“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy”. Sir Alec Guiness as the great Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi once uttered this now famous phrase in the original “Star Wars”. Whereas he was referring to a bar full of criminals and lowlifes that he was taking a child he just met into, I am using it to refer to my newest Top 10 List!
We love bad guys! Hell, I even love how dumb the phrase “bad guy” is! In most instances, a film’s quality or memorability is burdened solely on the shoulders of the villain that opposes our hero. When the boy scouts tell you to do your homework and go to bed at a reasonable hour, a great villain comes along to remind you that you look really cool when you smoke and don’t eat your vegetables. Society wants you to hate the villain but that’s only because everybody is a bunch of nerds who will never know what it takes to be cooler than the other side of the pillow!
So, let’s discuss who is the best of the worst! My rankings are mostly based upon iconicism, with a little bit of estimated damage and philosophy sprinkled in for good measure. And like always, there are some Honorable Mentions for this list. They are as follows in no particular order: Annie Wilkes – “Misery” (1990); Nurse Ratchet – “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975); Agent Smith – “The Matrix Franchise” (1999 – 2003); Sauron – “The Lord of the Rings Franchise” (2001 – 2014); Loki – “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (2008 – Present); Jack Torrance – “The Shining” (1980); Anton Chigurh – “No Country for Old Men” (2007); Darth Sideous – “Star Wars Franchise” (1977 – Present); Scar – “The Lion King (1994); Yzma and Kronk – “The Emperor’s New Groove” (2000). As you can see, there were some difficult cuts that needed to be made for this list, but that just means we have been given so many great villains in movies! So having said all that, let’s begin!
10. T-1000 – “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)
The T-1000 is so effective as a villain that the “Terminator Franchise” has been riding its coatails since 1991 and simply refuses to go away, despite “Terminator: Genisys” making a rock solid case for the merciful sweet release of death. It takes a real threat to oppose the roided-out 1990s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 from the original and turn him into a good guy, but just look at how menacing those damn ears are! This liquid-metal, shapeshifting killing machine forged from a future war against humanity is just so damn loveable!
9. Biff Tannen – “Back to the Future” (1985) & “Back to the Future Part II” (1989)
Biff is the epitome of my worst nightmares come to life. He is a high school bully that never grows up and somehow manages to keep cheating his way to the top. Really, the only way for him to get what he deserves is some wibbily wobbly timey wimey shenanigans, and even that seems to have a 50% chance to turn him into a dystopian billionaire with infinite power (who was very subtly based off of someone named Donald Trump, whoever that is). It seems that in every version of the past, present, and future, Biff is a certified asshole that needs serious psychological counseling. Also, it seems to be glossed over frequently, but Biff was definitely trying to rape Lorraine in the first film and he ONLY gets a mean right hook to the jaw. This man needs to be locked up forever.
8. The Xenomorph – “Alien” (1979) & “Aliens” (1986)
The Xenomorph is the only non-humanoid entry on this list and it is the stuff of absolute nightmares. Famous for the two Sci-Fi horror masterpieces that are “Alien” and “Aliens”, the Xenomorph is the titular alien so you can deduce just how important it is to the franchise. Future sequels have strayed away from her importance *cough* “Prometheus” *cough* and they have noticably missed their marks with fans. The Xenomorph is the manifestaion of fear in space, plus its got that freaky second mouth within its regular mouth which has to be worth some points. It’s a shame that the franchise lost its direction for a period because the Xenomorph is truly one of the most legendary film adversaries ever.
7. Dr. Evil – “Austin Powers Franchise” (1997 – 2002)
If you thought comedies couldn’t produce All-Time villains than you are as dumb as you are stupid. Dr. Evil didn’t spend 4 years in evil medical school to be called Mr. Evil, thank you very much! Spawned out of the brilliant comedic mind of Mike Meyers to be a parody of the ridiculous James Bond villain, Dr. No, this bald Belgium evil scientist has easily surpassed the character he was based on to become one of the most memorable film characters of the late 90s and early 2000s. Dr. Evil is always brewing up needlessly complicated schemes to hold the world hostage and destroy his arch nemesis, Austin Powers. He may not always be successful (In fact, he never is) but that will not stop him from coming up with an even wackier scheme next time! With much respect given to Dark Helmet and White Goodman, Dr. Evil is the best comedic bad guy in all of film.
6. Voldemort – “Harry Potter Franchise” (2001 – 2011)
I’ll be honest, I don’t care for the Harry Potter films. You can even go as far as to say that I am a hater, of sorts. The only things I understand about the franchise is that I am something called a Ravenclaw and that Voldemort is doesn’t have a nose. But, anybody who anchors the befuddlingly large fantasy franchise as the primary villain under the moniker “He who shall not be named” deserves to be recognized on this list. I won’t pretend like I know much about what he does or his goals, but apparently everyone loves to see him struggle to take over a boarding school every year but get foiled by one kid who is seemingly always behind the learning curve, at least compared to his much more studious and prepared friend, Hermione. But, Voldemort is a dark wizard played by Ralph Fiennes so I can see why people think this guy is cool. I’ll meet you halfway and give him 6th place, nerds.
5. Norman Bates – “Psycho” (1960)
I personally subscribe to the theory that everybody named “Norm” isn’t normal (Ha! See what i did there?). This guy has some major mommy issues and Anthony Perkins just sells unresolved Oedipus Complex with his unnerving performance. In so many ways, this role was a trailblazer for what films were willing to display their characters doing and its impact on the films that followed in its footsteps cannot be understated. The scene where he stabs Marion in the shower may be the single most iconic scene in all of horror cinema. But really the scariest part about Norman Bates is that Vince Vaughn of all people tried his best to play him in a 1998 and it wasn’t the end of times, which is really suspicious if you ask me.
4. Thanos – “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (2008 – Present)
The puppetmaster of the largest and most successful film franchise ever only placing at a measily 4th place? They don’t even give out medals for that, unless the Millenials with their avocado toast and participation trophies have their way! Thanos has been behind the scenes for the better part of a decade, orcestrating most of the major plot points in the entire MCU, until 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” when he came out of the shadows, guns-a-blazing and killing half of all life everywhere. I believe that the “Infinity Saga”, specifically “Avengers: Endgame” is the greatest cinematic achievement perhaps ever (Eat your heart out Martin Scorsese!), and Thanos’s presence and impact are largely responsible.
3. Wicked Witch of the West – “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
Who else remembers the 1930s? Those were some wild times, huh? We disproved the theory of gravity, invented the color purple, and built the great continent of Antarctica by lasoing Hallie’s Comet out of the sky. Go ahead and prove to me that any of that didn’t happen. I’ll wait. Another completely true statement is that “The Wizard of Oz” was the first every fully colorized feature length film, which spawned some of the most culturally significant imagery of the past century. The Wicked Witch of the West has been synonymous with villainy since the moment she first appears on screen with her striking green skin and her high-pitched evil cackling. Her role in the film might not be as deep as most modern villains but she has inspired countless imitations and supplementary materials that have only expanded on her impact. “The Wizard of Oz” may be the most popular film ever, so ask anybody born in the last 4 generations and they will all recognize the Wicked Witch of the West.
2. Joker – “Batman” (1989) ; “The Dark Knight” (2008) ; “Joker” (2019)
Wow, even I thought this one was a given to place number 1, but I like to be unpredictable and wouldn’t you know it, I am just full of surprises! Legendary actors Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Joaquin Phoenix (I’m not sure who this ‘Jared Leto’ person is) have all delivered other-worldly performances as the greatest psychological menace in Western media. We have been blessed to have gotten 3 seperate, unique takes on the clown prince of crime that have each been perfect in achieving exactly what each incarnation strived to be. Every time this character is in a film, he is bound to captivate audiences which is really all you could hope for from a villain. I am trying to give the Joker the serious description he deserves but really I can’t help but fangirl because I just love this character and so do you.
1. Darth Vader – “Star Wars Franchise” (1977 – Present)
Darth Vader is literally in too much pain to die, which is metal as Hell! The bacon-wrapped torso of Anakin Skywalker is the greatest villain in cinema history, and you can take that to the bank! What he struggles with in breathing issues, he more than makes up for in Dissociative Identity Disorder, casual genocide, murdering children in cold blood, talking his son into jumping into an endless chasm, and having the voice of James Earl Jones. Having his face hidden behind a stoic, unfeeling, black mask just means that any shred of humanity that might exist within that kinky black leather bodysuit will never be shown to anybody except his children he is trying to radicalize. And thanks to the Prequels, we even learn that he was even the kind of guy who also committed an act of genocide as a teenager. Name any planet in the Star Wars universe and Darth Vader has murdered at least 30 people named ‘Jar Jar’ on it. It’s just what he does. We now know that he is more of a tragic villain with a softer side and deeper character motivations, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t wise to get off the tracks when the train is coming through.
How about that list, huh? Quality rankings right there if you ask me. I am sure you perfectly agree with all of my picks, but if for some unholy reason you have a different opinion than me, in my great and unmatched wisdom, you should let me know! Maybe you think I didn’t pay enough attention to any Disney villains or something else that is completely wrong. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts!