Best Movie Villains
Here are our picks for the best movie villains!
The main antagonist of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sauron is evil incarnate. He's a faceless being who's lust for power drives him to wage war on all of Middle Earth. He's a scary, powerful, and ancient creature who will stop at nothing to complete his goals.
24. HAL 9000
Stanley Kubrick's artificially intelligent creation HAL 9000 is the best character in the groundbreaking masterpiece that is 2001: A Space Odyssey. He's the astronaut's helpful assistant who turns on his creators in a frightening way. His monotone voice adds to the nightmare of what it would be like if your computer tried to kill you.
23. Auric Goldfinger
James Bond's best villain is the greedy Auric Goldfinger. He's a smart and selfish guy who's already got enough money but still wants more. The writers gave him some of the best and most sinister lines of dialogue in movie history. This character is a great social commentary that's still very relevant today.
22. Angel Eyes
Angel Eyes sounds like the name of a good guy but he's the titular "Bad" in Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Lee Van Cleef plays the part to perfection as a steely, cold, heartless shell of a man. His eyes say it all.
Playing the upgraded model of killer robot in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Robert Patrick imbues this cold and calculating machine with just enough curiosity and personality to make him interesting to watch. He's great in all of the action scenes and presents our heroes with a seemingly insurmountable opponent. Plus, the special effects used to bring his "liquid metal" body to life are astonishing.
20. Lex Luthor
Played by the incomparable Gene Hackman, Lex Luthor is a real estate mogul with no moral compass. His considerable greed is only matched by his superior intellect which he uses to incapacitate the Man of Steel in 1978's Superman. He's a survivor, a narcissist, and one of the smartest people on the planet.
19. The Wicked Witch of the West
In 1939's The Wizard of Oz we are introduced to one of film history's greatest villains in a grand entrance which still frightens people to this day. The Wicked Witch is a cackling, creepy queen of chaos who will do anything to get her hands on Dorothy's magical ruby slippers. Her army of flying monkeys are equally formidable and freaky making her an unforgettable antagonist.
18. Jack Torrance
Jack Nicholson delivers the best performance of his entire career as Jack Torrance, a family man struggling with writers block while staying at the haunted Overlook Hotel. He eventually goes mad and tries to murder his family, making The Shining Kubrick's most terrifying film and one of the best horror movies ever made. Each scene is more shocking than the last and that ending is one for the ages.
17. Emperor Sheev Palpatine
The man pulling all the strings in the Star Wars galaxy is Ian McDiarmid's Emperor Sheev Palpatine. He's a master manipulator with nearly unlimited power both physically, through his use of the Dark Side of the Force, and politically. His lust for power is unquenchable and his over-confidence is undeniable.
Imbuing Catwoman with a seductive and wild personality, Michelle Pfeiffer is able to make her Batman's muse and his enemy. In Tim Burton's 1992 sequel, Catwoman's origin differs greatly from the comics, but it works well in his zany world of a gothic Gotham City. Whenever this version of Selina Kyle is on screen she steals the show.
Disney has created some great villains in their long history, but none are as dastardly as Scar. His betrayal of his own brother and nephew are devastating and his lies are equally venomous. He is driven by jealousy, and his alliance with legions of hyenas means that no one can oppose him. Actor Jeremy Irons commands the screen when his delightfully sinister voice is heard.
14. Lord Voldemort
When the characters in the Harry Potter films speak of He Who Shall Not Be Named you get a real sense of just how bad Lord Voldemort really is. People aren't even willing to say his name he's so evil. Ralph Fiennes does a brilliant job bringing the evil wizard to life. His complex character motivations make him one of the more complicated villains on the list.
13. General Zod
In 2013's Man of Steel, the alien hero must go up against one of his own people, General Zod. Played astonishingly well by Michael Shannon, Zod is literally born and bred for war. A leader without a world, and he will do whatever it takes to recreate his home, even if it means destroying Superman's adopted planet Earth. He's got great motivation and nothing will stop him from accomplishing his goals.
12. Norma Desmond
A delusional and obsessive movie star of the silent era, Norma Desmond lives in her own fantasy world. When she brings a young reporter into that fantasy things do not turn out well. Gloria Swanson plays the role of a lifetime in this classic Hollywood horror story. It's one of the best films ever made and one of the best performances ever put to the screen.
11. Khan Noonien Singh
Considered by many to be the best Star Trek film ever made, The Wrath of Khan brings back an enemy from the Original Series to wreck havoc on the universe. Ricardo Montalban delivers an outstanding performance as the titular villain who seeks revenge on Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise for his imprisonment on a desolate world. He's a striking character, both regal and majestic, yet brutal and savage.
10. Immortan Joe
Mad Max has faced off against plenty of ugly and formidable opponents over the years, but none are as vile and disgusting as Immortan Joe played by Hugh Keays-Byrne. He's the post-apocalyptic tyrant in 2015's Fury Road who wants an heir to his throne and has kidnapped five wives for this purpose. When his general Furiosa steals the girls away, he goes on a chase across the wasteland to get them back and will stop at nothing until he finds what he believes is his property. He's also backed up by an army of brainwashed lunatics known as War Boys making him a seemingly unstoppable force.
The most tragic character in Marvel's Cinematic Universe is Thor's brother Loki. His turn from brother to enemy is a bitter one, but you understand his arc as he was raised being told a lie. He's a character you want to see do what's right, but he usually only has his own interests in mind. The full-on villain he becomes in 2012's The Avengers is maybe his best moment on screen as his grand speeches and intimate character interactions make for some of the most entertaining moments in the MCU thanks to the incredible Tom Hiddlston.
8. Mr. Henry F. Potter
A ruthless, greedy, and corrupt individual, Mr. Potter from Frank Capra's classic 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life is a "scurvy little spider" as Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey would say. Played wonderfully by Lionel Barrymore, this character does everything he can to take control of the town of Bedford Falls. He wants to be on top in every way he can and will stop at nothing until those goals are accomplished. He's a crooked liar and a thief and everything that's wrong with this world.
Michael Fassbender is able to bring the character of Erik Lehnsherr to life and make you connect with his past and understand his inner struggle. He's a tortured young man who wants to make the Nazis who killed his parents and experimented with his mutant powers pay for their crimes. Who can blame him? He also has a complicated relationship with Professor Charles Xavier who tries to show him a better way, which leads to conflict as their ideological differences drive a wedge between them. Becoming Magneto, Erik lives to bring about his plan for mutant superiority over the rest of mankind.
6. The Terminator
A non-stop killing machine, The Terminator is perhaps the scariest movie villain of all time. As portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the model T-800 was created to destroy and has no emotion whatsoever. His power and accuracy make him the ultimate weapon. As Kyle Reese tells Sarah Conner in the original 1984 film, "It can't be reasoned with, it can't be bargained with...it doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear...and it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead." That's about the most terrifying thing I can think of.
Played via performance capture by the genius Andy Serkis, Gollum is a creation of the actor and the special effects team at WETA. You forget about all of that, though, when you watch the character come to life on screen. He's a fully-fleshed out person with a singular focus and a sometimes hilarious, sometimes down right scary, multiple personality disorder. This character is the ultimate lesson in covetousness and the very dark places it can lead to.
4. The Joker
How great Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is cannot be overstated. He brought a classic comic book character to life in a way no one had ever seen before. He's a true anarchist who wants to tear down our social constructs and expose the lies and corruption in the government and in the Batman himself. He's creepy, comedic, and most of all chaotic. His plans for Gotham City are devastating not just in terms of property damage or lives lost, but he also nearly wins the battle for the soul of Batman's hometown. Christopher Nolan's 2008 film The Dark Knight remains a masterpiece of filmmaking and Ledger's performance stands out among the rest of this solid cast as a master craftsman's work of art.
3. Keyser Soze
The best villain is sometimes the one you never see. The mysterious Keyser Soze is an enigma, a scary ghost story criminals tell each other. Some don't believe he exists, others know he does and claim to have seen him, but no one knows what he looks like for sure. Christopher MacQuarrie wrote the intricate and brilliant script for 1995's The Usual Suspects which was directed by a young Bryan Singer who took this talented cast and gave audiences one of the most shocking and unexpected moves of all time. Who is Keyser Soze? Watch the movie and find out for yourself.
2. Darth Vader
Star Wars has brought us some of the best characters ever, but none are as recognizable and well-loved as Darth Vader. He is the ultimate bad guy, a large masked man with mechanical body parts, a mystical power, and a red laser sword. This is the one guy no one would want to face off against. Vader has the most tragic and hopeful of character arcs in film history going from light to dark and back again. His intense voice provided by James Earl Jones, and his dominating physical presence brought to life by David Prowse come together to form one of the best movie villains of all time.
1. Hans Gruber
The best movie villain is Hans Gruber. Alan Rickman is able to give this master thief a suave, debonair attitude and look while also making him completely evil. His plan is flawless proving that he's an intelligent foe who's planned for every contingency, well, except John McClane. His interactions with Bruce Willis' character are some of the best parts of the film as Hans puts on a fake accent to learn more about his enemy. He's got swagger and an unflinching determination that nearly allows him to pull off the perfect heist. It's Rickman's best role and the best movie villain of all time.