You may have noticed that I tend to do lists on Thursdays. It's an old habit from long ago and it just won't die. But this month, in honor of our Halloween holiday I'm going to stick to Halloween-ish themed lists, starting with this one. Spooky, no?
I figure, why not? What else have you got to read on a chilly Thursday morning?
1. Best Historical Villain: Nazis
If you want to find someone who will be universally vilified and hated, Nazis are your man (is your man?) You cannot get nastier or more evil than the Third Reich--we tried to use Communists here and there to take their place as Baddest Group Villain for a while during the Cold War (remember Rocky IV? Red Dawn? The Manchurian Candidate?) but it just didn't work as well, it felt too much like propaganda but Nazis? They're ALWAYS in season.
2. Scariest Unseen Villain: Sauron
Maybe that's the secret to his success as a villain--no one really knows what he looks like or what would happen if they came face-to-face with him. Even Gandalf is a little vague on that point. But regardless, you're pretty sure when you're reading the books (and I should point out here that I'm going with Sauron in the books rather than Sauron in the movies who actually is slightly less villainous than his literary counterpart) that if you ever should happen to sit down to tea with him you'd be in big trouble. Big trouble.
And by the way, I think it's just genius that he's depicted as a big ol' eye of fire. I've mastered the art of glaring like that at my children and it keeps them right in line.
Anyone who eats orcs for breakfast isn't exactly fuzzy and warm now are they?
3. Best Supernatural Villain: Voldemort
Voldemort's success just proves that if you really want to freak people out get rid of your nose. His appearance is part of it, trying to kill a baby gives him some weight but what really gets him props is a) he carries around his very own evil animal sidekick and b) he's got his own merciless henchmen Death Eater group. If you want to set up in business as a Class A Bad Guy, just get yourself an animal and a group of well-organized lackies and you're on your way. Though I'd probably suggest not going with a kitten or a bunny.
4. Best Female Villain: Malificent
I'm including her on the list because she gave me nightmares when I was a kid. Serious nightmares. It was the horns I think, or maybe that whole thing about being able to change into a dragon? Nope, it was the horns, definitely the horns.
You'll notice that this list is surprisingly bereft of female representation and that's because it's really hard to find a woman who can play bad without resorting to physical attraction--which, while it garners respect in certain Bad Guy circles, really is a secondary thing and unrelated to one's ability to be downright evil. To prove my point all you'd have to do is ask 100 men on the street if they're more attracted to or scared of Sharon Stone. I think that settles it.
In fact I think it's kind of detracted from the whole Females-As-Ultimate-Bad-Guys Movement. Think about women in history and how many were really bad? Most weren't known for being particularly bad as much as being able to hook the man who was even worse. Think Hitler and Eva Braun. You know we'll never be taken seriously as Bad Guys until we can be bad completely on our own without a man's help and Malificent does it best.
5. Best Space Villain: Darth Vader (with a nod to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey)
I had a hard time passing up the aliens in Alien--they were pretty bad--but then how responsible are they for their own actions? Or are they just a species struggling for survival, not unlike the spotted owl or the giant panda? If so then there's an element of sympathy there for a group of creatures so misunderstood as they have been.
Hollywood has not been kind to those who happen to lay their eggs in human hosts and I don't care to further the alien-as-demon stereotype here. And if there's sympathy for the villain they don't make my list.
So . . . Darth. Able to crush his enemies with the Force . . . capable of killing his own offspring . . . able to speak with the voice of James Earl Jones? Very impressive. And the whole breathing-through-the-mask thing gives him big points in the Spooky Category. Lucas tried to make him all cute and fuzzy in The Phantom Menace which nearly toppled him from the list but then he was so darn irritating and whiny in Attack of the Clones and followed up with that evil yellow-eyes scene in Revenge of the Sith that I think I'm safe including him.
And as a footnote I'd mention that Lucas also gets a mention for creating the Most Disappointing Villain Ever: Darth Maul. Never has a villain had so much promise and so much potential evil-ness yet so little screen time and so few lines. Why did they waste the double light saber on that guy?
6. Best Group Villain: The Borg
That whole collective-conscious thing terrifies us modern enlightened liberal democrats (with a small "d") like nothing else doesn't it? I think that if I were a Russian serf in the 19th century I'd feel like I was pretty much part of the Borg as it was but nowadays anything that tries to destroy free will and independent thinking is about as scary as it can get.
And then of course there's that whole drilling-into-your-face-with-technology angle that tops it off.
Hey! I just got a thought. Maybe Google IS the Borg . . . resistance is futile. You will be catalogued and crawled. I mean assimilated.
7. Smartest Villain: Professor Moriarty
You have to give a hand to the guy who wins in the end. Most villains ultimately end up as toast but Professor Moriarty is one of the few super villains smart enough to actually outlast the hero. Impressive, very impressive.
While he doesn't have the terrifying mannerisms of some of the other guys on the list and doesn't come from an alien galaxy this is the villain who's too smart to be caught monologuing at the end. He just kills off the hero, just like that. End of story.
8. Most Creative Villain: All Bond Villains
Shark tanks? Lasers? Steel-rimmed bowler hats? Iron teeth? You have to give a nod to the creativity of the Bond villains as a whole. They aren't the smartest, they aren't the most evil or the deadliest (sometimes you almost wish they'd get Bond just like you want Wile E. Coyote to finally catch that stupid Roadrunner) but anyone who can come up with asphyxiation by gold paint has to get some kind of an award.
9. Best Average-Joe/Redneck Villain: Clubber Lang (nod to the hillbillies in Deliverance)
I almost wrote "Mr. T." on this one because honestly now, do you really think of him as Clubber Lang or as Mr. T.?
The way he pummeled Rocky and taunted him made me want to taken him down for a whole hour and 47 minutes solid. No pity, no sympathy whatsoever though I hear Lawrence whats-his-name is a very nice guy in real life.
10. Most Disturbingly Attractive Villain: Commodus
I did not like Gladiator. It was just too darn disturbing and full of suffering for my taste and it was all thanks to this man: Commodus, who takes crazy-powerful-greedy-creepy to a new level.
It was my first introduction to Joaquin Phoenix and after that it took me a few movies to get past that whole thing-with-his-sister and killing-off-the-family thing. But all in all--he is a Bad Guy who's easy on the eyes. When he's not putting people's eyes out or something.
Though I secretly admit, my grandfather used to call the toilet the commode so every time I hear this guy's name I giggle. I wonder if that takes some of his mystique away--being named after an outhouse and all that.
11. Best Villain in Captivity: Hannibal Lecter
Again, I think this is the whole key to the success of Lecter--he's captured during the whole movie but there's that fear that he's somehow, someway going to break free and do something Truly Horrible. I mean, he's not really any of a worse character than the Bad Guy they're chasing through the movie, right? But because Lecter is in prison, face-to-face with us then he's much scarier. The threat of him breaking free is always there and it's so horrible I can't watch the movie. I only got about half-way through before I had to give it up.
And on another note I find it interesting that some actors can consistently play believable Bad Guys (take Jack Nicholson for example) and it just doesn't appear to be much of a stretch for them. But Hopkins? He's the cinematic equivalent of a Care Bear and the fact that he can go from Lecter to Remains of the Day to whatever is impressive.
12. Best Insane Villain: Norman Bates
Nobody does insane better than Norman. In fact, I attribute my distrust of Mr. Rogers directly to this man and his wardrobe. One look at Mr. Rogers' zip up sweater and conservative haircut and I wouldn't get in the shower for a month.
I thought Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Mission Impossible III did a fine job at scary-crazy but if I can't remember the name of his character he really shouldn't win a spot on the list, now should he?
13. All-Around Scariest Villain: The Joker
Of course I'm talking here about Heath Ledger's version, not the cartoon Joker, not Jack Nicholson's interpretation nor Caesar Romero's. In fact the other guys kind of make you wonder why Bruce Wayne had such a hard time taking the guy out because really, while clowns are scary (I'll give you that) they shouldn't be much of a hassle for the Dark Knight.
But this latest Joker is particularly scary just because of his lack of motive. As the great Alfred says, "Some people just want to watch the world burn." And that is what freaks you out about this guy the most.
Well, that and the fact that he's wearing purple and green together.
Have you thought about entering the Write-Away Contest? It's up and running again, the topic is "Fear" and the prize is from jaC Jewelry!
It still hasn't snowed . . . just in case you were wondering, so the snow contest marches on without a winner yet.
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