My Ten Most Villainous Hollywood Villains

On the surface, villains may seem to be a lot easier to write about than heroes. A simple list of your favorites should suffice, right? I mean� unless you are a career criminal, a blossoming psychopath or a terrorist in training how many redeeming values can you learn from the people we love to hate? Those dastardly dudes that make our heroes pay dearly for their every intrinsic virtue and often make them wish they were never born. Some villains are such egregiously awful people, we almost want to kick their mothers in the teeth for giving them birth.

On the contrary, however, (and what this says about society in general, or any of us individually, I don’t quite know), there are Hollywood bad guys who are some of the most notable and affectacious creations of the literary mind. For several reasons.

Many are immensely interesting and engaging. A part of you can be so taken by their intellect, guile, cunning and sophistication you can become torn with a part of you wanting them to succeed just to see what will happen next if they do. They can get into your head as much as do the good guys and are often known to vastly outshine mundane, ordinary and predictable heroes or heroines. Some you have to admire for being so driven by agenda, even if blinding, twisted and ultimately self-destructive. Some are designed to disarm with exquisite beauty and charm before unleashing their surreptitious designs of demise.

What makes for an unforgettable the Hollywood villain or villainess?

Once again, the combined efforts of a gifted Writer, a talented Actor and a visionary Director delivering a well-defined epic persona that presents the audience with a parallax view and presents the hero with an epic confrontation.

You love them sometimes to the point that you almost, (or definitely do), want to see them win, or at times hate them to the point that you want to leap into the screen and kill them yourself. Whichever the case, you are always thoroughly entertained by their onscreen capers.

As with heroes and heroines there was no shortage of candidates resulting in painful choices. It was hard leaving, among others, such dynamic notables as Edward Longshanks of Braveheart, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Q and Moriarty, Rocky III’s Clubber Lang and Rocky IV’s Ivan Drago, 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL 9000, One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ Cruella De Vil, the Devil of Time Bandits, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ evil Queen, The Mask of Zorro’s Captain Love, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ Sheriff of Nottingham and especially Back to the Future III’s Buford ‘Mad Dog’ Tannen (and on and on) on the sidelines, but I wanted to challenge Hollywood as much as myself to come up with a precise list so I forced myself to narrow it down to these ten and, once again, I saved a very interesting selection for ‘last’, (but certainly not ‘least’.)

So, with no further fanfare, here are my 10 most villainous Hollywood villains:

Darth Vader
Writer/Director George Lucas, Actor James Earl Jones and Actor David Prowse bring into being Darth Vader of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith 2005, Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope 1977, Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back 1980 and Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi 1983. What can you say of a personage so larger than life he requires the combined talents of not only one of the world’s greatest film-makers, but that of two of the world’s most experienced actors in every scene? Everyone knew the second he walked through those detonated pressure doors with that ear-scraping breathing apparatus and crushed Captain Antilles’ suspended-two-feet-off-the-floor neck with one hand that the movies would never be the same. The other-side-of-the-looking-glass incarnation of his heroic son, Luke Skywalker, the quasi-noble Vader is the favorite villain of millions.

Hannibal Lecter
Director Jonathan Demme, Writers Thomas Harris and Ted Talley and Actor Sir Anthony Hopkins animated Hannibal Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs 1991 and Hannibal 2001. Hannibal, (the Cannibal), looks like anybody’s sweet little old grandpa, but “They don’t have a name for what he isâÂ?¦” The thought of you sitting on his knee, or him standing behind you in a bank line or walking next to you on a stroll through the park sends shivers up your spine and screams though your skin. If Hannibal wants to have you for dinnerâÂ?¦ you’re dead meat.

Director Joseph Reuben, Writer Ian McEwan and Actor Macaulay Culkin brought life to Henry of The Good Son 1993. If you want to see what Hannibal Lecter must have been like as a child, you must see Henry. To the very end you hoped for this kid to have a turn around. And every second you wondered what on earth he would do next. But to the very end Henry was� Henry. Once again a shame to kill off such a dynamic character so definitively, but you had to kill Henry� before he killed everybody else. Henry was a franchise.

Mark, (Henry’s sibling cousin): “What if there was this boy… and he did these terrible things because he liked doing them… would you say he was evil?”
Alice, (Henry’s psychiatrist): “I don’t believe in evil.”
Mark, (Henry’s sibling cousin): “You shouldâÂ?¦”

Wicked Witch of the West
Director Victor Fleming, Writers Noel Langley and Florence Ryerson and Actress Margaret Hamilton conjure up the legendary villainess the Wicked Witch of the West of The Wizard of Oz 1939. Even on black-and-white television, where I first saw the Wizard, the putrid color of her evil green soul shone through. The object of generations of juvenile nightmares and midnight screams with a warty-nosed face ugly enough to scare ‘Toto’ up a plate-glass window, she certainly earned her star on the Witches Walk of Fame.

Director Michael Man, Master Writer James Fenimore Cooper and Writer John L. Balderston and Actor Wes Studi create Magua of The Last of Mohicans 1992. For fear of being labeled anti-native American, many of us are hesitant to admit how much we wanted this guy dead. Considering the real world impact and ability to raise public consciousness or expose societal duplicity, perhaps we should tread with caution. But at the end of the dayâÂ?¦ it’s only a movie! Perhaps this is the final testimony as to how good this team was. Mohican was an excellent film, some calibrate it a masterpiece and certainly the best of 1991, but it got trashed for not being in vogue with the political climate of its times. And Magua was an excellent bad guy. I guarantee you, if they had compromised and toned down Magua, they would have tuned up the fortunes of this film astronomically. He was that badâÂ?¦ (I mean good at being bad. By the end, Chingachgook could not have chopped him up into enough little pieces.)

Hans Gruber
Director John McTiernan, Writers Roderick Thorp and Jeb Stuart and Actor Alan Rickman bring to life Hans Gruber of Die Hard 1988. Ruthless. Cunning. Intellectual. A cold-blooded mastermind and a worthy adversary for one of my top ten heroes, Bruce Willis’ John McLane. Gruber is one bad guy that you almost want to succeed so the intriguing high-stakes chess match can go on. But he’s cold enough to put a live bomb on a baby carriage with the baby still in it so no one missed him once he was gone.

Director/Writer Brad Bird Actor Jason Lee brought reality to Syndrome of the Incredibles. Well-developed characters like Syndrone is why I often prefer animated films over their flesh-and-blood counterparts and I’m not alone. (In the summer of 1999 Disney’s Tarzan was the only film that I witnessed receiving a standing ovation.) The creative of team of the Incredibles could write a book on the art of engaging the eyes, the ‘window to the soul’. Syndrone’s eyes evolve from yearning for acceptance, to the heartbreak of rejection, to the licentiousness of revenge. Tons of personality. Just went over ‘to the dark side of the force’ and everybody knows, when you snatch somebody’s babyâÂ?¦ you’ve gone waaaay too far. Wonder if he’ll be back?

Miguel Bain
Director Richard Donner, Writers Andy and Larry Wachowski and Actor Antonio Banderas breathed life into Miguel Bain of Assassins 1995. As if choosing a career as a hit man isn’t demented enough, add a psychopathically competitive personality and a psychotic ambition to be ‘number one’ in a murderous game. Bain had no redeeming qualities, (except maybe he was a hard worker), but, like the birds-eye-view from the nose camera of a runaway smart-bombâÂ?¦ it’s a thrill-ride following his flight path all the way to his self-destructive impact.

The Sheriff of Nottingham
Director Kevin Reynolds, Writer Pen Densham and Actor Alan Rickman create the Sheriff Nottingham of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves 1991. I found this sinister scoundrel thoroughly entertaining. At his most comical when he was his most evil. I mean you have to be good to get you to laugh when you disembowel your own cousin. His dying scene, the best I’ve ever seen on screen, certainly more than met viewers’ expectations.

Nina Myers
Last, but not least, another of my out of the clear blue sky bombshells. Creators Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, a cadre of staff writers and Actress Sarah Clarke breathe life into Nina Myers of FOX Networks 24 2001-2004. I think one of, if not, the most vicious female characters ever presented in the history of cinema. Treacherous. Murderous. Whether for advantage or vice, she loves the thrill of the kill. A combination Norman Bates and James Bond. (I’m sure they must have edited out the scene where she dips her finger into the pregnant and dying Teri Bauer’s blood. Tastes it. And smiles.) When she went badâÂ?¦ she went bad in a big, big way. One of those ‘what a shame you can only kill her once’ people. Piercing modelesque looks hide the heart of a cold, calculating viper, whose slippery tongue and laser-like blue eyes mesmerizes you while she readies her fangs in search of that split-second blink so she can strike. All she needs is a blue dress andâÂ?¦ (well, you know where I’m going with this.) A shame Jack Bauer killed her off so definitively, (although I loved every minute of it), she would have made a great adversary for testing Mr. Bond’s license to kill.


Part 3: My Ten Most Anti-Heroic Hollywood Anti-Heroes

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