Best Movie Villains
Darth Vader- Star Wars
The consummate villain. The fact that Darth Vader is still the most recognizable movie antagonist more than 40 years after his cinematic introduction goes to show the impact this character has had. He’s evil, tragic, sympathetic, menacing and powerful all at the same time. Let’s not forget that scene at the end of “Rogue One”, it was pretty baller.
Villain O’Meter: 10/10 Vader has murdered hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lifeforms, destroying entire planets at a time. All this with no remorse until the very end. He’s got a tragic beginning and ending creating the perfect villain arch. Again, the consummate villain.
Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious- Star Wars
If I told you that Emperor Palepetine has under 8 minutes of screen time combined throughout the original trilogy, you probably wouldn’t believe me but it’s true. Palpatine still manages to create quite an impression with his 6 minutes of screen time in “Return of the Jedi”. HIs political endeavours get much more time in the prequels but they’re pretty boring in my opinion so we’ll just forget about that.
Villain O’Meter: 8/10 You could technically argue that every transgression Vader has commited is a direct result of Palapatine. From the very first prequel, he’s intricately orchestrated and manipulated all those around him until he gained “unlimited power”. Pretty evil.
Hannibal Lecter- The Silence of the Lambs
Hannibal is only in this film for about 16 minutes, but those are some of the most impressive 16 minutes in cinema. Anthony Hopkins Oscar winning portrayal of our favorite cannibal, Hannibal Lecter, is one of the most chilling and goosebump inducing performances in history (and one of my personal favorites). The calmness with which Hannibal informs Clarice he killed one of his victims and then ate his liver with fava beans and a nice chianti still sends shivers down my spine.
Villain O’Meter: 5/10 For as disturbing as Hanibal is, he’s not quite so villainous at a second glance. Yes he’s a murderer and a cannibal but it seems he completely realizes the insanity of what he’s doing. In addition, he doesn’t murder very many people and keeps relativly to himself. While still very evil, he’s not such a villain.
Wicked Witch of the West- The Wizard of Oz
When a person imagines a witch, they picture green skin, large pointed hats and a cackle that makes hairs stand on end. That’s all thanks to Margaret Hamilton’s performance as the Wicked Witch of the West which apparently had to be cut down as to not scare kids too much. Probably the first recognizable cinematic “bad guy”, everyone else on this list owes at least a little bit to the Wicked Witch for paving the way.
Villain O’Meter: 7/10 She’s downright terrifying and really does nothing to make you think she isn’t a villain. Pitting and entire army of flying monkey against an innocent teenage girl and essentially threatening an entire city in the process. I can’t give her full points because there isn’t any villain arc here, but there’s no denying she’s pure evil.
Norman Bates- Psycho
The original slasher flick, back in the day this was the pinnacle of horror and Norman Bates was the man who delivered the scares. From an unassuming, slightly awkward young man at the beginning of the film to a completely psychotic murderer who dresses up as his mother whose mummified corpse is being kept in the house in which Norman lives, Mr.Bates inspired an entire genre of film.
Villain O’Meter: 3/10 It’s hard to call someone with such transparent psychological problems a complete and total villain. While he’s a murderer and is unquestionably in the wrong, it’s hard to look at Norman as a purely evil person considering his mental issues. Criminally insane would be a better way to describe him.
Joker – The Dark Knight
To be clear, as much fun as Jack Nicholson’s take on the Joker was (we’re going to ignore Jared Leto), we’re talking about Heath Ledger’s masterful performance here. The complete chaos Ledger evoked through this iteration of the Joker is downright terrifying, especially when talking about that boat scene. There’s a reason people often site this version of the Joker as the best movie villain of all time.
Villain O’Meter: 9/10 What puts the Joker so high up on the meter is his motivation. Pure chaos. He doesn’t have any other reason for destruction and killing besides for creating complete chaos everywhere he goes. It’s arguably the ultimate motivation for a pure villain.
Colonel Hans Landa- Inglorious Bastards
Sometimes the scariest villains are the ones that seem normal and personable on the surface but are secretly monsters underneath. Hans Landa fits all those tropes besides for the “secret” aspect. In the very first scene of the movie we hear him lauding his nickname as “The Jew Hunter” prior to having his men execute the murder of a Jewish family. He’s intelligent, charming, calculated, intimidating and evil.
Villain O’Meter: 7/10 Hans is a Nazi who’s main task is to hunt Jews. Nazi’s are pretty synonoumous with villany in this day and age so I don’t really think I have to explain much more when it comes to explaining his score here. Pretty straight forward stuff.
Hans Grubor- Die Hard
While Alan Rickman is now most recognizable as Severus Snape, he had already become a household name as Hans Gruber before J.K Rowling had even typed the first letter for Harry Potter. A German terrorist who completely underestimated the power of John McClane, Grubor is almost as synonymous with the “Die Hard” series as John himself which is rather impressive considering he’s technically only in the first movie.
Villain O’Meter: 5/10 Trying to steal millions of dollars and holding people hostage just doesn’t have the same gravitas as murdering civilians. Having said that, Hans is trying to steal hundreds of millions of dollars and is holding dozens of people hostage so it’s still pretty bad.
Lord Voldemort- Harry Potter
For a villian who only appears as himself in half the films, Voldemort sure does make a lasting impact. While he’s significantly more fleshed out in the books, movie Voldemort is just as menacing. Arguably the most powerful wizard to ever exist, Voldemort’s ultimate quest of immortality is undeterred and his desire to kill Harry even more so.
Villain O’Meter: 8/10 Killing anyone who stands in his way without any remorse, Voldemort is right near the top in terms of inducing fear. The fact that he’s apathetic towards every other living creature (besides Nagini) and is powerful enough to achieve just about anything on his own makes him even more terrifying. He discards of people as if they’re nothing, that puts his villainy close to the top.
Scar- The Lion King
The first and only kids movie on this list, everyone knows Scar. He attempted to kill his own nephew, Simba, before murdering his own brother Mufasa purely out of jealousy for the throne. Obviously, this is probably the saddest scene in movie history and the fact that Scar perpetrated it makes it that much harder.
Villain O’Meter: 4/10 Killing your brother and trying to kill your nephew is pretty awful but aside from that, Scar isn’t as villainous as other villains on this list. An argument could be made here that he should get extra points simply for being a Disney villain, but theatrics aside, he’s staying put.
Agent Smith- The Matrix
Although he’s technically a computer program, Agent Smith is very formidable. While in the Matrix, he has superhuman abilities which eventually lead to him being able to replicate himself. These abilities, and training with those abilities, make Agent Smith equal, if not superior to Neo throughout much of the movies.
Villain O’Meter: 1/10 It’s hard to give a program a high villain ranking when compared to other villains on this list. Agent Smith is programmed to do what he does, you can make an argument that he isn’t even evil because of that. If you can argue that a villain isn’t evil, they don’t receive a good villain score.
IT takes the shape of the creepiest clown you can imagine but his true form is the furthest thing from that. The beginning of the film where he rips off Georgie’s arm is still terrifying after watching it for the fifth time, which is really saying something. He’s murdered hundreds of children over hundreds of years, parlaying that into becoming maybe the scariest villain on this list.
Villain O’Meter: 7/10 As previously mentioned, IT is by far the most frightening villain on this list which gives him a ton of points. He’s also murdered lots of people, controlling the minds of the weak willed and inhabiting childrens absolute worst nightmares. He’s pretty villany.
Michael Myers- Halloween
The most recognizable slasher bad guy, Michael Myers in his white mask will give anyone nightmares. Michael has murdered countless people throughout the Halloween series in various creative ways, but all in silence. Of course, when a horror character is used for 40 years, a lot of his so called “fear luster” gets diminished. Nevertheless, Michael Myers in his prime is one of the scariest movie villains ever.
Villain O’Meter: 7/10 As with other slasher villains, Michael Myers is completely insane. He escaped a mental asylum solely to kill people and even killed his sister in childhood. His only motive is killing people and being extremely scary which gets a good villain score.
Freddy Krueger- A Nightmare on Elm Street
From one iconic slasher to another, Freddy Krueger is just as synonymous with the horror genre as any other name. The gloved hand with knives as fingers, the burned face and the supernatural control of all his victims sleep. Being scared to go to sleep is something that would upend anyone’s life. Now if that fear of sleep is because there’s someone trying to kill you in your dreams, you’d probably go crazy. That’s exactly what Freddy does.
Villain O’meter: 7/10 Before being killed in a fire and being relegated to torturing peoples dreams, Freddy was known as child murderer. Killing children is pretty reprehensible in my opinion, add that to not letting people sleep, which is one of the worst things a person can do to another, and Freddy gets 7 points.
Nurse Ratched- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
An unconventional villain, Nurse Ratched is more like that awful person in the office you dislike. She’s the head nurse at Salem State hospital (a mental institution) where she exerts her absolute and complete power with no regard for the patients mental or physical health. She mentally and physically abuses the patients with various treatment, and in one tragic case at the end of the movie, this leads to a patients suicide.
Villain O’meter: 2/10 While Nurse Ratched is an awful person, her crimes don’t add up to others on this list. This doesn’t excuse her actions however, mistreating the mentally handicapped is one of the worst things a head nurse can do and even though she doesn’t actively kill anyone, her actions directly lead to at least one death.
Gollum- The Lord of the Rings
The former hobbit known as Smeagle, Gollum has a split personality. Through the power of the “One Ring”, which Gollum calls “my precious”, he’s managed to extend his life way past its natural limits. While not recognizable as a villain throughout the entirety of “The Lord of The Rings”, his willingness to do absolutely anything in order to reacquire the ring turns him into one.
Villain O’meter: 1/10 As creepy and evil Gollum seems, he’s been completely brainwashed by the power of the ring. It’s obvious how the ring has altered his mind and turned him into what we see in the movies. With that in mind, it’s hard to rank him near many of the other villians on the list.
Sauron- Lord of The Rings
The real main villain of the “Lord of The Rings” trilogy, Sauron is essentially just an all seeing evil eye in the movies. In the prologue of the film however, it shows Sauron as an almost invincible being. Alone, the eye itself is almost physically powerless however. It manages to flash into Frodo’s mind and, as previously mentioned, can see everything, but aside from that it hasn’t got much.
Villain O’meter: 9/10 Up until this point, only Darth Vader and Emperor Palpetine are on par with the destruction Sauron has caused. Sauron has manipulated a countless amount of beings, resulting in an extremely deadly war and the death of even more lives. He was ruthless in his pursuit of power and the ring.
Loki- The Avengers
Loki is one of the most memorable villains in the entire MCU, that’s really saying something considering there are 23 movies. Serving as the main antagonist for the first Avengers film, Loki really was the first large scale threat the superheroes ever fought. Played amazingly by Thomas Hiddleston, Thor’s adopted brother is a conniving, scheming, charming and overall a very formidable foe.
Villain O’meter: 7/10 Loki is a bit complicated as a villain. On one hand, he’s killed people and put millions of lives at risk all in the pursuit of power. On the other hand, Loki is the only one on this list who’s genuinely likeable which makes him slightly more difficult to root against. He could be higher or lower than 7, but with all these factors, 7 is the number.
The most dangerous villain on this list, Thanos was behind the scenes of all the ill doings in most if not all of the MCU films. With a single snap of his fingers, Thanos disintegrated half of the human population. He’s powerful enough to take on the full force of the Avengers and intelligent enough to have fail safes in every plan he concocts. 21 movies built up to Thanos actions, and the fact that he lived up to the hype is almost unbelievable.
Villain O’meter: 10/10 There are various factors that lead to Thanos getting a full score here. First, he’s as powerful as any villain we’ve seen. Second, He’s just as intelligent as any other villain on this list. Lastly, Thanos actions aren’t a result of a blood lust or hunger for power, he genuinely feels the only way to save the universe in the long run is by going from planet to planet and eliminating half the population. He’s almost relatable, and with a villain of this scale, thats a monumental achievement by Marvel.
John Doe- Seven
A serial killer who isn’t present until the latter half of the movie, John is obsessed with the seven deadly sins, murdering a person in honor of each one to make a statement about the world tolerating sin. One of the things that makes John more interesting than others is the mystery surrounding him. While Michael Myers kills in silence, we know it’s him doing the killings, that’s not the case for John.
Villain O’meter: 6/10 John get’s a 6 ranking because his transgressions are on smaller scale. However, he’s a very formidable villain, outsmarting two detectives and manipulating them into ultimately doing his bidding. He only got caught because he achieved his goal and turned himself in.
Tommy Devito- Goodfellas
Joe Pesci received an Oscar for his portrayal of the short tempered Tommy Devito. The diminutive mobsters fuse can be lit by just about any comment and once that happens, he’s as unpredictable as they come. Shooting people for petty insults, killing people because he feels like it, Tommy Devito is not the type of person you want to be around.
Villain O’meter: 4/10 To me, Tommy is less of a villain and more of a school bully who’s been given way to much equity in the mafia. He’s done plenty of evil and reprehensible things and is definitely a bad person, he’s just more of a character whos had power go to his had rather than a full blown villain.
Alex Delarge- A Clockwork Orange
Alex and his gang commit many crimes, including the worst kinds of violence and sexual assault. Alex tries to stay away from murder, but as evidenced in the movie, his mindset is along the lines of, if it happens it happens. A complete and total psychopath, Alex is manipulative, crazed and has no concept of consequences in regards to actions.
Villain O’meter: 4/10 Alex’s saving grace is the state of the dystopian world he lives in. A place where it seems that chaos runs rampid and free, therefore a place that likely impedes Alex’s ability to register wrong from right when compared to our world. That doesn’t excuse his truly awful actions, it just lowers his score on the Villain O’meter.
Jack Torrance- The Shining
While in the novel, the entity that possesses the hotel and ultimately Jack is unquestionably the villain, Stanley Kubrik decided to go a different route for the film version by making Jack turn insane from the isolation of the hotel, thereby making him the villain. He eventually attempts to kill his wife and child after being rendered completely insane by the hotel.
Villain O’meter: 2/10 While he may have one of the most famous villain moments in film history by axing through the bathroom door and screaming “HERE’S JOHNNY”, Jack isn’t much a villain on this list. He murders one person and attempts to murder two others out of complete insanity. I’m not saying that good, but we have Thanos on this list.
Patrick Bateman- American Psycho
Patrick Bateman is one of the more peculiar villains to right about in this list. He’s a serial killer who kills purely for pleasure and to feel superior. However, after confessing everything to his lawyer over the phone a night after committing multiple high profile murders, he wakes up to find that his lawyer found his phone call very funny and the man he supposedly killed was apparently in Europe. To sum it up, by the end of the movie it’s unclear whether Patrick actually killed anyone.
Villain O’meter: 3/10 Just as before, this is one of the hardest villains to rank. On one hand, all the signs at the end of the movie point to Patrick not having harmed a single person. On the other hand, Patrick actively murdered people for pleasure, whether that happened in his head or not might not be relevant, it still makes him a pretty awful person.
Keyser Soze- The Usual Suspects
Soze is a genius level criminal. He’s able to manipulate coax, and coerce anybody into doing just about anything, all without them ever suspecting a thing. In addition to this, his name has a legendary status in the crime underworld and gives him basically free reign. He’s powerful and intelligent beyond compare, hard to compete with that.
Villain O’meter: ?/10 This is probably the hardest villain on the list to rank. We have almost zero information about the actual criminal himself other than that he’s killed a man and has a lot of power. Could that have been the only person he’s killed? Unlikely, but possible. Could he have killed thousands of people? Also unlikely but possible. The answer for this one is we just don’t know.
Terminator- The Terminator
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career defining role and a role responsible for one of the most quotable lines ever (I’ll be back) , the original Terminator sent to kill Sarah Connor is as iconic as they come. Destroying whatever comes between him and Sarah, The Terminator is pretty terrifying, especially when combined with Arnold’s crazy physique.
Villain O’meter: 4/10 Just from this movie alone it has to be a 4 ranking. Terminator kills a bunch of people and is extraordinarily scary, but he’s sent from the future as an assassin to win a war. On top of that, he’s also a robot so his motives are programmed in, taking away a lot of the evilness.
T-1000- Terminator 2
After the first terminator terrified with sheer size and power, James Cameron knew he had to do something different if he wanted to make an impact with his next Terminator, after all you can’t get much bigger than Arnold. What he did was create character that can essentially shapeshift into anything and is standing in front of you before you even realize he’s there.
Villain O’meter: 5/10 The description here is going to be almost identical to the previous one. The reason this terminator gets an extra point is, just like the film itself, everything was on a much bigger scale in this one, so there was just more of everything.
The Alien (Xenomorph) – Alien
While the “Alien” may have lost some of its luster over time due to its complete and total overuse in cinema, you can’t argue that it’s probably the most enduring movie monster of any film or franchise. It’s physical perfection and dominance is ever present, paired with its inhuman lust for killing, this is one of the best movie villains out there.
Villain O’meter: 5/10 A physical specimen with no human conscience, the Xenomorph just seeks to kill, making it one of the scarier villains as it has no real motive. That’s also why it doesn’t go any higher than 5 though. While it serves amazingly as a horror movie villain, it wouldn’t stand up well in comparison to other villains listed.
Annie Wilkes- Misery
Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her role as the crazed former nurse Annie. By now the story of the author who crashes his car and is woken up by the psychopathic Annie is a classic, and that’s a testament to how strong a villain and performance were given for the movie. Just a quick note, this is the third character we’ve seen based off of a Stephen King novel. It’s no surprise that one of the best horror novelists ever has made multiple appearances on this list.
Villain O’meter: 5/10 Annie is completely insane, aside from kidnapping Paul and forcing him to rewrite a novel for her, it’s revealed that she murdered multiple people while working as a nurse effectively making her a serial killer. While visually she might not be as intimidating as any other villain on the list, she definitely holds her own in terms of dirty deeds.
Detective Alonzo Harris- Training Day
The role that shed Denzel Washington of his “nice guy” typecast, Alonzo Harris was just so deep in his own previous transgressions that he couldn’t dig himself out. Regardless, his morals were more than questionable, especially as a cop, and he made plenty of awful decisions.
Villain O’meter: 1/10 We don’t ever see him kill anyone. The worst thing we see him do is put his gun to his partners head and forced to do drugs. While that’s definitely not advisable, its not much compared to mass murder, starting ideologically flawed wars, or just general evildoing.