Monday, October 31, 2016

The Top 20 Best Movie Villains: #10-1

Happy Halloween to all!

#10: Hans Landa from Inglorious Bastards (2009)
  • Most effective Jew Hunter in Hitler's regime
  • Betrayed the Nazi's for his own safety
  • Mercilessly hunts down Jews.
  • Likes BINGO!
Christolph Waltz was born to play villains. The man has a genuine happiness and intelligence to him that makes him incredibly unsettling as a leading villain. With Hans Landa, Waltz is able to make Landa someone you hate with all of your guts, but admire for his sheer intelligence.

As an S.S. officer, Landa works directly under Hitler as his head Jew Hunter. He travels around to various cities and towns and grills people that may or may not be hiding Jews until they confess to him that they're hiding Jews, and they always are. What makes Landa so great is that I can't recall him ever doing any terrible actions with his own hands. All he does is talk to people, and that's enough for anyone to start peeing their pants. 

Most villains on this list have done terrible actions, but Landa is the most passive villain on this list. He never directly gets his hands dirty and would rather manipulate people in order to get what he wants, whether its a Jew or his freedom. Towards the end of the movie, when it becomes pretty clear that Hitler was going to be assassinated, Landa makes a deal with American military forces to go free in exchange for secret information regarding the Nazis. However, Landa was never in a position of weakness during this exchange. He kidnapped the Americans, forced them into accepting a deal where he can go scott free, and then does so. Landa actually wins by the end of the film. Yes, he's branded and a few of his goons die, but for all intents and purposes, Landa survives that slaughter of the entire upper Nazi party brass. There's no denying a cunning villain their place in the Top 10. 

#9: Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
  • Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Killed Eddie Valiant's brother
  • Made "The Dip"
  • Ultimate evil goal? Highway Construction!
If there's one universal idea in the world of cartoons, it's that you can never kill a Toon. They'll spring back to life, have a few stars fly over their heads, and get right back into slapstick. But what if there was something that could actually kill a Toon? A way to permanently erase them from existence? Judge Doom has a way, and he calls it "The Dip".

While we never learn to much about where Judge Doom came from, we do know that he's hunting down Roger Rabbit relentlessly to arrest him for killing R. K. Maroon, the president of Maroon Toons. Doom leads a squad of weasels that hunt Roger down wherever he goes with the sole purpose of putting him "The Dip", a chemical substance that dissolves Toons where they stand. Judge Doom is a massive man, towering over everyone with his all black ensemble, but that's not what's terrifying about him. He's responsible for killing R. K. Maroon and framing Roger, but that's not what's terrifying about him. No, whats terrifying abotu him is that he's a Toon himself. 

Yes, Judge Doom is actually a Toon himself with giant red eyes and a high pitched wail of a voice. As a Toon, he killed Eddie's brother which drove Eddie to alcoholism before Doom reinvented himself as a human judge in order to fulfill his ultimate evil scheme. That being to construct... a freeway! The most insane and illogical of ideas! That freeway would be built straight through Toon Town, the city where all of the Toons live, so by buying up the rights of Toon Town from Maroon's estate, he'll storm into the own with a giant Dip machine and erase every single Toon from existence, laughing all the while. 

Judge Doom is a villain or two sides. His human side is cold and calculated, but it's his Toon side that puts him on the list. Turning most of his body into high powered weapons while screaming and laughing at Eddie, all while the Dip machine is about to bust into Toon Town, Doom makes one hell of a last stand against our heroes. He even gets run over by a bulldozer and gets back up with literal dagger sin his eyes for Eddie. The only way for him to even lose is to turn a fire house level of Dip on him, dissolving him. What keeps Doom from climbing any higher on this list, as delightfully insane as he is, is his overall plan. Building a freeway? Yeah, it's good for a joke, but it undermines his feats as being truly villainous when his plan is so simple and confusing. Why would he want a freeway? What's there to gain from it besides erasing Toon Town? Ludicrous plan aside, Judge Doom is one of those villains that's going to be stalking children in their nightmares pretty soon. 

#8: Alex Delarge from A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • Leader of the Droogs
  • Raped a woman in front of her husband
  • Senseless, nihilistic violence
  • Loves classical musical and Gene Kelly
A Clockwork Orange is one of those movies that you want to watch once, then never see it again. Even 45 years later, the movie is still tough to sit through based on its ultra-violence and borderline sadistic treatment of all of its main characters. Everyone in this movie is a monster in some way, shape, or form, and no one could ever hope to top Alex Delarge for top scumbag.

At the ripe young age of 15, making him the youngest entry on this list, Alex is fiercely intelligent and is a master of manipulation and persuasion. He's able to form his own gang and muse about the nature of society and why everyone isn't as sociopathic as he is, while raping women and beating the crap out of his goons for daring to disobey him. Alex relishes in his violence, exclaiming how dull life would be without a bit of the old ultra-violence. He does eventually get his comeuppance and thrown in jail, but that doesn't even deter him. He manipulates prison guards and is able to become a test subject for the Ludovico Technique, a test designed to reform prisoners, and while it initially works on Alex, he's able to overcome the violence suppression of the technique and becomes a free man once again, ready to go back into the world of violence, sex, and sadism. 

Normally this wouldn't be too different for any other villain, but Alex is unique is that he's still a teenager. This is someone who hasn't even graduated high school and he already has a body count and a pool of murder and rape victims. Even worse, he doesn't show any remorse for it. He lives for being a monster and dominating his own little world. He takes joy in making humans suffer and watching people squirm around him. When you think of other villains, they usually have motivated actions based on twisted morals. Immortan Joe wants to keep his power, Judge Doom wants the freeway, and Regina George wants to be the queen bee at all costs. Alex just wants to be bad because it's better than being good. That's all. 

In the original novel, there's an extra chapter where Alex exclaims that he's going to become a good man now and a start a family without the Ludovico Technique, but that chapter is usually cut out because of how much American publishers agreed that it simply wasn't believable that after all of the hell Alex has caused that he would simply reform and become an upstanding member of society. The Kubrick version ends with Alex coming back to his violent nature and being back in action again, and it's a fitting, if depressing, ending. No matter what happens ,Alex with always be a monster and cause misery wherever he goes. 

#7: Annie Wilkes from Misery (1990)
  • Is Paul Sheldon's #1 fan
  • Killed several infants...?
  • Holds Paul hostage until he writes a good ending
  • Has a pet pig! :3
Do you ever wonder what's it like to be a celebrity? Some people dream about becoming famous, but Misery reminds us that even if you do become famous, you'll always have "those" fans. The fans that become obsessed about your work and will do anything to preserve your legacy and will stalk you down until you acknowledge them. 

Paul Sheldon is a famous writer that wants to end his "Misery" series and star on something new. He gets into a car crash while coming back from his writing cabin and is found by Annie Wilkes, a large woman who is his number 1 fan. She takes care of him until he heals... but then holds him hostage and breaks his legs until he writes an ending for "Misery" that she likes. 

Annie, surprisingly, is the first clear bipolar villain on this list. There are times when she's absolutely sweet to Sheldon and cares for him, making him soup, changing his sheets, and trying to make his recovery as easy as possible. And then you have those moments where he barges into his his room, throws a type writer at him, chains him to the bed, and shoots anyone that ever tries to take him from her. You know, like a super fan!

I cannot stress this enough how badly you need to see Misery to full understand how off the wall insane Annie Wilkes is. Kathy Bates gives a powerhouse performance and can freak out anyone in a heartbeat. There's just something so unsettling about seeing her laughing and telling jokes and getting upset at cursing, only for her to them barge into Sheldon's room with a sledgehammer screaming at his face. My pants were not the same since. 

Misery is such a small movie, with only four or five actual named characters in it, but Annie Wilkes is a strong enough villain that it doesn't matter if it's only just her and one other guys locked in a house for two hours. Just keep in mind that if you ever meet someone who's your "#1 fan", run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. They could easily be an Annie Wilkes.

#6: Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest (1981)
  • Hollywood Royalty
  • Well known child abuser
  • Alcoholic with Borderline Personality Disorder...?
See, putting someone like Joan Crawford on a list of villains is a bit of a touchy subject. She was an actual living person and unlike Caligula, she's still relevant in popular culture. Hell, she died less than a century ago and her films can still be readily viewed at the drop of a hat. What gave me the push to put her on this list though was the fact that Mommie Dearest, both the book and the movie, were written by Crawford's daughter Christina Crawford, who may or may not have embellished certain accounts. So... I'm going to give this entry a pass. Plus, holy crap is it interesting to write about.

I never would have expected Joan Crawford to rank this high up on the list, getting very damn close to the Top 5, but is half of the claims that Christina made about her mother were true, then Joan was a villain unlike any other. Joan, as Hollywood royalty, was the queen of cinema for years on end, but as she began to get older, her mental state slowly deteriorated. Some of Christina's accounts are 100% true, like Joan replacing Christina's role in a soap opera because her daughter was sick at the ripe of old age 60 playing a 28 year old ingenue. That may be a bit odd, but then there's child abuse, physically beating her children, and horrible mental manipulations, like buying extravagant dinners for her children, but refusing to help out for basic living necessities like heat and electricity when they asked for it.

"But wait," I hear you five Joan Crawford fans cry out, "That's not villainous! That's just tough love!" And to that I say, tough love is also disavowing your children and leaving them out of your will when you die. Yes, Joan Crawford left her two children out of her will after she passed, adding insult to literal physical injury. Beating her children with wire hangers, strapping her son to the bed every single single until he was 12, drinking excessively and beating them, Joan was just such a pleasant human off the camera!

I never would have thought that Joan would make it as high as she did, but I wouldn't be lying if I said that the element of realism didn't play into this placement. If this was all fictitious, it would be messed up, but because some elements were drawn directly from real life, it adds a layer of unease watching Mommie Dearest, which can be viewed as autobiographical in a sense. I never thought I'd say this, but Joan Crawford is probably one of cinema's greatest villains, questionably off the screen, but definitely on the screen.

#5: The Joker from The Dark Knight (2008)
  • Batman's greatest enemy
  • Destroyed a hospital
  • Threw Gotham into chaos
  • Can make pencils disappear.
Heath Ledger's Joker is iconic in a way that no other villain on this list is. The Joker is probably one of the greatest villains ever created, so it stands to reason that at least one Joker appearance would make this list. For best Joker though, as a toss up between Jack Nicholson's portrayal and Heath Ledger's (I laugh at Jared Leto), Ledger's was just much more interesting to watch and understand. Ledger made the Joker his own, and we still talk about it 8 years later. 

We never learn about the Joker's backstory in the movie, leaving it as a more-or-less multiple choice questions where any of the options could be true, but we do know that the Joker is dangerous. From his first appearance, he throws everything into chaos and relishes the idea of destruction. He robs banks, commits crimes, same old Joker stuff. What elevates the Joker here though is that he likens himself to more of a force of nature than an actual human being. 

Every other Joker portrayal has almost always been viewed as human. I can look at any Joker and think "Wow, the Joker is a scary guy." Here, I can't even say that. The Joker is almost like an act of God, bringing Gotham and Batman to their breaking point. The Joker here is even more fascinated by making his victims choose what to do. There are more moments in this movie where the Joker could die than in any other movie featuring the character, and yet he doesn't die. Not because of incompetence from our heroes, but because the Joker survives though persuasion, blind luck, and sheer determination. 

It would be wrong of me to not mention the late Heath Ledger for his role as the Joker, winning a posthumous Oscar for the role. Ledger makes the Joker so incredibly dark that it's almost pitch black. The Joker here is broken and knows he's broken. Most other Jokers convince themselves that they aren't broken, like Nicholson's often painting his face or Jared Leto's obsession with power and control, but Ledger's Joker doesn't care about anything really. He takes a giant pile of money and burns it because he can. The Joker in The Dark Knight is damaged beyond repair and he wonders why no one else is. 

I could keep going on for how good this version of the Joker is, but all you need to do is ask someone "Why so serious?", and everyone will know exactly who you're talking about. 

#4: Dr. Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Former Forensic Psychiatrist, now Cannibal Serial Killer.
  • Cannot be psychologically classified
  • Detests rudeness
  • First Best Actor Oscar for a horror movie!
The Top 4 were so damned hard to place. 

I had such a headache trying to place these four villains that I always wish I could go back and change them. Hell, after I publish this, I may regret how I place a few of these characters, they're that damned good. 

Dr. Lecter was always a personal favorite villain of mine because of just how well he's been played over the years. I'm going to give the nod to Anthony Hopkins on this list though because while most other Lecter's have been okay, and I can't put Mads Michelson's superior performance on here due to him appearing in the TV series Hannibal, Anthony Hopkins is still a fantastic choice to represent Hannibal the Cannibal. 

As a former forensic pshyciatrist, Dr. Lecter was always a sophisticated man that believed he was smarter than everyone else. And unlike most characters, he was. He could actually back up his claims and analyze nearly any person they put into contact with him. I'm limiting myself just to Silence of the Lambs here, the movie that put Hannibal on the map, but in that movie alone, he's able to analyze a serial killer, creep the hell out of Clarice Starling, and orchestrate a prison break where he rips a prison guard's face off, switches clothes with him, then wears the guard face outside of prison to escape. Even then, he's still in contact with Clarice, offering some psychological advice to help her out. 

In terms of feats Hannibal may be a little lacking compared to other villains, but once you see Hannibal Lecter for the first time, you're instantly afraid. Our first meeting with the doctor is him just standing in the middle of a room, motionless, and watching Clarice Starling enter. Unsettling yes, but he then goads her on and makes her strike deals with him and disclose information about herself to him, which he then uses to his own advantage. Even then, instead of directly giving Clarice information to stop Buffalo Bill, Lecter only gives vague clues to help her instead of outright stating it. His ego is unmatched, but you don't ever want to get on his bad side. 

I'm almost sad that I can't talk about Anthony Hopkin's version of the doctor in Red Dragon and Hannibal, because that's when we see the full extent of his anger. In those movies, he outright despises the people he comes into contact with an gives them horrible punishments. That's when he's at his most villainous. In Silence, Hannibal Lecter is the equivalent of scorched Earth; you mess with me, and I'll make sure there's nothing left of you to mess with. Terrifying, but brilliant. 

#3: Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  • THE Disney villain
  • Untold magical powers
  • Leads an army of ogres and orcs
  • Can turn into a dragon!
Sometimes you don't need complex motivations to be a great villain. Maleficent is proof of that. She's an all powerful witch who wasn't invited to a birthday party, so she cursed Aurora to die at the age of 16 by a spinning wheel. The end, roll credits, we're done here!

Complex villains are usually great, but there's just something so amusing about seeing a villain as irredeemable as Maleficent and loving it. This is a villain who loves to be evil and loves everything it stands for. She's confident, sly, powerful, and can instill fear into anyone she encounters. Maleficent is the original boss and she knows it. When people mess with her, her retaliation is enough to drive kingdoms to panic. After she cursed Aurora, everyone in the kingdom burned their spinning wheels because they knew that if Maleficent cursed someone with a spinning wheel, it was going to come true. You don't cross Maleficent on any day of the week!

This is why the Angelina Jolie version of Maleficent was such a failure in my opinion; it made a simple character complex. Now don't get me wrong, complexity isn't always inherently bad, but when you make someone complex, you undermine the most basic elements of their personality. Maleficent is the top dog witch that likes to see people squirm because it's Tuesday. In the 2014 remake though, she was never born evil, but humans made her evil by being a lover scorned that stole her wings and polluted nature, and put a curse of Aurora more as a stab against her former lover who became the king, but she actually grows to like Aurora and instead tries to fight the king and save Aurora from her own curse, and can you tell why this version of the character doesn't work? It takes the most basic concept, an evil, all-powerful witch, and makes her into an anti-hero born from scorned love. I said this before and I'll say this again, the original Maleficent would kick the crap out of the new Maleficent and make her eat dirt. 

Maleficent is a boss. What more do I need to say? 

#2: Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men (2007)
  • The definition of "Unstoppable Evil"
  • Favorite weapon is a Captive Bolt Pistol
  • Murders anyone that's an inconvenience
  • Firm believer of predestination
Anton Chigurh is the one villain I hope to God I never meet in real life. Anton is a man with fierce morals and principles, but what they are is an enigma to anyone as far as I can tell. If he has his sight on you, you're dead. Plain and simple. 

We know next to nothing about Chigurh and where he came from, but we know he's a hitman... and that's it. That is all of the information about the man that I could find. I've read the original novel and have seen No Country For Old Men a dozen times... and I know next to nothing about Anton. I think that's what makes him such a dangerous person though. You can fit every line of dialogue he has on maybe two, three pages of text? Even then, most of his dialogue relates to his philosophy about why he does what he does. There are three scenes where he'll just sit down and talk to his victims before he kills them, and it always goes the same way. They plead, he explains that he does what he does, kills them, and moves on. There's such a dispassion towards killing from him, but it never looks like he enjoys it. That isn't to say he hates killing, but it's merely a fact of life. Everyone dies, and if Anton is the man to kill them, then that's the way that they die. 

Anton never loses in the movie. He gets hurts, but he never dies. Even when he is hurt, his reaction is just to quietly get all of the supplies that he needs to fix himself, does it, then gets back on the job. When he gets shot in the leg, he simply takes medicine from a pharmacist, performs an operation on himself in a hotel bathroom, then proceeds to shoot up a hotel to get to one man. 

I think the best scene in the entire movie, and the best scene that encapsulates Anton's character, is when he's at a gas station paying for gas. He talks with the person running the gas station and makes a wager on a coin flip. What's at stake? Everything. The gas station worker's life has been leading up to this flip. What happens if he loses? It doesn't matter, call the coin. Anton's philosophy is dispassionate, but deep and incredibly nihilistic. Once the flip is done and the coin was called, was Anton really in control of the situation, the coin, the gas station attendant, destiny, or nothing? All of them are equally valid answers. 

The only, and I mean only thing, that kept Anton out from being number 1 was because of who he was up against. The villain at number 1 was so iconic, so legendary, that it would be a crime if I didn't put them at number 1. So... here they are. 

#1: Darth Vader from Star Wars
  • First act of evil is killing children
  • Betrayed the Jedi force
  • Killed his mentor
  • Luke's father (duh)
When you think of evil, you think of Darth Vader. 

When I was composing this list, I knew Darth Vader would be near the top. It wasn't even a question if he would be in the Top 5. But the more I thought about him, the more I thought that he is the symbol if evil in movies. Darth Vader is an icon and everything about him is used to symbolize evil. "The Imperial March" is associated with Darth Vader and evil. Heavy breathing is associated with Darth Vader. Hell, the idea of wearing all black is associated with Darth Vader. 

I could list Vader's accomplishments for days, but when your first act of evil is killing a group of Jedi children, it's pretty hard to top that. But Vader does time and time again, killing his master, betraying every Jedi known to man and committing planetary genocide. Even through all of that, he never once backs down from his destiny, only questioning his role in the Empire's plan once Luke is on board and tries to reason with his father. Even then, Vader is damned sure to make Luke join the Dark Side so that they can usurp Emperor Palpatine and become the Sith overlords of the galaxy. 

Darth Vader is so evil that even if you've never seen Star Wars, you know who he is. You know who the black helmet belongs to and who wields a blood red lightsaber. You know who is one of the strongest members of the Empire and you know who is the face of the Sith in any Star Wars related media known to man. Darth Vader simply is. 

I can't think of any other villain that has accomplished the same feats as Vader while still being as well known as he is. Oh sure, there are people that are more evil than Vader, he does redeem himself at the end of the Return of the Jedi, but the fact that we still view Vader as this larger than life villain despite his few good acts if powerful enough on its own. I tried to justify taking away and making Chigurh number 1, but I couldn't do that with a good conscious. Vader is the face of villains to a generation and to a medium. To deny him that is to deny villains everywhere. 

And that's all for my Top 20 list! Have a Happy Halloween to all, we'll get back to normal reviews this week, and I'll see you next year for the Top 20 Comic Book Villains!

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