Good movies are defined by their conflict. As much as we want the hero to succeed, their story can't be a riveting tale without a worthy adversary to do battle against. Now look back at some of your favourite films in the past and take out the villain. Star Wars wouldn't be the same without Darth Vader and Die Hard wouldn't be the same without Hans Gruber.
There's nothing more irritating than a villain who's evil just for the sake of being evil. We want to see the bad guys do their evil deeds with entirely justified reasons. Now of course we don't have to agree or condone their behaviour at all, but the very best villains are those whose actions the audience can understand. Their point of view needs to make sense. We want to explore their minds because a part of us likes to hide in the darkness. We gravitate to evil because we know we shouldn't, but we do so anyway. It's why people do things when they're not supposed to. We live vicariously through the villains, because that's the only way we can safely have those dark thoughts and impulses with zero consequences.
For all of Man of Steel's faults, one of the better aspects was that of the reasoning behind why Zod did what he did. Sure, he killed thousands if not millions of people in Metropolis, but all he ever wanted to do was just save his own people. Anyone can understand the need to protect the ones you love. Zod's motivation was something that was rather profound and well developed in Zack Snyder's film, but was also something that was unfortunately drowned out by all of the wanton death and destruction in the laboriously repetitive final act.
But who are the villains that despite understanding their motives, we just can't stand but loathe entirely? Who are the ones that are just pure evil that everyone remembers for being the worst of the worst?
Try as we might, there are just some villains that it's impossible to love. Now we're going to dive into the ten villains who we couldn't wait to see get their comeuppance. This one's for all those who love poetic justice.
10. The Warden - The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
If there's one movie that seems to be universally praised, it's The Shawshank Redemption. Frank Darabont's classic is a timeless tale of courage, brotherhood and the triumph of human spirit. If there's anything that can crush those three things, it's a worthy villain to despise. No one could be more threatening to Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and his escape plan than The Warden (Bob Gunton). He rules Shawshank with an iron fist. He’s a man entirely devoid of compassion who has all the power a man in his position could ever want. He’s a man who has no qualms about organizing the murder of an inmate (Gil Bellows) because that man would have exploited him for all of the abuse the warden was inflicting on the inmates.
Andy realizes that he has to escape Shawshank by any means necessary. He then sets in motion a brilliantly orchestrated escape plan. There's nothing more satisfying than the moment that the warden realizes that he's been duped. After pulling back the Raquel Welsh poster, the audience feels instantly gratified to see this terrible man being outdone. Fight the power! Right before he’s about to be arrested, the warden does one last thing we can’t stand but hate him for. He takes the coward’s way out and shoots himself.
Best Line: I want him found! Not tomorrow! Not after breakfast! Now!
9. Biff Tannen - Back to the Future (1985)
High school is typically never a good time for anyone, least of all George McFly (Crispin Glover). The love of his life Lorraine (Lea Thompson) doesn't know he exists, so he has to resort to peeping through binoculars up a tree at her through her bedroom window while she changes. Then he’s unintentionally usurped by his own son who now has garnered the incestuous affections of his mother and George’s future wife. To top it all off, he’s bullied and abused on a continual basis by school bully and dumb jock Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson).
Biff is the classic 80s movie bully who’s the bane of existence for every nerd out there. Every nerd who was ever bullied in school has their own Biff in real life. He’s everything that people hated about going to high school. In the last act of the film, Biff tries to take advantage of Loraine in Marty’s car. As painful as it is to watch, that moment gives birth to George as a full-blown hero with one of the greatest movie punches ever put to screen. We cheer and applaud when George saves the day and gets the girl. Nobody likes a bully.
Best Line: Why don’t you make like a tree, and get out of here!
8. Bill The Butcher - Gangs of New York (2002)
Bill the Butcher has a full on hate for the Irish, because he's a man born with an all-encompassing hatred for immigrants. He’s a patriot for his country in the worst kind of way. No quarter is given by him to those who have different opinions than he does. He goes to war with Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson) and plans to murder his young son Amsterdam . Amsterdam luckily gets away and grows up into Leonardo DiCaprio who seeks vengeance. For the entire film Bill has a disgusting contempt for those that are or believe differently than he does and will stop at nothing to kill every single last one of them. By his view, they have no business being in his country. He also has one of the creepiest glass eyes ever. So there’s that too.
Best Line: You see this knife? I’m going to teach you to speak English with this f***ing knife!”
7. Hans Landa - Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Colonel Hans Landa is a cold-hearted man. He toys with a French farmer whom he knows is hiding Jews beneath the floorboards in his home. He interrogates the farmer in an unnervingly calm fashion for an extended period of time just for fun. Once he’s gotten his jollies, he orders the brutal murder of the family hiding underneath those floorboards. Landa is a man who has two faces. He can be this perfectly charming man with a love for apple strudel and whipped cream, and the next be responsible for the slaughter of several people. He’s given the name “The Jew Hunter” as a moniker, to which he proudly wears as a badge of honour.
He charms his way into a private conversation with German film star Bridget on Hammersmark (Diane Kruger). For most of the conversation, he’s polite and cordial towards her. A switch in his brain flips in and instant and he strangles Bridget to death upon figuring out that she’s a double agent working for the Allies. Once the tables have turned and Lt. Aldo Rainn (Brad Pitt) has the upper hand on Landa, the colonel cowardly switches sides, so as to save his own backside. He tries to work with the Basterds. What does he get for all of it? A swastika carved into his forehead branding him forever as a Nazi. Serves him right.
Best Line: That’s a bingo!
6. Captain Vidal - Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
When Captain Vidal's not busy ordering everyone around, he’s out hunting those who rebel against him. He also has no problem killing whoever displeases him in the current moment. His men stop a son and his father who claim they were only out hunting rabbits. Vidal searches their belongs and pulls out a bottle. He takes the bottle and beats the son to death in front of his father. Then he shoots him and continues to search their belongings to find that they were in fact only hunting for rabbits. To flush out where the rebels are hiding, Vidal tortures and interrogates one man with an unfortunate case of stuttering. He tells the man that he’ll let him go if the man is able to count to three. The poor terrified man struggles to do so and fails, so Vidal beats him.
The doctor goes to fix up the horribly disfigured stutterer. The doctor who’s secretly with the rebels breaks down at the sight of the stutterer’s shocking appearance. He pleads for the doctor to mercy-kill him. The doctor euthanizes the man at his own peril. Vidal figures out that the doctor is working with the rebels and shoots him in the back. One of the other people under his control is that of Mercedes whose brother is part of the resistance. When Vidal figures this out he threatens to torture her. She manages to give him a Glasgow Smile to the applause of the audience. Everyone watching hopes and prays that he’ll die from the wound. Frustratingly he doesn’t and we have to watch him sew the ripped open part of his skin back together. Worst of all is his disdain for the protagonist of the story Ophelia. He’s with her mother for the sole reason that he needs a son to continue on his legacy.
He has no love for her mother that is evidently shown through his aloofness towards her becoming increasingly sick as the due date arrives. Upon being told of the difficulty with her giving birth, he tells the doctor that if he has to make the choice, save the baby. The doctor forcibly complies and Ophelia’s mother passes. In a final act of defiance towards him, Ophelia steals her baby brother and tries to take him to the resistance and safety from Vidal’s icy grip. Vidal chases Ophelia into the heart of the labyrinth where he demands she give him back her brother. She refuses and so he shoots her dead in cold blood. Having successfully taken back his son, he goes to leave the labyrinth and upon exiting comes face to face with Mercedes, her brother and the rebel army. He gives his son to Mercedes and her brother shoots him in the face.
Best line: Tell my son… tell him what time his father died.
5. Anton Chigurh - No Country for Old Men (2007)
Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is definitely not a man to be crossed with. Never before and never since has a man with such a bad haircut been so absolutely terrifying to the masses. One look into the soulless dead eyes of that man and you'd be transfixed. That is until you get a silenced shotgun to the face. After a drug deal goes south, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) comes into possession of two million in cash. Not long after bagging the dope money, Chigurh is utterly hell-bent on getting it back. There’s something seriously twisted in Chigurh who sickeningly leaves his brutal murders oftentimes up to chance. Whoever he decides to talk to is bound to have a bad day. Chigurh goes and plays a game of heads or tails with whichever poor soul he decides to toy with. He pulls out his coin and gets said person to “call it”. If they’re right, then they get to live. If not, then he kills them using all manner of silenced weapons. He also kills people with an oxygen tank.
His first brutal murder is by far the most disturbing. Chigurh gets arrested and is brought back to the police station. While the cop is on the phone, Chigurh comes up behind him and chokes him to death on the floor while wearing his handcuffs. Blood spurts incessantly from the dying man as Chigurh gleefully soaks it all in. Many people have expressed their anger at the anticlimactic nature of No Country for Old Men. The Coen Brothers end their masterpiece with Llewelyn getting killed off screen before Chigurh gets in a car accident and walks away. For someone that’s so completely psychotic, seeing Chigurh get away without ever having his comeuppance is another good reason to hate him.
Best Line: What’s the most you ever lost in a coin toss?
4. Norman Bates - Psycho (1960)
If there’s one person to hate for making us never want to use our shower ever again, it’s Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). He killed poor little Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) while she was in the buff. Alfred Hitchcock’s villainous mama’s boy brutally murders the protagonist half way through the film. Then he disposes of the body in the swamp by his motel. Bates looks harmless on the outside, but internally is diagnosed with a split personality disorder that his dead mother has taken refuge in. Not only does he dress up like his mother, but he also keeps her dead body around the house for conversation and company. Not to mention he’s also a taxidermy enthusiast. So he basically is just about creepiest guy you’d never want to me.
Best Line: A boy’s best friend is his mother.
3. Emperor Commodus - Gladiator (2000)
Emperor Commodus is the kind of self-entitled, disgusting character that everyone hates with good reason. He’s a man with not a single good bone in his body. When his father (Richard Harris) decides to give his empire to Maximus (Russell Crowe), Commodus kills his own father with his bar hands. Then because Maximus is deemed more deserving than him in his father’s eyes, Commodus orders the murder of Maximus’ wife and young son out of revenge. To make it even worse, he also weirdly has the hots for his sister. Every scene between the two of them, he just lusts after her in the most spine tingling way possible. He acts in a way that would make any woman uncomfortable. He has the power to control any woman he wants, but he keeps going back to his sister. That’s just messed up.
And just when he goes to battle Maximus one-on-one at the end, he shanks him in the back beforehand, just because he can. The duel takes place and eventually Commodus loses his weapon. He demands to be given another sword, only to have no one comply. Maximus drops his sword, only to have Commodus pull out his hidden dagger of course. Maximus overpowers Commodus and stabs him in the throat with his own weapon. Even by cheating, Commodus still loses and gets what he deserves. Poetic justice has never tasted so sweet.
Best Line: Smile for me now, brother.
2. Alex DeLarge - A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is the kind of degenerate you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, let alone anywhere. He’s a product of a society that feeds young men his age ideas on the love for ultra-violence and disturbing the peace just for the sake of it. His list of offences is numerable. He and his cronies beat up an old homeless man for kicks. He enters a couple’s home to do much damage. He not only burglarizes their abode, but he cripples the man and then rapes the woman. There’s also the scene where he breaks into a women’s home and straight up murders her with a giant penis sculpture. He’s promptly arrested when his drogues leave him for the cops.
He spends a good deal of time weaselling his way into the good graces of the higher ups in the prison system, so as to get out as soon as possible on “good behaviour”. He gets elected to get out of prison early by taking part in a radical brain washing treatment that’s intended to cure him of his primal violent urges through constant and very painful negative reinforcement. One of the things that’s so utterly fascinating about this film is how it turns your perspective of Alex on its head. As much as you hate the guy, there’s a part of you the viewer that deep down feels badly for him. Almost every fibre of your being hates him, and yet there’s still a small part that feels pity despite all of the horrific things he’s done. You hate yourself for feeling pity for him, which makes you hate him even more.
Best Line: Naughty, naughty, naughty! You filthy old sumka!
1. Amon Goeth - Schindler’s List (1993)
If there was ever a definitive incarnation of pure evil put to screen, it’s Commandant Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). From the minute he appears on screen, we despise everything he stands for. He’s man who runs a concentration camp with not a single care for another human soul but his own. Goeth is man in love with his own interests. He’s a Nazi with the utmost hatred for the Jews. When one of the prisoners pleads that the structure their building isn’t sound, he orders her immediate execution, just because she was an irritation and inconvenience to him. He times one of his workers to put together some hinges. When the man’s number of completed hinges doesn’t reach Goeth’s impossible standards, he takes him outside to shoot him. He tries to use two different guns and neither work, so he beats the man over the head and walks away furious.
He also takes one of his prisoners and plays favourites with her by making her his personal servant to torment whenever he sees fit. He psychologically tortures her with threats of constant impending brutality. She lives with him in constant fear at what he might do to her, oftentimes beating her. He’s a man who’s often at his most unnerving. His darkest moment is unquestionably when he does some early morning target practice. Goeth stands atop his balcony and snipes those who are taking breaks due to extreme exhaustion and he just can’t abide by that. He takes aim and fires at those prisoners that he dispatches with no form of guilt, remorse or second thought. He’s the most vile, loathsome and hated man in cinematic history.
Best Line: We have the f***ing power to kill. That’s why they fear us.