A good villain can be the cornerstone to any movie. They are the opposite to the hero of the piece in every way possible, and a quality villain, in my mind anyway, is someone you secretly root for throughout the movie.
Over the years there have been many great villains, from the shark in Jaws, Loki from Avengers Assemble, General Zod in Superman 2 to Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs.
These are all memorable characters who have withstood the test of time, and in some cases have become even more popular than the heroes they are facing off against.
So, to celebrate these evildoers, here are my 6 favourite movie villains.
One of my favourite movies of all time and probably one of the greatest action movies ever, Die Hard completely changed the action genre for years to come. John McClane was the everyman cop who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Hans Gruber was the man responsible for handing out the punishment. Alan Rickman is superb in the role of Hans Gruber, he is calm and collected but also echoes menace throughout the film. He has a plan and will do anything to see it through. His German accent may not be the best, but there is a certain delight to be had in watching a master at work.
Best line: (whilst addressing the hostages gathered in the Nakatomi Plaza) “I wanted this to be professional, efficient, adult, cooperative. Not a lot to ask. Alas, your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way… so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life. We can go any way you want it. You can walk out of here or be carried out. But have no illusions. We are in charge. So, decide now, each of you. And please remember: we have left nothing to chance.”
Con Air is something of a guilty pleasure to me, it came out when I was 13 (damn that makes me feel old) and I remember watching it on VHS when we still had a video rental store in my local village. I was also a massive fan of Speed and pretty much any action film I could set my eyes on. The other year I got the chance to watch Con Air again when it was playing late one night on the BBC and I still loved it. What stuck with me the most though, was how utterly depraved and wicked John Malkovich was in this film. I always have a good time watching this movie and in particular Malkovich’s performance. Con Air was an action vehicle for its star Nicolas Cage, but it’s certainly “Cyrus” who is the most memorable character in this movie.
Best line: (addressing another convict) “I despise rapists. For me, you’re somewhere between a cockroach and that white stuff that accumulates at the corner of your mouth when you’re really thirsty. But, in your case, I’ll make an exception.”
Hugo Weaving is something of a go to guy for villainy in Hollywood blockbusters now. He has voiced Megatron in all three Transformers movies and gone toe to toe with Captain America whilst playing the Red Skull, but his best role as a villain has to be that of Agent Smith in The Matrix. Agent Smith is ruthlessly efficient, destructive and fully believes in his goal and he will let nothing stand in his way. A complete badass, and completely unrecognisable for anyone who saw him play a drag queen in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert.
Best line: “I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.”
Yes, Alan Rickman again. Normally I would try to avoid having the same actor pop up twice in one of my lists but you just have to love Rickman’s gloriously OTT performance here. Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves was something of a staple in my house when I was younger, it seemed to be on all the time, Dad would always fall asleep during the last half hour of the film though, and to this day I’m sure he isn’t aware that Sean Connery makes a cameo at the end. Again, this film is all about the villain, Kevin Costner is somewhat overshadowed by more than just one character here, but it is Rickman’s Sheriff who steals the show. Maybe his performance is a bit too excessive for some, but anyone who threatens to cut Kevin Costner’s heart out with a spoon is a winner in my book.
Best line: “Wait a minute. Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public, and they love him for it? That’s it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas!”
Clarence Boddicker is one of the most unsavoury characters to ever grace the big screen. He cares for no one but himself and his treatment of other people throughout the film shows precisely that. Right from the first scene we see Boddicker throw one of his own henchman from a moving van after finding out he had burnt most of the money they had just stolen, it’s here that he asserts his authority and utters the immortal line “can you fly Bobby?”. Genius. Also, the way he treats Police Officer Alex J. Murphy right before he blows his arm off with a shotgun is nothing but hideous, and all the while he is taking a certain joy in watching this rookie cop suffer. I’m pretty sure this a fairly underrated performance from Kurtwood Smith, and it is a role he should get more acknowledgement for.
Best line: (outnumbered and outgunned, Boddicker is confronting the biggest drugs dealer in the city) “I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not making myself clear. I don’t want to fuck with you, Sal. But I got the connections. I got the sales organization. I got the muscle to shove enough of this factory so far up your stupid wop ass that you’ll shit snow for a year.”
This was Heath Ledger’s standout performance, his portrayal of The Joker is both demented and chilling. When interviewed about the role, Heath Ledger said that his vision of the character was that he was ” a psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” Boy was he right. Brilliantly played by Ledger and pretty much stealing the show from under the nose of Christian Bale, many forum fanatics went as far to say that the film was less about Batman and should have actually been called The Joker. The bank robbery scene is iconic, but it’s the magic trick scene where The Joker makes a pencil disappear that truly stays in your mind and sets the tone for what to expect from this character.
Best line: (after being interrogated by Batman, The Joker is left alone with a cop with a grudge) “Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can’t savor all the… little emotions. In… you see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in a way, I know your friends better than you ever did. Would you like to know which of them were cowards?”