The other day, my son and I were watching THE SIMPSONS (I know, big surprise there). He remarked that Sideshow Bob was his favorite villain. I can see why—Bob has an amazing voice, a problematic relationship with rakes, a love of show tunes, a penchant for evil schemes, and a tragic flaw—pride.
Still, I couldn't help but challenge his assertion. "What about Killface?" Bringing up the alien villain of FRISKY DINGO caused a family conundrum. Killface is every bit as charismatic as Bob. He has a cool British accent, he's a single father with a troubled teenager, he manages to kill plenty of people, but never can bring about the world annihilation that he wants (nor the world marketing campaign that would let everyone know they were about to be destroyed—by him).
Naturally, thinking about villains is a lot more fun that thinking about heroes. We wouldn't have literature without them.
There are several great lists of villains out there (the American Film Institute has a good one).
Here's my film villain top 10 list.
10. Renesmee from BREAKING DAWN (the TWILIGHT series). Alright, this movie isn't out yet. And Renesmee is just a baby, but it's a horrible freak baby who grows too fast and can talk automatically and gets herself into an arranged marriage with the guy who loves her mom (only a few moments after her birth) and basically kills her own mother like the little vampire parasite that she is. This is what fire is for!
9. David Bowie as the Goblin King in LABYRINTH. He sings, he has a muppet entourage, he can twirl those balls, he forces you to grow up, he can't remember Hoggle's name, and he set my young thirteen-year-old loins aflame. While I understand why the heroine does the "right" thing at the end of the movie, I don't see any reason to rebuke Bowie when he says he'll be your slave. Sometimes a coming of age tale should end with doing an awesome wrong thing, rather than the right thing.
8. Many lists reference HAL, and I agree that HAL can pretty terrifying, but the computer that makes me want to be a luddite is the computer in 1977's DEMON SEED. This computer not only thinks it's smarter than you, if it likes you, it will kill your husband, imprison, and rape you. None of my computers have tried that yet; even though they constantly seek negative affection, they haven't decided to take it that far.
7. Count Rugen in THE PRINCESS BRIDE. This movie has some of the greatest villains in all of film history. Humperdinck's cowardice is amusing, Fezzik is sportsmanlike, and Vizzini beautifully debates himself. However, Rugen is actually frightening—even though he knows when to run away. His scientific interest in pain makes him dangerous. He also provides a great sub-plot (it took me YEARS of watching this film to figure out that he and Humperdinck were more than friends) and allows Montoya to move from villain to hero. Arguably, in fact, it's Montoya's defeat of Rugen that counts as THE climax of this film.
6. Glenn Close ends up on lots of villain lists, for her roles in 101 DALMATIONS and FATAL ATTRACTION. Her most terrifying role for me is Marquis Isabelle from DANGEROUS LIASONS. Not only is she willing to ruin lives for fun and to go back on her word, she's also something of a cock tease. She's so fun to watch, though. John Malkovich is wonderful as her co-villain, but if it's Valmont you're after, watch VALMONT with Colin Firth.
5. Part of me either wants to put the Wicked Witch of the West or the Queen from SNOW WHITE here. Through other works, though, they've both been redeemed. How can I fault the Wicked Witch after WICKED? How can I get mad at the Queen after Neil Gaiman's "Snow, Glass, Apples"? They were both just doing the right thing, even though the transformation scene in SNOW WHITE is frightening. So far, though, Ursula the Sea Witch remains completely tainted, so we'll have her here, if for no other reason than her sexist attitudes towards male/female relationships.
4. Voldemort from the HARRY POTTER series. He's pretty awful, but once I think about it, I realize that Voldemort has never given me nightmares. There's nothing that scary about someone who knows they're evil, who calls themselves the Dark Lord. No, the really scary people are those who think they're good—who think they're doing the right thing—who are so convinced of that, in fact, that they're able to torture and kill in the name of "good" rather than "evil." That's why the real villain here is Dolores Umbridge. She's terrifying—the pink and the kitty plates should make that clear.
3. Basically every member of Cary Grant's family in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. There's the serial-killer brother who looks like Boris Karloff (played by Raymond Massey). The brother's business partner could easily win the contest, as he's Peter Lorrie playing, well, Peter Lorrie (Dr. Einstein). I don't think either of them will get the prize, though. I think the winners would be another pair. I won't give too much away, but I will assert that they're the sweetest killers you'll ever see.
2. That thing from POLTERGEIST. I'm not even sure what that thing is; I just know that it terrified me as a child. In fact, it terrified me so much that I watched it every time the movie came on HBO. The fact that my step-father had native american skulls in a case in the hallway that led to my room just made it all the worse. This movie also fed my childhood fear that things could watch me through the television.
1. The AFI lists Darth Vader as one of the all-time top villains. I can see where they're coming from. However, I may be a bit too fond of Darth Vader (when he's grown up—as a child and as a teenager, he's as annoying as hell). Jabba might be a bit better as a choice—the gross sexual element makes him pretty frightening, especially for a girl who always wanted to be Leia. Then again, there's always Jar-Jar. (I think we have a winner!)
(My son would like it noted that the right hand in EVIL DEAD 2 should be on this list.)
(I would like to note that this was so much fun that next time I think I'll do the top 10 television villains.)
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Jul 21, 2010 12:54 AM
|How can you put the Brewster Sisters on this list of villains? They're adorable! Sure they've got a trunk full of bodies, but they're soooo cute.|
And where did you find Proteus IV? I saw that movie on television, and it STILL creeped me out!
I can't wait for your TV villains. Just don't include any from the 60's Batman series! :-)
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