What do Star Wars, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Chinatown all have in common? They all have classic villains. If drama is conflict, then heroes must have villains, consequently the role of the bad guy is essential to many films. But I’m not letting anything in here, only clear antagonists are eligible here, in other words they need to be actual enemies of the hero. Secondly, they do need to be an actual character, not some kind of group like terrorists or abstract entity like racism.
- Colonel Miles Quaritch- Avatar: On his surface, Quaritch is a pretty stereotypical military loony. So why did I yearn for his death in a way that I didn’t for a lot of the other villains on this list. It’s mainly for what he represents: the closed minded stupidity of the military side of the military-industrial complex. An honorable mention should probably be given to Giovanni Ribisi’s character who represents the equally dangerous half of that equation, but that character has the disadvantage of having never manned a mech suit, that goes a long way as far as my enjoyment of a character.
- Mrs. Ganush- Drag Me to Hell: Mrs. Ganush may not be the greatest villain, but she’s certainly the most willfully loopy. Ganush is a sixty-some year old vengeance seeking gypsy woman, and when I say gypsy I mean that she looks like a fortune teller statue in from one of those coin operated carnival machines. So why put such an over the top character in your movie? Well… because it’s an over the top movie, and having a villain who matches that sets the tone really quickly and effectively.
- Col. Hans Landa- Inglorious Basterds: Nazis have been the villains in Hollywood movies since, before World War 2 began, but I don’t think I’ve seen a better fictional Nazi character onscreen than Hans Landa. What’s so special about the character is that he’s actually a pretty funny guy, there’s an absurdity to him that a lesser film wouldn’t dare explore. One moment he’ll seem like a fairly charming goofball, the next moment he’ll be doing something frightening and psychotic.
- Linton Barwick- In the Loop: This character from In the Loop is a Washington D.C. warhawk who will do any slimy, despicable thing in order to allow his war policy to go through, and what makes him so detestable is that he’s probably just like a lot of people really making things happen in politics. Making him all the more frustrating is the clean cut Ned Flanders act he puts on, making him someone who’s very willing to invade a sovereign nation for dubious reasons, but unwilling to swear in public, an absurd contradiction fitting of a movie like this.
- Lil’ Mago – Sin Nombre: Crime films like this exist on a plane of relative morality. Many characters will be amoral and, some would say villainous, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still going to be an antagonist, and that antagonist usually has to out-evil the other morally dubious characters. That’s what this gang leader from Sin Nombre does. This is a completely crazy and grotesquely tattooed killer and rapist that makes the film’s other characters look like boy scouts.