For our money, the juiciest roles in film are the dastardly villains. So many of the most memorable movie characters are the bad guys that it’s a daunting task to choose just ten. Regardless, we rise to the challenge and attempt to do just that. To pare down the list, we felt it best to limit the list to flesh and blood characters, so animated movies as well as such memorable villains as Chucky from the Child’s Play series, and the demon from The Exorcist were omitted. We likewise limited ourselves to dramatic roles, thus eliminating screen baddies like the hilarious Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers series. Look, we had to set some boundaries or this would never get done, so throw us a frickin’ bone here, OK?
Anyway, the following are our choices for the 10 greatest movie villains of all time. Hint: Our top two choices appear in films that were both inspired by the same real-life serial killer.
10. Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), No Country for Old Men – Relentless, single-minded and terrifying, Chigurh fills the screen with poker-faced evil with a purpose. Don’t believe us? Watch this scene.
9. The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), The Wizard of Oz – Call us big babies if you like, but we still have chills from childhood that return whenever we hear that laugh, or see this villainous hag. Her, and her flying monkeys. Brrrrrr.
8. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – The tyrannical head nurse of the mental institution depicted in this classic film wields her power over the patients with sadistic glee.
7. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), The Shining – Heeeere’s our #7 all-time greatest villain, who gradually succumbs to the ghosts of Overlook guests past, and loses his mind. His slow descent into madness is a cinematic milestone.
6. Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), Fatal Attraction – In her turn as the jilted lover in an extra-marital affair, Close raises the stakes dramatically in the minds of married men everywhere.
5. Darth Vader (James Earl Jones, et al), Star Wars trilogy- So embedded in the movie-going public’s collective psyche as the classic villain, his name itself has become synonymous with evil. Which, it would appear, makes Luke Skywalker the Son of Evil.
4. The Joker (Heath Ledger), The Dark Knight – The late actor immersed himself into this character so deeply that some say he never quite re-emerged from the experience. Whether this is true we can’t confirm, but the on-screen effect of his portrayal is undeniable.
3. Alex Delarge (Malcolm McDowell), A Clockwork Orange – Sociopathic, sadistic miscreant and fan of the “lovely Ludwig Van”, Alex tears up the scenery in more ways than one. That is, until his past catches up to him as part of his rehabilitation.
2. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), Psycho – Based on serial killer Ed Gein, Norman Bates personifies the boy next door, who happens to hide the beast within quite well. Just ask Marion Crane. Oh right, she’s gone to take a shower.
1. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal – Brilliant intellect: check; razor-sharp wit: check; bone-chilling screen presence: check. Oh, and he’s a medical doctor and a cannibalistic serial killer. What’s not to love?
Honorable Mentions: Bill “The Butcher” Cutting (Gangs of New York), Gordon Gekko (Wall Street), Pennywise (It), Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street), Det. Alonzo Harris (Training Day), Col. Nathan R Jessep (A Few Good Men), Annie Wilkes (Misery), Mr. Potter (It’s A Wonderful Life), Harry Lime (The Third Man).