As we stated in our Star Trek Into Darkness review, the villain portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch is nothing short of evil incarnate. His performance got us thinking about how many utterly dastardly villains movie audiences have witnessed since the turn of the century. One could argue they could go down on the list of best villains in the 100 year history of Hollywood!
Inspired by Cumberbatch and his portrayal of “John Harrison,” Movie Fanatic proudly presents our Top 10 Movie Villains of This Century. Who is number one?
10. Alonzo Harris: Training Day
How good was Denzel Washington in Training Day? He won his second Academy Award, his first for Best Actor. As an LAPD detective, Washington was supposed to be a mentor to Ethan Hawke’s character. But, he wound up revealing his true colors by the middle of the film. Hawke, in turn, had to cull his own personal power to put a stop to the man who was wreaking havoc on the streets of Los Angeles, instead of protecting them.
9. Patrick Bateman: American Psycho
Christian Bale is killer good as a hero, as seen in the Dark Knight franchise. But, in 2000 he announced himself as a killer of a different kind as serial murder Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.
The film, based on the bestseller by Bret Easton Ellis, chronicled a man of the 1980s driven by greed while simultaneously fighting his murderous demons. Bale astounded in the role and although talks are revving up for a remake, we would be hard pressed to find an actor on the planet who could capture conflicted evil as Bale did at the turn of the century.
8. Don Logan: Sexy Beast
Ben Kingsley sizzled in Sexy Beast and showed that he’s more than the non-violent icon he played in Gandhi. He may have been the villain in Iron Man 3, but given the twist on that part, we have to look back at his role in Sexy Beast as the best evildoer Kingsley ever portrayed. The way he slithered in and out of the action in the European-set film was nothing short of a good man doing bad brilliantly.
7. Col. Hans Landa: Inglourious Basterds
Christoph Waltz won the first of two Oscars for his work alongside writer-director Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds. It isn’t easy to steal scenes from Brad Pitt, but in those scenes where Waltz and Pitt interact, it is the Waltz show and Pitt is merely a spectator. There are many performers who have embodied the dearth that is a Nazi, but few manage to make him so likable that the audience hates itself for enjoying what he does onscreen.
6. Magneto: X-Men Movies
Although Ian McKellen played the role quite a few more times than Michael Fassbender, they both perfectly encapsulate the villain born of the pages of the X-Men comics and brought to life in the X-Men movies. Both actors embodied the emotional journey that took him from Nazi concentration camp survivor to man who seeks to use his powers to rule the human world -- all in one big payback for what happened to his parents.
5. Captain Vidal: Pan's Labyrinth
Sergi López i Ayats became an international actor known well beyond his native Spain for his turn in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. His personification of terror is the stuff of legend and although many may try to replicate the depths of his devilish nature, few will achieve the skin crawling moment in cinematic history that was his performance.
4. Anton Chigurh: No Country for Old Men
Oscar must love villains, because Javier Bardem was so frightening in No Country for Old Men that he too won Oscar gold for Best Actor (joining Waltz and Washington so far on this list). His role as the killer who transverses the southwest, flipping coins that decided people’s fate, is still a benchmark for villainy in a Coen brothers film.
3. Voldemort: Harry Potter movies
Could there have been anyone better cast to portray the man who killed Harry Potter’s parents? When Ralph Fiennes first appeared in any kind of form that was recognizable in the series, even with a flattened face, it was the Shakespearean actor’s talents that gave shape to an at the time shapeless character.
As subsequent chapters of the series went on, Voldemort may have developed more into a “human” form, and through Fiennes Harry Potter fans had a foil for Potter that was worthy of all that was good about the kid with that lightning bolt on his forehead.
2. The Joker: The Dark Knight
Another 21st century villain and once again… Oscar gold! Heath Ledger earned a posthumous Academy Award for doing what seemed like the impossible. When the story was announced and the villain for Bale’s Batman in The Dark Knight was revealed as The Joker, many asked: How can you top Jack Nicholson?
Not only did Ledger make us forget about that perma-grinned Nicholson character, but the late actor forged a whole new level of villainy for all actors to strive for in decades to come. In a word, Ledger was simply… stunning.
1. Daniel Plainview: There Will Be Blood
Daniel Day Lewis may be most known for his role in the Paul Thomas Anderson film for uttering the most famous of the There Will Be Blood quotes: “I drink your milkshake.” But, Lewis was so much more than a catchphrase as Daniel Plainview. The entire film There Will Be Blood does not work without an actor of the highest caliber portraying the man at the heart of the story.
Lewis is one of the best of his, or any, generation and in the process of making There Will Be Blood, the actor dug deep and gave us a source of evil that no one can ever touch. As the years go by in this young century, Lewis’ Plainview will be one hard act to top.
Honorable mentions: Loki: Thor and The Avengers (Tom Hiddleston), O-Ren Ishii: Kill Bill (Lucy Liu), Stuntman Mike: Grindhouse (Kurt Russell), Doctor Octopus: Spider-Man 2 (Alfred Molina), Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting: Gangs of New York (Daniel Day Lewis), Saruman: The Lord of the Rings (Christopher Lee), John Harrison: Star Trek Into Darkness (Benedict Cumberbatch), Mr. Chow: The Hangover movies (Ken Jeong).