A great movie hero needs a great villain. These villains give beloved protagonists a reason to exist, to entertain, to go above and beyond in the pursuit of justice.
Audiences often find themselves drawn to these characters — on occasion preferring them to the movie’s “good guys.” Villains can be intriguing, as in the case of the Joker, who gained renewed popularity after being portrayed by Heath Ledger in 2008’s “The Dark Knight.” Sometimes they’re funny, like Biff from “Back to the Future.” Other times they’re simply so perfectly evil that they command respect, like Hannibal Lecter.
- Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: Infinity War
The big purple alien sure made his appearance worthwhile. Always watching over the events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thanos was simply waiting for the right moment to strike. And once he did, he was successful. Thanos is willing to give up everything to save the universe. He believes that he is truly righteous in collecting the Infinity Stones and removing half of the inhabitants in the universe. He believes this so intensely that he kills the person closest to him. With the power of the Infinity Stones and the universe change within a snap of his fingers, no being has had as much power as Thanos in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
2. Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in Black Panther
King T’Challa chooses to uphold Wakanda’s isolationist policies to keep its citizens safe, but his American cousin Erik Killmonger, who aims to liberate black people worldwide, sees this as selfish on the part of such an advanced nation. Some argued that Killmonger’s ideals — if not his extreme hunger for power — were actually admirable and, as the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer pointed out, the fact that a comic book movie villain could inspire such a debate “is a testament to how profound and complex the character is.”
3. Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) in Paddington 2
Few villains go through as much effort as Phoenix Buchanan. He is a washed-up actor who must assume multiple roles to find a treasure. How does he know about this treasure? Non-other than Paddington and a rare pop-up book. Buchanan frames Paddington for stealing the book and then uses his collection of costumes to find locations detailed in the book. It is a gloriously, devilish role for a performer who has been known for the better part of his career as a love interest in romantic comedies.
4. Ben (Steven Yeun) in Burning
Is Ben really a villain or is it all in the head of Jong-su (Ah-In Yoo)? That is one of the main conceits of Burning, but even if Ben isn’t as bad as the film makes him out to be, he is one terrifying dude. Handsome, rich, and worldly, Ben inserts himself into the lives of Jong-su and Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jeon). Behind his winning smile, lies a wickedness. Not only does Ben believe he is above reproach, he has a strange hobby. He likes to find randomly abandoned greenhouses and burn them every so often. The only question is whether or not he burns young women in these greenhouses as well.
5. Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya) in Widows
Despite appearing in TV series and a few movies, Daniel Kaluuya had his big breakout with Get Out. In that film, he is the protagonist, very much in danger from his girlfriend’s family. In Widows, he is the danger. Kaluuya plays Jatemme Manning, a brother and enforcer for political candidate Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry). He enjoys terrifying those who have done wrong, making them dance or perform for him before he takes their lives. What makes him even scarier is the fact that we never know exactly what he is going to do next. He is a villain in-control and one the highlight performances in a film full of them.
6. August Walker (Henry Cavill) in Mission: Impossible — Fallout
August Walker, also known in the film as John Lark, is an undercover spy. Walker works for the CIA and is given the mission of following Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) after Hunt fails to obtain three plutonium cores. At the same time, he is working for The Apostles, a terrorist organization headed by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Cavill as Walker is one those rough and tough villains that it is so easy to hate. He double-crosses Ethan Hunt and has the advantage every step of the way. He is a villain that can go toe-to-toe with Hunt and the Mission: Impossible franchise hasn’t had a villain like that in a long time.
7. David Duke (Topher Grace) in BlackKklansman
A shirt-and-tie. Seemingly good mannered. A conversationalist. A white supremacist. These are all terms that can be used to describe Topher Grace’s performance of David Duke. While many villains on this list are fictional, this one is unfortunately all too real. David Duke uses his sway as the head of the KKK to gain political influence and put a “respectable” face on an organization that solely stands for hate. It was an unusual role for Grace, who is best known for That ’70s Show, but he is game in depicting this monster. It’s hard to imagine anyone, let along Topher Grace, uttering the words that come out of that man’s mouth.
8. All three of Walton Goggins villainous characters in Ant-Man and the Wasp, Tomb Raider and Maze Runner: The Death Cure
We love Walton Goggins and embraced all three of his villainous roles with open arms. The best thing to come out of him being a villain is a moment in Ant-Man and the Wasp when Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) asks a crowd of people “Anyone seen a southern gentleman carrying a building?” The world needs more Walton Goggins being a villainous southern gentleman.
9. Orm Marius (Patrick Wilson) in Aquaman
The main thing driving Aquaman’s villain (played with relish by Patrick Wilson) is an abandonment complex, as he blames his half-brother Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and the entire surface world for the death of their mother (Nicole Kidman) as punishment for having fallen in love with a human rather than an Atlantean. The less personal reason he’s so eager to wage war on humanity, however, is marine pollution. Which, frankly, makes sense.
10. Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) in Ready Player One
Ready Player One proved divisive among audiences. One thing most audiences can agree upon though is that Ben Mendelsohn is the greatest part of the movie. Mendelsohn plays Nolan Sorrento, the head of IOI, a rival company that seeks to gain control of the OASIS. He has little concern for those in his way and that includes Parzival (Tye Sheridan) and his friends. He does have his faults. For being the head of tech company he isn’t too bright. Leaving his password on a sticky note and being unable to defeat a group of teenagers, just makes Sorrento look bad. Thankfully, Mendelsohn is game for the role and adds a lot to the character with his performance that would otherwise be comical.
Who is the strongest villain? Let us know in the comment box.