Top Ten Movie Villains

Movie villains are the backbone of the entire art form. Too often villains go unrecognized for just how important they are. Without villains there are no stories, no conflict, no drama, you get the picture. Of course there are exceptions, but I love a good villain. Usually the case is, the better the villain the better the movie. This is a list of my favorite villains in all of film.

There are many cases where the antagonist of the story is actually more interesting than the protagonist and even when that’s the case, I’m a sucker for watching a hero triumph over a villain. I took a lot into account when I made this list, but I’d have to say the order and choices were mainly based on a combination of the enjoyment I have watching the villain on screen and the actual malevolence of the character. Well, here it is.

10. Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman Begins)

Ra’s Al Ghul is the leader of The League of Shadows and the mentor to the greatest hero in existence, Batman. In a way, they both want to save the world. Bruce Wayne studied under the tutelage of The League of Shadows because he was seeking the means to fight injustice. Where Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul differ is in the way Batman, as a hero should, sets himself apart from the villains whereas Ghul believes in necessary evil.

9. Bill the Butcher (Gangs of New York)

Martin Scorsese’s epic about the early remnants of a city focuses largely on one of the most intense and cruel figures in the history of cinema, Bill “The Butcher” Cutting. Daniel Day-Lewis plays the character flawlessly and with fervor.    His lust for  power is matched only by a love for his country and the freedom it represents. Gangs of New York is a vengeance story and to watch protagonist Amsterdam finally smite Bill the Butcher is incredibly satisfying.

8. Amon Goeth (Schindler’s List)

Never have the senseless and discouraging crimes against humanity performed by the Third Reich ever been more personified in film than with Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of Amon Goeth in Steven Spielberg’s magnum opus, Schindler’s List. This a film about the ability and will to do good. Amon Goeth represents the contradiction to this idea. He’s commanding, blood-thirsty and completely apathetic towards his actions.

7. Jack Torrance (The Shining)

I say Jack Torrance, but I more so mean the evil pumping through the veins of The Overlook Hotel that eventually forces sane writer/father, Jack Torrance’s transformation into a crazed/axe-wielding murderer. The first sequence in the bar where both Torrance and The Overlook Hotel show their true colors serves as a solemn warning for the horrific oddities that have yet to transpire. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy and one of the greatest villains in film.

6. Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)

In a gorgeous performance, Anthony Hopkins supremely captures the essence and soul of an incredibly intelligent serial killer who not only murders his victims, but eats them. The grotesque violence that the character is capable of can only be spotted in a single scene of the film, but even during the moments where he’s only staring, you can still feel the gravity of just how despicable the character at hand actually is. He probably gets the least screen time of any villain on this list, but he is easily one of the greatest in the history of film.

5. Silva (Skyfall)

Raoul Silva (formerly Tiago Rodriguez) is the most sinister and formidable opponent James Bond will ever acquire. This isn’t some cackling, conniving or cat-petting villain bent on world domination. Silva wants one thing and one thing only, M. He’s a former MI6 agent, M’s “favorite” at his time of service before he was betrayed. He loves M if only because she gives him purpose and hates her for what she’s created in him. He’s a showman and he has fun doing what he does and he’s one of them, he knows all the tricks. Silva is a mastermind, he’s flamboyant, he’s malevolent and he’s completely deranged.

4. Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men)

Confident, cold, calculating, silent, creative, determined and soulless. These are just a few words that can be used to describe the brutal killer, Anton Chigurh. His weapons of choice are a cattle gun and a sawed-off shotgun fit with a foot-long silencer, but a pair of hand cuffs would do just fine for this man who will stop at nothing to reach his goals. “People always say the same thing” Chigurh says to a young woman who tells him he doesn’t have to kill her. This is a situation he’s been in before and it’s one he’ll be in again. Killing for him is just as easy as waking up. He is death incarnate in the Coen Brothers’ poetic masterpiece of crime and violence.

3. Col. Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)

Col. Hans Landa is Nazi Officer, but he is so much more depraved than any other member of the Third Reich. Unlike the officers and foot soldiers who whole-heartedly believe Adolf Hitler’s poisonous words, Col. Landa is merely a Colonel of the S.S. because he knows it’s in his best interest. He’s a sly detective and easily earns himself the nickname, The Jew Hunter. At the end of the day however, he doesn’t care about the Third Reich’s plot for world domination. He cares about his own personal gain and if that means betraying his entire country than so be it. He just bleeds malevolence whether he’s drinking a glass of milk or strangling someone to death. Hans Landa isn’t evil because he’s a Nazi, he’s a very evil man who happens to wear a Nazi uniform.

2. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

Bane can be looked at as the absence of hope. A meeting with Bane, let alone a fight with Bane, would result in anyone’s demise. He’s strategic, tactical, he speaks with intelligence and eloquence, but at the same time he is a complete brute. The mask he wears makes it so he can survive an unbearable pain, but it also serves as a signature look and a reminder of how emotionless and inhumanly evil this man can be.

In order to exact his torture of Batman and the city of Gotham, Bane places himself in a seat of power. He’s a revolutionary warlord, he’s his own General and he’s his own greatest soldier. This is a highly demanding performance and not just physically. Tom Hardy plays the character to perfection. Bane is supremely fearsome, intimidating and though he has a strict regiment and plot, there is no denying his admiration for death and destruction.

1. The Joker (The Dark Knight)

The Joker is unlike any other movie character and villain in the way that he epitomizes pure evil. The Joker is always smiling because there is never a dull moment where he is not doing exactly what he wants, instilling evil into the world. As the dark, crusading, creature of the night Batman is good for the sake of being good. The Joker, a gleeful and colorful clown, is evil for the sake of being evil.

The Joker burns a mountain of money just show exactly how much he doesn’t care about the idea of a motive. “Do I really look like a guy with a plan?” he says to the White Knight, Harvey Dent. Even when faced with opportunities to kill the heroes of the story, he instead attempts to reveal their true colors by giving them opportunities to kill him. He would gladly die doing what makes him happy.

Heath Ledger gave the greatest performance of all time as the darkest and most “unstoppable force” ever portrayed. Despite the fact that The Joker is so fiercely evil, he is very charismatic in the way he is also a clown. Ledger utilizes this trait in creating not only the greatest villain, but the greatest character in all of film. There didn’t need to be some kind of origin story or flashbacks to when The Joker was young. All there was in The Dark Knight was a showcasing of the constant battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Anything less or more would have taken away from the perfection.

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Top Ten Movie Deaths

I pondered for a while about how to preface this list, but its pretty self-explanatory. Death is a pretty beautiful thing when it comes to cinema. There are deaths in film that, when due to great performances, direction and writing, you get unbearably powerful moments. This is a list of those deaths. This is a list dedicated to my favorite deaths in film because of their meaning and power, not necessarily the ones that are remembered in cinema history as classics, such as the shower scene in Psycho or King Kong falling off the Empire State Building. While those are amazing moments in film, they just didn’t affect me like the deaths in this list.

 

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

 

 

!!!IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ONE OF THE MOVIES LISTED, DON’T READ INTO IT!!!

 

 

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

 

10. John Doe (SE7EN)

There aren’t many moments that you can truly say, based on their content, leave you gasping for air. The death of the villain, John Doe, in SE7EN is undoubtedly one of those moments. We never see this character until the end of the movie, but nevertheless, we fear him. We get to know the detectives on the case and we keep guessing what the end could be. What we do get is fantastically dark and real. If you’re looking for a prime example of a villain winning, this is it.

9. Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman Begins)

The death of Bruce Wayne’s mentor and eventual enemy is an undeniably memorable one. What makes this death such a spectacular one is in the way that the wise leader of the league of shadows attempts to gain dignity from his death with the line “Have you finally learned to do what is necessary?” He’s trying to show that he’s actually taught the man known as Batman very well. Batman shows the true colors of both characters with his reply, “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you.”

8. Lester Burnhum (American Beauty)

What makes Lester Burnhum’s death so awesome isn’t the actual death itself. Lester’s death is made significant based on the events before and the magnificent final monologue of the movie. You find out right in the beginning that this character we’re being introduced to is going to die by the end. It’s not the “what” that we’re interested in because we know what’s going to happen, what we are concerned about are the “who” and the “why”. We get the answers we need and few things in film are as pleasing.

7. Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Fight Club is one of my favorite films in general so it was really a no-brainer when it came to putting the stunning death of one the greatest characters in film on this list. The relationship between the Narrator and Tyler Durden is one of the most special and interesting ever filmed. Throughout Fight Club we get to know these characters and know them well. By the end we know what has to happen and the death of the final scene which results in the death of Tyler Durden completely blows me away  every single time.

6. Frank (Once Upon a Time in the West)

It seems that because of Sergio Leone’s brilliant film, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, his other masterpiece, “Once Upon a Time in the West”, is often overlooked. I do slightly prefer “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, but there is one aspect of “Once Upon a Time in the West” that is better and that is in the black-hearted villain, Frank. He’s one of the most despicable villains ever filmed and there are few moments in film that are as satisfying as the realization of the extent of his wrath and his immediate death right afterwards. Truly breathtaking cinema.

5. Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator)

At the heart of the epic film Gladiator is a tale of well-deserved revenge. We fall in love with the protagonist Maximus and we grow to hate the villainous basterd he’s aiming to kill. Now that begs the question, why wouldn’t I put the satisfying death of the villain Commodus on this list? The reason is because the more emotionally powerful death belongs to Maximus Decimus Meridius. Yes, Commodus needs to die and burn in hell, but now Maximus’ mission is complete. His death was necessary because now he can go live in peace with his son and daughter in the afterlife.

4. Little Bill Daggett (Unforgiven)

Unforgiven is a western centered on the two characters William Munny and Little Bill Daggett. Throughout this masterfully crafted film we learn the true natures of both characters and learn that the line between right and wrong isn’t always clear. Not till the very end of the film do the two characters finally meet and the better man is established. “I’ll see you in hell William Munny,” Little Bill says with pure honesty and hate in his eyes and before William Munny fires the final fatal bullet into Little Bill’s head, he replies with a sorrowful, “Yeah”. It’s one of those moments in film that make movies worth watching.

3. Roy Batty (Blade Runner)

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…” is the start of one of the greatest movie quotes ever put one screen and the beginning of the final words of the character Roy Batty. Blade Runner is a film that asks many of life’s big questions, but those questions don’t come to true and beautiful light until the final encounter between protagonist Rick Deckard and philosophical replicant Roy Batty. It’s the most powerful scenes in film.

First, Roy just toys with his advisory and when Rick tries to escape by hopping to another rooftop he isn’t able to make it and nearly dies. The true nature of the character Roy is shown when he is able to make the jump easily and save Rick, but not before he puts Deckard’s mission in life into perspective, with the line “Quite an experience to live in fear isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave. Then he utters his memorable final words and reaches the end of his time.

2. Col. Walter E. Kurtz (Apocalypse Now)

Apocalypse Now is, without a shred of doubt, a staple in the art of filmmaking. While, the death of Col. Walter E. Kurtz is a triumph all its own. The main character, Captain Willard, is sent on a mission deep into cambodia in order to find and terminate a renegade Colonel who has taken command over the locals. We are taken on a journey into the true meaning of madness and on the way our anticipation grows like Captain Willard and all we want to do is finally meet Col. Kurtz.

Because of a truly brilliant performance by Marlon Brando, every single line Kurtz utters is memorable and resonant. That goes especially for one of my favorite movie quotes, his powerful last words, “The horror, the horror.” On my first viewing of the film, right at that moment I thought to myself, “this is one of the greatest films ever made”. And it truly is. From the beginning, Apocalypse Now promises an amazing climax and gives you just that. It was difficult for me not to put this in the number one slot.

1. Bill (Kill Bill)

Look back at numbers 3 and 2 of this list and you’ll notice that they share something with number 1. All three movies have generally simple tales, sure like all great filmmakers they establish deeper meanings, but the structure is simple. Rick Deckard, a retired Blade Runner is sent on a mission to kill four replicants (androids) led by Roy Batty, Captain Benjamin Willard is sent into Cambodia to kill Col. Kurtz and Beatrix Kiddo is out for revenge against her former boss and lover Bill.

From the beginning, we know, if we are to be satisfied that is, that Roy Batty, Col. Kurtz and Bill will die. There are many examples of films where we know what might happen at the end, but we want to know how our hero will get there and how exactly they’ll do the deed, whether its Frodo throwing the ring of power into Mt. Doom or Batman saving Gotham from the evil clutches of the Joker. In this case, we’re talking about deaths in film and no death is as magnificent and significant as the death of Bill in the 4-hour-epic Kill Bill.

What makes Bill’s death profound, innovative and beautiful is the unconditional love shared between the two warriors. Their fight is inevitable and both, Bill and Beatrix, realize that one is going to die, while the other will live on, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t care for one another. And in the end, Bill isn’t stabbed or shot, no, that wouldn’t satisfy. Instead Beatrix perform’s something called the five point palm exploding heart technique, which makes your heart explode from the inside after you take five steps. This allows him to have a few words with the love of his life, take a deep breath, button his coat and walk with dignity to the greatest movie death in film history.

Top Ten Cinematic Enemies

From the very beginning of film there have always been enemies or rivalries at the core of any story. Whether its a cop and a robber in “The Great Train Robbery” or Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in “Empire Strikes Back”. Sometimes these enemies can best be described as good vs. evil, but not all stories are that black and white. Each has a side to root for, each is unique in its own way and this is a list of my ten favorite.

10. William Munny and Little Bill Daggett

Unforgiven is one of my favorite films of all time. The entire movie centers on the two stories of William Munny and Little Bill Daggett. In the archaic, dying west, a story is told of two men who helped shape the violent worlds around them and their eventual meeting. Its a beautiful film with one of the greatest climaxes in film.

9. Alfred Borden and Robert Angier

At the center of Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece of deception and magic is a rivalry between two magicians. The dark story that unfolds between these two characters is nothing short of breathtaking. These character’s obsession with one-upping each other eventual leads to fatal tragedies. You won’t want to blink at the risk of missing something.

8. Juror #8 and Juror #3

Guilty or Not Guilty? That is the question that 12 Angry Men asks from the beginning, but what drives this tale are two men who will fight for their side till the bitter end. Each character in this film is unique and brings something to the story, but what it all comes down to is a rivalry between one man who argues “not guilty” from the very beginning and one man who will argue “guilty” regardless of reason.

7. The Bride and Bill

The four-hour epic, Kill Bill, would be nothing without its two main characters; Beatrix Kiddo and Bill. What makes the relationship between Bill and Beatrix so unique is that even though they know in their hearts that one of them has to die, they still feel an unconditional love for each other. This relationship leads up to one of the greatest deaths in film.

6. Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Amadeus is one of the greatest films ever made and that’s because of the relationship that it centers on. It’s a tale of the mediocre composer Antonio Salieri and his professional rivalry with world-renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The relationship is interesting in the way that Mozart isn’t even aware of Salieri’s deep-seeded hatred towards him. Its truly an amazing film.

5. The Man with the Harmonica and Frank

Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the greatest tales of revenge ever told. What’s beautiful about this story is that we don’t even come to realize what our hero is attempting to take revenge for until seconds before he gets it. It’s an interesting way of telling a story and it works perfectly. We realize what a cold-blooded bastard Frank is throughout the movie, but we don’t truly understand his menace until he comes face to face with The Man with the Harmonica.

4. Maximus and Commodus

The epic known as Gladiator is driven purely by a tale of deserved vengeance. When watching Gladiator, we went nothing more than for the hero Maximus to succeed in his quest for killing the the ruthless emperor Commodus. What you get in Gladiator is a character you absolutely love and and a character you absolutely hate and when they are mortal enemies it makes for an exhilarating film experience.

3. Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday

In most films there is a clear cut good guy and a clear cut bad guy. Some of the most interesting rivalries come from films when that’s not so clear. Films such as The Prestige and Amadeus are examples of that, neither of the characters in those stories can be established as the good guy or the bad guy. What makes There Will Be Blood so interesting is the way it tells a tale of the rivalry between two unquestionably terrible people. The story of hatred that unfolds is a truly amazing one to watch.

2. Randall Patrick McMuphy and Nurse Ratched

The heart of the masterpiece that is One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest lies in the relationship between R.P. McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. There is no movie character in the history of film that I feel more hatred towards than Nurse Ratched. And to watch the battle of wits between her and the free spirited Randall Patrick McMurphy is nothing short of one of the greatest film experiences ever. The battle between the two is the battle between being yourself and conforming to the whims of the powers that be and its really quite beautiful.

1. Batman and The Joker

No other pair of enemies has ever been able to give as much poetic justice to the battle of good and evil than the never-ending battle of Batman and The Joker. Batman is pure good, while The Joker is pure evil and they are now and always will be mortal enemies. The genius behind their relationship is in the way that neither will kill the other.

Batman won’t kill in general especially not The Joker, because that’ll be giving The Joker exactly what he wants; for Batman to reach his breaking point. The Joker will kill anyone except Batman because “he’s too much fun”. They need each other in order to have purpose as does good and evil. They “complete” each other as The Joker says. The story of the epic and constant battle between Batman and The Joker epitomizes the term good vs. evil.

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