Who doesn’t love a great villain? Ever since we were kids, we’ve always seen the good guys fight the bad guys, and we’d always root for the good guys. However, as we’ve gotten older we realize that in order to have a good hero/villain confrontation, the antagonist needs to be just as likable. If we don’t have a good villain, it’s a total letdown. Seriously, I was almost falling asleep in “Thor: The Dark World” because its villain played by Christopher Eccleston just didn’t strike fear or really any emotion into me. The same thing happened in “The Matrix Reloaded” when you meet the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) who’s just so incredibly dull and cryptic for someone who’s supposed to basically be a god. We need good, real villainous characters played so well that they are just as memorable as the heroes were. You can’t have a good movie without an amazing villain. Here are some actors who I thought were amazing in their villainous roles.
Javier Bardem - “No Country for Old Men”
In this movie about a man who finds over two million dollars in a drug deal gone wrong and goes on the run with the cash. The party who the money belongs to sends the psychotic sociopath, Anton Chigurh (Bardem), after him to get the money. Bardem was amazing as this cold-hearted killer who will kill anyone who gets in his way or just annoys him as he fills up for gas, and made an iconic killer with a captive bolt pistol (it’s used for cattle slaughter) as his primary weapon of choice. What especially sticks out, is that he offers his victims a coin toss to see if they live or not, and while this is kind of a copy of the Batman villain, Two-Face, the coldness and teasing tone of Bardem’s character makes it all the more chilling.
Kevin Spacey - “Se7en”
In this murder mystery starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, two detectives take down a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his M.O. when victims turn up in the most gruesome ways. Since most of his character isn’t revealed until later in the movie, I won’t give too much away except that Spacey plays this part to perfection. His meticulous nature mixed with a personality that is seemingly detached from humanity makes Spacey phenomenal as a serial killer. I won’t say anymore, but you can’t watch this movie without getting chills from Spacey’s character’s master plan.
Joaquin Phoenix - “Gladiator”
In this revenge story about a general turned slave by the betrayal of his closest friend, Phoenix plays a magnificent Commodus as he goes up against Russel Crowe’s Maximus in this swords-and-sandals flick. Phoenix’s powerful and overbearing presence can be seen as he forces Crowe to fight match after match to kill his foe, and his growing frustration as Crowe continues to survive. The two best scenes with Phoenix, in my opinion, are when he abuses his on-screen sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) as well as before and during his fight with Crowe. After watching this movie, there is no way you can say you were not entertained.
Ralph Fiennes - “Harry Potter” franchise
He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named should be named as one of cinema’s best. In this magical franchise about a boy wizard, Fiennes plays the obsessive Lord Voldemort (but at this point, this should be obvious). Fiennes played the role masterfully looming over Harry from one adventure to the next as the opponent who wouldn’t go down easily. What I especially loved was how Fiennes made speaking softly something to be feared. Now, if only he had a nose.
Christoph Waltz - “Inglorious Basterds”
In this Tarantino revenge movie, a squad of soldiers form a Nazi-killing party as they work their way through Germany in this false account of history, yet very satisfying. The best role, by far, has got to be Walt’s Hans Landa, SS officer nicknamed “Jew Hunter”. The first scene in the entire movie kept me glued to my seat as I watched Waltz tease and prod a dairy farmer to get the location of missing Jews out of him without breaking a sweat. Waltz played an amazing villain, but I guess that’s a given when you win awards for the role.
Heath Ledger - “The Dark Knight”
Everyone who personally knows me knew that this was coming up, since this is my favorite movie villain. In this Batman story in the Christopher Nolan trilogy, Batman goes up against the psychotic villain played posthumously by Ledger, the Joker. Ledger brought the Joker to life in ways we never saw before since all we had to go on was the campy version in the 60’s and Jack Nicholson’s creepy, yet tasteful, role. Ledger brought a whole new meaning to the word “psychotic” and inspired craziness that could never have been imagined. The only downside to this role was that it caused to be too much for Ledger at the peak of his career.
Anthony Hopkins - “The Silence of the Lambs
In this creepy flick about a young F.B.I. agent who hunts a serial killer, Agent Starling (Jodie Foster) must ask for help from Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Hopkins was amazingly creepy as the former psychiatrist turned cannibal and his performance inspired many spin-offs just to feature Dr. Lecter in one form or the other. He even scared Jodie Foster during the actual filming, making her reaction genuine. His straightjacket and face mask are iconic and I can never forget his hissing after fave beans and a nice chianti.