Friday, July 23, 2010

Top 7 Greatest Movie Villains

I've reviewed a lot of the big summer blockbusters now, and have actually reviewed all the movies (big or otherwise - I'm looking at you, Ondine) that I have seen in theaters since I started this blog. In an optimal world, I'd be reviewing Predators right now - but I have yet to see this film. Now normally I would be game for a challenge - I might even be okay with making stuff up - but that would be wrong.

Speaking of people doing things wrong (check out that awesome segue!), I want to talk about villains. I love villains so much - I see them as the heart of almost every story, as heroes can only truly be measured by the enemies they face and the challenges they overcome. Great villains stay with you forever, helping define a person's view of evil. Because of this, good villains are often the things that people remember from movies more than anything else. So grab your black cloaks and practice your evil laugh, this is TheFaceGuy's top 7 Movie Villains.

#7: Dolores Umbridge, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

"Because deep down, you know you deserve to be punished. Don't you, Mr. Potter?"

I just want to say, before I get any further, that I love Harry Potter. I grew up with the books, and followed them loyally through both good times and bad. It's not great literature, but it's still something that I treasure. I've read each book multiple times, and enjoy them all to some degree. My least favorite of the book series is the fifth - Order of the Phoenix. Not only did we deal with ANGST Harry, but they killed my favorite character in the series. So how how is it that the film adaptation is my favorite of all the Harry Potter movies?

I love this movie, and one of the biggest reasons that I love it is the pink-laced queen of honeyed poison herself, Professor Dolores Umbridge. I have always been a fan of villains that are the sadistic tools of the government, following the ideals of the ends justifying the means. Dolores Umbridge is just that - a disturbingly cheerful psychopath who turns a beloved, magical sanctuary into a fascist prison camp.

...So basically, she turned it into high school.

#6: The Joker, The Dark Knight

"Why so serious?"

If you remember my last top 7 list, you might recall my opinion of this film. I do really love this movie - it may be seriously overrated, but that doesn't mean that it's a bad film. And the biggest reason that this is a great movie is The Joker.

There's not much more that I can say here that hasn't already been said time and time again about Ledger's spectacular performance as The Joker in Dark Knight. He manages to pull off one of the most difficult kind of villains imaginable - the villain whose motive is evil for evil's sake. He's given no backstory, no motive, and no real character development beyond how completely psychotic he is. And yet despite all of that, my God is his character fascinating and engaging. He's the best part of Dark Knight, and boy do we remember him for it.

#5: Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs

"Hello, Clarice."

Of all the people on this list, only one of them has managed to actually give me nightmares. That man is Hannibal Lecter: the cannibalistic socialite. And by God is he creepy. He's one of those villains that excels at getting into people's heads. For almost the entire movie, he is behind bars - simply talking to Detective Clarice Starling. And yet, despite the fact that he is behind bars throughout most of the movie, he is still absolutely terrifying. He uses his words and charisma to screw with people's heads - even to the point where he convinces a fellow inmate to swallow his own tongue.

... and the fact that at the end of the movie he butchers his way through half-a-dozen police officers certainly doesn't hurt his villainy cred, either.

Bottom line? He's charming, charismatic, creepy, terrifying, and one of the most purely evil characters to ever grace the silver screen.

#4: Yzma, The Emperor's New Groove

"First, I will turn him into a flea. A harmless little flea..."

Not all bad guys are to be taken seriously, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't worthy of being labelled as great villains as well. My favorite example of this is Yzma.

Like just about all Disney villains, Yzma's motives are relatively simple - revenge and thirst for power. But unlike most other members of Disney's rogue's gallery, Yzma manages to be both entertaining and threatening at the same time. She and her henchman, Kronk (voiced by the incomparable Patrick Warburton) provide some of the most adult and genuinely amusing comedy that Disney has ever brought to the table. However, at the same time she also manages to be genuinely frightening - even when she is transformed into a small pink kitten. Anyone who can pull THAT off deserves to be considered great.

#3: Darth Vader, Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

"You have failed me for the last time."

If you're like most geeks, then you probably associate Darth Vader as the face of evil. While this character may have been castrated by George Lucas and Hayden Christiensen in the past few years, Vader was once one of the coolest and most frightening villains in cinematic history. I listed Empire Strikes Back specifically because, more than any of the other films, Vader is at his best here. Starting off with a brutal and effective assault on (and victory over) our heroes, continuing on to casually murder his own officers, and finally toying with Luke in their horribly one-sided duel - Vader never loses a tick in his long line of incredible villainy.

Don't get me wrong, Vader is awesome in Episodes 4 and 6 - and he even has the occasional moment in the prequel trilogy. But in Empire Strikes Back, Vader was at his mostcool, terrifying, and threatening, which makes him eternally memorable

#2: Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

"If Mr. McMurphy doesn't want to take his medication orally, I'm sure we can arrange that he can have it some other way. But I don't think he would like it..."

If you've ever been in the hospital for more than a day, you know that nurses are scary, scary people. Even more so, if you have ever dealt with health care professionals in mental health wards, you know that these people are even more terrifying. The reason they are so scary is because these people have a tremendous amount of power over people when they are at their most vulnerable. Knowing these things, Nurse Ratched is one of the scariest characters that I have ever encountered on film. Why?

Simply put, it's because she is one of the most accurate depictions of a mental health professional gone wrong that I have ever seen. She doesn't care about her patients - instead only cares about maintaining order and control in her ward. She hands out medication to her patients at her own discretion, and resorts to barbaric treatments simply as retaliation for bad behavior. Well written female villains are hard to come by, but of all of them that there are, Nurse Ratched takes the cake, making her the Queen of All Villainy.

#1: HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey

"I'm sorry, Dave. I just can't do that."

Of all the villains in all the films in all the world, none of them come anywhere near as impressive as the computer system known as HAL 9000.

The world has seen a lot of movies about Artificial Intelligence taking over the world, being evil, and generally going not according to plan. One of the biggest examples of this is Skynet, the defense system responsible for the Terminator movies. While Skynet has indeed become a more recent icon for when computers go bad, it does not hold a candle to its predecessor.

Compared to HAL 9000, Skynet - and its army of Terminators - is a whiny, pathetic little wuss. HAL 9000 was terrifyingly intelligent, coldly logical, and murderously callous. It was omnipresent and - within the confines of the ship on which the film takes place - omnipotent. There has never been a villain so powerful, terrifying, and memorable as the little red eye on the wall who is sorry, but he just can't let you do that.