Hans Gruber, Die Hard (1988)
Dressed sharply and flanked by a small army of fierce European cronies with rather large guns, Hans Gruber is very much the quintessential 80s bad-guy. The lead villain in arguably one of the greatest action movies of all time, John McTiernan’s Die Hard, Gruber is an expert strategist with a penchant for expensive clothing; a brainy-type, but one who knows his way around a gun. Brought to life with subtle brutality by the great Alan Rickman, there is no limit to his genius. He’s even a movie fan himself – but heights, not so much.
words by Ben Robins
Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Draped in black garments with big, spiralling hair, Bellatrix Lestrange is one of the most aesthetically iconic villains of the 21st century. Portrayed by the proficient Helena Bonham Carter, Lestrange’s ruthless actions are conducted with such vigour and collectivity that the character has become one of Carter’s standout performances throughout her film career. Arriving in the Harry Potter series in Order of the Phoenix, Lestrange’s malicious aura is simultaneously endearing with the sideline of the witch’s obsessive affection for Lord Voldemort. The rise and fall of Bellatrix Lestrange is an internal moral battle for the audience.
words by Lewis Taplin
Koba, Down of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
When you think of the typical film villain, naturally you’d picture a pretty ticked off psychopath with a machete. But since this year’s sensation Dawn of the Planet of the Apes I couldn’t help but feel at the mercy of Mother Nature herself, embodied in the unhinged primate psychopath, Koba. Humanity fears the idea of a revolution, those considered beneath rising up and overthrowing our way of life. So when a pretty average chimp, who would usually be used for jest, suddenly turns into this lunatic fringe with an undying need to punish and exterminate his human and primate oppressors… that’s pretty scary.
words by Matt McConnell
The Joker, The Dark Knight (2008)
Batman has faced many an adversary, some brilliant, some ridiculous, but Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal of The Joker –arguably Batman’s most iconic villain – in The Dark Knight verges on legendary. Enigmatic, slick and utterly terrifying, Ledger’s Agent of Chaos has a way of being both incredibly watchable and horrifying enough to leave you hiding behind your hands – he gleefully splendours in his acts of maddened, anarchic terror. The most memorable act for me being when he uses his beloved pen knife as the start to one of his many versions of how that bloody red smile came to be…
words by Anneka Honeyball
Norman Stansfield, Leon: the Professional (1994)
A list of cinema’s greatest villains could very easily just turn into a list of the best Gary Oldman performances. In Leon: The Professional’s he plays the corrupt, psychopathic, unpredictable, classical music loving DEA agent Norman Stansfield and Oldman’s unbridled energy and hypnotic charisma are for once matched by material more than worthy of his undeniable charisma. The film perhaps has the greatest bad guy dialogue of all time too, Stansfield is simultaneously one of the most threatening and one of the most likable antagonists in cinema history – and he’s just so goddamn charming.
words by Harrison Abbott
Amon Goeth, Schindler’s List (1993)
Ralph Fiennes’ is magnificent in his performance of Nazi camp commandant Amon Goeth. He manages to combine the figure’s lucid sexuality and gentleness towards those close to him with the absolute brutality he inflicts on the prisoners under his jurisdiction. Oscar Schindler (Liam Neeson) must battle against the tyranny of Goeth and the Third Reich to save the detainees from an unmentionable fate. History is the greatest source of evil and Spielberg’s faithful representation of this Nazi results not just in creating one of film’s most infamous villains, but also a powerful reminder of the atrocities of mankind.
words by James Chadwick
Joplin, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013)
Clothe Defoe in black leather, put some guy-liner on him and tell him not to say a word but growl and you have the world’s scariest villain ever, Jopling. The reason Jopling in the Grand Budapest hotel is the best villain ever is because without ever uttering a word his mere appearance insights fear into your heart. You genuinely feel this man would kill you were you to be alone with him and this, coupled with his multiple skills, skiing, motor-cycle riding and scary eachoing footsteps, make Jopling not only a terrifying assassin but make him the Best Villain ever.
words by Natalie Fordham
Snow White’s Evil Queen, Snow White (1937)
The world’s biggest dream-factory probably also created the world’s worst nightmarish villains; who can claim their childhood hasn’t been traumatized by Disney? I certainly can’t. The very first feature film the company made in 1937, using the innovative Rotoscoping technique, remains to day the only one I cannot watch without hiding behind my hands. The black hood of Snow White’s terrible step-mother suffice to make me shudder, and her high-pitch voice still frightens me to the bone. Even though Tangled’s witch (2010) bore similar design feature, it seems that the sugar coat surrounding the company’s features is now too thick to produce anything close to the success of the earliest films.
words by Virginie Robe
Michael Meyers, Halloween (1978 – 2009)
Of all the horror movie villains I have encountered, from the Jigsaw Killers to the Freddy Krugers and even the devil himself, none shall ever be more terrifying than Michael Meyers of the Halloween series. You almost never see his face, and he stays completely silent (save for the sound of his breathing inside his pale-white William Shatner mask), but I only think this makes him even creepier. He has no special powers or supernatural qualities, either: he is but a man wielding a butcher knife. In essence, Michael Meyers could potentially be one-hundred percent real: what could be scarier than that?
words by Lucy Webb