Top Ten Most Evil Movie Villains

There are plenty of lists out there that have compiled a list of the greatest bad guys in movie history. AFI has a list of the 100 greatest heroes and villains. TIME has a list of the 25 greatest villains. A podcast I enjoy listening to on Adam Carolla’s podcast network called The Film Vault did their top five villains of all time.

I want to make this list different.

I don’t want this to be a list of the best and most entertaining bad guys and villains in movies; I want this list to be the most evil bad guys and villains. Let me try and explain myself and explain this subtle difference.

I think the main difference is that there are antagonists that are dicks and antagonists that are evil. I’m looking to weed out the dicks and solely focus on the evil ones. In order to tell the difference between a dick and one who is evil is their motivation. Many bad guys and many of the ones you see pop up on these lists are motivated to do their bad actions by something other than their evil self- the obvious two being money and love. Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina) in Spiderman II did some pretty bad and shitty things. However, he’s not evil. He was just lonely and frustrated and took out that frustration on others. He’s a bully, but he’s not evil. I loved Die Hard and Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) was a fantastic antagonist. He’s a guy that shows up on every top villain list because he was great in Die Hard. But he wasn’t evil in the sense I am defining it. He just wanted money. He killed people, he tortured them, and he was a terrorist, but he wasn’t evil. To me, he was just a dick.

This list was not an easy one to complete. There were a lot of great villains and characters out there and ones as characters I liked and were better antagonists than the ones I put on this list, but they weren’t evil enough for me. To collect a list of ten evil villains was a challenge for me.

Before we begin, I’d like to start off discussing a few great movie bad guys who I purposefully left off this list because they did not fit the definition I was going with.

Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest: The movie is never as good as the book if you’ve read the book first and I think that holds true for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. And maybe I should have seen the movie first to truly evaluate its merits but I was in 11th grade and I didn’t want to complete the book as my assigned homework so I watched the movie instead. The reason I left Nurse Ratched off this list is because I remember watching the movie and thinking, “This is it!? All this hype about one of the meanest persons ever in movies and all I get is some crabby old nurse with her panties in a bunch?” I remember reading the book and thinking this character is one of the most evil antagonists I had known up to that point but I remember seeing the movies and being extremely disappointed with Louise Fletcher’s portrayal of the iconic nurse.

Col. SS Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) from Inglorious Basterds: He’s one of my personal favorite all time villains but as the story progressed he changed and got less evil. In the fantastic opening scene where Landa is talking to the Frenchman hiding the Jews he boasts how he revels in his menacing nickname but towards the end when he meets Brad Pitt he talks about he singlehandedly wants to take down the evil empire and how he hates his nickname. This is (purposefully) symboli of how less evil Col. Landa became. The final scene of the movie, after he meets Pitt and that dude from The Office, forced me to take Col. Landa off of my list because he showed me some compassion and that he was just doing this for a paycheck.

Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) in Psycho: Truthfully, he probably should have made the list and is probably number eleven but because he has glaring mommy issues made me want to leave him off. He does not kill because he enjoys the thrill of the kill or the hunt like many others on this list. He kills because his mommy told him to. There are many legit crazy people on this list but Bates seems like the wrong kind of crazy to warrant a spot on this list for me.

Some other notable just bad guys but who were just “dicks” and not really evil are: Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) from Wall Street, Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) from It’s A Wonderful Life, Cruela De Vil from 101 Dalmatians, and Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) from Training Day. I also left off any besats (the monsters from Jaws, Alien(s), and Predators) and horror bad guys (Freddy Krueger, Michael Meyers) because they don’t really seem to fit the bill. I also left off Man from Bambi because that’s just a retarded selection that AFI chose. Lastly, I left off many other choices just because although I’ve seen a lot of movies, I have not seen every single one and if I have not seen the movie yet, I refuse the judge the merit of how evil the character in the movie is.

***NOTE: Reviews contain spoilers***

10) HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain) from 2001: A Space Odyssey
I actually really wanted to leave HAL off of this list. I actually saw 2001 for the first time and was really unimpressed with just how evil the machine truly was. I have heard for my entire lifetime that HAL 9000 was one of the most evil things out there in movies. And along the same lines of watching Nurse Ratchet I was like, “This is all I get?” But the more I thought about, the more HAL fits this list. It’s cold, calculating, ruthless, spiteful, and wants to destroy all mankind. Even though it’s not human it has all the characteristics I am looking for in an evil villain.

9) Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) from No Country for Old Men
Come on, anyone that lugs around a giant air pressure cannon as a weapon has to earn a spot on this list. Sure, Chigurh was a hired gun and mercenary in order to retrieve some money back, but the ways in which he chose to do that were just great and evil. He blows up cars and kills anyone who gets in his path. He has that right amount of crazy in him to help him blur the line between right and wrong. Or rather, he just doesn’t give a shit if what he is doing is wrong. He almost kills a local convenience store owner just for the hell of it (which made for a great scene- “Call it- friendo”) He is the character Col. Landa could have been. He is just menacing throughout the movie and a great movie character.

8) Kaiser Soze from The Usual Suspects
I know who the actor who played Kaiser Soze is but for those readers who are just reading the title of the character and movie and do not want the movie ruined for them, I will be nice to them. Soze could fall under the “dick” category. He’s just a man who wants money and power and is just a drug lord willing to take that extra step. But in the middle of the movie Soze’s enemies rape his family and hold them hostage. Instead of being “dragged down” by his family he murders his own family, murders the would-be attackers, and then murders anyone associated with the would be attackers. That’s cold. That’s what it takes to earn a spot on this list, none of that “love” or “compassion” bullshit that holds those Italian mob bosses down.

7) Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) from Saw
I’m not talking any of those other sequels that, like The Matrix Revolutions and Reloaded, took a giant dump on everything they worked hard to create. I’m talking about the original Saw, the masterpiece that shows that Cary Elwes (who?) has acting chops. That movie. Although the sequels do in a way show Jigsaw’s true personality. The main factor holding Jigsaw back is that he wants his prisoners to escape. He doesn’t *want* them to die but rather he wants them to go through hell in order to come out for the better on the other side. In fact, in later movies, he scolds his protégé (I’m not going to bother taking the time to look up what her character or actual name is) for making the tasks impossible so that the prisoners can never escape. But what that being said, Jigsaw still takes (somewhat) random people tortures them in the worst possible way knowing full well they’re going to die. Or if not die, being hurt in the most excruciating way. Plus, Jigsaw really doesn’t *truly* care about these people. He’s just a psychopath.

6) Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) from Reservoir Dogs
Hear me out on this. Remember, this is not a list of the greatest villains ever. This is a list of the most evil villains ever. When I think about what an evil character is, Mr. Blonde fits the description. In the middle of running away from the cops, out of the blue, he kidnaps a cop. Not some high ranking police official but some Joe Schmo cop. AND he kidnaps him for the sole purpose of torturing him. Sure, he wants to find out who double-crossed him, but he does it with such glee. It’s hard to watch the infamous ear-cutting scene as a viewer so if I was actually there I couldn’t imagine how gruesome that would actually be. But in a scene improvised by Madsen himself, Mr. Blonde tortures a young cop with such happiness and delight which makes for a quintessential evil person. He didn’t squeal on his bosses once while in jail because he wanted to live this glamorous life of crime and violence that he loves so much.

5) Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) from Blue Velvet
If you ever had any question about how ruthless and messed up Frank Booth is then you have not seen Blue Velvet. But to put to rest any qualms anyone might have had about this movie, let me pull just one paragraph from Booth’s Wikipedia page to prove it to you.

“Frank's most prized asset is Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rosselini), a beautiful torch singer who brings huge crowds into the local nightclub, and over who he takes complete control when he kidnaps her son and husband. He extorts sadomasochistic sexual favors from Dorothy by mutilating her husband and threatening to kill the child if she does not give in. He makes her his slave, to the point that after pretending to enjoy his abuse for so long, she begins to derive masochistic pleasure from it”

Booth is just a great movie villain in general with his weird ether-esque gas tank he uses before he rapes Dorothy and he is so eccentric and just fun to watch on the screen.

There are movies (Brian De Palma’s Scarface comes to mind) where there is a guy who earns his way to the top and does so by stepping on a few toes, bribing a few cops, and killing a few people, but very few characters will do what Frank Booth does in order to get to the top and its that cold-heartedness that makes Frank Booth so evil.

4) Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) from Star Wars IV: A New Hope
If you watch all six episodes of Star Wars you start to see the evil sith lord created in Episode IV start to become less and less evil. In the first Star Wars Darth Vader is great. He chokes his underlings just because they slightly irk him and he destroys an entire planet and race of people just to torture his daughter (even though we as an audience did not know Leai was Darth Vader’s daughter, Darth Vader sure did). He is involved in a machine the size of a planet just to destroy anyone and anything that gets in his way. Hell, he’s part of The Dark Side of the Force which is a (not so subtle) reference to everything evil and bad. The other five movies tarnish the evil reputation Darth Vader earned for being pure evil and that is why he is *only* number four on this list.

Senator Palpatine probably deserved a spot on this list as well (in fact if we're talking about pure evil he might have deserved Darth Vader's spot) but you have to give it to the main antagonist. You just have to. Sure, creating a clone army to start a war in order to get yourself elected to the head of the Senate so you have so much power that you kill all the Jedi's or force them into hiding in order to become the darkest force in the universe is pretty evil but... OK, I have just talked myself into a tie between Vader and Palpatine but Vader is much more iconic which is why he gets top billing.

3) Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) from The Silence of the Lambs
One could actually make a great argument that Dr. Lecter isn’t even the creepiest villain in the movie, but who can anyone deny the awesomeness and evilness of Hannibal Lecter. Think about some of the creepiest and most evil people we have in today’s society. On the top of that list is Jeffrey Dahmer- a charming, smart man who killed and ate people. That is Hannibal Lecter. Dr. Lecter isn’t motivated by greed or because his mommy didn’t love him enough, he’s motivated by his own crazy self-desire to inflict harm on others just for his benefit. He toys with Clarisse and everyone he comes across in the movie and does what he can (including cutting off a man’s face) in order to continue killing and reeking havoc on anyone and everyone.

2) Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) from A Clockwork Orange
The first half of A Clockwork Orange is one of the weirdest, most messed up things in a movie you will ever see. The movie is full of bullying, killing, fighting, fucking and brutal raping. In one horrifying scene, Alex and his drooges charge into a home, bind the husband on the ground, hold the wife against her will and then, with a great dichotomy, Alex starts singing the song “Singin’ In The Rain” while simultaneously beating the husband and cutting off the wife’s clothing before raping her. When I think of pure evil, Alex DeLarge fits the bill. Alex never feels sorry for what he’s done, even after he’s caught and out in prison. While in prison he still has a goofy grin on his face. The point of A Clockwork Orange is the tension and difficulty between people’s actions and their innate nature. Society tries to train Alex’s actions but his thoughts remain the same. He still wants to go out and kill and rape, just now he physically can’t. The movie tries to make inferences that Alex is the way he is because of social upbringing or the world around him, but I think it is pretty clear that he’s just evil and nothing can be done about it.

1) The Joker (Heath Ledger) from The Dark Knight
Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn
This is what I mean by pure evil. This quote right here that Alfred says to Bruce Wayne with an implicit indication of who The Joker is. Why does The Joker do what he does? Why he does kill people? Why does he blow shit up? Why does he take bombs, place it on two boats and tell the other boat they have to detonate the other boat to survive? Because that is just who The Joker is. He just wants to watch the world burn. There is no good or bad in The Joker’s mind. Sure, he starts off working for the mob, but in the end he takes over the mob, kills most of the higher ups, and burns their money. Why? Because gas and TNT are cheap he says. All The Joker wants to do is add a little chaos to Gotham City. Hell, he also killed a person a dya in Gotham and instead of blaming the killer, the city got pissed at The Joker. Haven't hey heard the phrase you don't negotiate with terrorists? That’s it. He has no motivations about money or love. Hell, he really doesn’t have any about power. It just comes with a side effect with this plan.