The 1990s were a fun time. I can say that because nostalgia is an incredible force, and the '90s is the first decade I ever got to see any of. It was a simpler time, a period in which kids still used plastic toys that didn't come with WiFi, jean shorts were acceptable to wear in public, and everyone had a favorite pro wrestler. The movies were just discovering the horrors of too much CGI, but we're still riding the wave of the fun times found in the '80s. And the villains...there were still interesting villains out there that didn't just fit into one of two categories as they seem to now: bonkers crazy or boring.
So here is an opinion list. I don't profess to represent anyone but myself here, so any righteous indignation will be lost on me. If you agree, cool. If not, cool. We're all entitled to be as wrong as we like, myself included. So here goes.
25. Scar - The Lion King
Portrayed by Jeremy Irons
Scar is one of Disney's most popular villains, and with the great voice work by Jeremy Irons, it's easy to to see why. He may have been a little lazy by the second half of the movie, but with his sinister plots and total emotional manipulation over Simba, he still stands up as one of the best Disney has ever had to offer.
Favorite quote: "Oooh, I quiver with fear."
24. Rameses - The Prince Of Egypt
Portrayed by Ralph Fiennes
A complex and deeply conflicted villain with a serious god complex, Rameses is fully capable of evil acts, but often does so out of anger paired with remorse. What makes him such a great villain has a lot to do with his relationship with Moses, who was raised as his brother. Unlike Scar, this relationship is not one he can easily throw away, despite their newfound rivalry.
Favorite quote: "I will not be dictated to, I will not be threatened. I am the morning and evening star, I am Pharaoh!"
23. Percival C. McLeach - The Rescuers Down Under
Portrayed by George C. Scott
I know you're probably thinking this entire list is just going to be a bunch of cartoons, but believe me, that's not the case at all. Readers of my blog should know by now my thoughts on George C. Scott, so it should come as no great surprise that one of his most memorable roles would make it on this list. A sleazy poacher doesn't sound too intimidating, but thanks to his gruff voice and dominating personality, McLeach stands out. He's also quite funny, making every scene he's in all the more memorable.
Favorite quote: "I didn't make it all the way through third grade for nothing!"
22. Oswald Cobblepot AKA The Penguin - Batman Returns
Portrayed by Danny DeVito
It came as a remarkable surprise for me when I read that DeVito got a Golden Raspberry nomination for this movie. DeVito isn't the greatest actor out there, and often plays versions of himself with slight variations, but here he totally transforms. He's one of the creepiest Batman villains, he's totally unpredictable, and DeVito plays him the perfect amount of over-the-top.
Favorite quote: "Still... could be worse. My nose could be gushing blood."
21. Agatha Trunchbull - Matilda
Portrayed by Pam Ferris
Anyone with a childhood remembers Miss Trunchbull, the sadistic boar of a woman who defies all logic by absolutely hating kids all the while serving as principal at an elementary school. She's cruel, nasty, loud, formidable, and just generally a horrible person. And not just that, but she seems to love being a bad guy, flourishing in her nastiness. Pam Ferris makes the role work in all of her tooth-gnashing glory, making it impossible to picture anyone else playing her.
Favorite quote: "They're all mistakes, children! Filthy, nasty things. Glad I never was one."
20. Jimmy - Twenty Bucks
Portrayed by Christopher Lloyd
This is kind of a weird one considering how little narrative there is with a movie based around following the ever-changing possession of a $20 bill, so because of its distinct lack of a main character or villain, the stakes here aren't as high, making this crook less of a traditional villain and more just a fantastic character -- and an even better performance. He's a total scene-stealer and a cunning thief with a silver tongue. He may only appear in the movie for 20 minutes, but this immoral and slippery character is unforgettable and devious.
Favorite quote: "Life lesson number two..."
19. Vincenzo Coccotti - True Romance
Portrayed by Christopher Walken
And here's another small performance, but this time the character is in the movie for only one scene. Despite this fact, Coccotti is still the overarching villain of the movie and makes that single scene one of the most iconic and memorable of the entire decade. An eerily menacing presence, as one could only expect from the bizarro King Walken, Coccotti has dialogue that only could work for this actor, and boy does it work. This is a remarkably fleshed out character for all the more screen time he's given, and a totally unstoppable force.
Favorite quote: "I'm the Anti-Christ. You've got me in a vendetta kind of mood."
18. M. Bison - Street Fighter
Portrayed by Raul Julia
This is a bad, bad movie, and it's a shame Raul Julia passed away as young as he did. With this being his final screen appearance, a lot of people found it a compete and utter shame that his career had to end this way. But against all odds and despite the general consensus, I loved this performance/villain. He's practically the definition of campy, his dialogue is hilarious and awesome, and even with being sick during filming, Raul Julia's intensity shines through in every moment he's on screen.
Favorite quote: "For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me... it was Tuesday."
17. John Doe - Seven
Portrayed by Kevin Spacey
This is basically the most Kevin Spacey-ish Kevin Spacey has ever been. Monotone, tons of that side-to-side head tilting, and pure evil to the core. In many ways this is a straight forward villain, only much more amped up and extreme. Sort of a precursor to Heath Ledger's Joker, John Doe has no regard for his own well-being and only possesses the desire to inflict pain and suffering on others, totally breaking people down and corrupting them at all costs. This was an excellent villain and a total game-changer.
Favorite quote: "I seem to remember breaking your face."
16. Asami - Audition
Portrayed by Eihi Shiina
It's kind of a spoiler including her on this list, but simply knowing this character is villainous will not prepare you for just how scary she gets. I don't want to get too in depth in what exactly she does, but fans of the film will recognize her as one of the most terrifying characters around. Shiina's performance is one of the most compelling of the decade, and not one that's easy to look away from -- even if you might want to.
Favorite quote: "Words create lies. Pain can be trusted."
15. Norman Stansfield - Leon: The Professional
Portrayed by Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman is one of the best actors ever, and this is the best villain he's ever played. He's a deeply corrupt detective who uses his position for all the wrong reasons. It would have been easy for this movie to make the antagonist any kind of law enforcement at all, but instead gifts us with this gem of a villain. He's evil, corrupt, and out of his mind on crack(!!!). But what makes him work so well is the fact that he is played by Gary Oldman. Seriously, he doesn't need much more than that.
Favorite quote: "I take no pleasure in taking life if it's from a person who doesn't care about it."
14. Pennywise - Stephen King's It
Portrayed by Tim Curry
And here he comes. We've finally gotten to Tim Curry, one of the greatest (villainous) actors who's ever lived. Here he plays the embodiment of evil and fear, and what better way for fear to manifest itself than as a demented shark-toothed clown? Sure he's a little silly, as he's trying to be at times, but he's still pretty damn creepy. It isn't all about the makeup either, Curry has the perfect physicality and voice for the part, single-handedly making this 3-hour miniseries memorable and effective.
Favorite quote: "They ALL float down here. When you're down here with us, you'll float too!"
13. Magua - The Last Of The Mohicans
Portrayed by Wes Studi
This movie is filled with conflict and villains, the most memorable and formidable of which being Magua, the vengeful Native American with a dark history. I don't know how this character functioned in the book, but in the movie he is kind of terrifying. He doesn't just want to kill for revenge, as the quote below would suggest, and takes what could be a sympathetic end goal and turns into something sinister and horrifying. Wes Studi nails it, and gets to take part in one of my favorite scenes ever, and several other memorable moments leading up to it.
Favorite quote: "When the Grey Hair is dead, Magua will eat his heart. Before he dies, Magua will put his children under the knife, so the Grey Hair will know his seed is wiped out forever."
12. Tyrannosaurus Rex - Jurassic Park
Portrayed by the wonders of science and technology
Unlike most other entries on this list the T-Rex isn't directly villainous, but rather a scientific recreation of a dinosaur that's basically designed for the sole purpose of eating anything and everything in its path. But this means it will stomp and devour anything, including the heroes of the movie. But ultimately, this is the character that everyone roots for throughout the movie, as it is the main component in two of the best scenes in the history of movies. If that isn't enough to earn it a spot on this list, I don't know what is.
Favorite quote: That roar.
11. Keyser Soze - The Usual Suspects
Portrayed by a mystery I refuse to reveal
There's not much to say about this one without spoilers, so I'll keep it brief: this villain is one of the most conniving of all time, and what makes him work so well is heavily reliant on the final reveal.
Favorite quote: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist."
10. Agent Smith - The Matrix
Portrayed by Hugo Weaving
Though his role is explored and built upon more in the sequels, it's hard to deny the impact he left in the first (and distinctly best) film of the series. Hugo Weaving has a fantastic voice, and his annunciation of every line in this movie is just perfect. He's also a martial arts master, has the ability to possess the bodies of almost anyone, and is just generally very intimidating. A computer program who hates his digital prison, Agent Smith is easily the most interesting character in the film, as well as the coolest.
Favorite quote: "You hear that Mr. Anderson?... That is the sound of inevitability... It is the sound of your death... Goodbye, Mr. Anderson..."
9. Alec Trevelyan AKA 006 - Goldeneye
Portrayed by Sean Bean
My favorite ever Bond villain, Trevelyan started out the film as a (supposed) good guy, and after faking his death, re-emerges in the second half as the main villain. This makes for a much more interesting villain for James Bond to face, as he actually has a past with him, being that they once were friends and fellow agents. And to make things even better, he's one of the few villains he's faced throughout the series who poses a direct physical threat to him. Pair all of that with Sean Bean's complex portrayal and you've got yourself a fantastic villain.
Favorite quote: "For England, James."
8. Edgar the Bug - Men In Black
Portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio
Much like Christopher Lloyd's "Jimmy" character, this entry is intended with more of an emphasis on how great the acting here is, even though Edgar is actually the main villain of the film. A giant alien bug who's landed on Earth to retrieve an artifact with the power to change the course of the galaxy, he eats the insides out of a white trash dude and proceeds to wear his skin as a suit. D'Onofrio gives one of my favorite performances ever here, playing up the physicality of an incredibly difficult character. He's creepy, evil, and really intimidating.
Favorite quote: "Get your big butt back in the house!" - as Edgar the Human
7. Hannibal Lecter - The Silence Of The Lambs
Portrayed by Anthony Hopkins
Putting Hannibal this low in the top 10 will probably make people ignore my thoughts on this list entirely, but I find it hard to be as enthusiastic about Hopkins' portrayal of this character when I enjoy both Brian Cox and Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal even more. Also, Hannibal isn't even the most effective villain in the movie, but in spite of these small issues, this is a truly iconic performance. Hopkins' entire career has been defined by this role, and as much as I love the film, it wouldn't be anywhere near as effective without him. Everyone knows Hannibal as a character, and though the portrayal isn't my favorite, his moments in the film are some of the best we've ever seen from this character. He isn't ever overused, he's super creepy, and is a far more complex villain than almost any other there's ever been.
Favorite quote: "I'm having an old friend for dinner."
6. Buffalo Bill - The Silence Of The Lambs
Portrayed by Ted Levine
But as great and interesting as Hannibal is, it's basically impossible to top this guy in this movie. Just like how Hopkins' entire career has been defined by Hannibal, so has Levine's with this. A performance and character that is so disturbing and fully realized, no one is able to see Ted Levine as anything but Buffalo Bill. He's creepy, twisted, iconic, and serves as the actual villain in one of the greatest serial killer movies ever made. No one can think about this character without being creeped out at least a little, and that is an impressive feat. Hannibal may be the popular choice, but to me Buffalo Bill stands out more.
Favorite quote: "It puts the lotion on its skin."
5. Annie Wilkes - Misery
Portrayed by Kathy Bates
Much like how Hannibal illustrates how terrifying it can be for a monster to like you, Annie Wilkes really puts this fear into practice. As Paul Sheldon's self-proclaimed biggest fan, Annie Wilkes appears at first to be a kind-hearted shut-in with a slightly unhealthy obsessing with a book series. And then we see her snap. A mentally unstable psychotic fan can be scary enough as it is, but when given control over the person they're obsessed with, we see just how terrifying that person can be. Kathy Bates is terrific and really amps up the crazy, but doesn't always play it that way. When calm, she seems sweet and harmless, but her unpredictability makes her nerve-wracking to watch, as you never know when she's going to go completely bonkers and scare the crap out of you.
Favorite quote: "God I love you."
4. Claude Frollo - The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
Portrayed by Tony Jay
This is one I don't see most people seeing eye to eye with me on. The Hunchback is generally considered a fairly forgettable Disney movie and, for the most part, I would have to agree. But when you throw a lustful, conflicted religious zealot into the fray, you instantly have a compelling villain, and possibly my favorite villain in Disney history. Raising Quasimodo in the belltower of his church, Frollo manipulates and keeps the Hunchback locked away from people his entire life. Not only this, but he finds himself constantly at odds with his own desires, which result in him going mad with power and seeking punishment for Esmerelda, the gypsy who has made him question his faith. With Tony Jay as the voice actor, Frollo has a booming, thunderous voice that exudes power and is a perfect match for his powerful and deeply disturbing song. The adult themes present in this movie make it especially dark for a Disney film, and elevate the film from the chasm it could have easily fallen into thanks to idiotic and pointless character additions like those stupid gargoyles.
Favorite quote: "Get out, you idiot. I'll find her. I'll find her if I burn down all of Paris!"
3. Tom Ripley - The Talented Mr. Ripley
Portrayed by Matt Damon
In spite of the fact that Tom Ripley is the main character, and in several ways you root for him thoughout the movie, he is a despicable and disturbing character with few redeeming qualities. This is a guy with some serious emotional issues. He becomes obsessed with people and falls in love with them, and the moment he is rejected in any way, there's no way of knowing what he might do next. And he will go to any lengths to cover up his tracks, which makes him all the more terrifying. Much like Annie Wilkes, he's an unpredictable character that leaves you feeling uneasy, but he doesn't snap like she does. Instead he internalizes things, and because of the way the movie is shot, we're trapped inside his mind alongside him. It's a subtle difference, and what makes it all the more effective is in how you find yourself empathisizing with him, as he seems like a genuine good person -- that is, until you dig deep enough to see what kind of monster he can really be.
Favorite quote: "Well, whatever you do, however terrible, however hurtful, it all makes sense, doesn't it? In your head. You never meet anybody that thinks they're a bad person."
2. Amon Goeth - Schindler's List
Portrayed by Ralph Fiennes
It's hard to get much more menacing than this. As far as relatively modern real life events go, the Holocaust is the most horrific we're all aware of, so it should come as no surprise that the people behind it were pretty evil. And never before had there been a villain who so effectively represented this dilemma in a movie than Amon Goeth. Based on the real Goeth, we can only assume this is a fairly accurate portrait of the man, and with that being the case, he becomes all the more terrifying. There's a lot going on with this character, and Ralph Fiennes is the perfect actor to bring these conflicts to life. His similar appearance to Liam Neeson makes him feel like an evil twin, and his sadistic/abusive relationship with a Jewish girl he "loves" but despises for what she is is painful to watch. This is easily one of the most historically evil characters we've ever seen on screen, and he essentially serves as the only fully developed and probed Nazis character in the film, giving him a lot of horrific material to work with.
Favorite quote: "This is very cruel, Oskar. You're giving them hope. You shouldn't do that."
1. Sheriff of Nottingham - Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves
Portrayed by Alan Rickman
Is he the most evil villain out there? Not by a long shot. Is he the most sinister and conniving? Nah, not really. But is he fun to watch? Yes. In fact, he's one of the most entertaining characters I've ever seen in a movie. Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves is, for lack of a better word, a craptacular movie. Kevin Costner and Christian Slater actively hurt to watch, the story is dumbed down, and even though there are some other fun performances in the thing (Morgan Freeman and whoever played the crazy old witch), this is still totally Alan Rickman's show. Instead of keeping the villain as two characters like, you know, a real Robin Hood movie would, they let him absorb the Prince John role, essentially giving him twice as much material to work with -- and man, he makes it work. Rickman is a very suave actor, and seeing him play a role like this is absolutely wonderful. He plays it like a character who wants to be seen as intimidating and cool, but flies off the handle and loses his temper so easily, it's almost like he's just a spoiled child. Every scene he's in is filled with great lines, and due to Rickman's pitch perfect overacting, every moment lands. His spry physicality is a lot like watching a grasshopper, and it's obvious he was putting absolutely everything he had into this character, redeeming a terrible movie and making a good deal of it work shockingly well. It's one of my favorite performances, one of my favorite villains, and makes a crappy movie 100% worthwhile. I don't care if he's the most evil or the most complex character, he's one of the most fun there's ever been, and I still find myself watching this movie fairly regularly just for him.
Favorite quote: "Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas!"