Villains. Whether we love to hate them or hate ourselves for loving them, we can’t get enough of the bad guys. There’s something mesmerizing about how menacing, despicable, and fun they are all at the same time. So naturally, it was only a matter of time before I compiled the Crown Jewels of movie villains. As in the past, this list is based solely on my own opinion, so feel free to disagree with any of my choices. Now let’s take a look at some of the baddest boys and girls around.
10. Stay Puft – Ghostbusters
His true name is Gozer the Gozerian, a Sumerian demigod who travels between realms wiping out entire civilizations. Once he arrives, he allows his victims to choose the form of the Destructor, a high-stakes version of “Pick Your Poison.” When he arrives on Earth, he transforms himself into the creature of Ghostbuster Ray Stantz’s choice—a twenty foot tall marshmallow man in a sailor suit. This monstrous villain is so great because of the bizarre, hilarious juxtaposition of terror and innocence, destructive power and huggable cuteness. The end of the world might be brought about by a marketing mascot, and that ridiculous fact alone plops this sugary badness on this list.
9. Judge Claude Frollo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
No villain list would be complete without at least one Disney villain, and Frollo is the one making an appearance here. While there are certainly more iconic villains, Frollo is particularly unsettling to me because he is such a hypocrite. He constantly gives in to lust, prejudice, and even violence, and yet he is convinced of the moral rightness of his actions. When he admits to being tempted by evil, he blames everyone but himself, including God. As a man of faith myself, I find these tendencies disturbing since I see them in my own culture and even sometimes within myself. A villain who can create that response within me deserves a spot among my crown jewels.
8. Dr. No – Dr. No
James Bond has fought some of the most iconic villains of all time. Ernst Blofeld, Auric Goldfinger, 006, Elliot Carver, and Elektra King all vied for places on this list. In the end, however, the spot goes to the one who started it all, the German-Chinese mastermind Dr. No. This villain had me hooked from the first time his eerily calm voice echoed through a room. He is the classic psychopath, convinced of his own genius and ready to take unfeeling revenge on anyone who denies him what he wants. Add the fact that his hands are powerful gloved vises, and Dr. No meets all the qualifications of an iconic Bond villain.
7. Jumanji – Jumanji
Not exactly the typical villain choice, I know, but one of the things this movie did right was establish the game Jumanji as a character in its own right. Throughout the film, you can feel the game toying with the players, seemingly trying to win its own game by killing them. The drums that draw the children to the game are eerily reminiscent of the Ring of Power’s desire to be found, and the rhyming clues to the next impending danger are almost taunting. The atmosphere surrounding Jumanji is potent, dark, and mysterious, and thus it requires no stretch of the imagination to describe this game as a villain.
6. Delores Jean Umbridge – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Umbridge is the only female villain on this list, but she makes up for it by being possibly the nastiest of the lot. Ironically, she is also the most polite, sweetest, most feminine villain as well, but the blending of the two leaves a horrible saccharine taste in my mouth. That obnoxious giggle, her devotion to all things pink, and her quiet brainwashing techniques all add up to make me long to punch her in the face, which I can’t do because she is both a woman and my elder. Her very presence invokes a sense of frustrated helplessness as she slowly takes over Hogwarts. No doubt about it; when a character makes me hate her more than the main villain, she’s a jewel of a baddie.
5. Khan Noonien Singh – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Star Trek Into Darkness
Some people might be surprised that Khan makes this list while Darth Vader is noticeably absent. Vader, unfortunately, suffers from being a bit too iconic, becoming more of an archetype than a character. Khan, on the other hand, is a solid, villainous character. He is sophisticated and a great thinker and strategist, cold and calculating yet capable of violent emotion. Genetic modification has made him stronger than any other human, making him a superior combination of brains and brawn. He is still human, however, capable of love and devotion to his crew, whom he considers his family, and to his wife. Ricardo Monteban portrays Khan as Star Trek’s Captain Ahab, complete with Moby Dick quotes and lines like, “Have you ever heard the Klingon proverb that says revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold in space.” And one of my favorite actors today, Benedict Cumberbatch, brings Khan to life once more with menacing presence and palpable emotion. No matter who plays him, however, Khan is a villain to be feared.
4. Saruman the White – The Lord of the Rings
Let’s face it; we were all more invested in Christopher Lee as a wizard than in the giant eyeball in the tower. Saruman is the villain to beat in Tolkien’s world; he has an army of several hundred thousand orc-human hybrids superior to Sauron’s orcs, he tosses Gandalf around like a chew toy, and he invents explosives in a medieval world. In addition, his physical and vocal presence are more intimidating by far than that of the mysterious unknown Sauron. Saruman has been compared to Adolf Hitler, and in many ways, that comparison rings true. How could I not put the Hitler of Middle Earth among my Crown Jewels?
3. Loki – Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World
As a fan of the Marvel movies, I have to include this guy. As Thor: The Dark World proved, no matter how mediocre a film may be, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki can carry it. As the Norse god of mischief, Loki benefits from the ability to charm and deceive anyone he chooses. His powers of illusion aid him in his quest to make everyone bow before him. His relationship with Thor, Odin, and Frigga give him a touch of humanity that rounds out his character. Ultimately, however, it is Loki’s charisma and personality that make him so loveably evil, and therefore, he stands out from the pack of Marvel villains as probably the best so far.
2. Nazi Germany – Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
I know this is a cop-out, but when it comes to villainy, few individuals can match the pure malice and evil of the Third Reich. Films such as Schindler’s List, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and The Book Thief depict the harsh reality of life under Nazi oppression, but personally, I’ve always preferred the diabolical fun of Indiana Jones’s Nazis. They’re the melodramatic, mustache-twirling villains we all love to hate, and however bad things get, we always know good will triumph in the end. In the meantime, though, whether they’re committing genocide or chasing mystical artifacts, Nazis are the bad guys we all love to hate.
1. Joker – Batman, The Dark Knight
Was there ever any doubt? As long as I can remember, the Joker has been my favorite villain. His murderous tendencies are balanced out with a dry sense of humor, so no matter how horrible his actions may be, you can’t help but laugh along. You know you should hate him, but you can’t because he’s having too much fun. Whether he’s played by Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, or Heath Ledger, the Joker is the perfect over-the-top crazy villain. After all, shouldn’t the Clown Prince of Crime get the top Crown Jewel?
So what do you think? Who are some of your favorite villains? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to do the world some good, because these guys have evil pretty well covered.