It’s been interesting to watch the reaction to this countdown up until this point. Listening as people outwardly react to a disagreeable placement or potential exclusion. It’s like a cinematic manifestation of the abused wife psychology. People protecting the ones who hurt them most. It measures the power of these performances and characters. I expect that there will be more of that as we move ahead: defensive debate for the bad guys, and I welcome it. I’ll address it all when it’s all said and done, but for now, let’s poke a few more snakes, shall we?
40. Raoul Silva, Skyfall
Cool your fucking jets, James Bond fans! Your villains aren’t on this list because they don’t deserve to be. Your villains aren’t hated, they’re cartoons. They might as well twist curled mustaches and carry around black bombs with fuses on them. No one’s ever had nightmares about the villains in these movies. The old animated Scooby Doo villains have been traditionally more menacing than James Bond’s villains. Until Sam Mendes and Javier Bardem stepped in and weirded things up. Silva is a scary dude. A brilliant strategist for the first half of the film and an illogical chaos machine in the second. And in between? A hypnotizing close in perspective revealing history, a disturbing rat metaphor, and, you guessed it, gruesome scars. Silva is the perfect cross between Bane and Hannibal Lecter.
39. Emperor Palpatine, Star Wars series
38. Edwin Epps, 12 Years a Slave
Edwin Epps is the most fitting face ever put to our country’s darkest hour. He’s the perfect hissing and spitting evil, perverted rage to personify that vast and institutional evil. Michael Fassbender is one of the most intense and committed performers working today, so it’s no surprise that he adopts this evil to such an upsetting degree. The entire film is a harsh perspective, but the arrival of Edwin Epps and his inhuman treatment of young Patsey mark the farthest boundary of cruelty yet to be measured by a slave movie in America. In that sense, our reaction to Edwin Epps is a form of necessary self-loathing, the sort of functional hate that helps measure our society’s past and shape its future.
37. Regina George, Mean Girls
Before it starts, let me just say, I know: Women/girls don’t entirely hate Regina George. There’s an element of envy, necessity, and maybe even admiration at play here. That’s part of what sets her and this movie apart. “But we all want to be Regina George,” women will say in my high-pitched mocking voice “We all have a little Regina George in us.” And again, I get it. And that’s why we men hate her. Because we hate that small segment of you that identifies with her, yearns to be her. That inner-Regina that sometimes comes out of you is a bitch. She’s a bitch. Regina is the personification of the subtle manipulation at which all women excel, the passive personal criticism of the friends we just met for dinner, the backhanded compliments that make you think you’re so clever. So, next time you’re making a husband or boyfriend watch Mean Girls and you giggle and get ready to explain “See? Girls are totally like that!” Don’t bother. We already know. And we fucking hate it.
36. That Yellow Bastard, Sin City
That Yellow Bastard is a perversion of my scar theory. He has the scars, the mutilation, but it takes a much more horrific form. In a predominantly colorless movie, the bastard’s yellow skin just looks like it stinks. His giant nose and bitter face indicate that he’s even angrier because he has to deal with his own odor. And like all the other scarred villains on the list, he’s seeking retribution. But his ambition is exponentially more loathsome because That Yellow Bastard is seeking retribution for raping and murdering children by raping and murdering more children. And you know your sadism has gotten out of control when you still need this movie’s Jessica Alba, the hottest Jessica Alba there ever was, to scream for arousal.
35. Top Dollar, The Crow
Eric Draven didn’t give two shits about Top Dollar. The Crow that brought Eric back didn’t care either. It was Skank, Tin-Tin, et al who did the raping and murdering that necessitated post-mortal revenge. Top Dollar went looking for his own trouble, like a grade A fuck-up. That’s why Top Dollar is so skeazy. He pursued every thing he shouldn’t; the sinful, the taboo, the self-destructive. Drug abuse, murder, incest, and the sleaziest edges of makeshift capitalism. Top Dollar is what your grandma is imagining when she talks about that “Satanic rock n’roll music.” So, yeah, he gives that weird backstory about his dad which probably shaped him into the slimeball he is, but even so. Buck up, Top Dollar. We all have to be responsible for own actions at some point. We can’t all get our own episode of Intervention to set us straight.
34. Max Cady, Cape Fear
One of the more parodied and referenced villain presences in film history, either iteration of the character works as an entry on the list. But where Mitchum is sinister and wicked, DeNiro brings a more unhinged lunacy and a murkier investigation than a standard throwaway matchup of good vs. evil. DeNiro and Scorse’s Cady is a man who is evil, but not wrong in his cornerstone obsession. He has been wronged and he attempts to find justice by revealing the smaller criminality in others. Cady’s goal isn’t just revenge; he seeks to level the moral measure of those who have done bad things to him. Retribution. Of most terrible sort. Perhaps that’s the scariest thing of all. An evil madman who has the potential to make us face our own villainous deeds.
33. Hans Beckert, M
Fritz Lang’s dull-eyed child serial killer marks the earliest film entry on our list. In 1931, film was still feeling its way into its own form, and few directors had explored such rooted evil so nakedly. It’s not that the film began a template for serial killer films still being utilized; Hans Beckert makes a direct appeal for sympathy that even today, few directors would allow serial killers to make. Beckert offers a direct assertion that his crimes stemming from uncontrollable impulses make him less evil than those who simply choose not to live honest lives for personal gain. It is a perspective seldom explored not just in cinema, but in court rooms and public opinions. It is a perspective that might be true, and one that we hate to look in the eye.
32. Judge Doom, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a partially animated movie that presents two unexpectedly mature qualities: 1.) The puberty-kickstarting sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit’s curves (Honestly, does there exist a hotter cartoon?) and 2.) Its villain’s sinister intent and darkly existential implication. Judge Doom is very Nazi-like, both in technique (the torturous method of execution by chemical vat) and in personality. His desire to eliminate cartoons has an element of Hitler syndrome, exposed when his nightmarish cartoon eyes are revealed. However, his expressions are anything but stoic and angry. Doom delights in his business of delivering punishment. He is as pure a sadist as exists in movies, and again, his victims are cartoons. Doom aims to gut life of all of its magic, and in turns, he succeeds. I would rather watch a supercut of all the deaths in the Saw series than witness the sad shoe get dipped in the chemical again, a lowpoint in my childhood.
31. Warden Norton, Shawshank Redemption
I’ve said it a million times. Part of what makes Shawshank Redemption such a longstanding favorite film for so many is its naked appeal to a deep-rooted cultural masochism. And the sadist swinging the King James whip? This suited up prison warden with an extreme case of Short Man Syndrome. Think about it: the entire movie is a bucket of corruption and circumstance poured on the head of one undeserving innocent individual that reaches a satisfying climactic release. The warden’s arranged murder of a witness whose account might have freed Andy Dufresne is both a leap in villain status and one of the most disheartening moments of modern film.
30. Billy Mitchell, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Let’s talk about what Billy Mitchell has. Billy Mitchell has a successful hot sauce company, a hairstyle that would make Billy Ray Cyrus spit milk, a small army of laughably unthreatening henchmen, and a longstanding record on a video game that no one gives a shit about any more. Billy Mitchell does not have any right to an ego that licenses third-person self-reference. Yet Billy Mitchell refers to himself in third person as if he were Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Just to reiterate, this is a movie about an arcade game from the 80s. King of Kong presents an all-time great underdog story, colored by an immeasurably likable hero and an immeasurably unlikable antagonist. I can think of no other person on this I would like to punch more… partially because he’s one of the few that I could actually beat up.
29. Hans Gruber, Die Hard
Check that last statement. I could beat up Hans Gruber, if you take away the henchmen and artillery. There’s nothing that makes him exceptionally threatening. Hans isn’t worthy of hate because he’s intimidating. Rather, the hate is earned by Alan Rickman’s condescending expression. Hans looks at John McLane, America’s favorite everyman super hero, the way that I watch dogs take a shit. Like a bitchy runway model at a hot dog eating contest. Like a hot girl getting hit on in a shitty bar (you guys know the look). The “ew” face. Nevermind that he’s an international terrorist, Hans just has a perpetual and punchable “ew” face. It carries over, too. Fans of Die Hard probably don’t even realize that flash of residual anger they get when Snape looks at Potter the same way.
28. Bane, The Dark Knight Rises
Tom Hardy’s Bane had a lot working against him. He had to sequentially follow up one of the most revered villain performances of all time and he was constructed in a very distinct homage to another all-time great villain, so hear me out fanboys! I’m not comparing movies or performances (we can do that if you want to play ball!), but I am comparing villains, and Bane was the more fearful and effective villain in the Dark Knight series. Unlike with The Joker, there was never a comfortable sense that Batman would inevitably prevail. Where the Joker was chaos theory dulled by a personal interest, Bane was too massive, too smart, too in control. He was the prisoner from Plato’s cave let loose, given steroids and pain killers. When old-ass Batman decided the best time for a showdown with Bane was right after Bruce Wayne just enjoyed his first exhausting sex session in seven years, I fully expected the ol’ crutched crusader to be broken as badly as he was.
27. Asami Yamazaki, Audition
She isn’t bad at first. In fact, she’s kind of sweet. She has a soft beauty and a vulnerable shyness. I mean, before the movie veers directly into the most horrific of horror paths, we are kind of angry at Shigeharu Aoyama. How could he pull such a callous, manipulative trick on a young lady like this? She’s tiny, dainty, delicate. And so are her preferred weapons. That glistening thin wire saw. Carefully injected anesthetics. Those maliciously placed acupuncture needles. When she pukes in a bowl to feed her tongue-less prisoner (for those who haven’t seen this movie, I’m sorry for that image), we might feel nausea or disgust, but when she starts placing those needles and chanting that single word, well… if you don’t squirm in hate, you’re a stronger person than I am.
26. Chong Li, Bloodsport
Chong Li is the New York Yankees of the kumite. His unbroken championship success is established early in the movie and then revered by all the spectators and participants. We know he’s the champion when we watch him glare inexpressively at Frank Dux’s broken brick (the bottom one, bitch), when we see him kill a random contestant, and when he steps on Jackson’s skull. But that’s not when our hate hits high velocity. That happens when he bounces those inhuman pectorials interchangeably. Just uncalled for. He’s so calmly arrogant that the pursuing CID officers finally corner an AWOL Frank Dux, but look at Chong Li and say “You know what, just beat this guy’s ass before we take you in.”