Movie villains: The 50 best bad guys (and gals) of all time
From Cobra Kai to Colonel Kurtz, we've got the movie villains you love to hate. Go to the dark side with our ranked list of evildoers.
Mon Oct 22 2012
Movie villains: Click to the next image to see our 50 best movie villains of all time
Movie villains: Dean Wormer, National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
Movie villains: Cobra Kai Sensei, The Karate Kid (1984)
Movie villains: Roy Batty, Blade Runner (1982)
Movie villains: Asami Yamazaki, Audition (1999)
Movie villains: Hank Quinlan, Touch of Evil (1958)
Movie villains: Tommy DeVito, Goodfellas (1990)
Movie villains: Lord Voldemort, The Harry Potter movies (2005–11)
Movie villains: Baby Jane Hudson, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Movie villains: Colonel Kurtz, Apocalypse Now (1979)
Movie villains: Lars Thorwald, Rear Window (1954)
Movie villains: Click to the next image to see our 50 best movie villains of all time
Do we love our scoundrels more than our saints? Certainly we do. Then again, this collection of movie villains boasts a stunning eight Oscar victories (and a couple more if you allow for special-effects wins). In considering the worst of the worst, Time Out's film team was careful to sift out contenders who were merely antiheroes: Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle, for example, is too well-intentioned. Instead, we went for true terribleness. So if you don't feel like venturing out for a local film event, and don't mind getting a little spooked, check out our list. Whatever you do, just keep telling yourself: It's only a list, it's only a list. And if we forgot your favorite heel, get mean with us in the comments.
Dean Wormer, National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
"The time has come for someone to put his foot down—and that foot is me," John Vernon's dastardly dean declares. This nincompoop head of Faber College took impotent authority figures to a new level, making him the ideal foil for the Deltas. He exemplifies gross-out comedy's golden rule: The more smug you are, the more likely you'll be vomited upon.—David Fear
Cobra Kai Sensei, The Karate Kid (1984)
Fine, so he might not be all the way up there in the pantheon of evil, but this character definitely haunted our nightmares. Mercy and honor are mere playthings to him, as he firmly tells Daniel-san's opponent to "sweep the leg." Actor Martin Kove's squashed features add unsavoriness.—Joshua Rothkopf
Roy Batty, Blade Runner (1982)
The bleached-blond replicant of Ridley Scott's milestone sci-fi thriller is nearly unstoppable—poking out eyeballs, head-butting walls and reducing Harrison Ford's hard-boiled cop to a quivering, broken-fingered mess. But there's more to this bad guy than seething menace; the great Rutger Hauer invests him with a wide-eyed soulfulness that ultimately breaks your heart.—Keith Uhlich
Asami Yamazaki, Audition (1999)
Everyone knows actors are crazy, but our hero can't have expected this level of limb-slicing extremity. To be fair, he's holding a fake casting call just to meet chicks—a move that would infuriate anyone. But after deceptively meek Asami (Eihi Shiina) shows up, this is one player who's about to get a forcible re-edit.—Joshua Rothkopf
Hank Quinlan, Touch of Evil (1958)
Though he'd eventually resemble a mountain with a tiny head on top, Orson Welles actually added belly padding and pounds of makeup to play the corrupt cop of his noir classic, a lawman with no qualms about planting evidence, wandering out of his jurisdiction and even raising his cane on occasion.—Joshua Rothkopf
Tommy DeVito, Goodfellas (1990)
Joe Pesci took home Oscar gold for his firecracker portrayal of a short-tempered gangster in Martin Scorsese's thrilling Mafia drama. The character always wants to be the center of attention, but it's what he does when all eyes are on him—those uncomfortably drawn out am-I-fucking-with-you-or-not? pauses—that assures his place in the scoundrels' pantheon.—Keith Uhlich
Lord Voldemort, The Harry Potter movies (2005–11)
From his serpentine face (the missing nose is a perfect touch) to the bone-chilling way he hisses his arch-nemesis's name—"Haaa-ryyy Pahhh-ter!"—Ralph Fiennes turned J.K. Rowling's fallen wizard into the personification of that old black magic. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named doesn't really need a moniker; he simply answers to evil.—David Fear
Baby Jane Hudson, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Bette Davis throws subtlety to the wind in the flamboyant title role of this aging-starlet standard. Her psycho former child actor sticks in your mind not only for her memorably schizoid outbursts (parakeets, beware), but for the ferocious way Davis battles costar and real-life archenemy Joan Crawford for the spotlight.—Keith Uhlich
Colonel Kurtz, Apocalypse Now (1979)
Lording over a compound of Montagnard mercenaries like some demented slaveowner, Brando's bald, batshit colonel one-upped Joseph Conrad's conception of Kurtz as a mere colonialist run amok; you believe this guy actually possesses a heart of darkness. Whether reading T.S. Eliot aloud or decapitating soldiers, this military madman truly communicates the horror of Vietnam.—David Fear
Lars Thorwald, Rear Window (1954)
He sits in his darkened apartment, smoking a cigarette. Outside in the courtyard, a neighbor wails about her dead dog. And across the way, two more observers know that Lars (an unusually subtle Raymond Burr) is up to far more than offing pets. Alfred Hitchcock's brilliant thriller simply wouldn't work without a stone-cold killer.—Joshua Rothkopf
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When I was a kid, I thought the meanest man alive was Jack Palance's character Blackie in "Panic in the Streets". He was so mean he actually hit Richard Widmark in the head with a real gun. Blackie was evil personified and he treated friend and foe alike with equal contempt (even his friends were scared to death of him) . It was Palance's first picture, and he re-teamed with Widmark for "Halls of Montezuma" where his character was more likeable.
What about Thulsa Doom? Or the little girl from Let the Right One In? Or ANY of Gary Oldman's villians? Heath Ledger's Joker? The silent warrior from Valhalla Rising? (I realize he isn't the villian, but he's by no stretch a hero...at least until the end of the film) This list misses out on a lot. I like Vader, but he's just a take on The Black Knight.
A number of directors have commented that they used the Jack Palance role in Shane as a template of what a villain should be. I agree. Totally evil yet supremely confident. Many have credited his role as gunfighter Jack Wilson as why Shane is considered the greatest western of all time.
overall not a bad list, but it's unbelievable that Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight isn't on here. he was so good at being a maniacal psychopath in that movie that you almost found yourself rooting for him to beat the batman. also, christian bale's performance in american psycho is another must have on this list. he embodies all that is insanity
and gary oldman in Hannibal was immensely creepy. completely debilitated, physically and mentally, by the evil Lector committed upon him that he spirals into madness.
I had to check twice to realize you passed over the Joker. I mean, over-hyped a bit, sure. But still better than General Zod ffs...
Great list, but can I just add.... Gary Oldman in "Leon" is absolutely amazing, restrained insanity. Michael Gambon in " the cook, the thief, his wife and her lover" is chillingly cruel. Michael Madsen in "reservoir dogs". Mark Lewis in" Peeping tom" Also Witches and Vampires are movie monsters rather than villains in my opinion. :)
Number 24 Gunnery Sergeant Hartman does not count, he was not a bad guy, he was a Drill Instructor. Yelling and belittling new recruits is part of the job.
The joker from dark knight has to be number one or at least on the list, other than that i successfully killed 1 minute of my time
Awesome list. A few great villains on there that I didn't expect to see-- nice work!! I know *everyone* will be voicing his/her opinion about who was missing, so here's mine: Luther from The Warriors! "Warrrr-i-orrrs, come out to plaaa-y-aaaay"-- such a classic!! :D
@kris its an interesting point, I wouldn't actually consider him a bad guy - more like an anti-hero. I think a bad guy has to have a good guy (gal) he's fighting against. Michael Corleone was really only fighting against bad guys.
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