Throughout films we have come to see some epic villains brought to the screen. There is a great deal of amazing villains ranging from chaos incarnate to tyrants of their own megalomania. Whatever drives them, we can’t help but sometimes be mesmerized by the well-rounded characters. Here are my top ten villains and why they still chill me to the bone.
10. William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (The Gangs of New York)- In this film Bill the Butcher is both a ruthless gang leader and a savvy businessman. He is smooth and dangerous and almost always seems to be the sort of person that would gut you while your back was turned, yet he also has a sense of fair play and respect for his enemies, which makes him a very interesting and keenly defined character. He knows how to talk to the rich and rally the gangs for his cause through shear muscle and numbers. He has a sense of patriotism and strong values that never waver. It shows that he can have interests beyond a blood thirst, which he is clearly capable of bringing to the streets
9. The Kurgan (Highlander)- The Kurgan is the ultimate in over-the-the-top villainy. He is a bombastic lout, an immortal with his “eyes on a prize” that will spell doom for the rest of the world. He fears nothing because he has no fear of death. It makes for a really funny and outrageous performance. He takes the appearance of the biker whom terrorizes nuns, the elderly, and just about anyone in his path. He does it because he is the one with the power and because he sees himself as above the mortals. He knows that if he is going to meet his end he wants to “burn out rather than fade away.”
8. The Joker (The Dark Knight)- Much like the Kurgan the Joker fears nothing. Where the Kurgan fears nothing due to his immortality, the Joker does so because he is insane. His madness is brilliant in a strange way because it’s chaotic and almost contagious. What is worse is that that in some ways he almost seems like he is part of the natural order in his chaos. The best line that describes him comes right from Alfred in the movie. “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” This character is writing and acting at some of it’s most astounding.
7. Baby Jane Hudson (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?)- Baby Jane is a gripping character that is driven mad with envy. She is a horrid and violent person that is insulting, bitter, and clinging to a childhood stardom that she lost many decades ago. It would be easy to pity her if she didn’t do so many despicable acts and bring pain to others. In the end it’s her own misery and psychotic behavior that is her undoing. In her mind she is still the spoiled brat she always was but in the body of an older, bitter shell.
6. Alex Delarge (A Clockwork Orange)- Alex is a sadistic child who delights in bringing pain to others. We learn that he also has a sophisticated musical taste for Beethoven. The fact that he is a schoolboy and is brought close to nirvana through violence is disturbing. Delarge is the narrator and is healed of his compulsion in a very peculiar manner. It is safe to say that the turn of events that befall Alex truly creates an ethical dilemma for the audience. Is right for a villainous character to change simply because they are forced to, or should it be because they honestly choose right from the wrong.
5. Col. Hans Landa (Inglorious Basterds)- From his first scene at the French dairy hunting for hidden Jews, Col. Hans Landa is nothing short of terrifying. He is the sort of devil that could talk you into slitting your own throat. Only in one scene did he loose his cool and get incredibly violent; that aside says a lot. He is calm, controlling, and clever. He even betrays his German superiors in order to gain an upper hand after the war. He is the sort of fiend that you can imagine making a deal with to save your own neck only to realize that you’ve sold your soul. Brilliantly written and expertly acted.
4. Anton Chigur (No Country for Old Men)- Here is a man who follows his own rules. He is a paid assassin but he does things how he wants and he kills whomever he wants. He creates reasons to kill his victims so that in his own way the murder is justified. He is the criminal mind incarnate, and as such we can never really understand it fully. He simply does what he does. Woe be unto the poor soul who gets in his way.
3. Conal Cochran (Halloween III: Season of the Witch)- This is a perfect example of a mad corporate genius. Here we have a man who spends millions to steal a piece of Stonehenge. Then he creates a huge ad campaign to sell masks made with the stone, to kill millions of children all over the world. Why? One big practical joke. That is hilarious and absolutely insane. Even when he is sure that he is found out he knows that anyone that he kills will just be a bonus for a Halloween joke.
2. Emperor Palpatine (All the Star Wars movies)- The one great thing about the prequel movies for the Star Wars films is that we got to watch Emperor Palpatine’s rise to power. It is actually kind of interesting. Palpatine is a Senator who helps begin a war. During the war he obtains special powers that eventually assist him to disbanding the Senate that gave him the power in the first place. It is carefully orchestrated and it’s much more interesting to watch then the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Where Anakin is a tool and manipulated by the dark side, Palpatine uses politics and the idiocy of others to remove obstacles that are in his way.
1. Biff Tannen (Back to the Future Trilogy)- This guy had to be number one. In every reality, in every time period, (with the exception of 1985 Good Biff) this guy is a jackass. It seems to be ingrained in his DNA since members of his family are jerks as well. They are all stupid, belligerent, and bullies. There is no escaping them. If there is a Hill Valley, there is a Tannen and he is going to be a butt-head. Biff does not even seem to have much reason for villainy. Like his forefathers he is a jerk and invariably all his kin will always be jerks.
As I said before there are many other villains out there. Be they Sauron, Hannibal, Roy Batty, or Darth Vader, there are too many to count. Whatever face of villainy your favorite movie villain happens to be wearing, let’s hope that it’s one that you never bump into in real life. Happy watching.