With the release of the Dark Knight Rises there has been a lot of debate about who was the better villain: The Joker or Bane? I spent a lot of time thinking over the matter and after coming to a decision about the two I took it a step further. I asked myself not only do the last few Batman villains compare to one another but rather how do they compare to every other movie villain to date? It was this question that lead to creation of the following list.
For this list two issues in particular arose that required me to further define and narrow down the list. First off I decided to exclude animated villains. Every Disney villain arguably belongs on this list and there so many that there will undoubtedly be an animated villain list at some point or another but at this junction I elected to simply exclude the bunch. Secondly the villains had to be human or very very human to be eligible for this list. There are so many villainous monsters throughout cinematic history that to include them in this list would be a difficult feat so once again I chose to leave that to a different list.
The following characters are the one that I feel are some of the most evil, sinister, memorable, unique and terrifying movie characters to ever exist.
SPOILER ALERT. PROCEEDE AT YOUR OWN RISK.
10. Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting (Gangs of New York, 2002)
After There Will be Blood it was kind of universally accepted that Daniel Day-Lewis is an incredible actor. While I was very impressed by his role in the film I fell in love with the man after seeing him in Gangs of New York where he played the beastly Bill, the Butcher. The man is a vicious tyrant of a crime lord who is all the more frightening by the complete power he holds over everyone. Cutting had the power that Falcone mentions in Batman Begins. He is able to kill elected and government officials in public and remain untouched. Admittedly a powerful and tyrannous gangster is not enough to earn a character a spot on the list. The relationship he had with Amsterdam was tremendous and the role he played for Amsterdam is what seals the deal for me. Amsterdam was forced to live and work for and save Cutting, the very man who killed his own father. He was forced to live with his personal devil right at his side and Lewis did an incredible job playing that devil.
9. Kaiser Soze (The Usual Suspects, 1995)
The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. Throughout the Usual Suspects Kaiser Soze is made out to be one cold and evil guy. We see the heinous activities that have earned him the fear of all who know the name. Part of the beauty of the villain is the mystery behind the name. The unseen is more often than not vastly more terrifying that what is in front of because no image is able to compare with what the dark corners of one’s mind can conjure up. The beauty of Soze lies within the fact that the entire film portrays him as the devil and his true identity is shrouded in mystery yet it turns out he has been right in front of us the entire time. Not only is the devil evil but he is slippery enough that he can escape from right under your very thumb. And like that, poof. He’s gone.
8. John Doe (Se7en, 1995)
1995 was a villainous year for Kevin Spacey.
Lust, gluttony, sloth, greed, pride, envy, and wrath. Never before have the seven deadly sins literally seemed so deadly until Se7en, all thanks to the work of its nameless antagonist. From the very beginning of the movie we see the vicious atrocities he has committed not only against the actual victims but against all of society. This villain steps it up from brutal murders once he turns himself into the detectives to evil mastermind. He is able to foresee his opponent’s next move so far ahead that even behind bars and in the custody of the police he is still able to fulfill his self sacrificing master plan. Part of the evil behind the man is revealed in his dialogue, in his absolute dedication to his brutal plan. In Se7en he played a real life Boogeyman.
7. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises, 2012)
Regardless of your thoughts on whether Bane was better than the Joker you have to admit that Bane was pretty phenomenal. As I have already mentioned in my review on The Dark Knight Rises review, Tom Hardy was faced with a tough job playing the classic DC villain due to the mask covering the majority of his face. Despite this difficulty he was still able to play one of the most intense and menacing villains to date. One of the great things about Bane is that he completes what the Joker set out to achieve. The Joker talks about how once the chips are down, these civilized people will eat each other and guess what? Bane puts the chips down and Gotham eats itself alive. That was another beautiful thing about Bane, halfway through the movie he wins. He breaks the Bat and takes over Gotham and puts it in a state of complete chaos and fear. How many villains literally win half way through the movie? Not too many
Also his eyes are intense and terrifying as hell.
6. Hal 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968)
While Hal might be the least human on the list he feels human throughout the story. Perhaps one of the most chilling aspects of HAL is the story he tells, where the technology man has come to rely on malfunctions and turns on us. Now this is a terrifying situation but imagine the worst possible situation: being trapped in a machine in the middle of outerspace, the furthest away from mankind any human has ever gone, and your ship wants to kill you. One of the spectacular things about HAL is that he has that cold emotionless feel of a machine yet you can still catch those little blemishes of human emotion and insanity. It’s the combination of these things and the fact that HAL was such an important and integral facet of the team’s survival that makes this machine worthy of the list.
5. Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men, 2007)
If you were to take a pinch of the Two Face’s love of luck, a healthy dash of the Joker’s insanity, and then were to add equal parts of cold blooded killer and of terrifying evil then the resulting concoction would be Anton Chigurh. Javier Bordem delivers one of the most astonishing, memorable, and horrifying performances in the past decade. He was able to play a character who evokes terror from the audience every single moment he is on screen. When he is alone, when he is quiet, when he is talking it matters not. Your eyes are going to be wide open waiting for his next terrifying move. It’s not just the personality that makes Chigurh but all of the little things that sell it. That smile as he cattle-gun’s someone between the eyes, or how he snarls as he strangles a police officer, the way he utters ‘call it’, or even the simple sight of his weapons. Anton Chigurh is one man without a sense of humor.
4. Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs, 1991)
Well this man might not be a villain technically, he is definitely just as sinister if not more so than many on this list. As chilling as any cannibal is it is the brain behind this monster that earns him his spot. He feels like Sherlock from the current BBC series if he was an evil madman. The fact is that Hannibal is a genius. He understands people and the nature of people better than almost anyone. His memory and deductive reasoning skills allows him to use every little thing you say, do, and are against you. He can read you like he reads a book and sees through you like a crystal clear pane of glass. Perhaps that’s where the true terror behind this man monster lies, in the fact that you can hide nothing from him. You might as well wear your insecurities and weaknesses on your sleeve because Lecter will find them and he will use them to destroy you. The fact that he is a serial killing cannibal only serves to seal the deal.
3. Jack Torrance (The Shining, 1980)
In the book Jack Torrance does most everything he does in the movie but in the end it really feels like it was the hotel itself who was the villain and that Torrance was simply its pawn. The movie does not portray Jack this way but rather as the individual whom the hotel pushed into madness creating the villain. Part of the terror around Torrance is similar to the reason HAL is so terrifying: the one who you have come to rely on and trust turns on you in a location you cannot escape from. A lot of the evil behind Jacky boy is the madness the hotel incurs in him, but unlike Lecter or Chigurh who are apparently inherently mad and evil we see his sanity slowly slipping away as the movie progresses. We get to see the man he was and then we get to see monster he becomes. The fact that mixed in with all of that anger and insanity is the joy we see him exhibit in his actions. In the end of the film we see the devilishly evil smile constantly creeping back across his face, we see him grinning as he gets closer to finishing his job. That smile on top of everything else is more than enough to earn him the number three spot on this list.
2. Darth Vader (Star Wars, 1977-2005)
Darth Vader couldn’t be a better and more iconic representation of evil. I mean he is everything a villain should be. He is overwhelming, menacing, has a deep and memorable voice, awesome mask and he is pretty darn evil. Sure everyone and there grandma knows that he is Luke’s father and that he is ultimately not completely evil but when Star Wars first came out he was that pure evil and dark antagonist that our hero needed to overcome. Sure the prequels humanize the villain who has become more machine now than man but ultimately they further build the character more, letting us better understand and connect with the character. Darth Vader is perhaps the single most iconic villain of all time and was a clear shoe in for this list.
1. The Joker (The Dark Knight, 2008)
Returning to the debate that originally sparked this list, not only is the Joker better than Bane, I would go as far as to say he is the better than every other movie villain to date. When I first started writing this list Heath Ledgar’s Joker was the first name I wrote down but guess who the second was? Jack Nicholson’s Joker. The thing is the Joker honestly is perhaps the best villain ever created. He is clearly the best Batman villain due to being the antithesis of the Bat but that hysterical insanity that drives the villain sets him on top. If I had been including animated characters in the list you can bet Mark Hamill’s many takes on the character would have been the third entry I wrote down.
What can you say? Some men just want to watch the world burn. It is this focus on destruction paired with his insanity and that evil cackle that make the Joker the best villain. And when the best villain was played by Heath Ledgar the world was given the best take on the character to date. While a Batman reboot might already be on the table it is going to be damn near impossible for anyone to surpass the incredibly high bar Ledgar has set.
Hans Gruber (Die Hard, 1988)
Amon Goeth (Schindler’s List, 1993)
Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds
Roy Batty (Blade Runner, 1982)
Mr. Smith (The Matrix, 1999)
After going back through and reading this list I have come to realize that written words cannot give the adequate justice needed for these movie villains. In light of this I now present to you a compilation of scenes and clips of each villain when they are at their most villainous. Check it out below and if you enjoy what you see be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel!
So again to reiterate these are the characters whom I believe to be the best movie villains ever. This was one of the more difficult lists for me to narrow down. I really would have liked to have done a top thirty-two movie villains list but it just isn’t as catchy as top ten.
So who are some of the villains I have cheated out recognition from? I feel that the Joker beats Bane and all other villains but do you guys feel the same? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!