I was watching some good movies this weekend with what I thought were very strong villain characters. This got me thinking about what were the best villain characters that had come out recently and so I came up with this list.
Why 10 years? Well, I didn’t want to have to search forever to try to come up with an “all-time” list, and it also makes the list a little more current, movies and series that are out now. It also represents the first 10 years of the 21st century (or close enough, the 21st century started in 2001, but work with me here). These all come from movies I have seen (most multiple times) so I’m sure there are others from movies I haven’t seen yet. Obviously this is just my opinion and we all have one. On to the list.
Honorable Mention: Patrick Bateman – American Psycho
Christian Bale – 2000
Why the honorable mention? Well, I saw this movie on the list and immediately thought of Bale’s iconic character, but I haven’t actually seen the movie, so I have a hard time ranking him 1 through 10 even though he probably belongs on the list.
#10: Lucian – Underworld - Michael Sheen – 2003
Later in the series, we discover Lucian may not be so bad after all, but in the first movie in the series he is certainly portrayed as the villain as the leader of the Lycans in this Vampire vs Werewolf battle epic. Ironically, Sheen will later appear as the leader of the Vampires in the Twilight series. Yeah, he’s that good.
#9: Det. Alonzo Harris – Training Day – Denzel Washington – 2001
One of the few times (to my knowledge) Denzel plays a bad guy and he played it very well, to the tune of a Best Actor Oscar. A corrupt cop who believes he is above the law and untouchable. He plays both sides and uses his green rookie to his advantage and tries to recruit him into the life.
#8: Agent Smith – Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions – Hugo Weaving – 2003
We first meet Agent Smith in 1999′s The Matrix but he really expands his role in the second and third movies, both released in 2003. He is free of the system and has learned to copy himself and he begins to literally take over the world. He also figures out how to cross over from the computer world to the “real world” where he can fight Neo as a human. His sinister, deadpan delivery will get under your skin.
#7: Victoria – Twilight and New Moon – Rachelle Lefevre – 2008, 2009
James may be the dangerous one, but Victoria is definitely the brains of the operation in the three nomadic vampires from Twilight. Victoria comes back in the second movie to chase the Cullen’s once again. Very aggressive with no regard of human life, what you would expect from an immortal vampire.
#6: Saruman the White – LOTR: The Two Towers – Christopher Lee – 2002
Lee drips evil with his deep booming voice and also pulls one of the classic villain moves where he appears to be helping Gandalf, but then attacks and imprisons him. Doing the bidding of the mentioned by not seen Sauron, Lee takes top villain billing in this one.
#5: Chancellor Palpatine – Star Wars:Ep 2 & 3 – Ian McDiarmid – 2002, 2005
The scratchy voice, the feigned weakness, the gentle, subtle guiding of Anakin to the Dark Side. One classic villain begets another classic villain right? McDiarmid certainly does as he reprises his role from a past (future?) episode, Return of the Jedi and becomes the driving force to transforming Anakin into one of the classic villain’s of all time; Darth Vader. His public persona depicts a Senator/Chancellor very concerned with the health of the Republic, while in the shadows he moves his chess pieces across the board in a bid for total control of the galaxy.
#4: Col. Tavington – The Patriot – Jason Isaacs – 2000
In the larger scheme of the Revolutionary War, Lord General Cornwallis is certainly the villain, but Isaac’s character in The Patriot is downright diabolical. Family name trashed, out for glory and bloodlust, breaking all the rules and not caring about the body count. Women, children, slaves, freedmen, no one is spared Tavington’s sword. From killing Martin’s sons, to burning an entire church full of innocent civilians. His disdain for human life comes to a head as he asks Martin about his own son, “That stupid little boy… Did he die?” Cold, unadulterated evil.
#3: Hannibal Lector – Hannibal – Anthony Hopkins – 2001
The original Silence of the Lambs (1991) doesn’t fit into our 10 year timespan, but we still manage to get Dr. Hannibal Lector onto the list from 2001′s sequel Hannibal. Brain eating, disembowling, man eating pigs, everything you would expect from a cannibalistic film. Cold, brooding, intelligent to the point of madness, Lector slowly and carefully plots the demise of his victims and enjoys every minute of it. Doesn’t hesitate to kill after you have outlived your usefulness.
#2: Lord Voldemort – Harry Potter 4 and 5 – Ralph Fiennes – 2005,2007
He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named finally makes his appearance at the end of the 4th Harry Potter film and he does not disappoint. Disfigured face, whispery breathy voice, bony skeleton like appearance. The dueling scenes with Harry (GoF) and Dumbeldore (OoTP) are classic good versus evil showdowns. Voldemort is quiet, almost polite which just makes him even more ruthless as he mercilessly kills anyone and everyone in his path. He returns in the upcoming finale of the series The Deathly Hallows parts 1 (2010) and 2 (2011). The opening line of the trailer already gives me chills… “Harry Potter.. The boy who lived.. come to die.”
#1: The Joker – The Dark Knight - Heath Ledger – 2008
Ledger’s epic performance of The Joker was as scary as it was brilliant, although sadly one of his last performances. If The Joker doesn’t scare the hell out of you then there is something wrong. His personality switches like a light-switch from quiet and calm to cackling like a hyena; criminally insane, yet seemingly still in control of most of his faculties. Ledger manages to embody all of the quirks and even throw in a few shocks along the way like the suddenly loud and deep booming “LOOK AT ME!” in the hostage video. A man with literally no identity and “nothing in his pockets but knives and lint” manipulates people to do his bidding, sometimes against their will and also while making them think they are doing what they want. Super intelligent mixed with a little madness dances on both sides of the very thin line separating genius and insanity.
And there we go. Feel free to toss in other names in the comments, there’s so many great roles to choose from, really hard to narrow it down.