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10 movie villains audiences truly despise

These picks are the worst of the worst


Written by Colm McCall and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


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All too often, I come across promising movies riddled with a very common flaw: unlikeable characters. When one contemplates the likeability of onscreen characters, it is usually geared towards the protagonist or heroine. Yet, if the aforementioned role is to be portrayed favourably, they must ultimately go up against a believable adversary. Thus for me, a major factor in creating likeability is believability. Please don’t misinterpret my point, the ‘bad guy’ should not be conceived as anyway heroic or cool, but rather as detestable.

This list will attempt to culminate a collective of villains, who either make viewers’ blood boil with rage or skin itch with sheer repulsion. Therefore, unlike many similar lists available out there, this compilation will exclude anti-heroes or those antagonists who have eclipsed the popularity of their respective rival or franchise. Consequently, the likes of Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson’s Joker or Anthony Hopkins’ chilling Hannibal Lector portrayals will be omitted from selection. If their face is on a t-shirt, their malevolence just hasn’t cut it for this list.


Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton, Gaslight (1944)

Whilst I shall always endeavour to highlight motion pictures that have fallen by the wayside in terms of modern popularity, this little gem’s plaudits alone assert its rightful place on this list. Our lead villain’s evil characteristics are not as initially apparent as the majority of the later entries; an element of his scheme which makes his demeanour all the more unsettling. Gregory keeps his fragile wife Paula, played by esteemed star, Ingrid Bergman; housebound claiming that she is mentally unstable. All the while, it is he who is responsible for his naïve wife’s psychological downfall. It is strange how psychosomatic tactics can almost outweigh those who utilise physical brutality as a means of gaining supremacy. Subtlety and pacing play a big part here.

Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker, RoboCop (1987)

In typical 1980s fashion, we are presented with a highly adult movie, which is strangely marketed towards children. Granted, the franchise went in a more child-friendly direction following its third instalment, from the outset Paul Verhoeven’s gore laden sci-fi extravaganza was intended to be a multifaceted satire on American and technological society. Unlike the syndicated 90s television programme of the same name, this picture raises hairs better than most horror flicks. In my opinion, this is attributed to two major reasons. Firstly, Basil Poledouris’ score complements the futuristic setting amazingly; it is both unnerving and exciting in equal measure. Secondly, Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker, a ruthless and psychopathic crime boss who takes pleasure in brutally taking the lives of countless police officers.

Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes, Misery (1990)

The first female to appear on our list: in so very many movies female characters are presented as being insipid and void of any depth. Probably due to the fact that the film industry is dominated by a male majority but that is an argument for another day. Contrary to this ongoing and seemingly overt trend, Kathy Bates goes against the grain in this terrifying thriller, turning in a truly creepy performance as obsessed fiction fan Annie Wilkes, winning an Academy Award for her efforts. To this day, this film remains the only Stephen King adaption to take home an Oscar; even surpassing the memorable The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999).

Ted Levin as ‘Buffalo Bill’ in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Most fans when they consider said title, they immediately recall Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in their respective parts. But as mentioned in the introduction, anti-heroes such as Dr. Lector are exempt from selection due to their obvious trendy appeal. There is nothing trendy however about Jame ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb, the sadistic onscreen serial killer who murders numerous obese women to fashion an outfit from their remains. Like Norman Bates in Psycho (1960) and Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), this somewhat fictitious individual was based largely on notorious American murderer Ed Gein. It is this realistic dimension that makes this unjustly forgotten villain, appear that bit more unnerving.

Gary Oldman as Norman Stansfield, Leon: The Professional (1994)

Often recalled for being the movie, which offered Natalie Portman her feature debut, this Luc Beeson thriller has a place in the hearts of most serious cinema fans. A character who also holds such esteem, albeit for polar opposite reasons, is Norman Stansfield, played by English star Gary Oldman. For some, it is almost difficult to imagine the Jim Gordon actor playing such a despicable and corrupt individual - a surprise which probably bodes well for said performer abilities; having the range and capabilities to be the beloved hero, or in this case; the hated villain.

Jeremy Irons as Scar, The Lion King (1994)
 

My first ever visit to a movie theatre was to see this Disney animated masterpiece. It was to be the first and last time I ever shed tears in a cinema. However, it could easily make the toughest of people shed more tears than an X-Factor contestant. Despite being primarily children’s entertainment, due to the basic morals taught and catchy musical numbers, this tour-de-force transcends genre and age parameters. Much like earlier episodes of The Simpsons, this film’s umbrella of appeal encompasses the entire societal spectrum. The Shakespearian style themes and characters are especially noteworthy, with the major one being Scar. Simba’s outcast Uncle tricks his nephew into thinking he was the cause of his good-natured father’s death.

Jonathan Hyde as Bruce Ismay, Titanic (1997)

Having persuaded the Captain to push the engines to their limits, in a bid to make positive headlines upon early arrival in New York, Ismay as director of White Star Line cannot accept that his seemingly unsinkable ship has fallen victim to the treacherous Atlantic Ocean. Thus, he completes an ultimate act of cowardice; climbing into one of the last remaining lifeboats as many women and children are left behind to die. Analysis of Irish poet Derek Mahon’s piece After the Titanic may however alter one’s opinion. If one is a fan of James Cameron’s box office smash, may I suggest consulting the monochrome A Night to Remember (1958), in my opinion the greatest cinematic interpretation of the fate of the renowned vessel.

Gerard McSorley as John Gilligan, Veronica Guerin (2003)

This Joel Schumacher picture is probably mediocre at best. For a more down to earth version of events surrounding the murdered journalist, be sure to check out When the Sky Falls (2000). However, after one single viewing of this title, one will always recall McSorley’s mesmerising performance as feared Dublin crime boss John Gilligan. One scene in particular, where Gilligan brutally pummels Guerin is sure enough to fill the most composed with rage and disgust - a stark contrast to Fr. Todd Unctious, the charming visitor to Craggy Island in 1996.

Peter Andersson as Nils Bjurman, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

I am always torn between whether or not I prefer David Fincher’s remake of the Swedish bestseller or Niels Arden Oplev’s original cinematic version. One thing is for certain though, in both movies, audiences cannot help but detest title character Lisbeth Salander’s legal guardian Nils Bjurman. The abusive authority absolutely oozes sleaze, viciously raping his client in exchange for rightful access to her finances. But in true hero versus villain style, Lisbeth gets her own back on the sadist, in a unique way, which is akin to her crafty mentality.


Woody Harrelson as Harlan DeGroat, in Out of the Furnace (2013)

Just to clarify, these lists I compose are arranged in chronological order of the respective movie’s release date and not in order of preference. I will allow you to reorganise them in line with your own particular tastes. However, I do implore everybody to check all of these films out. Our final spot goes to True Detective heavy Woody Harrelson as a callous drug dealer in small town America. Upon viewing this, I instantaneously was drawing comparisons between DeGroat and Clarence Boddicker. Both are too loathsome characters, which radiate auras of psychopathic tendency. Otherwise, this Scott Cooper picture is quite underwhelming, underutilising its stellar cast to a suitably luke-warm critical reception.

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Published October 14th, 2014
Last updated October 27th, 2015
Tags movies entertainment unwind
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