Bad Ass Villain

Some movies can benefit from having a really BadAssVillain, somebody so bad, so talented, so evil that you can't help but cheer when (s)he finally meets their doom, or can't help admitting a grudging respect should they win. Some examples of quality villains from the cinema listed below:

Of course, it's an all too common cinematic AntiPattern to hire a big-name, scenery-chewing actor to play the villain who then turns around and makes a fool of himself onscreen - see, for example, Ahnold in Batman and Robin. Some of the best villains are those who are cast against type (for example, BillMurray? in Mad Dog and Glory, or Wilford Brimley in The Firm.

The various Disney animated flicks have produced a few noteworthy villains (and some poorly-acted ones as well); a few that stand out are:

And a few noted comic villains

It seems clear to me from Harris' third book that Lecter is a Nietzschian "superman" made to stand up and walk around for our entertainment and education. -- KeithBraithwaite

I always felt that Lecter was Sherlock Holmes, without the Victorian restrictions. I thought the third book "spoiled" things a bit, by trying to explain him through his childhood. In the first two books he is believed (by the more thoughtful characters) to be just a random freak.

He's still randomly freaky in lots of directions. It's just in the particular matter of cannibalism that he had the high gloss put on his freakiness by a traumatic childhood. Your comparison with Holmes is very interesting.
Re Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber: Actually, I prefer JeremyIrons? as Gruber's brother in the third Die Hard movie [Note: Die Hard With a Vengence], though they're both good. -- MikeSmith
Aside: My personal favorite Bad Guy is not in movies, but books: Fred Saberhagen's Berserkers. In case you are uninitiated, these are (sometimes) planet-sized robots left over from an ancient war bent on destroying all life, everywhere. Anything living is a disease that needs to be eliminated. Only machines are good. Cool, eh? -- MartySchrader

What about Senator cum Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid)? Darth's just a lieutenant, and he wusses out in the end. Palpatine remains nasty bad to the core and all the way to the bitter end. (And Darth only got the #2 gig when Imperial lackey Grand Moff Tarkin - Vader's boss at the time - perished on the original Death Star. And Tarkin wasn't even a SithLord?!).

Grand Moff Tarkin was only "holding Vader's leash", per Princess Leia. Forget what you hear about G. Lucas not inspiring good acting. Ian McDiarmid's Emperor Palpatine is perfectly terrifying when he's pretending to be a snivelling Light Side wimp, and not Sith-ing out.

Agree. Emperor Palpatine is the villain of the StarWars movies. DarthVader is the TragicHero?.
  1. Gary Oldman as the villain in any movie - The Contender, Murder In The First, The Fifth Element - he's just a really, really good bad guy. (Lost in Space? maybe not any movie...) Ignoring for a moment the overall quality of the movie, actually his role is nicely augmented by the concept that they know he's evil, but they have to keep him around anyway. He portrays sociopathy well in the role, using the known good of others against them.
  2. Nope. Vizzini is a buffoon, whose death is so funny because he finds it inconceivable! (Seconded. Vizzini is so convinced of his superiority that his demise is predictable.) See BattleOfWits.
  3. Alan Rickman also played the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 version of Robin Hood, where he was a better swordsman than Kevin Costner's Robin of Locksley. "Well, at least I didn't use a spoon!" "Do you mind? We've just been married!"
  4. Hugo Weaving also played the elvish lord Elrond in The Lord of the Rings series. Really bad guy in three flicks, really good guy in three flicks. Balance. (Not to mention his role in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. Now there is balance!)
  5. Hard to believe this is the same guy who played Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music.

See: MoviesToConsider

CategoryMovie, CategoryIdiom (some of these movie characters have permeated American social culture to this point)

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