About Me

My photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ten greatest movie villains?

Try this list.

I don't think it's a bad list - it's an almost impossible job, and my top-of-my head choices for the first few positions would have been similar. But that may be because I also tend to fall, as I think this list does, into a bit of recentism.

Let's think about who is missing, and we may become more critical. The big one that leapt out at me was Ernst Blofeld, who should surely be in the top 5 ... and perhaps higher than anyone who actually gets mentioned. I have a great fondness for Fritz Lang's Metropolis, so I also quickly thought of Rotwang and the False Maria. But now many others are crowding into my mind. I notice that none of the bad guys from classic Westerns are there, for example. And none of the James Bond villains are listed - it's not just Blofeld who is missing.

Then there are lots of questions about what counts as a villain. Is Frankenstein's monster a villain, exactly? Perhaps Dracula has a better a claim. I note that they don't count the demon in The Exorcist, since they restrict themselves to flesh and blood characters, but you'd think Dracula might still count.

Anyway, how about you? I don't mean, "Do you count as a villain?" I mean, "Who do you think should be on the list?"


Russell Blackford said...

I also have some personal favourites that I wouldn't be wanting to argue for, but they raise some issues. Unfortunately, Dr. Doom did not translate well to the cinema, so he is not on my list of favourite movie villains.

Ironically, Darth Vader was largely based on the look and feel of Dr. Doom, but he works much better and is rightly on the list. I wonder whether anyone will ever do a good Fantastic Four movie and make Doom more interesting.

Magneto was likewise originally based on Dr. Doom, but has translated to the cinema much better so far, largely thanks to superb performances by Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender. I don't claim that he should rank high enough to place on this top-10 list,though. There's also the issue as to whether we really think of him as a villain, especially after the most recent movie (though you might ask a similar question about Darth Vader, I suppose).

Other personal favourites are the Terminator (I'm thinking mainly of the first movie) and Roy Batty. Perhaps they don't count as flesh-and-blood characters, though, even if we were tempted to rank them so highly.

MH said...

I always rooted for Hannibal Lecter, which probably means I'm a horrible person. But anyways, the real villain in Silence of the Lambs is Jame Gumb aka Buffalo Bill. Ted Levine did a pretty good job too in the role.

Of the other villains, the tremendously brutal ganster roles of Joe Pesci come to mind.

Mike said...

The first to come to mind was Baron Harkonnen from David Lynch's Dune. I like a good scenery-eating villain. so I guess I should include Geoffrey Rush's Captain Barbossa.

More mainstream ones are Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates role in Misery), and Amon Goth (Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List)

Alexander Johannesen said...

I think Emperor Ming (Max von Sydow) should be on there, and I, too, loved Baron Harkonnen (both the Lynch movie and the mini-series, both great). Of course, Kaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhnnn! I think Mickey Rourke did a faboulus baddie in Iron Man 2, but in a wider history I's say Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet comes closest to freak me out, in performance and character.

Honorable mention to the six-fingred man in Princess Bride (his calm evil is somewhat disturbing) and Jar Jar Binks.

Felix said...

I was disappointed by the list. I expected some less modern characters, but I was very glad to see the Wicked Witch of the West.

Names that I listed which have not yet been mentioned are:

Captain Hook
Cruella De Ville
Keyser Söze
Marlon Brando as The Godfather
Emperor Palpatine

Myrick said...

Christian Szell from Marathon Man would be in my top five.

Myrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Myrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russell Blackford said...

lol @ Jar Jar Binks (that one almost slipped past me).

Anonymous said...

Frank Booth from Blue Velvet.

The Lorax said...

Just a few others I would like to add for consideration

The shark from Jaws
AJ Maggot
Rhoda Penmark (The Bad Seed)
Angel Eyes (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)
Martha (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf)
Major Arnold Toht (RotLA)
Staff Seargent Barnes (Platoon)

Svlad Cjelli said...

"Dracula might still Count"

Har har.

Terry Frost said...

You've got Harry Roate Jr from Scarsdale (Alan Arkin) in Wait Until Dark.(1967)
Julian Karswell (Niall McGinnis) from Night Of The Demon.(1958)
Pinkie Brown (Richard Attenborough) from Brighton Rock (1947)

That list seems to just go for the obvious.

Terry Frost said...

Oh yeah, and Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark)in "Kiss of Death". (1947) who throws an old lady in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs while giggling.

Shatterface said...

Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) from Night of the Hunter (Mitchum's Cody from Cape Fear deserves an honourable mention)

Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) from Strangers on a Train (one of many classic Hitchcock villains).

Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in Scarface

John Doe (Kevin Spacey) from Se7en.

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) from American Psycho.

Krug (the late David Hesse) from The Last House on the Left.

Scorpio (Andrew Robinson) from Dirty Harry.

Robert Helppman (Child Carcher) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The Abominable Dr Phibes (Vincent Price) or Price again as Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General

Adolf Hitler (Bruno Gantz) from YouTube.

Jason Streitfeld said...

I've enjoyed reading the submissions here more than the original top ten, though I was particularly happy to see Nicholson mention from the Shining. Some others I'd note:

Arno Frisch as Paul (in Funny Games) and Benny (in Benny's Video)

Bette Davis as Baby Jane

Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter

The Bomb from Dark Star

Oh, and let me be the first to acknowledge the joke about Martha from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Great movie!

Dave Ricks said...

Professor Fate of The Great Race deserves mention for proto-steampunk in 1965, but I'm more serious about Zorg from The Fifth Element for the banality of his evil.

By the way, when Zorg sets a bomb in the hotel, he says, "I know this music -- let's change the beat," and when the hotel bomb detector alarm goes off, the soundtrack orchestra plays an original Eric Serra composition, "A Bomb in the Hotel" with a 5=3+2 meter and a quirky bassline. I take Zorg's line and Serra's 5=3+2 meter as an homage to Gustav Holst's "Mars, Bringer of War" (with a 5=3+2 meter) that's an action movie staple to portend violence -- an homage like when sound editors use the 1951 recording of the classic Wilhelm Scream as an in-joke.

Which made me check my DVD with headphones, you can hear this for yourself -- earlier when Zorg detonates a bomb in the spaceport terminal, you can see this in quick sequence: A) bodies flying, B) flight attendant screaming, C) engines firing, then D) bodies flying again, with the classic Wilhelm take 4 (panned slightly left), then the lesser-known Wilhelm take 3 (louder in the foreground), then a wash of group screams. One explosion, two Wilhelms!

latsot said...

The best villains are the ambiguous ones. For example, just about everyone in Watchmen would go on my list.