Films create characters and sometimes these characters are strong enough to shape our morals, views and opinions on different aspects brought up by movies they are coming from. They are often heroic and super, but often humble and simple. They all go through self-discovery and the journey in search of their own selves, so we, the audience, can too join them in this existential project. Of course, some films are not influential enough to offer more than just plain entertainment, but we can all agree that the best films are the ones with the strongest characters. Characters we can identify with, empathise with and feel fascinated by. But every so often, our main protagonist dies in a shadow of a much stronger and much more interesting character, and this character is not necessarily the one we even want to identify with. We definitely don’t want to feel sympathetic towards him or her and we wish we weren’t so fascinated by it, because just the thought of it makes us doubt the goodness of our personality. And yet, we want to see them, we want to find out more about them and often, we watch a film really just to watch them. The villains.
What makes a perfect villain? Is it his or her lack of humanity and morality? Is it the unpredictability and pure madness they are driven by? Or is it just the fact that they scare the shit out of us for some unknown reason? We all know the most classic villains of all time; they have always been there with us. From Scar killing Mufasa in the Lion King to Alex from Clockwork Orange committing the most awful crimes to the most beautiful music, the cinematic villains were always as strong as the heroes. But whenever we speak of them, we mention the films that came out before year 2000. Does it mean the modern villains are somehow a little less scary? Or are they lacking the universality which would make them unforgettable? I have to say, my work wasn’t easy, but I have managed to collect my very own Top 12 Modern (and by it I mean the 21st century) Movie Villains. Be afraid… be very afraid…
12. Agent Smith (Matrix)
Agent Smith is more than just an ordinary villain- he is the system Neo and the rebels are trying to fight. Apart from machine like intelligence (well, no wonder why), he always has the ability to change his form and enter any body he wants at any time he wants. Now that’s what you call indestructible.
11. Commodus (Gladiator)
Commodus from Gladiator created the universal image of the evil emperor and no matter how close the image is to reality, we fear him like we suppose to. His physical weakness is completely irrelevant because even the strongest men will die from the movement of his thumb. Literally.
10. Hitler (Downfall)
One of the most hated man to ever live, Hitler in culture and history is often an ideal representation of pure evil. In Downfall, however, we encounter the man who is driven by his desire to make Germany the greatest country in the entire world. His motifs seem good, it’s just the realisation that is evil. And when we start to feel empathetic towards Hitler, we know we just encounter a very well written villain…
9. Bean (Fantastic Mr Fox)
Fantastic Mr Fox is a charming story told in the most Wes Andersonean style, which puts a smile on both children and adults faces. But have you notice how ridiculously evil Mr Bean is? We have three villains, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, and although the first two are the typical bad guys, the last one is ridiculously over the top tyrant. He doesn’t care how much money he spends or how many lives are sacrificed, he just wants Mr Fox dead. He even wears his tail as a tie. TIE, god damn it!
8. Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood)
Ambitious, hard working, revengous and hateful man. Daniel Plainview (with Dickensean name indeed) is a cruel man, who feeds on revenge, hate and greed. He will even drink your milkshake. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
7. Gollum (Lord of the Rings)
I think Gollum stands out in the world of villains, because he himself is the victim of the ring. He is a slave and we feel pity towards him (and so do the hobbits), only to find out that the creature has no morals and is willing to give away his and our souls in order to get what he wants. Or what the ring wants rather. Gollum is definitely one of the greatest literary and cinematic villains of all times, because his character and the story behind the shaping of it is much more complex than what we are normally familiar with.
6. Paul (Funny Games)
Funny Games is a film which was made twice by the same director, however, once in German and second time (2007) in English, with big American names. It is really difficult to choose which version is better, but I have to say that Micheal Pitt as merciless and psychopatic Paul is incredibly horrifying. He has no morals, empathy and he plays the cruel game he designed himself with inhuman hedonism. The worst thing about Paul is that he lets his victims believe that they have a chance to survive if they just play against his rules. He’s intelligent, inhuman and charming. Most importantly, he is unpredictable.
5. Patrick Bateman (American Psycho)
â€śI have all the characteristics of a human being â€” blood, flesh, skin, hair â€” but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me, and I donâ€™t know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.â€ť- I guess, Patrick Bateman said it all.
4. Kevin (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Kevin seems to be born evil. He is psychological tyrant and knows exactly how to manipulate his surrounding and destroy his mother’s life. But the interesting question We Need to Talk About Kevin asks is what motivates him. Is it Kevin who is evil or the society needs him to be?
3. Chigurh (No Country For Old Men)
Only one word can really describe Chigurh- he is a monster. He knows no pain, no rest and no empathy. He has a very own sense of hierarchy and he believes in destiny. As long as he is the destiny. One of my very favourite, Chigurh genuinely terrifies me. He is inhuman and communicating with him or provoking any emotions is simply a waste of time. Look at his haircut, look how silly it looks. And yet, he will hunt you in nightmares. Most realistic nightmares.
2. the Joker (the Dark Knight)
It is no surprise that Heath Ledger’s Joker appears almost at the top of this list. I believe that everything that was there to be said about his amazing performance and a completely unique presentation of the character has been already said, so I might not contribute much more to it. I just want to say that when Jack Nicholson made the Joker cartoonishly evil, Heath Ledger made him dangerous, wicked and terrifying. It is the ultimate villain.
1. Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)
I know what you all think. How come the Joker didn’t take first place on my list and instead I choose Hans Landa to have this honour. Well, there is one aspect that to me makes Landa a greater villain than the Joker. He is not mad. When the Joker’s actions can be explained by pure mental madness, Hans Landa is just incredibly intelligent and evil. In every scene he appears in, the tension automatically grows to the levels where you just want to pause to movie and calm yourself down, because of the dangerously high adrenaline level. He isn’t just another Nazi colonel, he is a man of his own, and never works for anyone (even when we think he does). He always cares about himself the most and with merciless ambition he is willing to sacrifice everyone and everything to get what he wants. He speaks all the languages possible and is charming as hell. Most importantly, he completely steals the film. And he stole my soul. And that to me, makes the greatest villain.