What makes a good movie villain? Being a truly bad person really helps, but also having the ability to conceal at least a portion of their bad side is also critical to being a really successful villain. After all, anyone can be bad, but it takes a little more talent to be really good at being really bad.
There have been a lot of movie villains, and this list of the top 10 has names ranging back to the 1940’s up to 2009 and characters from Science Fiction to Pulp Fiction.
10. Jake Sully – played by Sam Worthington in Avatar : Jake Sully turned his back on his own race, his fellow comrades in arms and even killed many of his marine brethren with his own hands. Along the way he did nothing to save the local inhabitants until many of the tribe had been killed. Let us not forget he stole his ‘brother’s’ fiance and did it all for his own pleasure and to fill a void in his life. The mark of a really good villain, being able to be a villain and appear to be the hero at the same time.
9. The Terminator – played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator : A perfect role for Arnold, very little speaking required. A cold-hearted killing machine from the future, the Terminator wiped out an entire police precinct, and did his level best to kill Linda Hamilton. The acting in this movie was a little scary, but the bad guy role was excellent.
8. Lord Voldemort – played by Ralph Fiennes in the Harry Porter Films : Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort symbolizes evil in the Harry Porter films. The character, as far as we can discern, has no redeeming values and his sole ambition is to be the ‘dark’ lord. Very well played this movie villain struggles to regain his lost thrown as he does battle with the young Harry Potter. What makes this villain so memorable is that he attempts to conceal his wickedness from no one.
7. Khan – played Ricardo Montalban in The Wrath of Khan : Taking a villain from the television series and bringing him back in this film was genies. It certainly did not hurt to have the role played by a superb actor, Rocardo Mantalban. Bent on revenge, Khan gives us great movie moments – “Revenge is a dish best served,,, cold” and “For hates sake, I spit my last breath at thee.” A really good bad guy.
6. The Joker – played by Jack Nicholson in Batman : One of the best actors of our time, or of any time, Jack Nicholson makes the role of the Joker come to life as never before. As likely to gun down one of his own men as one of his enemies, the Joker is unpredictable. A bad guy before becoming the Joker, his evil is magnified and unleashed as the Joker. A great role, played very well by a truly great actor.
5. Hans Gruber – Played by Alan Rickman in Diehard : This bad guy wears a designer suit, speaks very well, and is as cold and calculating as any bad guy in our countdown. Mr. Gruber will happily blow up a building full of people just to cover his getway, and he won’t even have to count to three before he does it.
4. Doyle Lonnegan – Played by Robert Shaw in The Sting : This movie won best picture and starred Robert Redford and Paul Newman, but there was a third member of the cast who played a key role in the success of the film. Doyle Lonnegan was the bad guy set up to be conned by the two grifters, Redford and Newman. His screen time was limited, but he was one heck of villain, ya follow?
3. Darth Vader – Voice by James Earl Jones in Star Wars : The persona of evil, Darth Vadar could kill with his mind, rather with the Force. He served the evil empire which thought little of destroying entire planets, now how is that for a movie body count?
2. Cody Jarrett – Played by James Cagney in White Heat : The oldest role in our countdown, this 1940’s classic showed the versatility of Cagney as he played bad guy, Cody Jarrett. Cagney showed pure evil in one scene, then could make us feel sympathy for the charter in the next. Look Ma, I’m the king of the world.
1. Hannibal Lector – Played by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs: Another gentleman villain who was not only a serial killer, but a gourmet cook and escape artist. This villain never blinked on screen and considered rudeness an unforgivable sin. How cold must you be to kill someone, then eat his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti? Certainly cold and cruel enough to make it all the way to number one on this list.