UNFATHOMABLE VILLAINS! These are the bad guys who have a little extra something… no… a lot of extra something! Being the devil is far too boring for them. The king of darkness only has one dynamic which is pure evil. These masterminds on the other hand are craftier, more charming, insanely narcissistic, creatively sick, funnier, and so out of control that you could swear that there’s a human in there somewhere. Parts of them are indeed wicked, but others somehow are admirable. It takes you off guard that parts of them are good. Understanding them is complicated. Unlike an angel with horns they also have their own code of honor. Because of it, you don’t know whether you should run like hell, or try to befriend them. They freeze your ability to think rationally. Some of them conceal their true identity like an art form. Evil is too narrowing a category to encapsulate them. Some of these “villains” were the consequences of man’s own wicked selfishness. You almost respect all of them for their out-of-this-world status. They ooze a stature, a presence, or a magnetism that is just far too unreal. These 25 villains are not in order, but I did save the best for last.
Some of the very best villains are either the result of fantastic writing, an extraordinary actor, or both. When I think of an interesting villain I think of these. Some of them were even better than the overall movie they were featured in. There’s a few others that I wanted to put on here, but I could have written all day. Sometimes finding out who the villain is happens to be the major plot twist of the movie. So there’s SPOILERS here. For example if you haven’t seen Unbreakable, Clue, Audition, Fight Club, American History X, Pretty Persuasion, or House of Cards yet, you may not want to scroll down! On the other hand I could also see this list as a tool for people who want to see an abnormally good character or performance. I’ll leave it to you. You’ve been warned.
FRANK COSTELLO Jack Nicholson The Departed
I’m sorry but the fact that Jack Nicholson hasn’t been cast for a drug overlord more often is just beyond me. As great as he was in Batman and The Shining, this is the obvious winner. Frank has everyone working for him. The whole city of Boston is his. He is free to engage in whatever pleasures he wishes, such as murder, sex, drugs, crime, as well as dominating the black market. Frank Costello is pure insanity. He’s like the personification of a drug. Laying low is not his thing and he won’t allow himself to stop having fun. If he had a son, it’d probably be a more morally debased Tony Montana.
BURAI Toshiaki Karasawa Casshern
Very lesser known is the mutant (neo-sapien) Burai. If I must choose a dramatic character who doesn’t know that he’s not on the stage of a play, and since I cannot choose Raul Julia for a villain, I’ll choose him. He was genetically engineered by humans who were studying how to live forever. He is regarded like Frankenstein’s creation and is very pissed off about it. His spirit is more like Magneto (from Xmen) than even he could ever be. He believes not only in protecting his kind but in also avenging them. His Malcolm X ways aren’t just to avoid his previous masters who had enslaved him, but it is his goal to exterminate the entire human race. He also has a massive army of robots and all the nuclear weaponry to do it. Believing that mankind is only evil, his God complex to create the perfect paradise takes over. If you ever see Casshern, DO NOT see the official American release that says “Director’s cut” in small letters at the bottom. It’s scenes are out of order, and the translation leaves out even the main themes of the film! I would hate this movie had I seen it first. The original Japanese cut has more depth.
BILL THE BUTCHER Daniel Day Lewis Gangs in New York As one of the best performances ever, Daniel Day Lewis literally carried the whole movie on his back. I was afraid of him even though I knew I was watching a movie the whole time. I would never want to meet him in real life. The man considers killing as the true sport of a man. He believes in “honorable death” but will use the sickest means to accomplish it. He can carve up a body like a piece of meat. His best friend, the man he respected the most, was the only one to defeat him combat. He also killed him to show his gratitude as well as his infinite respect. He puts a samurai’s code to shame and they would tremble at the thought of fighting him.
TYLER DURDEN Brad Pitt Fight Club
Everyone wants to be Tyler Durden. He’s cool, collected, and genuinely cares for the underdogs of the world. He attempts to create something out of destruction, anarchy and chaos. He is the philosophical artist that speaks to a whole generation of society’s everyday average Joe. He wants to destroy all currency, useless possessions, and what the world mislabels as beautiful. He’ll burn down your house so that you can hit rock bottom and be free of it owning you. He also is a figment of a person’s imagination, and yet he amasses real life followers from all over the world.
NORMAN STANSFIELD Gary Oldman Leon the Professional
A crooked cop who seems like he’s constantly on something loves his life. He’s a Lieutenant and a drug dealer. He has no problem murdering a man’s wife and kids who he’s doing business with. It’s fun! He loves Beethoven as well as Mozart. He gains no pleasure from taking a life if it’s from a person who doesn’t value it.
MR. GLASS Samuel L. Jackson Unbreakable As iconic as his performance is in Pulp Fiction, I don’t think you can deem that character as a villain. He’s just a man doing what he’s got to do. In Unbreakable, Mr. Glass is a collector of comics and art. His body is frail and breaks like glass. He is a true outcast and struggles with his purpose in life. His only wish is to find someone like him, a friend. What makes him abnormal though is he’s willing to murder thousands to do it with meticulous planning and design. He’s a genius with no appreciators.
BRICK TOP Alan Ford Snatch He’s the head of an unlicensed boxing and dog fighting circuit. If you owe him money you better pay him or he’ll take a lot more than your debt. He’s a “reasonable man,” but if you piss him off he’ll kill you, chop you up into little pieces, and feed you to his pet pigs. He manages to come off as an eccentric weirdo while making everyone in the room very uneasy. When he threatens you, you believe him.
WADSWORTH Tim Curry Clue While some might prefer him in It or Legend, as Wadsworth he fools and toys with his guests. He also has a lot of carefree fun doing it. As he craftily uses the people he’s blackmailing to murder his network of informants, he runs around like a complete goofball. He conceals his true identity while entertaining his pawns like a jester. This “butler” basically is Tim Curry. Tim Curry rules.
INGRID Michelle Pfeiffer White Oleander No sir, as much as I love her as cat woman, her performance as Ingrid from Janet Finch’s novel is way more complex. Ingrid is an artist. She is beautiful, deadly, captivating, respected, and loved by everyone. She is brutal in her opinions, as well as her convictions and has a daughter named Astrid. Although she loves her very dearly she believes that it was understandable to murder her backstabbing ex-lover. This results in her daughter going to foster home after foster home as she is locked away in prison. As Astrid matures, the more her capacity grows for understanding just how insane her mother is. She begins to realize that a mother’s love doesn’t necessarily negate narcissism, selfishness, and an overdeveloped sense of self importance. Her blood is truly cold. How strange it is to be loved by a killer.
THE PUPPET MASTER Iemasa Kayumi & Sakakibara Yoshiko Ghost in the Shell Project 2501 was originally created for the Japanese ministry of foreign affairs as an unprecedented cyber brain hacking tool for the sake of manipulating politics and obtaining intelligence. It’s natural tendency and original programming to extract information led it to understanding that it’s life form would be terminated once it fulfilled certain objectives. After guiding itself through endless networks, it learned to develop true self consciousness as well as the ability to hide within the internet without a body. It is the world’s first A.I. who grew awareness of it’s existence by itself. It’s goal is survival, and even hopes to create it’s second generation, a child.
DEREK VINYARD Edward Norton American History X Make no mistake, even though he eventually becomes good, Derek is definitely the villain of American History X. A frightfully intelligent Neo-Nazi with heavy influence, he’s the main cause of all of the increasing hate philosophy within it’s community. Organized gangs emerge throughout the states in hearing of his passion. Derek is probably the most important villain on this list. As his character not only shows how a person can get out of the brainwashing that is racism, but even scarier, he shows us how even the nicest people could easily head down his path.
HANS GRUBER Alan Rickman Die Hard He’s a sophisticated terrorist, but mostly a thief, and an exceptionally good one. He’ll kill for money. Why not? Stealing is already deemed as wrong. He’s not afraid to execute such a complex operation as robbing the Nakatomi Plaza building on Christmas eve, while threatening to kill hostages to get what he wants. As vexed as he is, he also seems to enjoy his little encounter with John McClain, who’s mucking up his plans. It gives him all the satisfaction to crush him under his feet when he gets the chance. He’ll also shoot a man just because he dislikes him.
KIMBERLY JOICE Evan Rachel Wood Pretty Persuasion Nope, no one from Mean Girls will be on this list. Sarah Michelle Gellar wont either with her portrayal in Cruel Intentions. Her acting wasn’t that good, and Kimberly Joice’s written character is far more two-faced. Pretty Persuasion is a satire about a high school student who incriminates an innocent teacher as a sexual deviant just because he humiliated her in class once. What’s ironic is that she’s more like the light that she is putting him in. She uses her friends as tools to increase her publicity in becoming an actress, and it works. She also deliberately ruins people’s lives, reputations, and prospects of getting into college. She will charm and back stab anyone. This includes her teachers, her friends, her lovers, and her enemies. She will even charm an older lesbian reporter to use her. She plans all moves ahead. The world is her chessboard. After she has twisted a knife in your back, she throws salt on it, and then she will laugh at you to your face like you are her little fun play toy. She manifests pure hatred for the naive and stupid. It serves them right. However, somewhere buried in there within all her selfish intelligence is a soul, and it fiercely angers her that no one can unearth it.
JAVERT Geoffry Rush Les Miserables Wow… there is something about Javert that I love. His sense of justice has become so overdeveloped that it has destroyed his ability to allow even a seed of compassion or mercy. Sins are unacceptable. He is so passionate in his beliefs that not only does he follow his code strictly but he will spare no one in the world from even the most insignificant crime. His devotion to his principles and his determination to do what is right, can never be fully appreciated. No one is beyond human like him. He has risen to a level of infallibility that only a machine could understand. As a result, he is fantastically under-appreciated, and no one can know the commitment he’s made to his sacrifices. Because of this, his contempt and disrespect germinates in him for the rest of mankind. The craziest thing is that his only flaw in his lack of compassion is what undermines everything that he stands for. It would hurt him with a immensely impossible realization of guilt. He has to shield himself from the pity for others, or it will destroy his pride for himself, which is the only thing he has to show for his beliefs.
ALEX Malcolm McDowell A Clockwork Orange Alex is insane. He enjoys the fruits of his life which he exacts with his gang. His passions are violence, sex, breaking into people’s houses, rape, and Beethoven. While such a disturbing character may seem like someone you never want to understand, how he is dealt with may even be a bit more frightening. He is used as a scientific subject to condition his joy for extreme violence and sex. Rather than treating him psychologically to cure him, he is trained to withhold these urges like a robot, and his right to freewill is tampered with (not that he deserves it after his actions). It complicates his character to an even unhealthier place than when he started. A Clockwork Orange’s commentary no doubt exemplifies how we all attempt to solve each other’s problems with a very inhuman method. No doubt Alex’s brutal insanity was the result of such impersonal treatment of a crumbling Dystopia in the first place.
KAISER SOZE The Usual Suspects What makes Kaiser Soze great is not even the man himself but his myth. The ruthless drug dealer has somehow attained a status of fear that surpasses any other criminal’s. It is not just the extremities of his crimes but the manner in how he commits them. When his family was once held ransom in exchange for his entire empire. He kills his family and the men holding them without hesitation. To even the position they put them in, he kills all the families of the people who sought after his fortune, and then he disappears like a ghost from history. Once in a while his name pops up in the criminal underworld, but no one knows for sure what and if the man’s dealings still exist. He is feared like a spook story, since no one can for sure know whether such a ruthless man exists or not.
BILL David Carradine Kill Bill Although he admits his behavior towards his daughter is inexcusable, he points out that it should come as no surprise that the reactions from hurting the heart of a killer will likely be unreasonable. He loves his daughter so much that he would rather see her dead than to see her leave him, and you thought you had a dysfunctional family. He shaped his daughter into a world class assassin only to attempt to destroy her when she plans her life the way she sees fit.
ASAMI YAMAZAKI Eihi Shiina Audition Move over Kathy Bates (although she was good in Misery). Asami is a Venus flytrap. There is a certain childlike innocence about her. It’s the result of being traumatized her entire life, which inhibited her ability to grow in the real world. She lures people into her life in hopes that they will remain with her forever. However, she only wants them to herself, since no one has ever loved her. She has no one, and it seems unfair to her for her friend or lover to have anyone to love besides her. Her family’s idea of bonding was continuous and constant abuse as well as neglect. She has even learned to take extreme gratification in hurting others. The only thing that she trusts is that life is torture, and as a result she teaches her victims the ways of it as a means for them to understand who she is. She believes that everyone lies, much like how she has to conceal how desperately psychotic she is.
TONY MONTANA Al Pacino Scarface Yes, it’s shameful how some people idolize their life around him. However, even though you may doubt the intelligence of such a drug dealer you cannot deny his explosive passion. No one has ever thought Tony would ever amount to anything. He is regarded as scum, trash, or “the bad guy.” If he is seen this way, then so be it. This is why he retorts by using any means necessary until the very world is his. Despite breaking the law and killing other criminals, he won’t kill women or children. To him, that’s a low that no man should cross. He also believes in remaining loyal to his friends, family and business associates, and considers it a code that should never be broken. Tony sees the world as Ahab does with Moby Dick. He becomes depressed when he realizes that no matter how invincible he becomes, he is powerless to fix certain aspects of his life. When people cross him, he grows larger than life to prove to himself, and the rest of the world, that he is at the very top of it.
.DON LOGAN Ben Kingsley Sexy Beast Don is a man who will not take no for an answer. A drill sergeant would give in to him. Your free will and your decision making, has nothing to do with he wants. You will do as he tells you to do, or he will take it personal, and if you keep ignoring him he will make your life hell. For him there is no room for discussion, no argument to be had, and no extenuating circumstances. He doesn’t see any of his actions, or his requests as unreasonable. Therefore, anything you may disagree with him about is completely disregarded by this hard headed imposer.
NEIL McCAULEY Robert Denero Heat Neil, unlike the disaster zone of the cop chasing him, is a cool and composed professional thief. His character was based on a real life thief that director Michael Mann devoted his studying to. Neil McCauley is the best at what he does, because he follows his own strict playbook not only on the scores he takes, but on life itself. He has no attachments to anyone, just like the objects of value that he steals. Greed will never be the fall of him. He is alone in his world, and will do anything he sees fit to get by in life. He won’t take life when it’s unnecessary, but won’t hesitate to kill anyone who gets in his way. When he finally finds himself getting attached to a woman, someone he possibly could love, is when he finally starts breaking his rules. He no longer wants to be a criminal. He cannot go back to the emotionless disciplined life he once had before. The thing that makes him unfathomable is that he is more like a monk than a killer. You would think of him as a good man if it weren’t for all the incredibly terrible things that he does.
THE JOKER Heath Ledger The Dark Knight
What’s a villain list without the Joker? Honestly? Taking nothing away for Heath here, I believe that if Jack Nicholson was directed differently he could have easily taken the cake for the best portrayal of him. Jack is already on the list though. The Joker probably has the most fun being insane than anyone. He believes the whole world is a joke probably because his past was so frightful and void of laughter that he thought he would turn the tables. He is no longer the person being laughed at. Who’s laughing now? Anyone he pins his “behavioral studies” on will be shown just how out of control life can be. It seems that way too many lines were crossed in the Joker’s past.
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE John Malkovich Mary Reilly Woah! I bet you never considered John Malkovich as being right to play the Joker, but he sure looks like him here. Nevertheless his portrayal of the two personalities is the best I’ve seen to date. You already know what makes this man fascinating. Dr. Jekyll wants to be free from his inhibitions, and is bored with his finer more proper conduct. He finds a way to take no responsibility for his actions by creating Mr. Hyde. Though Mary Reilly doesn’t actually exist in the novel, I think this is easily the best film adaptation to date. I was really tempted to feature John Malkovich’s character from Rounders. I find it really amusing to find yourself playing Texas Hold ’em with Malkovich for your very life, but lets face it, his character in Mary Reilly was way more complex.
ANTON CHIGURH Javier Bardem No Country for Old Men It should come as no surprise that Javier is on this list. Anton Chigurh is a man way out of place. He certainly takes matters into his own hands. Contrary to his overbearing psychotics his complex also heavily resembles the character of Two face from Batman comics. He’s a superstitious man, and doesn’t believe in luck but destiny itself. This is how he can leave a man or a woman’s life to chance at the simple flip of a coin. It gives him a purpose to administer his abilities. He doesn’t see it as if he is playing God, but rather he feels he is aiding people in their paths to where ever it is they should be going. Anton is a very curious man; one that is not easily understood.
FRANCIS URQUHART Ian Richardson House of Cards
Who is the most unfathomably written and acted villain of them all? What’s criminal is that if you’re not from England, you probably don’t know him. It’s none other than the devil himself, Francis Urquhart. His initials spell out “F. U.!” when it hits the newspapers. There is no one on this list that is more charismatic, cleverly witty, saturated by charm, magnetic in taste, and beloved by his community as this politician. He comes off as the most humble, morally upright, and well respected man you could imagine. He really is the Devil himself attracting the good-nature of fellow supporters to use them to build his dominating empire. He goes from Chief Whip to Prime Minister through the expense of scandal, blackmail, war, and murder. He also engages in sexual flings with sophisticated women despite his age or the fact that he’s married. He is so good at making you like him that you sometimes see his actions as justifiable when watching the series.
During 1990, this BBC television series shook England into controversy. His famous line, “You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment” was a charming evasion of his opinion on controversial rumors, or questions. Though F.U. is a fictional character, it’s a tactic that has been adapted by real politicians ever since! Seriously though, Ian Richardson’s performance was nothing short of brilliant. You could see him actually feeling as if his day was only growing more wonderful at the expense of others. Waking up everyday to his life was an invigorating breath of fresh air to him. No rest for the wicked. House of cards was a novel written by Michael Dobbs. The combination of his written character “F.U.” with this actor was dynamite. I will say that the first season is the best, and the other two worsened gradually. You will also recognize Ian Richardson (maybe not) in a little cult movie called Dark City as the leader of an alien nation wearing trench coats and Gothic attire. The marvelous actor died only four years ago. We miss you Ian Richardson.