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The heroes they’re constantly in battle with might not be too fond of them, but I’m betting all you people can’t get enough of VILLAINS!! Yessuh, I’ve dedicated an entire blog to the Top 5 baddies we (or at least, I) can’t get enough of. 4 are from films, but number 3 is from a TV show.
Keep in mind that this is all O-P-I-N-I-O-N and you can disagree with me as much as you’d like to. But also know that if you do disagree, you’re probably an idiot. Just sayin’…
5. Agent Smith from The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions
Now, like most people, I disliked the Matrix sequels when they came out back in 2003, and even today I still consider them to be among the most disappointing sequels ever made. That being said, I think the sequels at the very least succeeded in making an already badass villain even more badass.
Agent Smith in the first film was cold, calculating, creepy, intelligent, etc. but you still always knew that he was working for the machines (who were far less interesting) the whole time he was hunting down Neo, so he never felt like the ultimate threat, which, in my opinion, he should have been. Still, when Neo ‘kills’ him at the end of the movie, I was kind of disappointed to see such a cool villain go.
However, I was pleasantly surprised in Reloaded when the Wachowskis not only brought him back, but also provided an interesting reason for how he survived Neo’s attack. Most people weren’t into it, but I for one thought it was fascinating how Smith refused to be deleted by the system and thereby turned into a rogue programme. A rebel was the last thing you’d think this guy would be when you watch the first movie (even though the scene with him and Morpheus did hint at Smith’s individualism).
I was also fascinated with the idea that the reason why he didn’t ‘die’ was because he had a purpose that went above and beyond what the machines originally designed for him. It was only after his ‘death’ that Smith realized his true purpose in life/existence: to be The One’s ‘negative.’ Fucking awesome!
But there was still the problem that he wasn’t the main villain, a problem which Revolutions actually kinda/sorta fixed. Neo making a deal with the machines at the last minute to kill Smith in exchange for peace between Zion and the machines seriously pissed a lot of fans off, and I can see why, but honestly, it was the only thing in the film I really enjoyed. Seeing what Smith did once he’d taken over the Matrix completely was pretty awesome, not to mention the epically exaggerated superhuman vs. superhuman fight between him and Neo in the rain.
Maybe I have really bad taste, but I think Agent Smith is a really great villain not in spite of the sequels, but because of them. His progression as a character is really interesting: loyal servant to the machines in the first film, out of control rebel in part two, and arch-villain in the finale.
4. Colonel Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds
I think we can all agree that easily the best thing about Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds was German actor Christoph Waltzs’ portrayal of the Nazi Colonel Hans Landa. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a Nazi be this charming and vivacious (that’s right, I know big boy words) while at the same time making you shit your pants.
Right from the film’s opening which, get used to hearing this haters, is one of the greatest opening scenes of all time EVA!, Waltz introduces us to a character who manages to pull off a remarkably convincing and rarely seen feat: being extremely evil while having a ton of fun. This is a guy who really, REALLY loves his job.
We also see Waltz do something in that scene that he probably wouldn’t have done if his character hadn’t been created by the brilliant mind of Tarantino. In it, a Nazi actually admits that that his hatred of Jews is actually not based on anything substantial and is really nothing more than bigotry and prejudice. Any other Nazi in any other movie would probably go on and on about how Jews were evil, manipulative people who needed to be destroyed for the good of mankind or some shit like that. But not a quirky Tarantino Nazi.
This bit of information on the character also explains why he betrays Hitler and the Third Reich towards the end of the film; he was never really one of them anyway. He was having fun killing Jews, but sensing that there was more fun to be had in joining the other side, he did so. Nazis like the one Eli Roth’s character beats to death with a baseball bat in the woods and the ones who died in the shootout at the bar showed that despite being awful, misguided human beings, they at least had principles and were willing to die for them. Not so with Landa, who, despite being intelligent, talented, and charming, was also far more selfish, greedy, and cowardly, and is because of all these things one of the greatest villains of all time. For once, the Oscars got it right.
3. Lex Luthor from Smallville
“OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S NOT BENJAMIN LINUS FROM LOST” If you’re not sayin’ it, you’re thinkin’ it. No use in denying it.
As horrible as Smallville got over its 10 seasons (seriously, 10 SEASONS!!! WHAT THE FUCK??), during the first 3 or 4, I got to see the version of Lex Luthor I’d always wanted to see. The one from the comics, the movies, and even the animated series from the 90s just weren’t doin’ it for me (although the Luthor from the animated series voiced by Clancy Brown came pretty darn close). I couldn’t believe that the arch-nemesis of the first and one of the coolest superheroes was such a silly, clichéd caricature of a villain.
But then Smallville started in 2001 and finally Luthor was cold, cynical, sarcastic, bitter, troubled, and most importantly, tragically sympathetic. Luthor doesn’t begin the series by arriving in Smallville with a list of evil schemes involving fucking over the naïve people of the town. Instead, we learn that his father has dumped him there under the pretext of giving him a challenge when really he just wants him out of the way. Here we get a glimpse of a very dysfunctional father-son relationship which gets steadily darker and more heartbreaking as the series progresses. Every conversation he has with his father feels like one more push towards the darkness.
Lex this time around felt more like a real person. Sure he was a rich dick with an attitude, but he was still at his core a decent human being. He always tried to help people who mistrusted him and genuinely wanted to get them on his side. No matter how many times Jonathan Kent dismisses him as a spoiled, arrogant prick, Lex continues to respect and admire him.
But I’d have to say that the most original and interesting thing the writers did with Luthor was have him be Clark Kent’s close friend, which created a very unique tension. Even though I knew the entire time what Lex was going to become, I couldn’t help but hope that somewhere along the way Clark would somehow miraculously save him from himself. But at the same time, I was always waiting eagerly for THE episode: the one where Lex would completely embrace his dark side and officially become the supervillain we all love. Clark and Lionel Luthor are essentially in a tug-of-war for Lex’s soul.
Sadly, Rosenbaum had had enough by the end of season 7 (who could blame him) and the show, believe it or not, got even worse without him. Still, we’ll always have the moments in which he took a character who for decades should have been a great villain and finally made him so.
2. The Joker from The Dark Knight
Happy now, fanboys? Yup, hardly anyone could resist the twisted charms of Heath Ledger’s penultimate performance as the second greatest supervillain of all time: The Joker.
I really hate to admit this, but the day I heard of Ledger’s death was also the day I found out he was playing the Joker in the then upcoming Batman film and I was actually more depressed about the latter news than the former. Obviously, not anymore.
I just wanna start off by saying that the Joker looks AMAZING in this film. While his trademark purple suit was for the most part no different from previous versions, it was his hair and makeup that left the biggest impact on me. True, he reminded me a lot of Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice and especially Brandon Lee as The Crow, but the sloppy way the war paint looked on his face, the Glasgow Grin he was sporting, and his wild hair also gave him somewhat of a goth/punk/alternative rock star appeal. Kinda like if you mixed Robert Smith, Johnny Rotten, and Kurt Cobain with a clown. A rock star supervillain: how cool is that!
Moving on, with no corny back story this time, the Joker just comes out of nowhere and remains a complete mystery throughout the film, which is just the way I like it. The less you know about something, the more fascinating it is when you don’t understand it, or at least that’s how it is with this insane clown.
Adding to that mystique is the fact that this time, the Joker isn’t armed with an exaggerated arsenal of laughing gas (Joker venom), acid-spraying flowers or exploding cigars. All he carries with him is a knife and a…pencil. They may not sound like much, but it’s because of them that we get three immortal scenes of menacing (and hilarious) supervillainy (“How ‘bout a magic trick?”, “Would you like to know which of them were cowards?”, and the fan favorite “Why so serious?”). I sure hope fans of Jack Nicholson’s Joker were hanging their heads in shame when they watched this movie.
Another interesting idea this movie puts forward is that, although we know so little about the Joker’s origin, it’s pretty clear that he didn’t exist until Batman came along. Also, the Joker tells Batman, “I don’t wanna kill you. What would I do without you? You complete me.” So it follows that whoever the Joker was before Batman showed up, he must have very consciously and purposefully designed his personality, philosophy, and image to be the exact opposite of Batman’s. Food for thought.
But I think the main thing about him that fascinated us the most was the way in which his crazy but brilliant mind worked. He says he wants Batman to come forward and reveal who he is, thereby ending his career as a crime fighter, but then threatens to blow up hospitals if the guy about to spill the beans on Bats isn’t dead within an hour because no more Batman would mean no more fun for him. Claiming he isn’t a schemer and doesn’t believe in plans, he still manages to come up with some ingeniously elaborate ones that manage to not only trick the Dark Knight himself but also show him what the people he’s so determined to protect are really like. Again, not too much in common with the Joker who wanted to make art until people died, huh?
I think it would be pretty hard to find someone who disagrees with the opinion that this is the greatest performance Ledger has ever given. I don’t think I have to convince any of you that this is one performance that will continue to fascinate, terrify and amaze for generations to come.
Adding to the tragedy of Ledger’s untimely death is the fact that he’ll never be able to see the amount of admiration and respect he’s inspired in so many people who (like me) had previously disregarded him as just another Hollywood pretty boy. As corny as this will undoubtedly sound, I really hope that, wherever he is, he knows.
1. Elijah Price (Mr. Glass) from Unbreakable
Yeah, I know a lot of you must be pretty disappointed or even pissed off with my choice for number one, but hey, it’s my blog and my opinion, so FUCK YO THOUGHTS!!
This has to be one of the most criminally underrated, endlessly fascinating, and amazingly original characters ever conceived. After the surprise success that was The Sixth Sense, M Night Shyamalan really tried to outdo himself for his second film, and let me tell you, he fucking succeeded in every fucking way. It’s just too bad the world took such little notice of this masterpiece.
You ever get the feeling that you were put on this planet, given this life, for a very specific purpose? Elijah Price never did, at least not until his mother got him a very special superhero comic book. Things changed after that.
Born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare medical condition which makes his bones very fragile, Elijah was a man desperate to give his miserable life meaning and find a place for himself in the world in order to be free of the shame of being a cripple. Here’s a man who, for a large portion of his life, saw himself as a less-than-ordinary being in a depressingly dull and ordinary world. At some point in his life, however, he realized that there just might be more to our world as well as the people within it than meets the eye.
This all brings me to the first thing that makes this character so fascinating to me: he’s basically found an extremely obscure secret hidden beneath this plain, mundane world all by himself, equipped with only the genius of his madness (or is it the madness of his genius?) and a bunch of comics. In a film with a very bleak, gritty, and somber tone, where a relentlessly dull and dreary atmosphere combined with a snail’s pace threatens to suffocate all, and the only person with actual superpowers is the most outwardly ordinary person you could ever imagine, Elijah is our only solid link to the suggestion that a strange, mysterious, and unnatural force could be lurking underneath what we see on the surface.
Just think of all the comic-book-to-real-life analogies this guy’s figured out: kids at his school used to make fun of his disability by calling him ‘Mr. Glass’, which he realized was meant to be his supervillain name; the man he suspects might be a superhero turns out to be a security guard, a job which he points out also entails protecting people; noticing how heroes and villains can often be the exact opposite of each other (Batman/Joker), he reasons that if he’s weak and evil at one end of the spectrum, maybe, just maybe, there could be someone invincible and heroic at the other end. And in classic comic book fashion, he waits until the perfect moment to reveal to David who he really is. Seriously, in my opinion, one of the most epic lines in film history has to be ‘Now that we know who you are, I know who I am.’
Another thing worth discussing is that Elijah truly is the exact opposite of David Dunn. Despite the fact that David is the guy who’s indestructible and super strong, the guy who actually goes out and fights crime, he still has an unbelievably normal and almost boring life. Take away his powers, and he’s just your average middle-aged guy who’s stuck in a job he’s unsatisfied with and can’t connect with his wife and son. Elijah, on the other hand, is much more interesting and mysterious despite being so inferior physically. His intelligence and charisma aside, the question you can’t help but get intrigued by the first time you watch this movie is why this man is so obsessed with trying to prove a superhero really exists. Even his look, with the oddly shaped hairstyle, purple overcoat, and walking stick made of glass contrasts sharply with David’s clothes.
It’s also interesting to realize that what you think of him by the end of the film is the exact opposite of what you’ve been thinking of him for the majority of it. I mean, sure, he’s the villain, but not once do we ever see him say or do anything ‘evil’ throughout this film. Not only that, but he’s the guy who actually shows David the purpose of his life. Without Elijah, it’s safe to say that David never would have become a superhero, just a guy with superpowers. This is all meant to make the viewer believe that Elijah’s one of the good guys. Also, the fact that he’s physically handicapped not only makes him a sympathetic character but implies that there’s nothing extraordinary about him, especially when you compare him to the guy who can crush metal with his bare hands and can walk away from a train accident completely unscathed.
And finally, unlike most villains, his evil actions weren’t motivated by greed, power, or revenge. Heck, you can’t even put him in the same category as The Joker, since it’s clear that he took no fun or enjoyment from killing all those people and even felt remorse for causing their deaths. He just wanted the satisfaction of knowing that he could finally think of himself as someone special and extraordinary: an actual supervillain. That’s really not something you see in most films.
I know Shyamalan has made some unforgivably shitty movies over the years, but you’re seriously doing yourself a disservice by avoiding Unbreakable, a magnum fucking opus if there ever was one. It seriously made me think of superheroes in a completely new way and I strongly doubt we’ll ever get anything as good as this ever again. I know it’s never going to happen, but I think a prequel all about Elijah’s childhood and teenage years could really bring Shyamalan up from the shithole he’s dug for himself. But, like I said, it ain’t ever gonna happen.