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The 25 Best Villains in Movie History

July 19, 2012  |  10:57am

Of course everyone loves their heroes. But deep down, in the dingy dirty recesses of our souls, we love our villains even more. Their status as outsiders confuses us, their charm or psychosis intrigues us, and their existence simply scares us. The following list looks at the 25 most horrid reflections of humanity. That’s right, humanity. Unfortunately, T-800s, aliens, dream killers, postmortem zombie slashers, psychotic AIs or man-eating sharks were not invited to the party. The following individuals test the limits of how deeply deranged man can become.

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25. Cobra Kai Sensei, The Karate Kid (1984)
So this villain might not exactly have a high body count (or a body count at all), but he has the most lax morals of many of the villains to follow. Whether repeatedly yelling at students, telling Johnny Lawrence to take cheap shots or just being an all around dick, it’s so satisfying to see Mr. Miyagi school this Swayze wannabe.

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24. Li’l Zé, City of God (2002)
As the gangster who runs the favela—the large Brazilian slum—Zé teeters on the brink of insanity, barely kept in check by his childhood friend Bené. His wildly unpredictable mood swings are the most destructive force in the film, leaving a terrifying wake of violence and murder in a place desperately crying out for peace.

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23. Khan Noonien Singh, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Evoking the most memorable anguished cry in cinema, Khan is Nietzschean nightmare. Ricardo Montalbán’s Khan is a science-grown Übermensch bent on causing interstellar calamity, and arguably captain Kirk’s most memorable adversary (Gorn included.) What’s more scary than a villain designed to be better than you…at everything.

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22. Voldemort, Harry Potter films (2001-2011)
His similarities to Harry (a bright, talented orphan who didn’t understand his magical gifts) made for a compelling story arc. But his similarities to Hitler (despised half of his own blood, desired to control the world and exterminate an entire race of people) made him absolutely villainous. It took eight movies to finally stop him for good.

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21. Bruno Antony, Strangers on a Train (1951)
Although Bruno Antony might be one of the lesser-known villains on this list, he perfectly taps into the fear of the devious, outwardly friendly stranger. What begins as a polite conversations slowly perverts into a hypothetical yet all-to-real murder plot. Embodying the deadly, villainous cocktail of murderer, stalker and overall crazy person, Antony is a highlight both in Hitchcock’s library and film abroad.

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20. Hans Gruber, Die Hard (1988)
Hans Gruber is a quintessential action villain. Accessories include dastardly plot, indiscriminate murder and explosions, lots of explosions. Gruber masquerades as a freedom fighter but deep down is just a killer and a thief, which only makes him that more dangerous and that more detestable.

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19. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds (2009)
More commonly known as The Jew Hunter, Hans Landa is one of the most enjoyable yet terribly frightening characters in Tarantino’s already psychologically unstable pool of characters. Throughout the film, Landa, played impeccably by Christoph Waltz, glibly uses racial slurs and murder becomes a fun game of cat-and-mouse, which makes his eventual demise pretty satisfying.

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18. Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
This is why people don’t like hospitals: Nurse Ratched. This morally disturbed nurse rules a psych ward with dictatorial efficiency and is basically malpractice personified. Though by no means a bloody adversary, Ratched deals psychological damage to patients, which only increases the depths of their mental duress, and of course, the audience’s hatred for her.

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17. Alex DeLarge, A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Malcolm McDowell’s creepy masterpiece in Alex DeLarge brings to light many innate fears. A sociopath who robs, rapes and murders with an uncomfortable, uncaring attitude, his attempted rehabilitation and its ultimate failure is just a cynical reminder that sometimes violence is endless.

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16. Keyser Söze, The Usual Suspects
Sometimes the greatest villain is the one you didn’t even know was there. The master of disguise, mystery and misperception. For 106 minutes, Keyser Söze not only mocks Sergeant Jeffrey Rabin, but also the audience who buys into his fictitious plot wholesale. It’s a classic twist ending in the greatest fashion, leading the infamous Keyser Söze to cinematic history.

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15. Leatherface, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Not much can be said for the child-like Leatherface. The product of a deranged family, Leatherface sees no differences between animal and man, and clearly cannibalism is not in his vocabulary. A being of just pure evil with a twisted innocence and a giant chainsaw. He really likes that chainsaw.

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14. Bill, Kill Bill (2003-04)
A villain can exude power and mystique even as he remains unseen. Bill remained a bodiless entity until the second movie, when the bride’s target of unbridled rage was finally given a face. A smooth talker and a cold-blooded assassin, Bill is dangerous mixture of charm and cunning, and almost makes you forget the whole genocidal, wedding thing. Unless, of course, you were the bride. He’s basically Evil Bosley.

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13. Noah Cross, Chinatown (1974)
Noah Cross’ evil precedes him. John Huston’s legendary performance as the villainous land baron is unique in the fact the character is rarely scene on screen, but his grip on the characters around him (which is more disturbing than possibly imagined) shows the audience the truly horrific monster behind that expensive suit.

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12. The Wicked Witch of the West, The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Few characters’ names literally speak for themselves. As the witch, her end goal seems to only cause misery of the land of Oz, but her one (honestly lame) weakness makes her a little less villainous. Nonetheless, the Wicked Witch provided film with its most diabolical dialogue, just keep water at a safe distance.

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11. Patrick Bateman, American Psycho (2000)
There’s something wrong with Patrick, I mean really wrong. Although a Christopher Nolan-esque what-is-a-dream conundrum, Bateman is just all around evil. He is also one of the few characters to blatantly express he’s insane, unfortunately to uncaring or uncomprehending ears. Also the drug-addled banker gets creative with his kill weapons. Nail gun, anyone?

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