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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Users say

101 comments
Martinette L
Martinette L

In which universe is Sallieri more evil than Lord Voldemort?

I mean, he killed his parents, how can you say such a thing? TT

chris d
chris d

Darth Vader. All in black,German helmet. Come on guys

Roger
Roger

No Keyser Soze? O_o

Claire
Claire

Louise Latham, mother of Marnie. Marnie (1964).

Chuck G
Chuck G

I would include Monique's character from "Precious" high atop the list.

Sarah
Sarah

Missing a couple like, The Joker (From The Dark Knight), Bane (From The Dark Knight Rises) and Valentine Morgenstern (From The Mortal Instruments series) but still goos list tho:)

Joe
Joe

Vader has always been at the top of my list as best villains...far and away. But my #2 didn't make your list, Keyser Soze. Surprising too since "John Doe" is on your list...both played by Spacey, the films were released only weeks apart from each other.

Tom
Tom

Missing a few: Patrick Bateman Keyser Soze The Joker Daniel Plainview Agent Smith

Josh
Josh

I'm not saying this is not a good list. It is. But you must be mad not to include Daniel Day Lewis as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. Also Heath Ledger as the Joker in the Dark Knight. Dead or alive it was very memorable. Not worthy of the Oscar that year (Robert Downey Jr. should have won), but one of the most memorable villains in the 21st century.

Rick y
Rick y

This list is awesome for just one reason and that is Darth Vader at #1. No other movie villain is better. Great job

Shawn
Shawn

Actually came here after tossing and turning, thinking about how much I hate hearing about the Joker just because Heath Ledger had to be a failure of a drug addict.

carl draina
carl draina

how about the kurgen played by clancy brown in the first highlander movie

Bigdave
Bigdave

Wow! I can't believe you would leave out one of the greatest villains EVER seen on film - Rutger Hauer as John Ryder in The Hitcher!!! He plays on of the most chilling villains ever portrayed in film!!! Absolutely chilling!!!

Peter
Peter

I agree completely, Emperor Palpatine was truely evil, and way more powerful than Darth Vader. Darth Vader turned good in the end anyway. Many things were wrong with this list. For example, Colonel Kurtz was not exactly a villain, neither was the drill sergeant from full metal jacket. The joker is missing, Hal 9000 is too low in my opinion, and even though Alex de large from Clockwork Orange was not exactly a villain either, he should go on this list based on how the list is written.

choke580
choke580

This dude ran galaxys and had them all fighting for him the greatest Villain of all time is Emperor Palpatine and not even an honorable mention who rates this stuff anyway!!!!!!!!!!

Kalah
Kalah

Hello??? The Dark Knights joker is painfully missing from this list.

LR
LR

Where is scarface? Another pachino role how about Michael corleone? Or Vito corleone? The joker has to be on the list played by ledger, he is at least top 50.

Julia
Julia

@Spectrobes Princess, I don't recognize all of them either, but seriously, it's kind of sad if you don't know Angel Eyes (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly), Goldfinger (James Bond!) and Mrs Danvers (Rebecca, Hitchcock, come on!) at the very least...And Freddy Krueguer, Dracula and Hannibal Lecter are definetely not geeky/nerdy...Last but not least, if Darth Vader doesnt ring any bells you have lived a sad, sad life, my friend...

justin
justin

mmmmmm LORD VOLDEMORT 44 ON THIS LIST? what the heck?!?!?!? he is on my top five at least ten.

justin
justin

mmmmmmmm Lord VOLDEMORT 44 ON THE LIST? should not be that high up at all, he is like at least in my top five or tens list.

Ped
Ped

Maybe I missed it but ray from nil by mouth should at least be in the top 20. He's bloody terrifying and unpredictable in that film

as140
as140

@ Spectrobes: How can you not recognize Darth Vader? I think Vader should be replaced with the Emperor because he is the evik genius in Star Wars and was never any good.

Spectrobes Princess
Spectrobes Princess

I only reconized, like, 6 of them (The Evil Queen from Snow White, Gollum from Lord of the Rings, Voldemort from Harry Potter, The Wicked Witch of the West from Wizzard of Oz, and Cobra from Karate Kid) I guess I'm not as big of a geek/nerd as I thought I was! I'm a little surprised that King Haggard wasn't on this list...he was a little creepy (but not REALLY creepy.....he was obsessed with unicorns for cryin' out loud!)

Boschman
Boschman

I'm sad that Lady Iboshi from Princess Mononoke didn't make the list.

Jack
Jack

Everyone complaining about The Joker not being on the top 50 list needs to calm down and realize The Dark Knight only came out 5 years ago. Give it another 5-10 years and we'll see if Ledger's portrayal was as memorable as this generation claims it is.

crazyaverage
crazyaverage

i guess they wanted to make a doublepost for the Joker (1989/2008) as first place. But you know bugs are everywhere and most times about 50cm in front of the screen^^ but worst "villain" is Sarah Connor. Or you forget the moment where the Terminator (the star role) get squashed and he not could kill her? I really had to weep about this tragic end.

Joker
Joker

Joker from the dark night??? He should be in top 5 !!!!!!!!!!!!

Colin
Colin

Alan Rickman's Hans Grubert at #28 is a complete joke.

Rudy
Rudy

wheres the shining/ Jack Nicholson...???...

shannon
shannon

The Kurgan from Highlander? Stansfield from The Professional? Zorg from The Fifth Element?

Ben
Ben

John Doe in Se7en is the scariest villain of all time...obviously

Naglifar
Naglifar

The best villain of all time is Night Slasher in Cobra (1986), (BRIAN THOMPSON), but nobody put him in the list.

RocknRolla
RocknRolla

C´mon!! How about Mr Blonde from Reservoir Dogs??

Trub
Trub

Yeah you forgot: 1) the Joker (Heath Ledger) 2) Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt in Fight Club) 3) Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire) 4) Johnny Friendly (On the Waterfront) I know this one is a protagonist but: 5) Christian Bale (American Psycho)

Josh
Josh

So no Joker then? Not even in the #50 spot? Lets think for a minute and edit this list.

Matt
Matt

Alex de large?!?! Clockwork orange he was great in that movie he should be in the top 20

Flo
Flo

Percy? The green mile?

Jalon
Jalon

You can't really be serious I mean you can't argue with Vadar #1 but NO JOKER AT ALL!!!! He had the single greatest performance for any villain ever in a movie.

roger
roger

All these nobody's! Where TF is Clarence Boddicker?

CaptainP
CaptainP

One GREAT villian who is so often overlooked...the Warden from Shawshank Redemption. Total evil...in a prison full of hardened criminals, he was the worst person there.

vishwajeet singh ranawat
vishwajeet singh ranawat

where is JOKER from the movie the dark knight. He is the best villian ever nd must be on no 1

Gary
Gary

Really was hoping Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) from "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" would've been hiding in the bushes at around 28-ish. Cerebral and acid-tongued, she's a devious destroyer of mental faculties, a perfect outer manifestation of inner turmoil. "You make all sorts of excuses. Maybe tomorrow you'll be dead. Maybe tomorrow He'll be dead. All sorts of excuses."

Elizabeth`
Elizabeth`

Umm I think Hannibal Lecter should be #1 just saying. Best villain ever

Johnny Dicktits
Johnny Dicktits

You forgot 2 villains who deserve a spot in the top 10.. Heath Ledger in Dark Knight and Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood

HYDINGNEWWORLD
HYDINGNEWWORLD

WHERE IS THE JOKER(HEATH LEDGER) in BATMAN : THE DARK NIGHT???????? #STUPIDLIST

Steph Fahey
Steph Fahey

P.S Norman Bates is a great villain though very creepy.

Steph Fahey
Steph Fahey

Are you kidding me??? No Joker? did you people even watch the original Cape Fear? this list is a joke.

blah
blah

you know, i normally keep my mouth shut on these things cause theyre so subjective, but really, where. the. hell. is heath ledger's joker?