What makes a good movie villain? Some of us believe that the best villains are the ones who are completely and irredeemably evil. Bad for the sake of being bad. Also, others argue that the best villains are those who have a certain likeability about them and those who appear human but are capable of monstrous acts.
In some cases, villains are just as enjoyable to watch as the heroes. I have listed below what I believe are the top ten greatest villains in movies. I have judged this purely on villains I have personally seen in action, so any others I have not included may just be because I have simply not seen their respective films.
10. Biff Tannen, Back To The Future Films
Portrayed by Thomas F. Wilson, Biff Tannen is the main villain in the first two Back To Future films. At the core, Biff is a nasty, dim-witted and petulant bully, who terrorises George McFly, which started during their school years, as our hero Marty McFly discovers when he travels back to 1985.
Biff’s villainy also runs in his family, which is all depicted in a comical fashion of course. Biff is, in general, a horrible character, but he’s very entertaining to watch. The Back To The Future films most definitely would not be the same without him.
Best Quote: “Why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here?”
9. Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter Films
The sadistic and mentally unhinged Bellatrix Lestrange, may have only been one of the many secondary villains in the Harry Potter series, but she is an unforgettable character. Totally insane and ruthless with a fierce temper, and a disturbing lust for torture and violence. Helena Bonham Carter plays the character marvellously.
Best Quote: “I killed Sirius Black!”
8. Agent Smith, The Matrix Trilogy
A computer programme created along with many other agents, with the sole purpose of protecting The Matrix. Agent Smith is a particularly creepy and powerful villain, as he is able to take control of any simulated body wired into the Matrix.
In the sequels, he can copy himself onto other people, as he’s essentially become a computer virus. Although the last two films in the trilogy were lacklustre additions and nowhere near as good the first film, it does not negate Smith’s impact as a very compelling villain.
Best Quote: “You hear that Mr. Anderson? … That is the sound of inevitability…”
7. Jack Torrence, The Shining
The Shining, adapted from the book of the same name by Stephen King, stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrence. As a recovering alcoholic, he starts out fairly likeable but slowly loses his mind, succumbing to the Overlook hotel’s demonic influences. The idea of a father going insane and turning on his own family is a terrifying thought and Nicholson’s portrayal is incredibly convincing.
Best Quote: “Heeere’s Johnny!”
6. Keyser Soze, The Usual Suspects
The mysterious Keyser Soze is the ultimate master of disguise. Both the characters and the audience are made to question whether he actually exists. Throughout the film, the main character, Verbel Kent tells the police his version of events leading up to the multi-million dollar heist aboard a docked boat, and how the somewhat mythical Keyser Soze is connected to the crime.
Best Quote: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
5. Norman Bates, Psycho
One of the greatest films in cinematic history, Pyscho stars Anthony Perkins as the maniac, Norman Bates. This film changed the dynamics of the film industry. It was also one of the first films to show someone die with their eyes open. Norman Bates appears as a well-mannered man initially, but it soon becomes clear that his charming nature masks a dark and sinister persona. Norman Bates is a truly great villain.
Best Quote: “We all go a little mad sometimes.”
4. Darth Vadar, Star Wars Series
Darth Vadar is one of the most iconic and popular villains and is recognised all over the world. Pretty much everyone knows the story of the rise and fall of Darth Vadar. Once a Jedi, but seduced by the power of the dark side of the force. He is the ultimate personification of evil, consumed by rage and with a thirst for power, but at the same time, quite a tragic character.
Best Quote: “I am your father!”
3. Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter Series
The tyrannical dark wizard Lord Voldemort, played by Ralph Fiennes, is the ultimate old-school villain as he literally has no redeeming qualities at all. He is completely consumed by his obsession with immortality, even going as far as splitting his soul into multiple pieces in an attempt to live forever.
He is more than willing to kill anyone who stands in his way. A psychotic character who views himself as a superior being. He is also a very detailed character, as the films show us glimpses of his childhood, and it does seem as though he was simply born evil and incapable of feeling love.
Best Quote: “Harry Potter, the boy who lived … come to die.”
2. Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal Lecter Series
Hannibal Lecter is the most intelligent and sophisticated villain on this list. Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter is a sinister and terrifying cannibalistic serial killer. Despite coming across as polite and well-educated, he is deranged and sadistic and gains genuine pleasure from killing his victims. Lecter is one of the most chilling and interesting villains of all time, due to his complex and multifaceted personality. Even though he is a complete monster, there is something quite very fascinating and unique about him.
Lecter is one of the most chilling and interesting villains of all time, due to his complex and multifaceted personality. Even though he is a complete monster, there is something quite fascinating and unique about him.
Best Quote: “I do wish we could chat longer, but I’m having an old friend for dinner.”
1. The Joker, The Dark Knight
I believe that Heath Ledger’s The Joker is not only the greatest villain ever, but Ledger’s performance is one of the best pieces of acting in any film. Ledger completely transforms into Batman’s notorious arch nemesis and is utterly unrecognisable as the clown-faced psychopath.
What makes The Joker such an enticing villain, is that he is not motivated by money, power or world dominance, but simply the enjoyment of seeing chaos and destruction. The Joker is also pretty funny. In spite of his despicable behaviour, he is kind of likeable.
Best Quote: “Why so serious?”
Magneto, X-Men films
John Doe, Se7en