Villains play a great role in movies and literature, moving audiences to grasp onto their seats as they go out of their way to do evil and destroy people’s lives. Villains show us the battle of good vs. evil, and story upon story are created on this theme.
Villains make stories more entertaining, because at the end of the day, most of us want the good guy to win – but we want to watch him overcome all the obstacles – which is usually in the form of one or more villains. Villains are here to stay, and they provide some of the most interesting twists and turns, entertaining audiences with disbelief at their (often) psychotic behavior. Here are the 20 greatest villains of all time!
20. Agent Smith (The Matrix Trilogy)
The Matrix’s Agent Smith, played by Hugo Weaving, was Neo’s arch rival, trying to destroy him at every turn. Weaving played the role brilliantly, convincing the audience that he was as hard as he was cold. He was programmed to destroy Neo, and he didn’t stop trying throughout the Matrix trilogy.
His speech is slow and crisp, and his eyes are always covered by black sunglasses covering his windows to the soul of which he has none. When he eventually catches Morpheus in The Matrix, he tells him that he “hates this place.” He is not only there to do his job, but he hates his job at the same time. He is the ultimate AI baddie, and we love him!
19. Lex Luthor (Superman)
We all love Superman! Who doesn’t love a tall, strong alien who looks human with killer looks, bulging muscles and a can-do attitude, who wants to save the world! He is faster than a speeding bullet, that is, until Lex Luthor captures him by putting kryptonite near him.
Lex Luthor is a mad genius and is Superman’s arch rival and nemesis. He is a scientific genius who gains much pleasure in hurting others and creating chaos in the world. The original Superman played by Christopher Reeve with Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, brilliant in his portrayal of pure evil. He also always had a female sidekick who gave much comic relief to the movie. Of course, Superman always won the day!
18. Michael Myers (Halloween)
What’s scarier than a big, tall man pacing himself, walking slowly behind you wearing a white expressionless mask ready to hurt you? Michael Myers is the character described here, made famous in the movie series Halloween. Who can forget this slasher movie? It’s what made Jamie Lee Curtis famous!
In the movie, Myers is a young boy who murders his sister, Judith Myers, only to return home to Haddonfield after 15 years to carry on his hurting spree with teenagers in mind. Michael’s character is one of the old classic horror/slasher fiction characters you couldn’t get out of your head. This franchise keeps repeating itself, with new Halloween movies rising to the surface every few years. Everyone loves hating Michael Myers!
17. Gollum (The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy)
“My Precious!!” was Gollum’s description of “the ring” in Lord of The Rings. In the first Lord of the Rings, Gollum is a man who ends his best friend’s life so that he can own the ring. He becomes obsessed with the ring and will do anything to have “the ring”.
Over time the ring extends his life, but it is in exchange for a creature who is withering away. English born actor Andy Serkis played Gollum brilliantly, and we couldn’t help but love, feel sorry, and hate him for his evil ways all at the same time. Eventually Frodo Baggins gets the task of destroying “the ring” in Mount Doom, and gets entangled with Gollum, who tries to trick him in every way possible in order to get “the ring” back.
16. Voldemort (Harry Potter)
He who must be named was not to be toyed with. Harry Potter was a phenomenon that filled children’s minds all over the world with the ultimate fantasy of a boy wizard. It also made J.K. Rowling one of the wealthiest women in the world.
Voldemort is the most dangerous wizard in the world. Harry Potter is famous because he survived the wrath of Voldemort after he took away Harry’s parents’ lives. He tried to destroy Harry but couldn’t, and Harry ended up with a scar of a lightning bolt on his forehead, famous and recognizable forever. We watch Harry grow up in all the Harry Potter movies, while Voldemort, and those that follow him, try to destroy him.
15. Norman Bates (Psycho/Bates Motel)
Norman Bates is one of the scariest villains of all time, mainly because of the fact that on the outside, he looks like a normal man, but on the inside he is a complete psychopath, ready to take the life of whoever he pleases, while dressed up like his deceased mother.
Norman Bates is a scary character, as he encapsulates the Oedipus complex. He has always been in love with his mother, so much so, that he dresses like her and in his mind, lives within her body. When the movie Psycho first came out in 1960, it terrified audiences. Fast forward to the future, and we get to see Norman Bates as a child in Bates Motel on Netflix, where we can’t help but feel sorry for him. Norman Bates is the villain that lingers in our minds, and makes up our worst nightmares.
14. The Evil Queen (Snow White)
The Evil Queen is one of the greatest villains in all of children’s literature. Snow White is a beautiful princess, known as “the fairest of them all.” Her beauty goes deeper than her pitch black hair, white skin, blue eyes, and rosy cheeks. Her beauty is defined by her complete kindness, and purity.
The Evil Queen hates Snow White because every time she looks into her magic mirror, and says the words, “mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”, she expects to see herself, but snow white always appears. She eventually turns herself into a witch, and gives Snow White a poisonous apple that makes Snow White collapse into a deep sleep – where she can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. The Evil Queen is a jealous, hateful, and spiteful villain, and a villain that will never be forgotten.
13. Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)
Hannibal Lecter is one of the scariest villains ever seen on film because of the monster that dwells within him. Hannibal is not only one of the most dangerous people on earth, but a cannibal as well, ready to devour his victims. He is one of the sickest kinds of his type.
The scariest part about him, is the fact that he is also exceptionally intelligent, and that’s what makes him so intriguing. Normally you would not equate such a villain with being so smart too, but he is. Nobody could play him better than Sir Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, where he helps Jodie Foster’s character, FBI trainee Clarice Starling, with a case she is trying to solve. When Hannibal Lecter invites you over “for dinner”, unfortunately, you will be on the menu!
12. Jack Torrance (The Shining)
Jack Torrance is a character we meet in Stephen King’s novel turned movie, The Shining. He is portrayed by the brilliant Jack Nicholson, who does a superb job in his role as a hotel caretaker. Jack Torrance, is an interesting villain, as he doesn’t start out that way. It is only once the influence of the evil, haunted hotel he is looking after with his wife and son, toys with his mind, that we see the villain within.
The ghosts within the hotel convince him to hurt his family and Jack completely loses his mind. As one of the greatest villains alive, nobody can ever forget the scene where he chases his wife and she hides in the bathroom, only to have Jack put an axe through the door, stick his head through, and say “Here’s Johnny!”
11. The Joker (Batman)
Batman has had many enemies over the years, but none so evil as the villainous Joker. The Joker has been played out by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and most recently Joaquin Phoenix. The Joker is a misunderstood crazy man with deep psychosis.
He has psychotic problems on the inside, and covers himself with the face of a joker – someone that is always smiling on the outside, but is deeply disturbed and depressed on the inside. The Joker finds his joy in hurting others, and is a great super-villain that must be stopped by Batman. One of the most common stories of how the Joker came to look the way he does, is that he fell into a tank filled with chemical waste that turned his skin white, gave him green hair, and turned his lips bright red. This all drives him to become more insane than he already is.
10. Loki (Thor)
In Nors Legend, Thor is the god of thunder and lightning, exceptionally strong, with long blonde hair and a heart that only wants to do good. Loki is his jealous brother, the total opposite of Thor, with his black hair, cold blue eyes, pale skin, lithe body and stone cold heart. Loki only wishes to do evil.
Loki is the antithesis of Thor who wishes to do harm to him and the people around him. He is quite like a Gothic prince who gets up to nonsense whenever he can – almost like a rebellious teenager. The thing with Loki, is the fact that Thor always wins the day, and Loki cannot defeat his big brother. Loki is known as the god of mischief.
9. The Black Swan (Black Swan)
The “Black Swan” is an interesting villain. She lurks in the mind of ballerina Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman, and drives her absolutely insane. The audience watches through the movie as poor Nina slowly turns into a black swan in her mind.
The Black Swan creeps up into Nina making her believe things that aren’t true, like her legs turning into swan’s legs. As the story progresses, the Black Swan must win, it must be the star ballerina. Nina soon becomes completely psychotic. She loses her mind, and eventually the villainous Black Swan wins, as we watch Nina take her own life as she falls to the ground. The Black Swan reminds us to get hold of our thoughts, and seek professional help if our thoughts cannot be contained.
8. Freddy Krueger (Nightmare On Elm Street)
There is no creature more villainous, that haunts our nightmares, than Freddy Krueger. Freddy Kruger is the one reason that you don’t want to close your eyes at night. Wes Craven, who directed all the Freddy Krueger series, really knew how to make night time very scary.
“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…Three, four, better lock your door…” Freddy would come after you with his face that looked burnt to a crisp, and claws of steel that would tear you apart in your dreams. To break the complete horror of the Nightmare In Elm Street series, Freddy Kruger would add humor to the dialogue. Robert Englund played a very scary villain that will make you keep your eyes open when the lights go out!
7. Kylo Ren (Star Wars)
Star Wars is one of the most successful film franchises to have ever been created. Every few years, a new Star Wars comes out, giving everything the fans could ever want in exciting story lines. Kylo Ren was introduced in 2015, played by the brilliant Adam Driver.
Kylo Ren is the name chosen by Ben Solo, who is the only child of Princess Leia Organa and Han solo. He is an antagonist and a dark warrior strong with the Force. Kylo Ren has a very aggressive personality with much anger shown towards others. In the Star Wars story, he is a leader of the First Order and is determined to take down the New Republic, as well as the Resistance, and legacy of the Jedi.
6. SS Colonel Hans Landa (Inglorious Basterds)
Quentin Tarantino has a certain genius when it comes to telling stories that feel real, hard-hitting and cut to the core. He also creates the richest characters brought to life, that are perfectly unique, such as that of SS Colonel Hans Landa (played perfectly by Christopher Waltz) in Inglorious Basterds.
SS Colonel Hans Landa, is not only a high-ranked Nazi, but a psychopath, who is charming, culturally eloquent, and multilingual. His wrath is utterly terrifying, and Christopher Waltz is so convincing in his portrayal of him, that he took home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for it. Inglorious Basterds is a hard movie to watch, but SS Colonel Hans Landa has the audience glued to the screen, as we never know what he will do next!
5. T-1000 (Terminator 2)
Terminator 2 is one of those movies you could just watch over and over again. It has four stand out characters in it, namely, the Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Connor, played by Edward Furlong, Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton, and the villainous T-1000, played by Robert Patrick.
In this Terminator movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger played the good guy/Terminator sent to protect Sarah and John Connor. T-1000, on the other hand is a more advanced “terminator” model, with one goal in mind: to kill John Connor, who would eventually lead the resistance against the AI machines, so that humans could win the battle on Earth. The T-1000 is a frightening model, as it is almost impossible to destroy. Robert Patrick did an excellent job portraying the T-1000 and Terminator 2 will linger as one of the best Terminator movies ever made.
4. Sauron (Lord of the Rings)
Sauron is the extremely powerful, and ultimate, villain in The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien described him as “A great eye, lidless, wreathed in flame.” Sauron is the evil force that Frodo sees, feels and senses, every time he touches “the ring.”
Throughout the trilogy, we are always aware of Sauron. He is the antagonist that we know Frodo has to defeat, and we are always aware that it will be a huge battle. The prologue shows Sauron as a gigantic, mace-wielding psychopath, who is able to destroy armies with one single blow. Sauron is pure evil, and Frodo, unfortunately, has to go to Mordor, home of Sauron, to destroy evil and “the ring” once and for all, even if it means at the peril of his own life.
4. The Alien (Alien)
Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver, was one of the scariest movies of the ‘80s. Nobody can easily forget the “stomach” scene (where an alien bursts through a man’s stomach) as he lies on a table. The movie is purely about warrant officer Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) being as tough as she can possibly be, so that she can fight the Alien that lurks in outer space on her team’s ship.
The team behind the alien did a brilliant job in making it look as real as possible. It is tall and made up of sharp teeth, with a mouth, when opened secretes goo. It is a monster unlike any other because it does not come from planet Earth. It was a brilliant movie, and shows Sigourney as the protagonist who can really take charge and save the day!
3. Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)
Cruella De Vil is one of the most villainous women on Earth. She is pure evil personified. She loves her furs, and when she finds out there are new born baby dalmatians, she sends the men who work for her to go steal them, which they do.
101 Dalmatians is a fantastic novel adapted into a cartoon, and then adapted into a film. Glenn Close played Cruella brilliantly, encapsulating her evil ways entirely from the way she dressed, and walked, to the way she even flapped her hands, and lost her temper. Cruella De Vil is a narcissist who doesn’t care about anyone else but herself – even if it means looking good at the expense of puppies’ lives.
2. Dracula (Bram Stoker’s Dracula)
The story of Dracula has been played out in many theatres, in many novels and across many movies and tv shows. Dracula is the ultimate villain. Neither dead nor alive, he survives on the blood of men, turning them into vampires once he has had his fill.
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Gary Oldman plays a brilliant Dracula, secluded in Transylvania, who toys and plays with the lives of others. All he is interested in is blood, it is what keeps his youth, and allows him to have the life he has, living in darkness alone as sunlight will destroy him. There are many stories of how to protect yourself against Dracula – garlic and crosses, and holy water, but Dracula is an all powerful evil entity, and can morph into different animal forms to haunt you in the middle of the night. He is one of the scariest villains in modern day literature and film.
1. Darth Vader (Star Wars)
Darth Vader is the villain we all love to hate. We see him in the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as 2005’s Revenge of The Sith and 2016’s Rogue One. He is a tragic character as we watch him in younger years and see the events that lead him to his evil ways.
Darth Vader is the father of Luke Skywalker and his twin Princess Leia. In the prequel of the Star Wars trilogy, Darth Vader is known as Anakin Skywalker. In the second Star Wars, Luke discovers to his complete horror, that Darth Vader is his father, after Darth Vader cuts off his hand. His hand is eventually replaced after Leia rescues him and takes him to a medical spaceship. Darth Vader is a terrifying villain because of his powerful and dangerous presence, the way he breathes and speaks, the black uniform he wears with a cape, always commanding authority. He is and will always be, the number one villain.