Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Villains (Part 2 of my 30 favorite characters from movies and TV shows)

    There are many things that bring me back to the movies or TV shows I love. Sometimes it’s the writing, or the experience, or the visual appeal, but more often than not, it’s the characters that bring me back for more. Sometimes, even if the movie isn’t that great, I’ll still be on board just because I love the characters, and love watching them on the journey. There are so many characters I love from various TV shows, and movies that I’ve always wanted to highlight my personal Top 30 favorites, the cream of the crop, the ones that have stuck with me long after viewing them. In order to give this rather long list some variety, I’m going to break it down into three classes. They will be my top 10 favorite animated characters, my top 10 favorite villains and my top 10 favorite characters in general from various movies and TV shows. Also, with some exceptions, I’m only selecting a single character from a series or movie. With all that said, lets continue my three part countdown with my top 10 favorite movie villains ...

#10 Dark Helmet (Spaceballs

Darth Vader from the “Star Wars” franchise is obviously one of cinema’s most iconic bad guys, but he’s not the one kicking off my list of favorite movie villains ... oh no. Instead of an intimidating strategist, I’ll take this pathetic dweeb in the same role. Rather than just being an obvious parody of Darth Vader, Dark Helmet manages to create his own unique identify, largely in part of Rick Moranis, who’s fantastic in the role, and improvised many of his own lines. Personally, of all the popular funny villains out there, no-one entertains me more than this guy. The reason he works so well is because everyone in the movie still treats him like he’s Darth Vader, everyone is terrified of him, he has a giant empire at his command, yet he’s clueless in how to run it. For my money, there’s nothing funnier than a powerful, all controlling villain who’s a complete looser. He has over a dozen quotable lines, Rick Moranis is just full of energy, and he’s the biggest driving force that always brings me back to one of my favorite comedies.

#9 The Invisible Man (The Invisible Man)

Naturally my favorite horror movie villain of all time is one of Universals classic golden age monsters, but it’s not Frankenstein, Dracula or The Wolf Man taking the top honors on this list, instead it’s the Invisible Man. This is a villain that goes beyond your stereotypical horror movie bad guy, in fact he feels more like someone that belongs in a Shakespeare play, and the performance is just as operatic. Of all the talented actors who’ve brought these classic monsters to life, no one excites me as much as Claude Rains in this role. Not only is his voice chillingly sinister but his personality is outstanding, he perfectly balances the line between being intimidating, sympathetic, ruthless, heartless and hilarious. He also has one of the most spectacular evil laughs I ever heard. You can never tell what this guys going to do next, sometimes he’ll flip out and let lose all his anger, then he’ll do something sadistically funny. More often than not, he’ll be delivering an ominous monologue that’ll send chills down your spine. For his charismatic performance, chilling voice and dominating screen presence, the Invisible Man still stands as my favorite villain from the horror movie catalogue. 

#8 Biff (The “Back to the Future” series)

When it comes to the generic “bully” character, no one owns it quiet like Biff from the “Back to the Future” trilogy. On the surface he may come off like a one-note bad guy, harassing woman, picking on kids and yelling at his elders. However, he just feels more interesting and more charismatic then just a clichéd bully. Thomas F. Wilson’s performance is about as solid as they get. He’s also extremely funny, has lots of memorable catchphrases and we see him evolve and change in various time lines, as well as alternate time lines. He may not be anything more than a “bully”, but he’s also an iconic movie villain in his own right. One thing’s for certain, if you ever cross paths with this guy during a time traveling adventure ... you better make like a tree and get out of there!      

#7 Judge Doom (Who Framed Rodger Rabbit

From the recesses of my child hood comes Judge Doom, portrayed brilliantly by the great Christopher Lloyd. In this classic combination of live action and animation, we get a bad guy who’s basically a live action cartoon character, and thus he can get away with every cartoony villain cliché you’d expect from a character of this sort. He’s tall, dark, intimidating and has a personality ranging from quiet and subdued to manic and over the top. I love a villain that can cover a wide range of theatrics and Judge Doom just seems to have everything I enjoy in a classy antagonist. I love it when he’s quiet and imposing, that way it makes his over the top scenes all the more exciting, fun and perhaps even a touch scary for kids. I was very little when I first saw this movie, and to be honest I don’t remember him scaring me too much, with the exception of that one scene in which he killed that cute little cartoon shoe ... yeah, that got to me. Whether he actually scared you or not, he’s undeniably a sinister presence, and a highly entertaining villain all the same.    

#6 Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man 2)

When it comes to Super Villains from comic books, Spider-Man’s classic foe Doctor Octopus has always been a personal favorite of mine. Naturally, it was his appearance in the 2004 movie “Spider-Man 2” that launched him into absolute greatness, and secured his reputation as one of Hollywood’s greatest comic book movie villains. He did all the evil things you’d associate with a super villain, and then some... He was imposing, had a dark sense of hummer and while the character has his signature robotic arms, its Alfred Molina performance that takes the character up to the next level. Personally, nothing excites me more than a villain with a good reformation story. Doctor Octopus transition from good to evil is one of the more subtle, yet effective to come from a villain of this sort. I like that despite all his actions, somewhere deep down is a good scientist with a continence, and one willing to give his own life to save the city from the very dooms day weapon he created. Ranging from menacing and dominate to sympathetic and reformed, Doctor Octopus will always be a shining example of an admittedly clichéd super villain done right.    

#5 Agent Smith (The Matrix trilogy) 

In the world of The Matrix, human kind has been enslaved by machines, while a small band of freedom fighters aim to set them free. The biggest obstacle standing in their way is a well dressed, un-killable super agent that will stop at nothing to see mankind destroyed. While he’s basically a computer programed to terminate all who resist, Smith has his own personal goal, to break out of the system and become an individual. Hugo Weaving absolutely shines in the role, and gives the character a sheer presence of dread and menace. Even though the character gets very hammy in the later films, he’s still a malevolent foe, with a commanding presence. The best villains are the ones who always keep calm, collected, and yet can still put up a fight. I also love antagonists that are polar opposites of the protagonists, and Smith is a perfect offset to our hero Neo.    

#4 The T-1000 (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)

It’s hard not to be intimidated by a giant, super strong killer robot played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, yet it’s the smaller, less muscular T-1000 terminator who really comes off as the more terrifying killer cyborg. He has liquid metal shape shifting abilities that visually will knock your socks off, and a stunning performance from Robert Patrick that’s the real icing on the cake. Much like Agent Smith, this is a very one-track villain with a simple goal to kill the hero, yet he has this captivating presence and just feels like something more than just an obstacle for our protagonists to fight. Once again, this is a performance that covers a range of theatrics and emotions. Were as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s terminator was consistently robotic, this guy could act very human, and very normal. This makes him all the more intimidating, and it’s an absolute thrill whenever he’s on screen.   

#3 The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz)

As far back as I remember, “The Wizard of Oz” was one of the very first movies I ever saw in my lifetime, and thus the Wicked Witch of the West was one of my first introductions to classic villainy. To describe a perfect villain is something I can’t do justice, but I know it when I see it, and to this day, phew other villains have had the same commanding screen presence as this literary witch brought to life on the silver screen. This the character that would be the archetype for several other movie villains to aspire from, and the perfect model for an on-screen witch. The green skin and black attire obviously make for a memorable design, but it’s the joyously evil performance from Margaret Hamilton and maniacal nature that makes this villain so fun to watch. Over the years she’s stood the test of time as one of the great iconic villains, and she’s still the stuff of nightmares for young children. 

#2 Darth Vader (The “Star Wars” Series) 

What a shock, Darth Vader ranks high on my list of favorite villains. Sorry to be so predictable, but I’m not going to lie about my opinion, and Darth Vader is without a doubt one of my all time favorite villains. He’s often regarded as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) villains ever in film and for a good reason. Right from the first movie, he’s intimidating and a powerful enemy, with one of the sharpest designs I’ve ever seen. That awesome helmet, long cape, red lightsaber and the commanding voice of James Earl Jones ... it’s just perfect. Throw in a complex story of him going from a tragic fallen hero, too evil galactic conqueror and then in the end he becomes a hero again, and you got yourself an A+ bad guy. This was the first time I ever found myself caring for a villain, and with that bit of emotional depth and back story mixed with his awesome look and design, that’s the perfect ingredients for one of Hollywood’s best villains and my personal favorite character from the Star Wars series.

Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some quick honorable mentions ...

Two-Face - (The Dark Knight)

Hall 9000 – (2001: A Space Odyssey)

Scaramanga – (The Man with the Golden Gun)

Imhotep – (The Mummy)

Shinzon – (Star Trek Nemesis)

#1 Magneto (The “X-Men” Series) 

In my opinion, villains don’t get any better than Magneto. He’s powerful, methodical, tragic, heroic, complex, frightening, intimidating, vengeful, and just about everything you need for a great character. He’s like the Shakespeare villain of all comic book movie villains, and is every bit as sophisticated and classy as his characters too. The most frightening villains always seem the most human, but are always hiding something sinister. Adapted from the X-Men Comic books, Magneto is a super villain with the power to control metal objects, but he only gets more interesting from there. Shaped by the atrocities of world war II, Magneto’s contempt for human kind is far more vengeful, and makes his goals to liberate mutants from their human oppressors all the more personal. Magneto is scary both as a metaphor, and as one who believes he’s taking the right actions against others who in his mind should be branded as villains. Even his relation with the hero’s is interesting as he doesn’t hate them the same way other villains just want to see their adversaries dead. He’s also been brought to life through two stand-out performances from Ian Mckellen and Michael Fassbender, who both convey the tragedy and the menace of the character perfectly. Ian Mckellen’s performance as Magneto has achieved iconic movie villain status, right up there with the Joker and Darth Vader. How he ranks among them is up for debate, but for me personally, he isn’t just my favorite comic book villain, he’s my favorite villain I’ve ever seen in a motion picture series.

     To Be Continued ...

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