If it's crap ... We'll tell you
This idea for a blog has been in my mind for a long while so I thought that I might as well write it now. There has always been a question in my mind and that is what makes great villains? Frankly, there are so many aspects that make the list of great film villains who they are so I thought that we should look at some villains who have been listed over the years as being some of the greats and see exactly what makes a great villain so great, evil, despicable, and yet entertaining and charismatic to watch.
Hannibal Lecter. Now, I've never really seen any of the films with Hannibal Lecter. Now, I did try to watch The Silence of the Lambs one night but I was so tired that I turned it off partway through and fell asleep. From what I remember, I realize why so many people were so terrified of him but I never found him all that scary personally. He's charming, well-spoken, articulate, and hypnotic. Especially his eyes. Anthony Hopkins can have very hypnotic eyes when he's playing an evil character. Maybe it's the British voice as well. Sure, I know to all of you ladies out there that British accents are considered very sexy but Hannibal Lecter proves that British accents can bring a very unsettling vibe to anything if spoken in a particular way. Any modern movie psychopath owes something to Hannibal Lecter and that's partly why he's considered one of the great screen villains (arguably the greatest as well to many people). Charm, seductive British accents, hypnotic eyes, and being well-spoken and articulate can make one hell of a villain to watch and one of the facets that makes a great villain.
Darth Vader. I mean, come on. How could I make a list of great villains without including Darth Vader? Well, if I was forced to include the prequel version of Darth Vader, then it's a totally different story and discussion. Besides the prequels, Darth Vader is pretty much one of the most badass characters in the universe and I think everybody on this site would probably agree with me. I mean, his physical appearance practically embodies everything that is evil about iconic characters and almost anything that nightmares could be made of in the minds of children. The thing about Vader is that I don't think the character would've ever worked if Lucas didn't cast David Prowse and James Earl Jones as both the body and voice of Darth Vader. I mean, take out or the other and chances are that Darth Vader wouldn't be as effective as he is. Vader also strangely enough strikes me as a futuristic amalgamation of Dracula and Frankenstein's monster. What is there to say that makes him a defining villain and part of what makes a great villain? His bulking figure and seemingly blackly evil appearance? His undeniable presence? His deep voice? His red lightsaber? His noise when breathing? Well, it's those and the fact that by the end of the saga, we actually come to sympathize with his character. He didn't mean to be bad, he was just swayed to be that way. He probably would've wanted to serve the galaxy well and to have raised a good family but something incredibly dark inside him decided to take over and seal his fate. Also, his breath is one of the most iconic sounds in the universe. So, an unwillingness to do evil but does it anyway, a masterful figure, an undeniable presence, a scary voice and breath, and the fact that he can control the environment around him with his mind with the aid of a red lightsaber, if that doesn't spell out another facet of what makes a great villain than I don't know what does.
The Joker. I'm talking about the Heath Ledger Joker of course, forget Hamill, Nicholson, and Romero on this list. Apart from paying tribute to the other versions of The Joker in existence whilst creating its own interpretation, The Joker by Heath Ledger absolutely ranks up there with the most dastardly villains of all media. Part of what makes him so unique is that he's the perfect representation of clowns. Sometimes, he can be really funny and charming and charismatic and at other times, he can be the most terrifying thing to have ever been created. He perfectly balances being a practical, funny prankster and being a really psychologically disturbed supervillain/mass criminal/maniacal anarchistic terrorist. He also balances being the dark side of comic book supervillain and being the pure dark side of humanity. A man that wants to watch the world burn, a man who burns the money he stole, a man who sticks his head out of a speeding police car, a man who not only laughs in the face of death but embraces it. In many ways, he's the ultimate villain because we need to see him destroyed before he causes any more pain and destruction yet if we do destroy him, he wins and the whole world will seem to have been thrown for a loop and we wonder whether killing him would've been the best choice to deal with him or not. You can't live with him but at the same time, it doesn't make sense if we live without him. He's completely unpredictable, he hides in the shadows leaving us to wonder when he'll strike next, and when he does show up, when he says "I'm going to blow up a bus full of sick kids, assassinate the mayor, and torture a innocent person on live TV" we never know when/if he's joking or being dead serious (no pun intended). The part of The Joker was written so well and was performed by the late great Heath Ledger so goddamned well that Ledger won an Oscar from beyond the grave! If you know Academy Award history, you'll know that that is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. So with all these reasons listed, how could you not put Ledger's Joker on the list of greatest screen villains ever!
Col. Kurtz. The one performance of Marlon Brando's career that I feel should have been acknowledged by the Academy when he deserved it most but just wasn't was his brief yet powerful appearance in Francis Ford Coppola's loose adaptation of the novella Heart of Darkness: Apocalypse Now. When I first saw this movie, I was shocked, horrified, disgusted, and offended by how the film was made and thought it was a complete mess of a film and thought it was one of the worst things I have ever seen in my life! Then, I revisited it and I have completely revised my entire opinion on the film. The shock, horror, and disgust was because of the film accurately portraying the entire vibe of the Vietnam War into three hours to somebody like me who had never understood why so many people look at Vietnam as this horrible period in America's history. Part of what makes the movie a masterpiece to me is Marlon Brando's completely brilliant portrayal of a brilliant colonel gone mad by the horrors of Vietnam. His performance for me ranks up with some of the greatest of all time particularly because of "The Horror" speech. What makes him a rich and complex villain is the fact that he doesn't put up a fight against Martin Sheen's Cap. Willard or even tries to stop him from killing him. He sees his destiny in Willard's eyes and knows that he can't escape it and he lets it happen because he too realizes that he can't go home to America and that he's too fucked up because of the horrors he's seen. However, he doesn't let Willard do it so easily as he explains in his horror speech why he's become what he's become so that in the desperate hope that he'll live just a little bit longer, Willard will actually seriously question whether what he's about to do should be done or not for the sake of both Willard and himself. I mean, that scene has been parodied and imitated countless times ever since it came out roughly 30/31 years ago and most of my friends don't even realize it. That way, it makes him more interesting by having him as a psychological villain rather than a physical villain with him playing mind-fuck games rather than them resulting in a gun match or anything like that. He criticizes the problems of society particularly with the military and toys with your head but never leaves you alone mentally simultaneously. While I do understand the Academy's bitterness to Brando after his infamous snub for his Oscar for The Godfather, I still must say that not even considering him for a nomination for Apocalypse Now is a crime in and of itself because he absolutely creates the greatest psychological villain of all in that film. Part of what makes a great villain to me is one who gets inside your head and refuses to leave even when you want him to the most. I can even hear his dying whispers as I'm writing this. The horror, the horror.
Anton Chigurh. Say what you will about the infamous ending of No Country for Old Men, but nobody can deny that Javier Bardem's performance in that film was nothing short of brilliant. Having just watched the Nostalgia Critic's Top 11 Scariest Performances video (having Chigurh be #3), he perfectly explains why Chigurh instantly belongs in the list of all-time greatest screen villains. I completely agree with everything that he says about him so here's the video to explain our thoughts of why he's one of the great villains to be feared: http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thatguywiththeglasses/n... (skip to 15:32-17:50).
Col. Hans "The Jew Hunter" Landa. The scariest and most fascinating Nazi to ever grace the silver screen came from surprisingly none other than the brilliant genius of Quentin Tarantino. I mean, this character was so well-written and so wonderfully detailed, complex, and so beyond this dimension that it had to take one fucking powerhouse of an actor to fully realize him and thank God that Tarantino decided to go with Christoph Waltz rather than Leonardo DiCaprio for this role who was the original choice. While I love DiCaprio as an actor, he just wouldn't have brought what Waltz brought to the role and a big part of that is authenticity. I also think that as actors from what I've seen, I think that Waltz is a way better actor than DiCaprio! Then again, I've seen lots of DiCaprio movies and only one Waltz movie but he blew me away more in this one role than DiCaprio has in his entire career. What separates Landa from any other movie Nazi is that he's a detective first and a Nazi second. It always comes across like he doesn't really hate the Jews, he's just doing his job assigned by the Third Reich. He's just doing his job which happens to be hunting down Jews and committing massacres upon them. Probably the main thing that makes him so interesting is the fact that he seems to perfectly mould together being the physical and intellectual menace of things and being the master schemer pulling the strings behind the scenes simultaneously with such ease and skill. I mean, he's able to do all these horrible, horrendous things but make us laugh and think with major amounts of charm when he's having an intellectual discussion. He comes off as not a Nazi but a normal German detective wearing a Nazi uniform and while he's very much a patriot, he doesn't mind letting the Basterds blow up the Third Reich and letting the opposition win the war which is a very interesting yet strange way to operate. Still, ultimately he suffers a fate worse than death for being a man who tried to look out for the interests of both himself and the country by being known as a Nazi, an agent of evil, even when he never truly was as much of a real Nazi than many other officers. It's quite saddening for him but in a way, he deserves it. Perhaps what he is is a kind of evil that most people don't think about but is a more realistic portrayal of evil. A man who is just getting by doing what he needs to but doesn't entirely seem to fit the uniform or image he's been given. Charm, politeness, and a man trying to get by under a false bravado of being a mass murderer, quite a terrifying concept of a human being.
Now, I could go on and on about how many more villains could make up the definition of a great villain. How Khan Noonien Singh represents our very human need for revenge, how Hans Gruber is that villain who just wants to do a job and for it to go smoothly but just gets so annoyed when people get in the way and how he's almost the perfect definition of a professional villain, how Gordon Gekko and Daniel Plainview show us how greedy and self-absorbed we can be, how the T-1000 is scary in the fact that he's an unstoppable force that exists only to kill you, how Davy Jones is a tragic, sad old man who can't let go of the love he so desperately and passionately loved but was scorned by, or how Voldemort is the pure incarnate of how evil the human animal is capable of. Ultimately, I have to ask myself with my favorite film villains listed here, what makes a great villain? Well, everybody has their own answer to that question but I'm going to try and define what a great villain is to me. A great villain is charming, funny, psychologically disturbed, thought-provoking, greedy in their own terms, unpredictable, physically brooding, has a hidden, dark past which we never truly know about, hides in the shadows pulling the strings whenever he's not out in the open, and under a false bravado which makes him out to be worse than maybe he truly is but feels doesn't have a choice but to do it only to just get by with what they call their normal lives. This description I've just given is an amalgamation of everything that makes me fear these agents of evil and this concept of a great villain is the ultimate representation of a villain who would terrify me most. So, what do you think? What concepts of villainy terrify you the most?