People hate good villains but they love to hate great villains. Every year I assemble a list of the best villains, but it usually involves a lot of caveats. First of all, villains actually have to be characters. You won’t see me nominate something like “the vaccum of space” here. I also won’t nominate animals or monsters unless they have human-like sentience. An even more important rule is that villains here must actively be the antagonists in their films, so I won’t be nominating people like Jordan Belfort here regardless of how vile they may be.
- Edwin Epps- 12 Years a Slave: There are plenty of terrible slave owners in 12 Years a Slave including the characters played by Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Sarah Paulson. But the guy who looms over them all is Edwin Epps, as played by Michael Fassbender. While other slave owners at least try to justify their participation in this beastly practice in one way or another, this guy just seems to be a sadistic motherfucker who shows absolutely no restraint in his cruelty.
- Encarna / La Madrastra- Blancanieves: Blancanieves is a re-telling of Snow White set in 1920s Spain. For its version of the evil stepmother/wicked witch actress Maribel Verdú created a rather vile lady who believably commits all the sins that the character is supposed to commit and does it with a sort of maniacal glee. Whether she’s wearing bondage gear or a black witchlike veil, she comes across as a timeless face of evil.
- General Zod – Man of Steel: Most of the Marvel movies are content to just make their villains eeeeeevilllll, but in Man of Steel they decided to actually give their villain some actual motivation for his various dastardly deeds. Here he’s re-envisioned not as a criminal but as a Kryptonian patriot who wants to terraform Earth in order to rebuild his destroyed home planet. Here he is a general, and carries himself as such, and Michael Shannon really sells it.
- Emily Taylor – Side Effects: For much of the film you aren’t sure whether Emily Taylor is a villain, a victim, or a bystander in the film Side Effects and to what extent she was in control of her actions. By the end it becomes clear that she is not and never has been helpless in the movie, she’s been a schemer the whole way through and while her scheme is a bunch of soap opera ridiculousness, Rooney Mara sells it all a lot better than she should be able to.
- Danny McBride – This is the End: Most of the actors holed up in James Franco’s house in This is the End are friends, but the clear exception is Danny McBride, who crashed the party and passed out in the bathroom during most of the apocalyptic goings on. McBride has made a career of making himself look like a dick, but it probably took special courage to actually play himself being an insufferable bastard. The persona is taken to its extreme late in the film, when he becomes the leader of a cannibalistic cult that keeps Channing Tatum as a gimp.