So Bad It's Good
I love a good villain. A truly great villain just makes the movie so much more interesting. The stakes are higher and the suspense is more thrilling. A good villain pushes the hero to the limits and makes it all the more satisfying when (if?) he wins. For various reasons, the following villains are the most memorable to me. I included a short, spoiler-free blurb about why they're my favorite.
The Dark Knight - The Joker
An obvious pick, but well deserved. The Joker is one of the best villains of all time in any medium and Heath Ledger did the character justice. The Joker is unfathomable, he's unpredictable, he's chaotically evil. You don't know what he wants but he'll do anything to get it and that's what makes him so incredibly dangerous.
Inglorious Basterds - Colonel Hans Landa
What makes this villain great is that, from the very first scene, we learn to fear and respect him. And he's polite and sharp and witty all while being so chillingly good at being evil. At some point, we just have to tip our caps to expertise and professionalism. Hans Landa is an expert villain through and through.
No Country For Old Men - Anton Chigurh
Combines the enigmatic unpredictability of the Joker with the expertise of Landa. Chigurh is a relentless psychopath. One of the few villains that really made me hold my breath.
Mission Impossible III - Owen Davian
A fantastic performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. What really sells it for me is how menacingly calm he is through the whole movie. How, even when it seems like the good guys are winning, he merely sounds a little annoyed like it's merely an inconvenience to him. He actually sounds bored while he dismantles our heroes. His confidence in his ability to cause suffering and exact his revenge fills me with dread. His nonchalant demeanor makes it feel like he's always in control, making it one of the more suspenseful movies I've ever seen.
The Man From Nowhere - Brothers Man-Seok and Jong-seok
Sometimes, a good villain is just someone you really, really want to see get punched in the face. You could argue that the previous villains were all admirably horrible. Their efficacy, while malicious in intent, could be respected. Man-Seok and Jong-seok are the opposite of that. They are worthless, spoiled, scum. So when the hero wins (or does he?) the sense of justice and satisfaction is magnified. I'm not familiar with Korean actors but the guys who played these scumbags did a really good job of making me hate them.
The Ones That Made Things Hard
In general, I don't like it when the villain is too easy. There's no suspense with an easy villain and, consequently, no relief and no excitement at the resolution. You have to give the hero a worthwhile adversary. Someone or something exceedingly difficult to overcome. Only then does our "hero" earn such a title.
The Matrix - The Agents, The Machines, Smith
The Agents are just so slippery. No one can even touch them. And, invulnerability aside, what scared me even more was their omnipresence. Such powerful enemies can be any where at any time in seemingly unlimited numbers.
World War Z - The Zombies
The zombies in World War Z are insane. Let's refer to this chart which plots the killing power of the zombies in each zombie movie.
You'll notice that the World War Z zombies aren't on the chart. That's because the WWZ zombies are so far to the right that they would elect zombie Donald Trump to be their leader. I put a frowny face to mark their place in relation to the chart.
In most zombie movies, I feel like I could survive for quite a while. But if I was in World War Z, I would just give up and accept my new "life" as a man-eating Usain Bolt.
Edge of Tomorrow (Live, Die, Repeat) - The Mimics
Big, fast, numerous, intelligent, and so, so lethal. And then they also have that "gimmick".
The Lord of the Rings - Sauron's Army
Over the course of three films, few enemies have felt as unbeatable as Sauron and his army. The odds were stacked against man and the weight of the world was on the Fellowship. Without the grueling journey and the grand battles, the impossible trials and the unconquerable enemy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy just would not be quite as epic as it is.
The Likable One
Kingsman: The Secret Service - Richmond Valentine
My favorite thing about Samuel Jackson's Valentine were all the quirks of his character. I like that Valentine intentionally breaks many of the stereotypes of the classic spy villain. In addition, he's so contradictory. He can't stand the sight of blood or gore and doesn't like the feeling of killing yet he has concocted a device that will wipe out the majority of the population. He's mega-rich but dresses casually and his idea of a nice meal is McDonald's. He's a super villain but he's actually quite reasonable rather than cruel. He's got the hubris of a villain but speaks with a disarming lisp. He's Samuel Jackson but he's so unlike the rest of Jackson's characters (except for his character in Unbreakable). Dooms-day device aside, he's actually quite likable.
The Dynamic Duo
The Departed - Frank Costello and Staff Sgt. Colin Sullivan
I can't say much without giving it away but I really like the juxtaposition of these two. And what makes them even better is that the scheme they hatch gives them the upper hand throughout, making the movie incredibly tense.
The Ones I Can't Talk About
I said no spoilers.
Memento - Villain
Gone Girl - Villain
Se7en - Villain
The Indefensible One
Winnie the Pooh - Owl
Stare into the eyes of true evil.