ByHolly Emmett, writer at
Film student and full time nerd
Holly Emmett

We're evil, cunning, charming and we love tea. Is that why a helluva lot of Hollywood films cast British actors as their devilish villains? What is the appeal of having a Brit as the blockbuster baddie?

It's not because we enjoy complaining, and I'm most certain it's not because we love a good queue. The list of British actors who play the role of the no-good antagonist is huge: Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Ian McKellen as Magneto ... hell, even Scar from The Lion King was played by Jeremy Irons. Perhaps there's something evil and maniacal in the British accent that sets fear into every American heart?

Well, I come from Yorkshire and I doubt the voice of a farmer would strike trepidation in anyone.

Does this come from a place in history? Brits were known to sort of take over lands (and kind of name them as our own). Perhaps our foolish, greedy ways in the past have permanently painted us as power-hungry tyrants, making it easy for Hollywood to exploit these stereotypes and cast Brits as the bad eggs. Are U.S. filmmakers a tad salty about their ancestors having to gain independence? (Our bad, sorry. There's no other way around it, we were complete arses.)

Is It To Do With American Politics?

Hollywood does have a certain way of making its heroes American and its villains anyone whose countries aren't so friendly with the U.S. For example, post-WWII films often presented its antagonists as German ... until the Cold War, when every villain seemed to come from a Russian background. Quite a few recent films, at least after the tragedy of 9/11, saw Middle Easterners as blockbuster baddies.

But why, after all these centuries, is Britain still the number one country to pick on? Surely us Brits haven't done anything that evil since our tiny little plan to take over the world about, oh, 500 years ago.

Yes, we set up colonies and asserted our dominance in a land that wasn't ours, but we did do some good over in the U.S. With support from the British abolitionist movement, Parliament enacted the Slave Trade Act in 1807, which abolished slavery in the empire decades before the U.S. did. We even set up a colony in Sierra Leone as a designated area for freed slaves.

So why do Americans still see us as the bad guys?

Can We Change The Stereotype?

It isn't just me pointing this out. Even Dame Helen Mirren has called out Hollywood's depiction of Brits as evil characters who enjoy ruining people's fun:

"I think it's rather unfortunate that the villain in every movie is always British, we're such an easy target that they can comfortably make the Brits the villains. It's just nice to say we're not snooty, stuck up, malevolent, malignant creatures as we're so often portrayed. We're actually kind of cool and hip!"

However, there's nothing more heroic than a British actor stealing the typical role of an American: the superhero.

The friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man has been played by Andrew Garfield, our favourite dark bat of the night has been played by Christian Bale, and the face of an American god has been played by Henry Cavill. Granted, the actors all put on American accents, but is this how the British can rid ourselves of our villain stereotype?

I'm still very disappointed by the lack of British comic book films, being a huge comic book fan, but I guess that's just how the world works.

Admittedly, We Have Some Pretty Badass British Villains!

I'm not in any way saying that I'm hugely offended by the casting of British actors as bad guys (there are far more immediate outrages in the world), but I'd love to see a Hollywood film with an upstanding British protagonist and a citizen of the United States as the one we're rooting against for once.

Still, there's a reason why so many British actors are universally loved for their roles. Hiddleston is an incredibly charming villain, whilst Hopkins plays an incredibly unnerving villain. It has to be said due to all the experience, Britain is bloody good at producing iconic foes.


Is Hollywood giving Britain a bad name?


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