Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Top Ten Film Villains

(Bill Cosby wins "favorite black stand-up comic" in the latest poll)

Before I get into the list I need to mention some great villains NOT on the list. Some honorable mention has to be given to the three most popular and famous villains in movie history- Darth Vader, The Wicked Witch of the West, and Hannibal Lecter. I realize not including them may be against movie tradition, but none of them are as compelling to me as the ten I chose.

First off, Margaret Hamilton, like other actors was a very sweet woman in real life, but playing the famous witch sort of ruined her film career. Every child who saw her from then on was terrified of her.

I love the character of Darth Vader BEFORE the prequels, then that kind of put a damper on the whole thing, thus he doesn't make my list.

Hannibal Lecter is a fascinating character especially when played by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, but I haven't seen any of the other incarnations (besides Brian Cox as the original Hannibal in Manhunter) and I don't intend to so I don't feel qualified enough to include him.

Other greats not included are all women...and one robot. Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington in the 1950 Best Picture winner All About Eve is one power-hungry, ruthless biatch! And I've seen Anne Baxter play much nicer roles so she was pretty good as the heavy. Glenn Close as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction is also pretty crazy. Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery may be the scariest and nuttiest of them all. And the robot...HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey barely missed making my list.

So here we go:

10. Phyllis Dietrichson- Double Indemnity
played by Barbara Stanwyck

The first truly great femme fatale in film history and still probably the best to me, although Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction is pretty despicable.

9. Dr. Szell- Marathon Man
played by Lawrence Olivier

Few things in life are scarier than a Nazi dentist....played by one the greatest actors of all time!

8. Mr. Potter- It's a Wonderful Life

One of the silver screen's ultimate baddies played to perfection by the legendary Lionel Barrymore.

7. Jack Torrance- The Shining
played by Jack Nicholson

What a character. I find myself laughing in parts, but the transformation of Torrance from a loving Dad to an axe murderer is grisly and one of Nicholson's best.

6. Nurse Ratched- One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
played by Louise Fletcher

From one Nicholson classic to another. The character we so love to hate in Cuckoo's Nest was played by a very heart-warming woman who used sign language in honor of her deaf parents when she received her Oscar for Best Actress.

5. Amon Goeth- Schindler's List
played by Ralph Fiennes

The most evil character on this list because he was a real Nazi who took sadistic pleasure in killing Jews. He's played chillingly well by a virtual unknown at the time, Ralph Fiennes.

4. Reverend Harry Powell- Night of the Hunter
played by Robert Mitchum

Mitchum played a classic villain in Cape Fear named Max Cady. That guy was a menace but he never dressed up as a preacher, killed his new bride, and then hunted down her children for hidden treasure. This is Mitchum's best film and one of my favorites.

3. Anton Chigurgh- No Country For Old Men
played by Javier Bardem

Bardem won an Oscar for his portrayal of the coldest killer ever seen on film. He is unfazed by his thirst for death which makes you fear for anyone who comes in contact with him. Excellent character.

2. Bill the Butcher- Gangs of New York
played by Daniel-Day Lewis

I have said before that Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest living actor and this role is one of the reasons. I love this character. He makes the film. It is his complexity which makes him far more compelling than your typical bad guy. You find yourself admiring him even though he is a ruthless killer and an intolerant jerk. The best movie villain in the last twenty years for my money.

1. Norman Bates- Psycho
played by Anthony Perkins

Still the king of movie villains for my money. Like Bill the Butcher I find myself sympathizing with his character. I almost don't want him to get caught. That is good writing and good acting. I think Anthony Perkins could have been one of the all time great actors if he hadn't played Bates and become swallowed up by that role. He never escaped it.

What movie villains do you think I should have mentioned?


Anonymous said...

I noticed a little motif in your choice of villains and can't believe Kathy Bates from Misery isn't up there...

Joel said...

I have three, Michael Jackson in Thriller always made my skin crawl, Sauron was pretty sweet before Ithildur cut his finger off, and of course you missed Bowser by far the biggest nemesis of all time.

Dignan said...

Is that a Sha-na-na reference?
Sauron should be the one but unfortunately I don't get scared when I see a giant red contact lens.