As far as I'm concerned we've entered what I consider the finest age of television. Recently we've seen some of the greatest stories come to live in front of us. We've seen stories of love and hope; of anger and pain; of loss and suffering; of humor and joy. There is so much out there to see and sometimes it's hard to catch everything that you want to keep up to date with. Thank you Hulu and Netflix for filling that void when I can't watch everything as it arrives on mainstream television. Over the past few years I've watched my fair share of complete series' - whether live or through binge-watching marathons, and there's one trait that sticks out to me, over and over I see it in some of my favorite shows. Villain casting.
Now, granted, I understand that usually a show is about the protagonist, and I think that TV villains often get overlooked and under-appreciated. So I wanted to list out my top 10 television villains (I emphasize these are my personal favorite villains - just so there's no confusion) based on the actors cast in the role. I think ultimately these actors were perfect casting choices and they are the reason that the characters stand the test of time as true villains. So lets begin at the bottom and work our way to the top. I'll tell you the show then break down the character and the actor portraying the role.
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One of the few cop drama's that I've watched in my life, I became hooked pretty quickly and didn't look back.
Detective Vic Mackey
Vic is the main character in the series. He's an LAPD detective and leader of an anti-gang task force. What makes him a villain are his methods. He is as corrupt as they come: stealing from gangs, beating suspects, murder, blackmail. A lot of people would probably argue that he's more anti-hero than villain, but I don't see it that way. A villain does what is seen as morally black and believes that they are doing these actions for good. That is Det. Mackey - he believes that his actions are for the greater good, that the ends justify the means even though he enacts terrible schemes to keep from being caught.
Vic's character is truly unique in his brutality and how he accomplishes his actions, but I believe that he is brought to life in a way that no other actor could have besides Michael Chiklis.
Michael Chiklis has been an actor that I remember watching growing up on the show "The Commish". Another cop comedy/drama, but he plays a straight-up good guy cop. So when I heard the rumors of him playing another cop I was ecstatic because I loved his character of Tony Scali in The Commish, yet at the same time I started off skeptical once I learned he was playing on the side of corruption, but I grew to love his style of villainy. Chiklis has had a couple really solid roles through the years, but this is really his greatest role in my mind. He seems to have captured the essence of the character and it just suits him perfectly.
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This was another show that hooked me quickly, and I watched as religiously as I could manage. I loved the realistic time frame and the crazy twists and turns that became equal to the character's back stories as the show progressed.
She is the proverbial character that everyone loved to hate. I still have memories of my friends cursing her name under their breathe. She is introduced into the series as a CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) Agent and close friend, even ex-lover, to main protagonist Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland).
It is discovered that near the end of the first season that Nina is in actuality a double agent. Through various twists and turns throughout the first 3 seasons we learn that Nina was a double agent before she was brought into CTU. Through the first season we discover that she has been playing the entire team, even to the point of killing agents as well as Jack's wife to arrange her escape.
Nina is a unique character, she effectively portrayed the loyal cohort throughout the beginning of season 1 and it wasn't until Jack began putting the pieces together that he discovered the truth. Her frigidness and ability to deceive her colleagues could not have been portrayed any better than by Sarah Clarke.
She's just got that sense of something deeper lurking beneath, which made her a perfect fit for this role. Watching 24 at the beginning I really liked Sarah's character, Nina, I could imagine her becoming a strong character as the show grew only to become completely baffled when she turned out to be a villain. That only made me love the show more, as well as her character.
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This was a show that I immediately needed to watch. It was 'real people' with 'real powers' and I thought it was going to be the most incredible and it would be on the air for years and years, because come on: It's about regular people that become superheroes and I had a crazy crush on Hayden Panettiere - I wanted to save the cheerleader for sure. But enough about her...
Gabriel Gray / Sylar.
Superpowered serial killer. How much more villainy do you need? - He crossed the world seeking out other people with abilities so he could absorb their powers. The only way to do that is to examine their brains, which entails them being dead. Sylar was one of the first villains that I remember being brutal and violent. Although later in the series his character evolves, I still see him as a true villain. His constant pursuit of power and prestige made him a dangerous character, and a worthy opponent throughout Heroes.
Sylar is wonderfully conniving and has abilities outside of the heroic realm. He has strong persuasive abilities and an indoctrination that he deserves more than he has, which only fueled his lust for more powers.
Considering that at the beginning of the series, Sylar was played by stunt doubles hidden in shadows, the writers chose to change his role in the series, and that's when Zachary Quinto arrived.
Zachary got his start on the same show as my number 9 villain, Nina Myers. He was an analyst and I loved his character there, and once he was a regular on Heroes, I grew to love him there as well. At first I wasn't sure about him, but once he really got into his character - he developed it masterfully. Zachary brought out the duality to Sylar's character. He brought a believable amount of anger and doubt. He was truly able to make me envision the back story of his character. You could almost see it in his eyes throughout the series.
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This was another show around the time of Heroes, that had me wrapped up quickly. I started watching because of the two main characters attached: Dominic Purcell & Wentworth Miller. Two actors that I had grown to admire and watched everything that had their names attached. Then I was introduced to my next villain.
Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell.
Good golly Miss Molly, this guy just oozed nasty in my mind. He is introduced as cunning and charismatic. We get the sense that there is more to him than led to believe. He truly is rather smart and charming when needed (as he has proven through his ability to persuade women that he meets). He is violent and has strong anger issues, yet throughout the series he shows reluctance to actually commit heinous acts unless forced with no other alternatives.
T-Bag is one of those characters that seems so slimy and sleazy that it's difficult to track his true motives. During his stint in prison he rose to lead a faction of the white supremacist group which gave him a great deal of power and influence throughout the series while incarcerated.
This character is truly brought to life as the series developed, and as far as I'm concerned nobody could have portrayed the character besides Robert Knepper.
Robert has been around for a while playing roles on various shows, but it wasn't until Prison Break that he really had his breakout (pun intended) role. Robert just seemed to ooze the personality of T-Bag, he was able to create character quirks and ultimately brought the character to life.
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This is one of my favorite shows of all time. I loved the plot twists, and I thought all of the casting choices were incredible. I remember watching the first episode and couldn't explain how amazing I thought it was. Although I wasn't a fan of the ending and the unanswered questions that I had, I thought it was a brilliant show - which became even more brilliant when I met my next villain.
Brilliant. Cold-blooded. Powerful. Conniving. Dangerous. All these words suit Ben Linus. He's one of those characters that just exudes the creepy factor when introduced. As a leader of 'The Others' on the island, he uses his persuasive powers to tear rifts between the plane crash survivors. His ability to weasel his way out of every conflict by persuasion or coercion is part of what makes him a great villain.
Ben grew up on the island and was brought to the island by the DHARMA initiative with his father. Through his backstory we discover that he was enlisted into The Others by Richard Alpert and eventually Ben killed his own father with poison gas, while the rest of the DHARMA initiative were killed as well by The Others.
Ben is the epitome of psychopath although he is in complete control of his emotions and he has everything planned and prepared for each situation as it arises, and his character is brought to life by Michael Emerson.
Michael entered Lost as a semi-unknown he hadn't really had any lasting television roles before becoming Ben Linus. He had a few movie roles here and there but in my opinion it was Lost that truly gave him his greatest character in Ben.
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I didn't get into Breaking Bad until a friend told me that I had to watch it and catch up. I'm still working on it (I'm almost finished with Season 4). Once I met the next villain on the list, he just put shivers down my spine and I think you'll agree why.
Gustavo "Gus" Fring.
He is a sociopath, plain and simple, although he maintains and manages his front businesses which allows him to remain nearly invisible against his meth business. He is truly defined by his low-key exterior and his outwardly friendliness. Below the surface though, Gus is ruthless, calm and collected which makes him dangerous.
Gus manages his vast empire with a firm grip, hiring enforcers and personally killing associates and rivals alike. He is slow to trust although he is shown to have some humanity, at least when it comes to one particular person, Max Arciniega. After his death, Gus turns more ruthless and doesn't let anything stand in his way of avenging Max's death: killing children and gradually killing an entire family for vengeance.
Gus is such a memorable villain for many reasons, yet the main reason for his success as a villain is because of Giancarlo Esposito.
Giancarlo has an extensive history in television and movies, and all of his experience helped him truly bring a depth to this character that couldn't have been achieved by any other.
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It wasn't until Arrow hit Netflix that I became enthralled with it, seeing as in my "geographic location, the CW is not available" - yet 5 miles down the street my friend has ATT-Uverse as well and he gets to watch CW, so location sch-mocation! But I'm not bitter. --- But that's a moot point, because once I started watching it I had to see more.
Slade Wilson / Deathstroke.
Starting off as a protagonist turned villain isn't always a simple feat but that's what we get with Slade Wilson. I grew up with the character through the comics and his representation on Teen Titans. Once I met him on Arrow, watching his transition into the vengeful villain I truly felt as though I was watching the character take life.
Slade originally is one of Oliver Queen's training partners while shipwrecked on the island of Lian Yu. It's only after he takes the Mirakuru serum that he starts his descent into the character we know as Deathstroke. He becomes hellbent on revenge against Oliver. After years had past, Slade now calculating and patient is more synonymous to the Deathstroke I know from the comics. He is expertly trained as well as having enhanced fighting abilities. He truly is a master killer which makes him a truly dangerous villain.
As I've been writing about, the characters are ulitmately brought to life by the actors portraying them, and Deathstroke is no different. I couldn't imagine anyone capturing the essence of his character any better than Manu Bennett.
I've tried to follow Manu's since I saw him as Crixus in Spartacus: War of the Damned and I haven't been disappointed yet. He has truly created a nearly visceral representation of what Slade/Deathstroke truly would be like.
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This was another show that I had to wait to enjoy, at least until the DVD's were released seeing as I don't have HBO at home. I loved the books, and thought that the adaptation was done masterfully and the characters were brilliantly cast.
When beauty meets cunning and ambitious you get Cersei Lannister. She despises being a woman in the Westerosi society, and had admitted that she wished she were born a man so she could take her rightful place in leadership and politics.
But as the society in Game of Thrones dictated, woman had no place in politics, unless you were of the House Tyrell.. but alas, she was not and Cersei spend much of her time plotting and usurping whatever power she can take from whoever she can take.
She relishes her role as Queen throughout the series, and she is fiercely protective of her children and ultimately would stop at nothing to elevate herself and them, taking out friend and foe alike. She is a unique villain in the sense that she considers herself more dangerous than she actually is. She believes herself to be a master strategist and intelligent while the opposite is more often true as we find her to be impatient, short-sighted and prone to poor judgement.
Yet all that aside, she is still a dangerous adversary as she is only looking out for her own well being. It's tough to bring all of these facets to reality, but it is accomplished through Lena Headey.
Lena has had many roles that she was able to exemplify: Queen Gorgo - 300, Sarah Connor - Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, Jocelyn - Mortal Instruments. All of these roles and many others have shown her ability to portray her character well and fully. Her special ability to convey the little quirks that I would expect Cersei to have make her undoubtedly my 3rd favorite television villain.
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This is without question one of my favorite shows in a long time. I've been a huge Timothy Olyphant fan since before Hitman (Yes, I even liked that movie). Back in the days of Gone in Sixty Seconds & Dreamcatcher (which is in my top 10 all time favorite movies). So when I heard that he was going to be the lead character in a new series on FX called Justified I had to watch. And I watched with a passion then I met my next villain.
I know you were probably thinking that I would pick Boyd Crowder, and it was definitely a close call, but I think Robert Quarles is a more vicious villain. Quarles is completely unstable although appearing dapper and holding a charming wit through his stint on Justified. He is ruthless, cold-blooded and takes interest specifically in U.S. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) after being challenged and embarrassed.
He comes from a tortured past which only compounded his unstable and dangerous characteristics. He is just so wicked throughout his time as the main antagonist in Season 3 of Justified that I had chills while watching him because I didn't know if he was just going to off on a rampage.
This unknown characteristic was portrayed incredibly by Neal McDonough.
Neal was mesmerizing, and show-stopping to say the least. He truly made me believe that he was Robert. Neal has an extensive background in film and TV, but his first big break was on Band of Brothers and it was just up from there.
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This has been a staple on my binge watch list. I've probably watched the first 9 seasons several times over, and every time I watch with a renewed love for the characters. There have been so many wonderful villains and what follows is my favorite of them all.
He is the devil. Literally THE DEVIL. Although his time officially on Supernatural was only a dozen episodes, he still was by far the most devious villain the brothers have encountered.
Banished by God for a millenium until his release from The Cage, his goal was to eradicate humanity and restore Earth to it's untainted glory. *Seems pretty villainous to me* - Although he would kill all humans and demons without a second glance, he still holds his archangel brothers in high regards, remorseful when forced to kill Gabriel and outraged at the attack on Michael. Regardless, he is cruel, barbaric and pure evil.
Throughout his time on Supernatural he was incredibly portrayed by Mark Pellegrino.
Mark has portrayed several characters on various shows, but Lucifer was without a doubt my favorite. He seemed to capture the 'Holier Than Thou' that I would expect from Lucifer.
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That's all this creator wrote. Now some of you may question why Daredevil, Hemlock Grove or House of Cards don't hold spots on my list and that's simply because they are Netflix original series. I'm technically using only shows that aired on TV and I have other plans for how I want to list the Netflix original series' and the characters on it (so make sure to follow me if you're interested in that opinion as well).