100 Best Movie Villains

Josh Board in the San Diego Reader got a column’s worth of material from analyzing one of the many lists of 100 Best Movie Villains.

Leaving aside villains from horror movies and James Bond movies, which are a different breed of cat, 18 of the fiends on his list are from fantasy and science fiction films. They are, in order of appearance:

Darth Vader (David Prowse / James Earl Jones – voice) – The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain – voice) – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

The Queen (Lucille LaVerne – voice) – Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937).

The Wicked Witch of The West (Margaret Hamilton) – The Wizard of OZ (1939).

Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) – A Clockwork Orange (1971).

Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – The Terminator (1984).

Maleficent (Eleanor Audley – voice) – Sleeping Beauty (1959).

Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) – Star Wars III: Revenge Of The Sith (2005).

Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) – Dracula (1931).

Graf Orlok (Max Schreck) – Nosferatu (1922).

Captain Vidal (Sergi López) – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).

The Joker (Jack Nicholson) – Batman (1989).

Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) – Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)

Gollum (Andy Serkis) – Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King (2003).

Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) – Blade Runner (1982).

Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) – Superman (1978).

White Witch (Tilda Swinton) – Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005).

Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving) – The Matrix (1999).

I wondered why there weren’t more from the fantasy and science fiction fields. But I wasn’t able to think of very many great villains to add to the list.

The alien from Alien and Aliens? No villainy there, because there’s no perception that the alien is making moral choices any more than a mosquito does. Chris from Westworld? Well, a villain most people hardly remember probably doesn’t belong on the list either. His niche is much better filled by the Terminator anyway.

I suspect the real reason there aren’t a lot more great sf/fantasy movie villains, after looking at the list of Hugo-nominated films, is that very often threats to the survival of the hero or heroine come from an abstract source, whether a self-obsessed, unimaginative society, or a smothering, restrictive government (frequently, our own.)

In E.T., the government appears to be villainous until the truth is revealed, when it merely seems ham-handed. Hazel’s ultimate problem in Watership Down is land development, and we know who’s to blame for that. The Sandmen from Logan‘s Run are a nemesis, but it’s a youth-obsessed society that made the choice to call them into service. The black-helicopter variety of government tries to keep Roy off the mountain in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And WarGames, that most unsubtle story, makes its villain the idea of war itself, and an idea is as far from villainy personified as you can get.

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One thought on “100 Best Movie Villains

  1. Land development is the ultimate problem in the first half of Watership Down, but in the second half it’s a villain. And General Woundwort is a great villain, at least in the book: the film strikes me as rather bland.

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