pound him in the face until he's "pounding skull chunks into the floor" Only Frank Miller had the cajones to write this shit, but audiences all cheered when this guy went down.

7. Frank Booth-Blue Velvet
Frank Booth isn't just some criminal. He's absolutely insane. He's a festishist and while vunerable, he's got some deep seated mental issues; possibly from frequent misuse of helium. He's memorable and scary because he's unpredictable. While generally unpleasant, he seems to explode and make split decisions in the blink of an eye. You can tell he's never kidding either and he absolutely believes every word he spouts, which is usually some sort of obscenity. "HEINEKIN? FUCK THAT SHIT. PABST BLUE RIBBON" is among his memorable lines. Another weird scene with Frank involves his need for "inferiority" in his sexual relations where he calls the woman he's "making love to" his mother but then yells at her for looking at him. It's unpleasant stuff to watch but you also have to wonder what makes him tick. While he doesn't die a very good death, or even live a very happy life, Frank is among the most mentally deficient and crazy villains in the history of cinema.

6. The Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot-Batman Returns While Danny Devito was the natural choice for the role of the Penguin, he completely disappears into the part. Many fans complain that this version o f the penguin is too much of a deviation from the comics, over acted, too dark, etc. but I think you have to put aside fanboyishness for a second and look into the tormented world of this unique character. This might not seem like a natural choice for this list, and despite the often corny and overly dark nature of the film at times, the character of the Penguin is funny, sadistic and deformed but also absurdly human at the same time. He's been rejected his entire life. Rejected by his parents and rejected by society. Even when he tries to ascend, Batman is there to put a stop to it because it's illegal. He gets more screen time than Batman too. So whose the protagonist in Batman Returns? Is it the tortured deformed man whose been trapped in the sewer his whole life shielded from human emotion or is it the crazy billionaire dressed as a bat who wishes to put him behind bars? As the penguin puts it "It's in human nature to fear the unusual" as he finds his parents a little too late after resurfacing into society. He lays roses at their graves in a pariticularly touching scene. Eventually, The Penguin lashes out at the society who rejected him and got his false hopes up as a "mayoral prospect" by attempting to kidnap the first born children of the city, of which he himself should have been one had he not been born deformed. The character is cruel...but can you blame him? Unloved by everyone except his pet penguins, in the touching finale of the film, the dying Penguin is carried into the water by his sewer raised pets, also rejected by society and unloved. This terrible and depraved creature was loved afterall. It's a very moving scene and a very sad end to a tragic character. An unwilling villain or a psychopath or just a pathetic man with cruel intentions? No matter how you slice it, The Penguin is a great choice for this list.

5. Captain Vidal-Pan's Labyrinth

So here's a character whose absolutely mean and ruthless and kills without regard for human life but he's also a man with scruples. He really believes that he's someone great. He believes that at any cost, he must carry on his legacy. He measures success in terms of achievement. There really are people like this, namely Republicans. He kills people because he believes it's the right thing to do and he'll be damned if any women or pesky kids stand in his way. But at any cost, he needs his son to survive him and he needs to win the war against the Spanish rebels. He's a man who sees in black and white. He has been told that what he's fighting for is right and that's what he believes in. Cruel competition and the progression of his bloodline and his race are his primary goals. He's pretty relentless and unstoppable too. When he's stabbed in the face, he simply sews his cheek shut. A soldier by blood, when his father gave him a watch as a child, he kept the watch his entire life so he could see the time when he died. This isn't a soulless villain, but a man of strict scruples who personifies militaristic cruelty.

4. Hans Landa-Inglourious Basterds
Suave. Charismatic. Aggressive. Thinks like a Jew. These are a few ways to attempt to try and describe the brilliant character of Hans Landa the Jew Hunter. The 2nd Nazi on the list, he really doesn't fit the bill of a typical Nazi officer. He doesn't seem outwardly prejudiced or rigid and militaristic. He seems like if anything else, a detective as he describes himself, and a particularly effective detective. He might come off as conceited but he has a reason to be. He's good at what he does. You also have to ask yourself, how can a guy this charming be evil? He's not necessarily mean or sadistic. Quite the opposite. He's polite and outgoing and multi-lingual, but his actions are purely motivated by furthering his own goals. I think everyone can agree that Landa is a great villain and a worthy addition to this list.

3. The T-1000-Terminator 2

What do you do about a villain who cannot be stopped? He can't be shot. He can't be burned. He can't be frozen and he can shapeshift, alter his voice and run faster than you can drive a car. He can go through walls and turn into liquid metal too. The T-1000 is a scary character because there's a sense of impending dread every time he's on screen. He will kill his target and rather than fighting him, the protagonists of the movie merely run from him the entire time. His powers are almost unfairly advantageous. You begin to doubt that even Arnold will be able to defeat this "machine" at a certain point in the movie. He doesn't blink either. He can act human and he can fake it but there's something distinctly wrong with him the entire time. Something totally robotic from his sharp features to his undamagable cop uniform which he wears for the duration of the film. He made famous the "T-1000" run too.

2. Darth Vader-The Star Wars Trilogy

The "big daddy" of all villians. Like a few others on this list, at one point Darth Vader was good. He was Luke's father, the mysterious ace pilot and Jedi, Anakin Skywalker. As played by Sebastian Shaw. Little is known about what drove Vader to the dark side (since the shitty movies don't count in my book) but Vader is the quintessential villain and is the driving iconography behind Star Wars, and even the sci fi genre in general. He's menacing. He has a heart and he's also the father of the central protagonist, which makes him harder to fight and also harder for the audience to hate. He has a connection with the good guys but for whatever reason, he can't seem to make the crossover. Unlike most of the other villains who are famous in movies, Vader is able to finally feel pity for his son and see the error in his ways. In his final moments he's seen not as a machine but a man, maskless and vunerable. It's one of the greatest moments of redemption in any film. Red lighsabers. The breathing. The imperial march. The voice. Everything about Darth Vader is villanious and iconic which makes him an integral part of ANY villains list.

1. The Joker-The Dark Knight Some of you might be thinking this choice is a bit of a bias...but where would such a bias originate from? Notice Jack's Joker never made the list and I consider him a separate character so it's clearly not a pre established fascination with the idea of the Joker. It's because I knew from the start there was something special and something memorable about this version of the character. The first time I saw Ledger's Joker I was unsure. This was a new take. A dirty punk joker. A long haired wild man. What was he capable of? Was he going to be some young menace type or a calculating psychopath? Then I saw the trailer and I knew as early as January a full year before the academy awards that Ledger would be in for the Best Supporter actor nod the next year. Then tragedy struck and Ledger died, leaving us this final (hopefully) great memorable film performance. By the time summer rolled around and the hype kicked seemed I wasn't alone. This chord that this quirky and genius portrayl of the Joker struck with me was striking with everyone else too. Tons of fans were hopping onto the band wagon. Whether they were teenagers or whether they were adult screen writers, just about everyone was able to be wowed by this performance and this character. How can you beat a villain whose right? Too fearless to be intimidated into the sense of morals that keeps the rest of society in check here's a guy who is basically speaking the truth. He's intrested in "humor" and intimidation factors to get what he wants...which he basically determines on a whim. He just "does things". When the law gets in his way to try and intimidate him into stopping by jailing him or threatening phsyical violence...he laughs in its face. When Batman gets in his way he's intrigued. Here's another man whose not impeded by the law and does what he pleases. But he does it to bring about justice to the masses. What does he owe them? Why do they never have to say thank you? For these reasons and his menace and his look and his various quirks and ticks that make the Joker seem like a REAL person, not just a real psychopath, the Joker is the number one movie villain of all time. In the past 2 years alone, he's garnered as much hype as some of the all time greats in cinema. He can never be truly imitated and his performance will never be forgotten as one of the most chilling and intense roles to ever appear on the screen. He carries a brutal and elemental film, a blockbuster of the most "dark" and unexpected kind. He might even make the viewer question their sense of morals...because as cruel as he can be, at times he makes it look like fun.

Well that wraps up this entry. Stay tooned' for more.

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