As much as people will tell you the love and empathize with heroes, the truth is some of the most memorable characters in cinema are the villains. The five villains here represent the best of the worst, the horrificly evil characters that made your skin crawl and make you question the human condition. As usual I should note that to qualify a villain must be an antagonist in the film in question and they must also be (more or less) human, so I won’t be nominating something like the bear from The Revenant or the ghost/demon thing from It Follows.
- The Commandant- Beasts of No Nation: The unnamed commandant in Beasts of No Nation is a sadly very plausible villain. I’ve read accounts of child soldier armies and the tactics they tend to use are very much like the ones seen in this movie. This character is, however, more than just a parroting of common African civil war figures, in the last third of the movie it becomes particularly clear that this character’s loyalty to whatever cause he was fighting for was minimal and that he’s ultimately driven by his own lust for power.
- Daisy Domergue- The Hateful Eight: Daisy Domergue is a strange sort of villain in that she never really personally kills anyone but is still kind of frightening in that you can see the gears working in her head as she plots and schemes and pulls the strings behind all the violence that enters the film in its second half. Jennifer Jason Leigh imbues the character with a sort of laughing devilishness that makes the character feel like a powder keg ready to go off.
- Immortan Joe- Mad Max: Fury Road: Immortan Joe is a really cool looking villain. His wild hair, see through chest piece, and his weird gas mask thing with human teeth on it makes him seem like this imposing steampunk Darth Vader and that alone probably could have earned him this nomination, but there is more going on with him. The character is also a canny dictator who rules over his cult-enclave through cult of personality and domination of resources in a way that has parallels to the real world.
- Old Nick- Room: What’s great about Old Nick is just how pathetic he is. It’s all too easy to build up villains like this into larger than life forces and to inadvertently end up glamorizing them, here they instead show just how weak and pathetic someone would have to be to want to do this out of some twisted desire for empowerment. The decision not to cast a name actor (like, say, Michael Shannon) was also a stroke of brilliance because it underscored how real and common this kind of horrible person really is.
- Kylo Ren- Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens: Kylo Ren is clearly meant to be the stand-in for Darth Vader in this new trilogy and he’s got big boots to fill, the fact that he succeeds as much as he does at that difficult challenge is pretty amazing. The guy has a really awesome Halloween costume… just, so awesome, but there is more to him than that. The big twist that he’s Han and Leia’s son is really cool, and I love that they cast Adam Driver to make him this messed up kid rather than a pure badass to give him that extra depth.