Top Movie Villains
1. Magneto – X-Men
Michael Fassbender and Sir Ian McKellan have both helped make metal bending mutant Magneto an iconic and oddly likeable super villain. A fine array of wry one liners coupled with the ability to move cars, bullets and bridges with his mind makes him an impressively powerful and charming anti-hero. He also has a very stylish helmet and a surprisingly sympathetic reason for waging war on the human race. Honestly if he let me wear a cape I’d probably join his side.
2. The Grand High Witch – The Witches
Roald Dahl is the undisputed master of grim fairy tales and his most sinister creation is undoubtedly the child hating Grand High Witch, brought to repulsive life in Nicolas Roeg’s film version by Angelica Huston and some convincingly horrific makeup.
The only thing more nightmare inducing than the infamous scene where she lays out her plan to exterminate children to a ballroom full of her ugly minions, is her gruesome eventual demise. She’s also one of the few villains in a children’s film who actually manages to do something very nasty to our young hero, turning him into a mouse. There’s nothing more scary than knowing that even the obnoxiously cute lead actor isn’t safe.
3. Scar – The Lion King
He might be just a cartoon but Jeremy Irons breathed malevolent life into one of Disney’s finest villains in The Lion King. It’s hard to say if his finest moment is the memorably melodic musical number Be Prepared or the way he ruthlessly dispatches King Mufasa before ticking his distraught nephew Simba into blaming himself for his father’s demise. Either way he’s responsible for making a generation of children question the circle of life and cry in cinemas for the first time.
Disney has given us a host of great villains though and honourable mention must also go to evil octo-lady Ursula from the little Mermaid. Her habit of turning people into shrivelled sea worms and harassing hot redheads made her pretty scary too.
4. Hal – 2001
The psychotic spaceship computer from 2001: A space odyssey is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of when technology turns evil. The simple combination of an unblinking red eyed star and a creepy voice asking “What are you doing Dave?” is enough to make you want to unplug your laptop immediately. It’s also the main reason why I’ll never fully trust Microsoft Sam.
5. Frank – Once Upon A time In The West
‘Once upon the time In the West’ is arguably Sergio Leone’s greatest western masterpiece and casting Henry Fonda as ruthless gunslinger Frank is perhaps one of the most sublime pieces of stunt casting ever. In the opening scene Frank’s gang brutally murders an entire family with Fonda personally finishing off a young survivor from point blank range. It’s hard to explain just how shocking this was at the time for audiences so accustomed to seeing Fonda as the definitive likeable hero. It’s as disturbing as a puppy with rabies and a mesmerising performance of unflinching evil.
6. Ivan Drago – Rocky IV
There’s something so delightfully kitsch and ridiculous about Dolph Lundgren’s monosyllabic muscle mountain in Rocky IV that it’s impossible to fear or hate him, even while he’s beating Rocky’s best friend Apollo Creed to death. The fact that in real life Dolph Lundgren is literally a nuclear physicist makes it even more hilarious when he comes out with classic lines like “I must break you” Throw in some very short shorts, a lot of baby oil and cheesy training montages set to classic 80s power rock and you have a recipe for camp villain excellence.
7. Colonel Hans Landa – Inglorious Basterds
In Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards Christoph Waltz brought a decidedly more sinister tone to a character with a charmingly thick European accent. As the Nazi’s chief Jew hunter Colonel Hans is the epitome of the charismatic psychopath. His casual interrogation of a nervous French farmer is a slow painful dance with the devil that has a predictably violent conclusion. There’s something far more dangerous and detestable about a villain who’s actually smart enough to catch the good guys.
8. Keyser Soze – The Usual Suspects
The villain of the usual suspects is a fantastic example of how you can be utterly afraid of someone you’ve never even met. Listening to a motley crew of crooks and thugs telling tall tales of Keyser Soze’s sinister deeds slowly elevates him to the mythical status of near omnipresent evil. By the end you’ll be convinced it was probably Keyser Soze that stole that watch you can’t find.
9. Hannibal Lecter – Silence Of The Lambs
Anthony Hopkins seductive charm as cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter is so great that it’s simply easy to forget he’s a psychopathic monster who eats people. Watching him trade wits and playful banter with young FBI agent Clarice Starling through a plexi-glass prison wall is one of the most electrifying experiences in film history. Although the most startling thing is that when he does finally make his horrific escape it’s surprisingly hard not to find yourself cheering. He’s the most gruesome but effective anti-hero.
10. Wicked Witch of the West – The Wizard Of Oz
She’s mean, green and she’ll get your little dog too! The wicked witch of the west is a timeless villain with a classic evil cackle and an army of nasty winged monkeys. When the Munchkins are barely finished welcoming you with song, you’re really not ready for the hook nosed harbinger of doggy doom swooping in on her broom. Although as with many villains her most awful moment is her infamous ending, as she melts away lamenting “What a world! what a cruel cruel world!”.
11. Mombi – Return to Oz.
Not having learnt her lesson, when Dorothy went back to Oz for Disney’ surprisingly dark sequel she met an even more sinister foe. Mombi the witch with a thousand stolen heads. Even as an adult it’s hard not to be left a bit terrified looking at an endless row of severed human heads trapped alive in glass cases.
12. Hans Gruber – Die Hard
Hollywood has a fine tradition of using gifted European thespians as action movie baddies, but the very best of the bunch has to be Alan Rickman’s snooty criminal mastermind in Die Hard. There’s something delightful about listening to him quote classical literature or make smarmy small talk about good tailoring while leading a crew of eurobaddies in a vicious heist job.
Rickman’s turn as an evil ventriloquist as Professor Snape could have been on this list if he was actually a little more villainous.
13. Lord Voldemort – Harry Potter
He who shall not be named, Lord Voldemort is a villain so evil you can’t even say his name! That is pretty impressive, as is the title as the most powerful dark wizard of all time. Although he does loose quite a few cool points for lacking a nose and for being ultimately defeated by a bunch of teenagers with names like Neville Longbottom.
14. The Child Catcher – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
It’s really all right here in the name isn’t it? What could possibly be scarier than a hideously creepy man literally luring children into his giant net with the promise of “Lollipops, Lollipops and candy”. Created by Roald Dahl who wrote the screenplay for the otherwise sweet childish adventure it’s pretty hard to ignore the characters paedophilic undertones . But at least he taught generations of kids not to get in the back of a van just because someone says it’s full of ice cream.
15. Darth Vader – Star Wars
Darth Vader is the undisputed daddy of movie villains and the only person who made it slightly cool to have asthma at school. He’s so strong with the dark side he’s quite happy to use the force to strangle people on his own side! A towering Jedi nightmare he’s more machine than man, twisted and evil. An expressionless black mask and James Earl Jones gravelly voice give him added gravitas as he wielded his glowing red lightsabre.
16. The Joker
From Jack Nicholson’s clown prince to Heath Ledger’s twisted jester, The Joker has always been THE most compelling comicbook villain; simply because he’s not after world domination, money or even revenge. He’s just a lunatic who wants to watch the world burn. Playfully psychotic , destructive and dangerously unpredictable he’s the ultimate evil clown.
First seen in Ridley Scott’s classic 1979 sci-fi horror that came with the ominous tagline “In space no one can hear you scream”, this Alien is undoubtedly not a close encounter of the friendly kind.
Designed by Swiss surrealist artist H.R.Giger it’s a walking Freudian nightmare. It’s got sulphuric acid for blood and a face so nasty it actually has two mouths full of razor sharp teeth.
Its first appearance on screen has to go down as one of the most terrifying dinner fiascos of all time, as the alien literally bursts out of the chest of adored British character actor John Hurt in front of his terrified and dumbfound crewmates. Ultimately the only things that can kill this perfect monster is fire and Sigourney weaver in her underwear.
In recognition of being so convincingly terrifying, Alien won a Oscar for best visual effects. One particularly clever device is that in Alien Ridley Scott set the speed of the background engine thumps on the Nostromo to just above resting heart rate, teasing your heart into keeping pace.
18. Roy Batty – Bladerunner
In Ridley Scott’s dystopian sci-fi classic Blade Runner Rutger Hauger played Roy Batty a vicious android determined to survive at any cost. His genius intellect and superhuman strength made him more than a match for Harrison Ford as the rough edged detective reluctantly obliged to hunt him down. A memorable death scene where he philosophises about moonbeams on a rainy rooftop is oddly moving given all his other murderous android antics.
19. The Terminator
The Terminator is one of the greatest movie villains partly because he’s a time travelling cyborg with a super computer brain that will never eat, sleep or stop until he kills you. But mostly it’s because despite all this he has an apparent penchant for leather and a suspiciously Austrian accent. Despite inevitably becoming a hero in the sequel, in his first outing The Terminator was all bad.
Another Arnie action classic saw him square up against an invisible alien monster that hunts people for sport and keeps their skulls for trophies. Taking a literal approach to our fear of what we can’t see, this was the ultimate rumble in the jungle. When we finally do get to see the 7 foot monster it doesn’t disappoint either. Sporting dreadlocks and one heck of an ugly mouth, for once in his life Arnie is the underdog.
Jaws has to be the ultimate movie villain because it’s the movie monster that has literally given generations of people across the world a phobia of swimming in the ocean. Most of the credit has to go to John Williams’s ominous and minimalistic soundtrack masterpiece. With just a few notes he made the tranquil surface of water absolutely terrifying with the fear of what was lurking underneath. Jaws only kills one dog and about 6 people but the fact that sharks are really swimming around out there waiting to eat us all is enough to make anyone nervous to get on the Lillo.