The 1980s were a glorious time for movies. The summer blockbuster had just become a major thing, filmmakers were experimenting more with creating effects than they had previously, and big franchises (that weren't just James Bond) were starting to emerge. We were introduced to some of the most important and influential filmmakers of our time (Peter Jackson, Coen Brothers, and Tim Burton...what would we do without them?), and seeing tons of great and important work by other established directors. This was truly a wonderful time. But with all the glory of this silly era, one of the most wonderful things we may have seen make an emergence during this time was the over-the-top villain. Not to say we didn't have fun villains before this time, but it was almost as if there was a collective lightbulb that went off in everyone's heads that told them all "we need to make more iconic villains now", and so it was. Here is my top 25 favorite villains of the 1980s.
But first let me throw something out there: this is by no means a list of the baddest bad guys, the toughest, the coolest, or even the most evil. This is just my personal list of my favorites, the ones who really stick out to me as being particularly effective, entertaining, or memorable. So keep that in mind before you proceed. Got it? Good, cuz here we go!
25. Klowns in Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Portrayed by Steve Rockhold, Michael Harrington Burris, Geno Ponza, Scott Beatty, Paul Haley, Dennis C. Walsh, Genie Houdini, Charles Chiodo, Karl Shaeffer, Paul Parsons, Jimmy Locust, Mitch Bryan, and Greg Sykes
How can you really go wrong with a title and premise like this? Zany, screwball, and totally creative, these are some of the most entertaining movie villains ever just by how silly and inventive they are.
Favorite quote ...they don't speak.
24. Loren Visser in Blood Simple
Portrayed by M. Emmet Walsh
A morally bankrupt private investigator/mercenary. What can I say about this guy? He is creepy, diabolical, calculating, and does it all without hesitation. A quintessential Coen villain.
Favorite quote: "Well, ma'am, if I see him, I'll sure give him the message."
23. Staff Sergeant Bob Barnes in Platoon
Portrayed by Tom Berenger
A brutal war machine, Barnes is at times a good soldier, and other times a complete monster. An uncompromising and terrifying villain, played to perfection by Berenger.
Favorite quote: "Talking about killing? Y'all experts? Y'all know about killing? I'd like to hear about it, potheads..."
22. Biff Tannen in Back To The Future parts I, II, & III
Portrayed by Thomas F. Wilson
A simple bully in the first film, Biff turns into a total maniac by the second film, using time-travel betting to make a fortune and to get twisted revenge on Marty.
Favorite quote: "What are you lookin' at, butthead?"
21. Freddy Krueger in The Nightmare On Elm Street
Portrayed by Robert Englund
One of the most iconic horror villains of all time, Freddy is one that took a while for me to warm up to, but I now can appreciate as being funny, evil, and totally unique.
Favorite quote: "I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy!"
20. Lord of Darkness in Legend
Portrayed by Tim Curry
Under about 50 pounds of makeup, Curry still shines through, creating a devilish villain bent on killing unicorns (yeah, it is a bit silly). All presence, this guy is a testament to the effectiveness of practical makeup effects.
Favorite quote: "What is light without dark? What are you without me? I am a part of you all. You can never defeat me."
19. Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Portrayed by Christopher Lloyd
Lloyd is an actor who can crank up the intimidation whenever he needs to and while the movie is very cartoonish (in more ways than one), Judge Doom still stands out as being pretty creepy, and equally sinister.
Favorite quote: "When I killed your brother, I talked... just... like... THIS!"
18. Ursula in The Little Mermaid
Portrayed by Pat Carroll
One of the most memorable Disney villains, Ursula is as deceptive and power-hungry as any of them. Though she isn't quite as evil as a few others, her deep voice and manical laugh are unforgettable.
Favorite quote: "Come in. Come in, my child. We mustn't lurk in doorways. It's rude. One might question your upbringing."
17. The Predator in Predator
Portrayed by Kevin Peter Hall
Squaring off against a bunch of roided-out guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, and Jesse Ventura automatically makes you into some kind of badass. Pair that with an awesome character design and cool weapons, and you've got yourself one awesome villain.
Favorite quote: Yeah, this thing doesn't speak either.
16. The Joker in Batman
Portrayed by Jack Nicholson
Though he is by no means the best sceen version of The Joker, Nicholson's treatment of this iconic comic book character is almost too perfect of casting, and an equally perfect fit for Tim Burton's vision.
Favorite quote: "You ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight?"
15. T-800 Model 101 in The Terminator
Portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger
Due to Arnold's disability (I'm referring to his acting skill, just to clarify), there are few characters he could play that would be so perfect for him. This is one of those characters. Robotic, destructive, and massively intimidating.
Favorite quote: "I'll be back."
14. Professor Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective
Portrayed by Vincent Price
There are few Disney villains who get ignored as often as Ratigan, and though this is probably partially due to the fact he is basically just Moriarty, it is still unjust. Vincent Price is incredible.
Favorite quote: "Oh, I love it when I'm nasty."
13. The Horned King in The Black Cauldron
Portrayed by John Hurt
Aaaand yet another Disney villain that never seems to get enough credit, The Horned King is quite possibly the most evil, most sinister, and overall creepiest villain in their repertoire. Also, he's voiced by John Hurt, which is awesome.
Favorite quote: "Oh, my soldiers. How long I have thirsted to be a god among mortal men."
12. Emperor Ming in Flash Gordon
Portrayed by Max Von Sydow
Played by by one of the greatest actors of all time is an automatic bonus, but you pair that with a fun script, and give him plenty of good lines, and you're bound to get something great. Silly, but a total blast to watch.
Favorite quote: "I like to play with thing a while before annihilation"
11. The Emperor in Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return Of The Jedi
Portrayed by Ian McDiarmid
The main, over-arching villain of the original Star Wars trilogy (as well as the prequels), The Emperor is one of the most iconic and devious villains in pop culture history. A great bad guy look and an even better voice.
Favorite quote: "The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant."
10. Jareth, The Goblin King in Labyrinth
Portrayed by David Bowie
Okay, this is partially a sentimental pick, and no, he isn't exactly the most evil or intimidating villain you'll ever see, but damn if he isn't fun to watch. Labyrinth is already a really fun mOvid to watch, but it is Bowie who makes it a classic.
Favorite quote: "It's only forever, not long at all."
9. Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Portrayed by Amrish Puri
When he isn't running a giant underground slave operation, he's ripping peoples hearts out and sacrificing them to his god. To call him scary and evil would be a bit of an understatement. This guy is what makes the whole movie worthwhile.
Favorite quote: "Kali ma... Kali ma... Kali ma, shakthi deh!"
8. Pinhead in Hellraiser
Portrayed by Douglas Bradley
Another demented tormentor, Pinhead (who doesn't even earn this moniker until later films) is a demonic figure whose sole purpose is to inflict pain and suffering on people. Not only this but he looks awesome while doing it.
Favorite quote: "We'll tear your soul apart!"
7. Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
Portrayed by Ricardo Montalban
Watching this movie years back, I was thrown off by how this character looked (understandably, I would say), but revisiting it a while back, I really started to appreciate him. A strategic genius with a serious desire for revenge.
Favorite quote: "Let them eat static."
6. Frank Booth in Blue Velvet
Portrayed by Dennis Hopper
Pure menace, scary as any horror villain, and played to maniacal perfection by one of the greatest crazy characters of all time. There are few characters who have made me as nervous as this guy. He's terrifying.
Favorite quote: "A ride! Now that's a good idea!"
5. Betelgeuse in Beetlejuice
Portrayed by Michael Keaton
Quite possibly Keaton's more enduring role (even above Batman), this bio-exorcist is funny, depraved and has stayed entertaining for almost 30 years now. Mix an iconic look with an eccentric personality, and you've got yourself a really fun character.
Favorite quote: "Go ahead, make my millenium."
4. Hans Gruber in Die Hard
Portrayed by Alan Rickman
Equal parts suave and sinister, Rickman brings a lot of energy to his performance here, playing a character who is never quite as cool and collected as he tries to be. And he nails it, of course. One of the great action villains of all time.
Favorite quote: "You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the F.B.I."
3. Jack Torrance in The Shining
Portrayed by Jack Nicholson
Another Nicholson performance, and also one of the most no-brainer casting choices ever, but this one is slightly more dynamic, and much more intimidating and terrifying. Though he doesn't start off crazy, he kicks it into overdrive as the film progresses. And man does he get crazy.
Favorite quote: "Here's Johnny!!!"
2. Roy Batty in Blade Runner
Portrayed by Rutger Hauer
A tragic character as much as he is a villain, Batty still manages to live up to his name, as he is definitely more than slightly crazy. A gritty sci-fi noir like this needed a great villain, and Hauer delivered, giving one of his best performances ever. He's just fantastic.
Favorite quote: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die."
1. Darth Vader in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Portrayed by David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones
Though he appears in the first Star Wars in 1977, and then shows up again in the third film in 1983, it was this, the second film in the saga that showcases Vader as the great villain that he is. Easily one of the most well-known characters in history, Vader has the look, the voice, and the ability to strangle people with mind-powers that any great villain only wishes they could have. Pretty much the most iconic villain in film history, and an easy choice for the best of the 1980s.
Favorite quote: "Apology accepted, Captain Needa."