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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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10. Michael Myers, Halloween (1974)
Described as a being of pure evil, Michael Myers carves destruction upon unsuspecting suburbanites. Already a master of slaughter at a young age, decades at a mental institution yielded no results as the monster in human clothing was released upon the townsfolk. Myers lack of brains might seem like a downfall, but his insatiable bloodlust and brute strength make a deadly combination.

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9. Bill the Butcher, Gangs of New York (2002)
Every villain deserves a grand entrance. Not many get better than Bill the Butcher’s. Within the opening scene, we are treated with a bloody brawl, which results in the demise of Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson). From there, the character’s disturbed psychosis only spreads until its reaches one of the greatest climaxes in Martin Scorsese’s career. Oh, also Daniel Day Lewis. Did we mention that?

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8. Jack Torrence, The Shining (1980)
Where to begin with this guy. The king of creepy? The sultan of Satanistic? Many might argue that Jack Torrence was a pawn of the haunted Overlook Hotel, but Nicholson’s memorable performance convinces the audiences otherwise, and suggests that maybe the anger and violence was there all the time.

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7. Annie Wilkes, Misery (1990)
I don’t know what’s scarier, the deranged character Annie Wilkes or the fact she’s played by Kathy Bates—the only aggressive role in the usually sunny actress’s career. Wilkes is a subconscious reason why people lock their doors at night, and why mother’s tell their children, “don’t talk to strangers,” just by the off-chance you become the welcomed guest/victim of Annie Wilkes.

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6. Anton Chigurgh, No Country for Old Men (2007)
Few characters evoke as much mystery, repulsion and wonder as Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurgh. A being void of reason and morality, Chigurgh kills indiscriminately as if he had no choice or as if he knew no other way. Chigurgh is an unstoppable force that leaves lasting scars upon the American West. Sheriff Tom Bell describes the world as a spreading darkness, and the audience can’t help but wonder if Chigurgh is the darkness in question.

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5. Amon Goeth, Schindler’s List (1993)
Just look at that picture. No words needed.

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4. Joker, The Dark Knight (2008)
A brief tip of the hat to Jack Nicholson’s 1989 clown of crime, but Heath Ledger’s (can we call it classic yet?) portrayal of the Joker is the most memorable villain in superhero film history. As Michael Caine aptly suggests, “some men just want to watch the world burn.”

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3. Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Imagine the smartest guy you know—we’re talking atmospheric IQ, the ability to outsmart you at every turn. Now, imagine that person wants to eat you. Hannibal Lecter is very much a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a charming man of high taste, with grotesque disposition. Brains with wine? Now that’s classy.

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2. Norman Bates, Psycho (1960)
As the demented hotel manager states, “we all go a little crazy sometimes.” To Bates, crazy isn’t just a state of being; it’s a lifestyle. An unsuspecting audience is first introduced to an innocent mousey, mama’s boy, then an unfortunate accessory to murder, until finally the mask is pulled away, and all that’s left is madness.

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1. Darth Vader, Star Wars (1977-83)
We all knew this was coming. No else deserves the honor above our very own dark lord of the sith. It’s rare in film to see a character so depraved reach an actually plausible moment of redemption—a villain defined full circle. As his billowing cape appeared within the swirling smoke aboard the Rebel Blockade Runner, Vader captivated audiences and held them in a force grip until Return of the Jedi’s final choice.

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