Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Top 10 Christmas Villains



Aw Christmas, the most peaceful, joyous, and loving time of year … what an ideal occasion to talk about villains. “Ha, Ha”. All joking aside, some of the most famous holiday characters are either evil do-ers trying to end the holiday, or grumpy misers who just don’t understand the meaning of the season. Weather they reform or just remain bad is all on the table, but my one condition is that I won’t be including any Christmas Horror movie villains … in other words, no “Krampus” or “Gremlins” here, although I was very tempted to include the ladder. With all that said, lets take a look at my favorite holiday characters who are most deserving of a lump of coal.


#10 King Winterbolt from “Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July


Rankin Bass’s holiday specials have featured some of the most famous animated Christmas villains ever, including The Abominable Snow Monster of the North, Burgermeister Meisterburger, Ben Haramed, Professor Hinkle, Winter Warlock, Kubla Kraus and of course The Miser Brothers … who both came very close to making my countdown. However, if I had to single-out one personal favorite for my countdown, it would have to be King Winterbolt without question. He’s an evil snow sorcerer who creates blizzards, snowstorms and is voiced by the late Paul Frees ... I’m sure he was casted just for the irony of his last name. Aside from his malevolent presence, he’s also got all the good stuff, or bad stuff, like snow dragons, a genie of the Ice Scepter, flying ice snakes, and a diabolical plot that’s got more layers then an onion. I think the writers may have enjoyed their vileness creation a little too much, because he gets more screen time, backstory and motivated plot then any other character in the film. Keep in mind, this is a special packed with iconic Christmas characters like Santa Clause, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Noised Reindeer, and even Jack Frost … and yet it’s the villain who somehow steels the whole show.   


#9 Pitch from “Rise of the Guardians


I didn’t feel right including Oogie Boogie on this countdown, as I’ve always viewed him as a Halloween villain first, so here’s a different kind of Boogie Man to compensate. The villain Pitch is about as evil and creepy as holiday villains get. The design is really good, and voice actor Jude Law is terrific in the role. While the character himself admittedly feels like a jumble of other popular villains rolled into one, he certainly has just enough original marks to stand out. His encounters with our hero’s do lead to some exciting action scenes, and some stylishly dark imagery that you’d normally never see in a Christmas film. I certainly don’t think the movie ever went too dark or too scary, it’s at just the right level where it will excite kids, without ruining the fun holiday experience.


#8 The Mouse King from “The Nutcracker Prince” (1990)


The Nutcracker was a common Christmas tale read to me by my parents during the holiday season, and as such, the Mouse King always stood out to me as a memorable Christmas villain in his own right. My favorite portrayal of him was in the 1990 animated movie “The Nutcracker Prince”. His design was very Don Bluth-esk, and didn’t quiet resemble his book illustration … this version just has one head as opposed to several. Never the less, he was menacing, deadly, and this was the version of The Nutcracker I watched the most frequently as a kid. The highlight comes near the climax, in which the Mouse King is near death, yet still clinging to life in an effort to do-away with Clara. The animation on the Mouse King during this confrontation is the stuff of nightmares for little kids, which made him all the more memorable.  


#7 King Herod from “The Nativity Story


Of all the bad men to be associated with the holiday, King Herod is perhaps the most nefarious of all, as he aimed to kill Jesus Christ himself while just a baby in a manger. It’s Ciarán Hinds portrayal of Herod from the 2006 movie “The Nativity Story” that always comes to mind first when I think of him, and he gives the role his usual stamp of both menace and class. He was everything cruel, heartless, and the most dangerous villain to nearly end the holiday season itself from ever taking shape. 
  

#6 Evil Robot Santa from “Futurama


In this shows odd-ball setting of the future, Christmas is a time when families and friends are brought together, not through peace or love, but because there’s a crazy, laser gun shooting robot Santa who’s determined that everyone’s holiday is a real “BLAST”. However, the boy from the past named Fry is feeling nostalgia for the original spirit of Christmas and is determined to go out and get his girlfriend Leela a present … even if that means battling an evil robot Santa in the process. It’s a hilarious concept with no shortage of funny quirks, like how a mistletoe is no match for robot Santa’s toe-missile. John Goodman is fantastic as the evil Santa robot, and it’s pretty surreal hearing him as the voice of a villain, as opposed to all the nicer cartoon characters he usually voices


#5 Scut Farkus from “A Christmas Story


Enter a generic, a yellow eyed, school bully, who despite his basic character status … somehow leaves a memorable impression, and just owns every scene he’s in. Yeah, he’s as one-note a bully character as they get, and yet he’s a strong addition to the film. He’s all for show, and has no real guts of his own, but man does he love spotlighting himself as the ultimate tough guy on the block. One little detail that always stuck out is that Scut Farkus sinister theme music is lifted right from Disney’s “Peter and the Wolf” cartoon. Seriously, watch that short and tell me it’s not the wolfs exact music score, and heck, even Scut Farkus’s introduction scene mirrors how the wolf was introduced in that short.


#4 Forte from “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas


Voiced by the distinguished Tim Curry ... need to say any more than that? I mean … it’s Tim Curry as an over the top cartoon villain, and he livens up everything. You could have the most passive, one dimensional character in the world, and he’ll still make the performance a lot of fun to watch. I especially love the design of this guy, as he’s basically a giant pipe organ with a scary face. The animation on the character is great, and while he’s obviously CGI in a 2D setting, the effects are still cutting edge for the time. In fact, he just looks like something that should be CGI, and it’s also cool to have a villain that’s just towering over our heroes. While the motivations are by the numbers, and really don’t make any logical sense, he still has an engaging presence, and steels every scene. It really is Tim Curry who redeems this otherwise shallow character, just by acting so deliciously over the top.


#3 Hans Gruber from “Die Hard


I’ve always viewed Alan Rickman as one of the most charismatic villain actors to ever live, and this is the performance that stands in the Hollywood hall of fame as one of the absolute greatest. He’s suave, charming, laid back, yet extremely ruthless and unsympathetic. He’s also a villain who’s self-aware, as he knows he’s just a common robber, but wants to be viewed as someone of class and high stature. So, he puts on a show, dresses up, is well versed and postures like he’s a brilliant mastermind with greater ambitions then the situation would suggest. The back and forth between he and John McClain is one of the greatest hero/ villain relationships I’ve ever seen. The two don’t even meet face to face until the very end, and the majority of their conflict is conveyed through conversation on walkie talkie’s, yet it’s still extremely engaging. Just watching these two one up each other with their own distinct mannerisms and witty comebacks is highly entertaining, as well as brilliant film-making.


#2 Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol


No matter which version you go by, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most enduring and downright heartwarming redemption tails of all time. This grumpy old miser just couldn’t get into the spirit of the holiday and made sure that everyone was just as miserable as her was. Through some serious soul searching from his past, present and future he was finally able to let the warmth of the holiday touch his soul, and everyone turned out better for it. It’s such a timeless tail, with a rich message and he remains both a famous literary character and one of the all-time greatest Christmas villains. He could have easily been number one, but … of course there’s one other I haven’t mentioned yet


Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some Honorable Mentions … 

Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life

Harry and Marv from "Home Alone

The Miser Brothers from "The Year Without Santa Claus

Toy Santa from "Santa Clause 2

Granville Sawyer from "Miracle on 34th Street"




#1. The Grinch from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas


He was as cuddly as a cactus, as charming as an eel, and the biggest monster that would stop at nothing to ruin everyone’s favorite holiday, just for the sake of being nasty. Of course, he reaches an epiphany in the end and realizes just how wrong he was in judging the holiday and those who celebrate it. Seeing this miserable creature open up to the light of Christmas is simply one of the warmest feel good moments I’ve ever seen any character go through. Just like Scrooge, the Grinch has had his share of film portrayals, and for the sake of this countdown, things don’t get any better than the original classic voiced by the Frankenstein monster himself Boris Karloff. Although, I do still admittedly have some fondness for Jim Carry in the role. Either way, he’s one of the all-time greatest holiday characters, and absolutely my favorite Christmas villain.    

The End


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