Monday, May 18, 2015

My Top 10 Favorite Villain Actors

Some actors were just born to play villains, and prove that sometimes, it’s just more fun to be bad. From the early days of classic horror movies, to modern age with popular comic book villains, there are some select actors that frequently get casted as villains. While many actors like Garry Oldman and Ian Mckellen are well known for playing hero’s, there still very recognizable as classic movie villains, so for this list, I’m counting down my personal top 10 favorite actors that I love to see in the roles of a villains, even if their versatile and can play a hero just as well. Also, keep in mind, this isn’t an official list of who I believe the absolute greatest villain actors, these are just my personal favorites.  

(10) Tom Hardy 

He’s become an action star for this generation, but personally, whenever I think of Tom Hardy, I always think of how he brought some of the best modern day movie and TV villains to life. You never see the same performance twice with him, whenever he plays a bad guy, he always brings something new to the table, and he never once comes off like an actor playing the same role again. I will always remember him best for playing Captain Picard’s arch foe Shinzon in the 2002 picture “Star Trek: Nemesis”, as he displayed a wide range of acting skills, from charming, to witty, to threatening, to sad and complex. He also played an unpredictable, and extremely violent mobster named Alfie Solomons in the acclaimed 2013 TV series “Peaky Blinders”. Of course his biggest claim to modern fame is when he played Batman’s unstoppable enemy Bane from “The Dark Knight Rises”. In that film, Hardy completely stole the show and elevated a basic, cookie cutter bad guy into one of the most memorable comic books villains of the decade. Over the years Tom Hardy has proven a force to be reckoned with in the acting world, and he’s the perfect star to kick off this countdown.  

(9) Ron Perlman 

Okay, now here’s an actor who’s simply made of awesome, and has had quiet the variety of playing hero’s, villains, anti-hero’s and just plain crazy people. While he’s definitely awesome in the role of a good “bad boy” like in the “Son’s of Anarchy” TV series or the title role of Hellboy from the “Hellboy” film series, I’ll always enjoy Ron Perlman the best when he’s in the role of the villain. He’s so laid back and chill, yet so sinister and cryptic all at once. He played a brutal vampire in the Marvel comic adapted movie “Blade 2”, and he was featured as a monstrous viceroy in the 2002 picture “Star Trek: Nemesis”. He’s also had quiet the carrier as a talented voice actor, bringing animated villains like Clayface to life in “Batman: The Animated Series”, and the Stabbington Brothers in Disney’s “Tangled”. I’ll always remember him best as the voice of Slade from the 2003 TV series “Teen Titans”, one of my favorite animated super villains of all time and a true testament to Ron Perlman’s acting skills as he infused the character with a deeply chilling voice and cryptic tone. If it’s voice acting or live action, Ron Perlman is always awesome, and always bad to the bone.   

(8) Kevin Spacey 

Spacey is one of those actors who can flip between playing sympathetic nice guys as seen in “Pay it Forward” and strait up loyal comrades in films like “The Negotiator”, too some of the most strait up awesome villains. Whenever he plays the bad guy, he always has this calm menacing demeanor as if he’s the one holding all the cards. I was first introduced to Spacey in the 1995 picture “The Usual Suspects”, in which he played the criminal master mind Keyser Soze who hid under the guise of a no-body crook secretly pooling all the strings. Other note worthy roles include his portrayal of a sadistic serial killer in the 1995 thriller “SeVen”,, supplying the voice of a menacing Grasshopper in Pixar's "A Bugs Life", and for playing Superman’s classic adversary Lex Luther in the 2006 picture “Superman Returns”. With his offbeat attitude and quiet confidence, you know he’s always planning his next sinister move and he continues to stand as one of Hollywood’s most beloved villain actors.    

(7) Jason Isaacs 

Now here’s a very underrated, yet extremely gifted actor who always hits it out of the park in the role of the bad guy. Jason Isaacs just has this magnetic presence. Whenever he’s on screen, he’s the actor you’re paying the most attention to. It’s that stern look on his face and awesome voice that make him so captivating. He’s probably most well known for playing Lucius Malfoy from the “Harry Potter” series, in which he pretty much stole every scene he was in, and in my opinion out shined the franchises main antagonist. He also terrorized Neverland as the sinister Pirate Captain Hook in the 2003 film version of “Peter Pan”. He also played one hell of a brutal soldier called Colonel William Tavington from the 2000 picture “The Patriot”, in which he didn’t hesitate to burn down a church full of woman and children. Isaacs is also recognized as the lifelong criminal Michael Caffee in the TV series “Brotherhood”. He even made a brief appearance as a villain in the Marvel Comic adapted movie “Elektra”. Like many of the talents on my list, Jason Isaacs has lended his vocal talents to animated movies and TV shows, supliying the voices of villains from “Avatar: The Last Air Bender”, and Batman’s foe Ra’s Al Ghul in the 2010 animated picture “Batman Under the Red Hood”. Just recently he supplied the voice of the Inquisitor from the hit series “Star Wars Rebels”, who’s easily one of my new favorite villains from the "Star Wars" franchise. Whether it’s on the small screen or big screen, Jason Isaacs always plays an awesome villain, and more often than not steals the show with ease.

(6) Alan Rickman 

While Rickman is well known for playing complex hero’s like Snap from the “Harry Potter” series, I’ll always remember him as the swab and poetic Hans Gruber from “Die Hard”, one of the greatest villains from the 1980’s. There’s just something about Rickman’s face, body movement and vocal rhythm that just make him perfectly fitting in the role of a classy bad guy. Another iconic villain portrayal from Rickman came in the form of the sheriff of Nottingham, from the 1991 action hit “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”. We also hated his guts as the judge from Tim Burtons “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. Heck, even his part in “Sense and Sensibility” made you hate his guts. You can never picture him as a romantic lead, and only occasionally as good guy, but one thing’s for certain, Alan Rickman will always electrify the silver screen in the role of a villain.  

(5) Mark Hamill 

Now this is a rare case in which a talented villain actor makes my list for his voice acting alone. When it comes to live action, most people associate Mark Hamill with Luke Skywalker from the “Star Wars” franchise, one of Hollywood’s most popular hero’s. But in the voice acting world, he brings villains to life like no other. His vocal performance is just so deviously delicious, as he commonly drags out his lines and changes the pitch of his voice from soft spoken to psychotically over the top. Just like many of the talented actors I’ve mentioned, it never feels like Hamill voices the same character twice, he always brings something new to the table, and it’s always awesome. Some of his sinister voice acting highlights include Fire Lord Ozai from the epic TV series “Avatar: The Last Air Bender”, Spider-Mans crazy foe The Hobgoblin from the 1990’s Spider-Man Animated Series, Colonel Muska in the Hayao Miyazaki classic “Castle in the Sky”, a ruthless Viking called Alvin the Treacherous from the DreamWorks “How to Train Your Dragon” TV series, and he even returned to the “Star Wars” franchise to voice a villain named Darth Bane in the final episode of the TV series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. 

But his biggest claim to fame, and the whole reason he’s on my list is because he voiced Batman’s greatest enemy The Joker in the 1990’s show “Batman: The Animated Series”, which was so successful that he continued to supply the voice of the character in several other TV shows, video games and animated movies including the theatrical 1993 picture “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm”. Personally I think Mark Hamill is the greatest actor to ever play the Joker, which is no small accomplishment considering how great Heath Ledger, Jake Nicolson and Caesar Romero were in the role. This just shows how sharp his voice acting talents are, he can measure up to the high talents of actors from live action portrayals. He’s the guy who can combine big laughs with big scares, and he’ll always stand out to me as the most classic Joker.  

(4) Hugo Weaving 

Even when playing hero characters like V from “V for Vendetta”, or voicing the dog Rex in “Babe”, Hugo Weaving always has this intimidating and frightening persona. This is yet another versatile performer who can be subtle and freighting, or cartoonishly over the top. Either way, Weaving is always a lot of fun and can always leave an impression. He played a terrific super villain as Captain Americas enemy the Red Skull in the 2011 Marvel comic movie “Captain America: The First Avenger”. Even though I never liked any of the “Transformer” movies, his vocal role as Megatron is still worth mentioning. Of course his most unforgettable villain role of all is Neo’s arch foe Agent Smith from “The Matrix trilogy”, one of the most classic villains of the modern age. More than anything, it’s that awesome voice of his, and his facial structure with his eyebrows always in up-right devil position, that make him such a captivating villain actor.

(3) Vincent Price 

He’s been called the great prince of horror cinema and for good reason because actors don’t get any more frightening or any classier then Vincent Price. It’s like if a Shakespeare villain came to life and took an interest in Horror. He had a wide range of acting talents, and is the kind of actor that treats every performance like he’s aiming to win an academy award. He’s played shadowy and mysterious characters in films like “The Fall of the House of Usher”, and the 1959 classic “A House on a Haunted Hill”. He’s also very good at playing sad tormented characters like the ones featured in his Poe films such as the 1961 picture “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Naturally sense he’s on my countdown, he’s had his fare share of playing horror movie villains. He was also the lead role in “The Invisible Man Returns”, bringing one of Universals most popular movie monsters to life. He was a skull-faced sadist named Dr. Death in the 1974 picture “Madhouse”. The 1971 movie called “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” features Price in one of his most iconic horror villain roles, in which he plays a killer out for revenge against a group of doctors. It’s also worth mentioning that he supplied the voice of one of my favorite animated Disney villains ... Professor Ratigan from Disney’s “The Great Mouse Detective”. My favorite horror movie of his by far is the 1953 classic “House of Wax”, in which Vincent Price plays a creepy museum owner who secretly stalks and kills people to add them to his collection of figures in a wax museum. All in all, Vincent Price is a true renaissance actor and a legend in horror cinema.  

(2) Tim Curry

You better hid the scenery because this guy will chew it up. With his manic energy, over the top theatrics and creepy English accent, Tim Curry has played some of the most over the top and cartoony villains in all of cinema. Ever sense he first appeared as a transsexual wack-job in the 1975 cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, Tim Curry made it clear that he can take any role and run with it ... run to the firkin moon with it! I swear, he is a live action cartoon, and his performances are always so deliciously over the top. He has that big evil smile, he always stretches out his values, he whispers slimy threats, he screams, yells, raises his eye brows and I just can’t get enough of the guy. I was first introduced to him as the dastard pirate John Silver from “The Muppets Treasure Island”, and things only got more awesome from there. He was the wickedly over the top Cardinal from the 1993 picture “The Three Musketeers”, and he even played the devil himself in the 1985 fantasy film “Legend”. But my favorite performance of his by far is when he played the crazy killer clown named Pennywise from Steven Kings “It!”. That was the role that showcased how talented Tim Curry was with combining scares with an over the top sense of hummer. Heck, he’s even bonkers when voicing villains in animated movies and TV shows. His resume is far too big to cover everything at once, but some of his voice acting highlights include a monstrous puff of smoke named Hexxus in the 1992 picture “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest”, an mad scientist from the “Gargoyles” TV series, Captain Hook in “Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates”, an enchanted piano named Forte from the Disney sequel “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” and he even supplied the voice of one of the greatest “Star Wars” villains Emperor Palpatine in the final season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. Never holding back, and always a tone of fun, Tim Curry is a rare over the top villain actor that exceeds at being frightening and funny all at once.

Before I award my number 1 favorite Villain actor, here are my Honorable Mentions

Garry Oldman
Willem Dafoe
Bela Lugosi
Christopher Walken
Boris Karloff
Michael Ironside
Tony Jay 

(1) Christopher Lee 

He’s been called the great grandfather of classic horror movie actors, he's stared in big blockbusters in his old age, and sadly just recently passed away this month at the age of 93. with his towering frame, sinister glare and deep mighty voice, Christopher Lee is simply one of cinemas greatest villain actors of all time. He can just turn on a dime between acting slick and charming to sinister and enraged, which make him so awesome. Over the centuries, Lee has starred in more horror movies and has played more villains then I can begin to recap. It’s just so cool to see him go from old horror films like “Taste of Fear” from 1961, or “The Wicker Man” from 1973 to playing the white wizard Saruman in a big blockbuster franchise like “The Lord of the Rings” series. He’s also well known for playing the evil Sith lord Count Dooku from the “Star Wars” franchise, arguably one of the best villains from that series. If you play a James Bond Villain, you have a life time membership in Hollywood’s villain hall of fame, and Lee’s portrayal as Scaramanga from “The Man with the Golden Gun” still stands as one of 007’s most unforgettable adversaries. But his biggest and most unforgettable villain role is that of Count Dracula in the 1958 horror classic “Horror of Dracula”. He continued to frighten audiences in the role of the famous vampire in countless sequels and countless other films, making him the most iconic and bad ass actor to ever play Dracula. Even though he sadly passed away and can be credited for turning in several great performances outside of bad guys, I'll always remember him as the most captivating villain actor who ever lived. With a resume that can hardly be matched, Christopher Lee had a lasting film career that other actors could only dream of, and he'll always be remembered for the good times, and vileness ones too.

Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015), may he rest in peace. 

The End

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