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: Khan, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Movie villains: Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca (1940)
Movie villains: Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Movie villains: Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Movie villains: Vince Stone, The Big Heat (1953)
Movie villains: Tommy Udo, Kiss of Death (1947)
Movie villains: The Evil Queen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Movie villains: Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men (2007)
Movie villains: Alex Forrest, Fatal Attraction (1987)
Movie villains: John Doe, Seven (1995)
Movie villains: Khan, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Khan, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Revenge is a dish best served cold (old Klingon proverb), and who better to mete it out than Ricardo Montalban's genetically engineered, Melville-quoting big baddie? The actor's devil-may-care stylings were just the kick in the pants Gene Roddenberry's space-opera franchise needed. Say it in your best Shatner: Khaaaaaaaaaannnnnn!—Keith Uhlich
Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca (1940)
The original psychobiddy, Judith Anderson's housekeeper starts out undermining her widowed master's new wife, played by Joan Fontaine; soon, she's breaking her down psychologically and not-so-subtly prodding the lady of the house toward open windows. Her eerie impassivity hides a questionable fixation with her late mistress—one that literally becomes a burning obsession.—David Fear
Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds (2009)
There are screen Nazis, and then there's Christoph Waltz's smooth-talking, calabash-smoking "Jew Hunter" from Quentin Tarantino's WWII epic. An inventive tweak on the stern movie caricatures of SS officers, Landa uses his sunny disposition as a smoke screen; the way he toys with a French farmer while slowly tightening the noose is both funny and absolutely chilling.—David Fear
Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Most mental-institution employees help their patients get better; this fascist in a starched white uniform keeps her pet "cuckoos" crazy and under her thumb. As the authority figure determined to break Jack Nicholson's countercultural free spirit, Louise Fletcher turned Ken Kesey's metaphor for conformity into a bona fide monster.—David Fear
Vince Stone, The Big Heat (1953)
Anyone who finds himself in the lovely arms of Gloria Grahame should probably consider himself a winner. Yet this coffee-flinging goon scalds her face, utterly turning the audience against him. It a wonder that Lee Marvin ever escaped the notoriety of this role—much less to become a likable hero in The Dirty Dozen.—Joshua Rothkopf
Tommy Udo, Kiss of Death (1947)
How twisted is Richard Widmark's perpetually grinning thug? This is a man who pushes an old woman in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs—and giggles as she plummets. Widmark's unique take on the mob-enforcer archetype earned him an Oscar nomination and singlehandedly created a template for every creepily childish psychopath that followed.—David Fear
The Evil Queen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Walt Disney's first feature introduced the Mouse House's first true villain. Who can forget her chilling "Mirror, mirror" freak-out or her hideous black-cloak--and-warts disguise (arm outstretched with the tempting poisoned apple)? You don't get Cruella de Vil or Scar without the Evil Queen's example.—Keith Uhlich
Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men (2007)
The bowl haircut was scary enough. Javier Bardem also had implacable cool and that purring croak of a voice: "What business is it of yours where I'm from...friendo?" Ultimately, this bounty hunter wins on sheer unstoppability, blowing holes in doorways and pursuing his prey with unswerving drive.—Joshua Rothkopf
Alex Forrest, Fatal Attraction (1987)
She's the ultimate NYC nightmare: an illicit fuckbuddy who goes nuclear on her married lover, his family and one unlucky bunny. Along with Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, this movie fully encapsulated the dangers of smug, yuppie entitlement, and Glenn Close should have won her Oscar for it.—Joshua Rothkopf
John Doe, Seven (1995)
The bad guy stays in the shadows for most of David Fincher's exhilaratingly dark thriller, allowing his elaborate traps inspired by the seven deadly sins to work their gruesome magic. Then he shows up in the form of Kevin Spacey and is so eerily calm and rational about his crimes you want to scream.—Keith Uhlich
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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
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