The 50 best movie villains of all time

Go to the dark side with our ranked list of evildoers.

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  • Movie villains: Count Dracula, Dracula (1931)

  • Movie villains: HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

  • Movie villains: General Zod, Superman II (1980)

  • Movie villains: Gordon Gekko, Wall Street (1987)

  • Movie villains: Noah Cross, Chinatown (1974)

  • Movie villains: Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

  • Movie villains: Mrs. Iselin, The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

  • Movie villains: Auric Goldfinger, Goldfinger (1964)

  • Movie villains: The Terminator, The Terminator (1984)

  • Movie villains: The Alien, Alien (1979)

Movie villains: Count Dracula, Dracula (1931)

20
COUNT DRACULA, DRACULA (1931)

Count Dracula, Dracula (1931)

"I never drink...wine," says Bela Lugosi in his immortal performance—which he originated onstage—while chomping on every pause and flick of the cape. It's a strange turn, casting a warp over the entire movie and singlehandedly creating goth-chic. All Hollywood horror movies basically owe a debt to this one.—Joshua Rothkopf

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19
HAL 9000, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)

HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick's galaxy-traversing masterpiece gave us a bad guy for the ages in the artificially intelligent computer HAL 9000. It's the voice, by Douglas Rain, that chills the most: flat and affectless, with just a hint of superiority. There's no rage in this machine, just cold indifference.—Keith Uhlich

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18
GENERAL ZOD, SUPERMAN II (1980)

General Zod, Superman II (1980)

Terence Stamp is marvelously stern and sinister as the chief antagonist of this buoyant Man of Steel sequel. A Kryptonian criminal mastermind with superstrength and a hilariously condescending leer, he plans to take our hero out and make all Earthlings his slaves. With a performance this delicious, we'd kneel before Zod any day.—Keith Uhlich

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17
GORDON GEKKO, WALL STREET (1987)

Gordon Gekko, Wall Street (1987)

Equal parts seductive charm and cutthroat corporate Darwinism, Michael Douglas's iconic role turned a stock-market Master of the Universe into Satan in suspenders. Gekko's philosophy—"Greed...is good"—summed up the get-rich '80s to a tee; his idolization by a generation of white-collar alpha males suggests Douglas may have played this villain too well.—David Fear

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16
NOAH CROSS, CHINATOWN (1974)

Noah Cross, Chinatown (1974)

John Huston's decrepit patriarch could be mistaken for just another 20th-century opportunist hell-bent on owning "the future, Mr. Gittes!" Then you find out what's hiding behind that reptilian grin, and out comes his true self: Cross exemplifies not just free-market capitalism run amok but the bone-deep corruption of a nation built by evil men.—David Fear

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15
FREDDY KRUEGER, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

One, two, Freddy's coming for you.... Robert Englund's razor-fingered adversary wasn't always a wisecracking slasher: In his first appearance, he was a petrifying bogeyman who, with that ratty red sweater and fire-scarred face, made more of a searingly visual than verbal impression.—Keith Uhlich

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14
MRS. ISELIN, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962)

Mrs. Iselin, The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Angela Lansbury is scarily perfect in John Frankenheimer's Cold War classic as the senator's-wife-cum-communist-plant who uses hypnotic suggestion to make her sleeper-agent son carry out everything from breakups to assassinations. Don't believe that Queen of Diamonds getup she wears; there's nothing noble about this character.—Keith Uhlich

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13
AURIC GOLDFINGER, GOLDFINGER (1964)

Auric Goldfinger, Goldfinger (1964)

"No, Mr. Bond...I expect you to die!": With all due respect to Ernst Blofeld, Rosa Klebb and Jaws, the Bond villain we most love to hate is the man with the Midas touch. Whether killing a traitorous cohort with gold paint or pointing a laser at Sean Connery's crotch, nobody threatened 007 with more panache than Gert Frbe's aurum-obsessed foe.—David Fear

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12
THE TERMINATOR, THE TERMINATOR (1984)

The Terminator, The Terminator (1984)

He became something of a softie in the sequels, so we'll always prefer Arnold Schwarzenegger's relentless cyborg in James Cameron's lean, mean '80s action flick. He stalks his prey so mercilessly (innocents in the line of fire be damned) that you long to pull the plug yourself.—Keith Uhlich

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11
THE ALIEN, ALIEN (1979)

The Alien, Alien (1979)

Evolving over the course of the movie into three distinct creatures, this landmark beast is, first and foremost, a brilliantly dark conception (by original screenwriter Dan O'Bannon, exploring rape fears). Costume-work by creepy Swiss designer H.R. Giger and director Ridley Scott's eerie atmosphere sealed the deal.—Joshua Rothkopf

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