While the main purpose of the villain is to serve as the driving force against the hero of the movie and to create a common evil that we can all band together to root against, many of us find ourselves to favor some of these antagonists. Whether this is due to their intimidating disposition, eerily charming personality, or just general badassery, many villains in movie history have become just as, if not more, iconic than their heroic counterparts.
Whether it’s Anthony Hopkins as the classic Hannibal Lecter, or Bill Skarsgård’s latest version of Pennywise, how can we not fall prey to these legendary villains? With the return of one of our favorite movie franchises Terminator: Dark Fate set to release November 1st, we felt it would be appropriate to take a look at some of our favorite movie villains of all time.
10. JOHN DOE
John Doe's master plan is pure perverse yet strategic genius. Driven by Christianity's seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, pride, envy, and wrath), the anonymous serial killer hand selects each of his victims based on one of the seven sins they are guilty of. When he finally makes an appearance in the last act, the final standoff between John Doe (Kevin Spacey) and Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) is chilling and masterfully evil.
9. JACK TORRANCE
The Shining (1980)
Responsible for one of the most iconic and heavily quoted lines in horror, John Daniel "Jack" Torrance (Jack Nicholson) serves as the main antagonist in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. In his slow descent into madness at the hands of the Overlook Hotel, we receive some of the best monologues and bone-chilling expressions from any movie villain—expertly delivered by Nicholson.
8. HANS LANDA
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
On-screen Nazis tend to be cut from a similar cloth: psychotic, deeply sinister, and usually sporting some sort of facial scar. But SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) was not quite like the others—he was verbose, culturally enlightened, multilingual, and carried a calm, calculated disposition (not to mention his unapologetic love of strudel). He’s a psychopathic murderer, without a doubt, but also disarmingly charming, which makes him far more terrifying. Christoph Waltz’s Oscar®-winning performance was brilliantly crafted and not short on classic Tarantino dialogue.
The Terminator (1984)
The Cyberdyne Systems Series 800 Terminator or, more easily put, "Terminator" was the relentless killing machines designed by Skynet and possibly the most iconic AI antagonist in movie history. While we eagerly await the latest version in this year’s Terminator: Dark Fate, we will always look fondly to the ruthless cyborg in James Cameron's original, unforgettable, 80’s action movie. He stalks his prey so mercilessly, even indifferent to the civilians in the line of fire, that you can’t help but share the fear of anyone who stands in his way.
IT (Chapters 1 and 2) (2017-2019)
Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) in IT (2017)
The newest rendition of Stephen King’s classic, murderous, interdimensional clown quickly became the latest and most horrifically memorable movie villain of the modern era. With a cheerily demonic performance from Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the dancing clown, we saw everything from dismemberment, cannibalism, and a manifestation of pretty much any fear you could possibly imagine. Not only is Pennywise the embodiment of fear, but also of bigotry, hate, and was responsible for a number of atrocities that played out through history. A scary clown could have come off as cheesy, but Skarsgård’s performance was absolutely perfect.
5. HANNIBAL LECTER
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Speaking of eating people (a sentence we never thought we’d say), we find one of the greatest villains in Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter. Don’t let his calm demeanor and eloquently crafted vocabulary fool you, Lecter is pure, unrelenting evil. Even while caged and restrained, the evil genius is terrifying because, as we learn, given the chance, Lecter will literally bite someone’s face off without his pulse ever going above 85 bpm. For his curtain call, he slips through police lines in an ambulance by wearing the face he removed from one of the men he just moments before bludgeoned to death.
4. ANTON CHIGURH
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Bardem perfectly portrays the tired-eyed, bowl-cut, malevolence of Anton Chigurh, a cartel hitman who uses a bolt rifle to execute his victims like they were cattle. Chigurh is a man with a particularly staunch perspective of the world, one concerned with chance, fate, and debts accrued during the course of a person’s life—he takes or spares lives at the toss of a coin. Chigurh is maybe one of the more chilling villains to appear on screen, as his motives remain unclear throughout the movie. He is a ghost. An idea. Or as the Sheriff would put it: “He's just a homicidal lunatic.”
3. LORD VOLDEMORT
The Harry Potter series (2001-2011)
Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
One of the most feared yet alluring villains to appear on the big screen is none other than He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. From his serpentine face to his bone-chilling backstory, Ralph Fiennes turned J.K. Rowling's fallen wizard into the personification of everything black magic. Commanding an army of Death Eaters, the Dark Lord will stop at nothing to rise to power and quash all light on Earth—there is a reason that most do not dare speak his name.
2. THE JOKER
The Dark Knight (2008)
As arguably one of the best villains ever to appear on-screen, Heath Ledger as the Joker kept us mesmerized and horrified. He's unpredictable. He's immovable. There's nothing about him that any human can connect to. It’s almost as if he doesn't even have much of a motive to be wreaking havoc on the citizens of Gotham—save for Alfred’s explanation that “some men just want to watch the world burn.”
1. DARTH VADER
Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983)
Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
And finally, we land on the greatest movie villain of all time: Darth Vader. Although Vader is first introduced in the original trilogy as a relentless mastermind, killing anyone who stands in his path to galactic domination, by the final movie, he does everything in his power to sacrifice himself in order to save his son. And that’s part of what makes Darth Vader such a memorable villain—that he wasn’t a villain to begin with (which we later find the prequel trilogy to follow). From his black cloak to mechanical breathing, to his take-no-prisoners philosophy, we want to congratulate Darth Vader for being the one who most makes us want to turn to the dark side!
See Gabriel Luna take on the role of Terminator opposite Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, and original cast members Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton in Terminator: Dark Fate, coming to Regal November 1st.