The 7 best villains of all time, from glamor to downright evil
What’s so good about being bad? We encourage James Bond and “Alien’s” Ripley to win, but they’re at their best when paired with a charismatic villain.
Of course, we know that Bond will triumph in the end, but we have to believe – at least for a few hours – that the villain will be about to shut down the power grid or laser the Earth’s core or whatever. he wants. do. (Sadly, it’s always a ‘he’ in the Bond films; how good would Anjelica Huston or Jessica Lange have been as nemesis 007?)
Bond does not play with gray areas; we always know that the Goldfinger and Le Chiffre holders of “Casino Royale” are rotten to the core. These are the kinds of bad apples that we hope will be devoured by wild boars, a daringly hissing villain form that can be a lot of fun.
But the same goes for a more human evil. Think of Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson in “Double Indemnity”. She’s not doing anything good, but Stanwyck is so handsome and funny that we’re almost ready to forget that she wants her stupid husband and lover dead.
Part of the kick of the movie is that no one can keep up with Phyllis, so in a biased moral universe, we encourage her. (According to the movie, Hannibal Lecter also qualifies as a villain whose side we take.)
The bad guy is often more mysterious than the good guy, so cheering them on can be a fun way to watch a movie. What if I understood where the “Mean Girls” come from when the bland Lindsay Lohan walks into their dining room?
What if I was ignored for so long that it was hard to let go of the little power I finally acquired, like Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”? What if, like Norman Bates, my “wickedness” was the product of abuse from the day I was born?
I’m not even sure Anthony Perkins’ Norman is the villain in “Psycho” or Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West is in “The Wizard of Oz”. They’re a different kind of villain, written and acted out so that we relate to what makes them bad. Of course, the witch is upset – Dorothy killed her sister. If Judy Garland wasn’t so adorably infuriating in “Oz,” some might argue that she is the antagonist.
Maybe the identification with the villain depends entirely on where we find a story: a young Norman Bates might have been a good guy for fishing, and “Mean Girl” Regina George has probably turned into a better one. no one later when she figured out what to do with her anger.
Our sympathies, or lack of them, can also change our view of bad guys. I have considered two performances by Kevin Spacey – “The Usual Suspects” and “Seven” – for this list, but they are difficult to watch given what we later learned about an actor whose wrongdoing is too real.
That’s why these seven amazing villains screamed out of the fictional world.
Cruella de Vil
“ 101 Dalmatians ” (1961)
My favorite villain is also my first. I have vivid childhood memories of Cruella with her lipstick bar and devilish tailoring terrorizing a kind family and their puppies. Literally being a cartoon makes her horrible glamor; obviously, a real dog killer is preposterous. All I know is we’re supposed to love to hate her, but that’s not how I feel. I wholeheartedly adore every inch of her inspiring the drag queen, barking and sucking a cocktail.
‘Star Wars’ (1977)
The late David Prowse hardly gets any credit for the physical presence of the obsidian supervillain, but it’s hard to imagine Vader with anyone other than the voice of James Earl Jones. The actor, who almost always plays the good guys, adds layers of possibility with his bossy bark. We learned more about Dark in the following “Star Wars” movies, but this sound anchors it somewhere between known and unknowable.
“ No Country for the Old People ” (2007)
Oscar winner Javier Bardem makes the quiet and silent Chigurh the anti-Norman Bates, terrifying because we don’t know anything about him (so did Bardem’s villainous “Skyfall”). Seeming to have materialized out of nowhere in the Cormac McCarthy novel and the Joel and Ethan Coen movie, he seems human, but his interactions with others make us wonder how anyone could be like this. As a result, Chigurh points out the scariest thing about evil: we don’t know where it came from.
Mary lee johnston
The genius of Mo’Nique’s Oscar-winning performance is how she straddles a line. The exaggerated meanness of abusive mother Mary would feel at home in a Bond film, but the pain she reveals in scenes with her desperate daughter Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) is real. Ultimately, these terrible forces are manifested in Precious’s determination to break a cycle of villainy that the film implies is much like a cycle of abuse.
‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (1974)
James Bond has faced a lot of top-notch lowlifes, but Christopher Lee’s “World’s Most Dangerous Man” goes to Maniacs’ Mount Rushmore because of his elegance, wit, and iconic voice.
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946)
Listen to me: Lionel Barrymore created the model for Bardem’s virgin wickedness. As he tries to suck the life out of a New York hamlet and its middle-class dwellers, Potter owes something to the silent film tradition of villains reveling in their wickedness. Director Frank Capra knows that Potter horrifies us because, like Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey, we can’t understand how he got out of the same world as us. There is probably a Potter origin story to explore in a prequel to “Wonderful Life” from the latter days; hope no one will.
‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)
There’s a reason Joaquin Phoenix and the late Heath Ledger won Oscars playing this Batman nemesis (and Jack Nicholson should have): He looks like a cartoon, but his psychology is so rich (“I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve “) as he weaves his way to the fore in every story he participates in.