In the recent list-craze, I’ve seen many a countdown about the movies — best heroes, best villains, best kisses, etc. But no list to date has placed Ledger’s Joker amongst its ranks… until now. What number, do you say? Click the cut to find out…
In the recent list-craze, I’ve seen many a countdown about the movies — best heroes, best villains, best kisses, etc. But no list to date has placed Ledger’s Joker amongst its ranks… until now. What number, do you say?
25. Agent Smith, ‘The Matrix’ (1999)
Played by: Hugo Weaving
Agent Smith, voice dripping with disdain, eyes covered with his trademark shades, is the “muscle” of the Matrix and Neo’s (Keanu Reeves) indefatigable foe. Intent on erasing Neo and obliterating the Scion rebels, Smith can replicate himself into the hundreds and thousands — a virtual army with superhuman martial arts skills to boot.
24. Khan Noonien Singh, ‘Star Trek: Wrath of Khan’ (1982)
Played by: Ricardo Montalban
A vestige of Earth’s late 20th-century eugenics wars, superman Khan has a super ego to match. Banished to a deserted planet in an episode of the ‘Star Trek’ TV series, Khan seeks revenge on the man who imprisoned him, his nemesis: Capt. James T. Kirk.
23. Frank Booth, ‘Blue Velvet’ (1986)
Played by: Dennis Hopper
Crime kingpin of Lumberton, N.C., Booth never met a form of depravity that he didn’t like. His kinky sexual affinities include huffing gas, erotic asphyxiation, sadomasochism … and those are just the ones we can print. Throw in mutilation, kidnapping and murder and you’ve got one well-rounded (if not well-grounded) sociopath.
22. Cruella de Vil, ‘101 Dalmatians’ (1961)
Voiced by: Betty Lou Gerson
Her name (an amalgam of cruel and devil) sums up this crazed old bag who steals puppies with an eye to weaving their fur into … gulp! … coats. A monstrous fashionista, Cruella looms large in the pantheon of animated villains. As the song goes: “Cruella De Vil, Cruella De Vil, if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will.”
21. Alonzo Harris, ‘Training Day’ (2001)
Played by: Denzel Washington
Over the course of a single day, rogue narcotics agent Harris “evaluates” a rookie (Ethan Hawke) and subjects him to a litany of depredations and humiliations that end in extortion and murder. Washington won a Best Actor Oscar in the role of a streetwise cop on the make who can’t distinguish between good and evil anymore.
20. Lex Luthor, ‘Superman’ (1978)
Played by: Gene Hackman
“Greatest Criminal Mind of Our Time” Luthor plans an uber real-estate swindle when he purchases thousands of miles of worthless Nevada desert intending to detonate a nuke in California’s San Andreas Fault and voila! … instant invaluable “coastline.” Hackman’s peevish, droll turn as the ultimate robber baron is hilarious.
19. Joan Crawford, ‘Mommie Dearest’ (1981)
Played by: Faye Dunaway
Dunaway chews more scenery than Secretariat (“No. More. Wire. Hangers!” ring a bell?) and keeps daughter Christina in such a state of abject terror in this camp classic that it’s hard to believe the angelic child ever had the strength, years later, to write a dishy, tell-all memoir. Talk about payback.
18. T-1000, ‘Terminator 2’ (1991)
Played by: Robert Patrick
Ah-nuld’s original Terminator gets all the glory, but it’s Patrick’s T-1000, a prototype model made of shape-shifting liquid metal, that truly terrorizes. This homicidal robot is the ultimate hit man who won’t stop until his mission (to kill resistance leader John Connor) is completed or he ends up on the scrap heap — whichever comes first.
17. Dr. Christian Szell, ‘Marathon Man’ (1976)
Played by: Laurence Olivier
Ex-Nazi concentration camp dentist Szell (in a role inspired by the infamous Dr. Mengele) uses a variety of drills, probes and picks to get to the, um, root of the matter when torturing Dustin Hoffman on whether “it’s safe” to retrieve his horde of diamonds at a Manhattan bank. Pass the Novocaine, please.
16. Annie Wilkes, ‘Misery’ (1990)
Played by: Kathy Bates
Wilkes, the unhinged groupie of a famous writer (James Caan), kidnaps her favorite author and heaves a mallet to his ankles like she’s A-Rod swinging for the fences. It’s part of her mentoring campaign to get him to finish the latest installment of the exploits of her favorite heroine. God help the book club this woman joins.
15. Tom Powers, ‘Public Enemy’ (1931)
Played by: James Cagney
Presaging Pacino’s Scarface by about six decades, Cagney, as a Prohibition-era hoodlum, rises fast in the gangland ranks by being more ruthless than any of his rivals. When he’s not slamming half a grapefruit into girlfriend Mae Clarke’s face, he’s grabbing all he can get in this granddaddy of all gangster movies.
14. Mrs. Iselin, ‘Manchurian Candidate’ (1962)
Played by: Angela Lansbury
Mrs. Iselin would make Lady MacBeth squeamish as the Machiavellian political wife of a U.S. Senator who aspires to the presidency. She’s not above using her son (Laurence Harvey) as a brainwashed guinea pig in a Chinese-Communist plot to assassinate the current leading presidential candidate.
13. Freddy Krueger, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984)
Played by: Robert Englund
Child murderer Krueger was burned alive by vengeful parents when he was sprung from prison on a technicality. Years later he returns to haunt local teens in their dreams (and kill in the “real world”). With razor-sharp knives for fingers, he’s a malicious Edward Scissorhands.
12. Michael Myers, ‘Halloween’ (1978)
Played by: Tony Moran
Donning a latex mask (modeled on William Shatner’s likeness), man of no words Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield after a 20-year layover in a mental institution for slicing and dicing his sister. Trouble is, this immutable berserker isn’t exactly cured. So begins a rampage that spawned a franchise as big as its body count.
11. Harry Powell, ‘Night of the Hunter’ (1955)
Played by: Robert Mitchum
A psychotic preacher with the words “love” and “hate” tattooed on his knuckles pursues a couple of kids who hold the key to some stolen bank loot. When not spouting Bible verse, Mitchum menaces with a cool detachment that gets more ominous as the film (which influenced the Coen Brothers and Martin Scorsese) progresses.
10. The Queen, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937)
Voiced by: Lucille La Verne
In Disney’s first full-length animated ‘toon, the narcissistic queen covets the title of “fairest in the land,” held by her virginal stepdaughter, Snow White. She’ll go to any length — to remove Snow from the competition, becoming the iconic evil stepmother in the process.
9. Max Cady, ‘Cape Fear’ (1991)
Played by: Robert De Niro
De Niro’s take on a redneck illiterate who swears vengeance on his attorney (Nick Nolte) is an homage to Robert Mitchum’s version in the ’62 original but beats him in badness by sheer physicality — his Cady is an amped-up, tattooed terror who brutalizes Nolte’s legal clerk (Illeana Douglas) … and likes it.
8. Hans Gruber, ‘Die Hard’ (1988)
Played by: Alan Rickman
Terrorist Gruber and his money-grubing, er … grubbing, henchmen seize the Nakatomi Tower in downtown L.A. and take hostages. It’s all part of an elaborate feint to swipe millions in negotiable bearer bonds. Hardly a driven ideologue, Gruber’s prosaic American dream is to cash in and be “on a beach earning 20 percent.”
7. Anton Chigurgh, ‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007)
Played by: Javier Bardem
A hit man with an unpronounceable name and a pageboy hairdo doesn’t seem much of a threat, but this homicidal Moe Howard is nobody’s stooge — victims live or die on his coin toss. Bardem won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as a mercenary who follows his own inscrutable code; woe betide anyone who gets in his way.
6. Goldfinger, ‘Goldfinger’ (1964)
Played by: Gert Frobe
Don’t let his roly-poly look fool you: Goldfinger is a stone-cold killer with just one thought in mind — to pull off the greatest bank caper in history by irradiating the U.S. gold reserve so that his own gold cache will skyrocket in value. All that stands between him and cashing in is James Bond, who is neither shaken nor stirred at the prospect.
5. The Joker, ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)
Played by: Heath Ledger
Less cartoonish than ‘Batman’ villains past, Ledger’s Joker is the darkest element of ‘The Dark Knight.’ He says he’s the “better class of criminal” Gotham deserves — and the caked-on clown makeup and disheveled appearance only add to Ledger’s brilliantly disturbing portrayal … sadly, the last role he completed before his untimely death.
4. Hannibal Lecter, ‘Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)
Played by: Anthony Hopkins
Not the guy you want to invite to dinner, Hannibal “The Cannibal” has a gruesome definitation of haute cuisine. ‘Silence’ won five Oscars, including a Best Actor nod for Hopkins as the cagy psychopath who, though in stir, always seems to be one step ahead of the Feds.
3. The Wicked Witch of the West, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)
Played by: Margaret Hamilton
As Dorothy Gale’s (Judy Garland) arch enemy, the Wicked Witch was evil incarnate and gave generations of American kids nightmares. From her army of flying monkeys to her wickedly gleeful cackle, this is still the scariest character you’ll find in a “family-friendly” film.
2. Darth Vader, ‘Star Wars’ series (1977-2005)
Played by: James Earl Jones, Hayden Christensen
Vader succumbed to allure of the Dark Side and became the face of evil eons in the future in a galaxy far, far away. Jones’ stentorian baritone adds gravitas to Vader’s prodigious lightsaber skills, which he used to lop off his son’s hand. Christensen’s younger version isn’t as iconic, but he did slaughter a houseful of future Jedis.
1. Lord Voldemort, ‘Harry Potter’ series (2005-2007)
Played by: Ralph Fiennes
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is the most powerful dark wizard to ever wave a wand, and he schemes to enslave the whole muggle world. His slithering presence has been minimal in the films so far, but we’ve all read the books, so we know how much more evil he’ll become.
Okay, I think #1 is complete bullshit.
Otherwise, the list isn’t TOO offensive in its snubs. In my opinion, people shouldn’t put Heath Ledger in the rank until critics (like me ^^,) can take a good hour’s look at his role as The Joker. But where’s Norman Bates? Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction??HAL 9000? FREAKIN’ CHUCKY?
Who are your favorite villains (movies, books, whatever)?