If there's one thing more important in an action movie than having the perfect hero, it's finding that perfect villain. The kind of villain that knows how to bring terror into the hero's heart. The kind that the audience can't stop liking more than the hero at times. The villain that even makes the hero want to give up.
Every now and then, we get actors whose characters come to define everything that we understand about cruelty and evil. Here's the list of who I think has mastered the art of villany.
5. Sylar (Heroes)
One of the creepiest characters on Heroes, and the one with the most disturbing power, in my opinion. Sylar, formerly Gabriel Gray, was the primary villain of Heroes. He had the ability to take the powers of other heroes, but only by cutting open their brains. If that isn't terrifying, I don't know what is.
Probably what made him such a great villain was Zachary Quinto's portrayal of the character. He seemed to truly understand Sylar's character, and you almost pitied him when he was still Gabriel Gray. All his life he wanted to be special, and he was willing to do anything to make that happen.
Of course, he went over the line to achieve this, but that's when things got interesting. You could tell Quinto was having the best time playing the character, as he became a completely different character as Gabriel became Sylar. He embraced that he would have to do horrible things in order to be extraordinary, and even came to love it. Talk about pure evil!
4. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)
Bane is one of the few times I like a character better in the movies than in the comics. He could not have been a more perfect adaptation for The Dark Knight Rises. Instead of making him an addict to a drug that made it possible for him to actually break the Bat, this version of Bane was Batman's true adversary. It only took him a few months to bring Bruce and his city to their lowest points. He was still defeated, obviously, but he is one of the few villains who managed to defeat the Dark Knight before it could be the other way around.
Like Alfred said, some men just want to watch the world burn. Bane wants to be the one who light's the flame. He wanted to cause Bruce Wayne as much pain as he possibly could, before allowing him to die. That makes him a unique villain, as he's one of Batman's two foes who understands that death is nothing to him. He understood the Dark Knight better than most people, and that's what made him dangerous.
3. Voldemort (Harry Potter)
This villain was so terrifying, people wouldn't even speak his name. Instead, they referred to him as "You-Know-Who" and "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named". I recently found out that Voldemort, in French, means "Flight of Death". No wonder people wouldn't mention him.
What was it that made Voldemort the ultimate villain of the Harry Potter series? To me, it was that he and Harry were reflections of each other. Just think about it. They were both orphans, they both saw Hogwarts as their only home, and they both fell in love with magic. But while Voldemort was kept in a bleak orphanage, Harry stayed with the Dursely's in a less miserable situation. And Voldemort saw comfort for his loneliness in magic, which was why he began to crave more and more of it. Eventually it led to his quest to become the greatest, most feared sorcerer in the world.
However, it was really just one thing that made Voldemort the exact opposite of Harry. He grew up never knowing love. His father left his mother when he found out she was a witch, and it made the young Tom Riddle feel neglected from the beggining. He never had friends that loved him as much as Harry loved his. The only thing that could replace love for him was power. But it would never be enough. So eventually, that power consumed him.
2. Kingpin (Daredevil)
A lot of fans liked this character a lot more than they liked Daredevil. And while I may not agree, it's hard not to see his appeal. Even though it looks like he just wants to rule the mob, he wants to save Hell's Kitchen. His goal is just like Daredevil's, he's just more willing to do evil things to accomplish the objective. And that's just because he grew up in situations where it was necessary to be cruel. You can see that a large part of him doesn't want to hurt people, and he wants to believe that he doesn't do it for the sake of cruelty. He's the kind of villain who doesn't believe they're the villain, and that was exactly what the show needed.
1. The Joker (The Dark Knight)
There is no one, in my mind, who deserves the title of Best Villain more than Heath Ledger for his role in The Dark Knight. No one shows the true face of the Joker, the true face of evil, better than him. He's the only villain of Batman's who uses his one rule against him. He kills the people he cares most about, brings the entire city of Gotham to it's knees, but Batman can do nothing except prolong it for short periods of time.
But you know what makes Ledger's performance different from the past Jokers? He didn't have an origin story. At one point, he says that his father gave him the scars. Another time he says he did it to himself to show his wife he didn't care about her scars. We never really knew how he got the scars, or how he became the Joker. It's all a mystery, and because of it, we never really knew his motives for tormenting Gotham. But it didn't really matter. In fact, the character would've been worse if we knew who he was. This way, all we cared about was the Joker.
The best villains are never the same, always unique. There are villains who believe what they're doing is best for the world. There are some who are evil for the sake of vengeance. But sometimes, evil doesn't have a reason. Sometimes villains are more complicated. Sometimes, like in the case of the Joker, there is no reason for evil. For them, it's about being evil for the sake of evil.