Top 10 actors who make the most memorable movie villains
If someone asks you to call the most famous and charismatic villains in the history of cinema, then the majority will probably immediately think of such vivid images as the Joker of Heath Ledger, Voldemort performed by Rafe Fiennes, Hannibal Lecter Anthony Hopkins and some other antagonists who simply cannot be forgotten. Their memorability is a sign of considerable talent and the result of painstaking work on the role and the complete immersion of the actor in the image of his character.
It often happens that negative characters are remembered to us much stronger than positive ones, and cause admiration mixed with disgust… The performers of the role are not trying to somehow whitewash or romanticize their character – no, that would be too easy; they show him for who he is, but this is what captivates. And if the viewer feels hatred for the on-screen villain and other completely natural negative emotions, then the actor has one hundred percent coped with his task.
Heath Ledger – Joker
In the 2008 film “The Dark Knight”, Heath Ledger managed to create a real icon of the villain – it is not surprising that this character is surpassed even Batman… Incredibly charismatic, dangerous, insane – the Joker remains the standard of the antagonist in the cinema to this day.
Ledger independently sketched the image, and also secluded himself from the whole world for 43 days to prepare for the role and develop the psychology of the Joker – he even kept a diary where he wrote down the thoughts of the villain, and did not leave his role until the end of filming. By the way, many associate the tragic death of the actor with this fateful role, which could shake his psyche. For the embodiment of the image of the Joker, Heath Ledger received not only worldwide recognition, but also an Oscar posthumously.
Joaquin Phoenix – Emperor Commodus
Now Joaquin Phoenix is also associated by many with the role of the Joker, his vision of which he presented in 2019, but in his filmography there is an antagonist who gave him worldwide fame. Before playing the role of Commodus in the film “Gladiator”, the actor starred mainly in low-budget films and TV series, but the image of the Roman emperor became for him a breakthrough in big cinema. The audience hated his character, who, with just a smirk, managed to cause persistent disgust, and film critics predicted that the actor would be stuck in the role of notorious villains for a long time.
On the set to get into character Phoenix asked to be in conflict with him – it would help to catch the necessary emotion of aggression and hatred. And some moments – for example, the expressive phrase “Am I not merciful ?!”
Jack Gleeson – Joffrey Baratheon
In an interview, the young Irish actor mentioned that when creating the image of Joffrey, he was inspired by the role of Joaquin Phoenix in the film Gladiator. Their ruler characters are indeed similar in features such as unscrupulousness, greed and cruelty…
In 2012, he won the Best Television Villain – People’s Choice award
Jack immediately got used to the image of a bloodthirsty and capricious king. However, the role played a cruel joke on him: many fans began to associate Gleason with his character, attributing negative qualities to himself, although in reality Jack is his complete opposite, he is not averse to talking with fans, loves animals and is involved in charity work. Anyway, in 2014 the actor had to put an end to his career… And only 6 years later it became known that he would return to the cinema and play in the sitcom from the BBC “Out of Your Mind”.
Javier Bardem – Anton Chigur
Spanish actor Javier Bardem is a real talent for acting out villains. Played by him Anton Chigur, the main antagonist of Cormac McCarthy’s novel “No Country for Old Men” and the film adaptation of the Coen brothers of the same name, went down in the history of the film industry as one of the most striking images of assassins… For this role, the actor was awarded an Oscar.
Chigur was so remembered by the audience that after the release of the film he often tops the ratings of the best villains in cinema, and his remarks have long been dismantled into quotes. By type, Bardem ideally matched the book’s antagonist, perfectly conveying his inner essence. The audience was delighted with the “pure inevitable evil”, the habit of deciding the fate of the victim by tossing a coin and Chigur-Bardem’s heavy, penetrating gaze.
Christoph Waltz – Hans Landa
Initially, the role of SD Standartenfuehrer Hans Landa could have gone to Leonardo DiCaprio, but it was decided that for the credibility of the Nazi officer, a German actor should play. So the main antagonist of the film “Inglourious Basterds” embodied on the screen Christoph Waltzto whom this role has brought widespread fame. For her, he was awarded several significant awards, including the Oscar.
The character was remembered by the audience and unambiguously entered the history of cinema. He is a cold-blooded and calculating antagonist who achieves success in his work with special harsh methods. In addition, a distinctive feature of the movie hero is knowledge of several languages, due to which at certain moments he can abruptly switch from one to another.
Rafe Fiennes – Voldemort
The main villain of the wizarding world, Voldemort, is well known not only to fans of the Harry Potter era – he had a significant impact on the entire popular culture, memes and parodies are made with him, and his actions and character are still the subject of discussion. Of course, this is largely due to the talented actor who played this role.
But initially, Ralph Fiennes was not particularly interested in the project and doubted to the last whether he should participate in the filming, but he was convinced by his sister Martha. But now the actor does not want anyone else to play this character, as he admitted in an interview. Indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine someone else in this role.
Sir Christopher Lee – Saruman
Christopher Lee, one of the most famous British actors of the 20th century, has played only villains for many years of his career, and after The Lord of the Rings he returned to this role, playing Count Dooku in Star Wars. His dream was to play Gandalf, however, at the time of filming, due to his age, it was difficult for him to embody this character, while the role of Saruman did not involve horseback riding and fighting. And this is very handy – his evil wizard turned out to be extremely memorable.
Interestingly, Sir Christopher Lee, who lived a very long life and is a World War II veteran, was the only participant in the trilogy who personally met with the author of the book trilogy, writer J.R.R. Tolkien…
Hugo Weaving – Agent Smith
Black glasses, a perfect formal suit, an intercom earphone, countless clones – who doesn’t remember the central antagonist of The Matrix? The character is a computer program and artificial intelligence out of control. Initially, he defended the Matrix, but later became a virus for her, but continued his confrontation with Neo.
The superb on-screen character of Agent Smith in the trilogy, actor Hugo Weaving could not return to his role in the new film “The Matrix: Resurrection” due to a busy work schedule… He will be replaced by Mindhunter star Jonathan Groff.
Gary Oldman – Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Sorg
The unusual appearance and charisma of Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Sorg from the movie “The Fifth Element” has become one of the most popular villains in the history of cinema. The audience also remembered the scene of his dialogue with the priest Vito Cornelius, and many of his quotes like “If you want to do something well – do it yourself” are now known to almost everyone.
Zorg is obscenely rich, extraordinary, smart, has a typically “villainous” sense of humor, wants to destroy the world, and his character is quite contradictory. If we add to this Gary Oldman’s signature charm, who has in his “track record” a lot of played negative characters, it turns out to be an almost ideal antagonist.
Anthony Hopkins – Hannibal Lecter
On the list of the 100 best villains according to the American Film Institute, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who was brilliantly played by Anthony Hopkins, It ranked first… This role brought the actor an Oscar and became one of the most famous in his career.
Hannibal, performed by Hopkins, perfectly matches the book image: he is not just a murderer, but an intelligent and aristocratic villain-intellectual with a fine understanding of human psychology. To get used to the character, the actor studied the dossiers of various famous serial killers and even visited prisons and trials, and the unblinking look with which he seemed to look directly into the soul of the viewer, he “spied” in the video of Charlie Manson’s interrogations.
Imelda Staunton – Dolores Umbridge
Finally, we will dilute our selection with a female character, who is definitely hated by many. Professor Dolores Umbridge has earned public dislike even in books – himself Stephen King called her “The greatest villain since Hannibal Lecter”… When it came to the adaptation, the actress Imelda Staunton skillfully played it in such a way that the character caused contempt and discontent among the audience, even on a subconscious level.
Probably, the fact is that Umbridge is too realistic a villain: we are quite we can meet in real life… This is a common evil that is very difficult to deal with. She has no tragic background, and the motives are repulsive. All this leads to the emergence of jokes among the fan base like: “There is an absolute villain in Harry Potter, and this is not Voldemort.”…