For every great movie hero, there is an equally impressive villain. Not surprisingly, audiences naturally tend to root for the protagonist of a film — especially when they are pitted against a particularly loathsome opponent. However, sometimes a villain is so charismatic and evilly intriguing that they will overshadow the hero of a movie. While we may not love what these corrupt characters do, we love to see them do it. Here are six incorrigible movie villains that we love to hate.
1. Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
This genetically-enhanced super villain was brilliantly portrayed in Star Trek II by Ricardo Montalbán. Not only is Khan Noonien Singh super evil, he is also incredibly intelligent and unusually strong. After defeating and banishing Khan to a deserted planet, Kirk inadvertently encounters Khan again when crewmembers from the Enterprise mistakenly land on Khan’s planet. As seen in the clip above, after capturing the two unfortunate crewmembers, Khan proceeds to torture them by inserting alien eels into their heads via their ears.
However, just in case the torture scene didn’t make him loathsome enough, Khan later detonates an experimental weapon in a bid to destroy the Enterprise. Although the Enterprise escapes, Khan’s murderous plan results in the (temporary) death of Spock, one of primary protagonists of the Star Trek franchise. Perhaps Captain Kirk said it best with, “Khaaaaaaaan!” Nevertheless, in a sign of how much audiences love to hate this villain, Khan was brought back for the rebooted Star Trek film franchise in Star Trek Into Darkness.
2. The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)
Over the years, Batman’s archrival has been portrayed by numerous different actors in television and on film. However, Heath Ledger’s intense portrayal of the psychopathic villain in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is widely considered to be the best, and garnered Ledger a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar after the actor’s untimely death in 2008. In the film, the Joker is a dangerously unhinged character who appears to have no motivation for his actions beyond causing mayhem.
3. Darth Vader in the Star Wars film series
Darth Vader has long been a film villain that audiences love to hate. Darth Vader’s iconic black helmet and labored mechanical breathing have perhaps made him one of the most easily recognizable movie villains in the world. Although this unholy mix of man and machine ultimately redeemed himself before his death in Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader committed some truly heinous acts before he went to the “good” side of the Force. Besides forcing his daughter to watch the destruction of her home planet, Vader also killed Obi-Wan Kenobi, severed his own son’s hand, and killed numerous underlings who failed to fulfill his orders.
4. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Some the most beloved/hated movie villains are the ones who have a knack for charming and terrorizing us at the same time. The highly intelligent, yet cannibalistic Dr. Hannibal Lecter played by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs certainly falls into this category of villain.
In the scene above, Lecter demonstrates his tendency to alternate between being civilized and barbaric as he meticulously executes his escape from a holding cell. Hopkins also reprised his role as Hannibal Lecter in 2001’s Hannibal and 2002’s Red Dragon for audiences who couldn’t get their fill of this mesmerizing villain in The Silence of the Lambs.
5. Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men (2007)
Perhaps nothing causes an audience to hate a movie villain more than when the villain never gets their just deserts. The ruthlessly relentless assassin portrayed by Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men is one such a villain. Despite his psychopathic behavior, Chigurh follows a twisted code of honor that involves giving his victims a chance to live by calling heads or tails in a coin toss.
In one of the scenes above, a menacing Chigurh has a tense exchange with a hapless gas station proprietor that ends in a fateful coin toss. Bardem’s portrayal of Chigurh in this film was widely praised by the critics and secured the actor a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2007.
6. Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988)
While Die Hard is best known for launching Bruce Willis’ career as a major movie action star, this blockbuster film also gave audiences a formidable movie villain in the form of a German thief named Hans Gruber. In the film, the cold and calculating Gruber mercilessly executes hostages as he tries to break into a Japanese corporation’s well-stocked vault.
Alan Rickman was unable to reprise his role as Gruber in subsequent Die Hard movies, since his character was killed at the end of the film. However, the Die Hard franchise paid tribute to the memorable criminal mastermind by having Jeremy Irons portray Hans Gruber’s brother as the principal villain in Die Hard With a Vengeance, the third installment in the franchise.
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