Oftentimes, a movie is only as good as its villain. Without a compelling dramatic foil for our hero, it makes the whole story a one-sided snooze-fest, doing little to raise the stakes once an inevitable final battle occurs. That said, a handful of villains stand above (or in a sense, below) the rest as the absolute worst of the worst. The reasons range from poor casting to abysmal screenwriting, brought together on this ranked list by their shared awfulness.
15. Terl, Battlefield Earth
Battlefield Earth was abjectly terrible for a whole host of reasons. Chief among them though was a campy, god-awful delivery from John Travolta, as the film’s primary villain Terl. The movie’s problems all come down to its star, whose passion project quickly turned into one of the worst movies ever made, thanks in large part to his historically bad performance.
14. Toad, X-Men
Nevermind that Toad has some of the lamest powers in the entirety of the X-Men canon. The fact that he actually managed to pose a threat to our heroes in the franchise’s first film was an absolute joke, especially considering he was up against a guy who can shoot deadly lasers from his eye, an immortal with unbreakable metal fused into his bones, and a woman who can control the freaking weather.
13. King Koopa, Super Mario Bros.
Here we have another example of a terrible movie that just so happened to feature an equally terrible villain. The biggest sin involved taking King Koopa, the primary villain of the Super Mario video game franchise, and retconning him into Dennis Hopper with a creepy tongue and bad hair.
Suffice it to say, it did not go well.
12. The Mandarin, Iron Man 3
When Marvel cast Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, expectations were sky high. What we got instead was a bait-and-switch, with Kingsley’s character turning out to be an actor named Trevor who was pretending to be the Mandarin.
Instead, the “real” villain was Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a twist that never quite felt right when it was all said and done.
11. Dominic Greene, Quantum of Solace
Quantum of Solace was an underwhelming James Bond film in every conceivable way. We see that highlighted by its main villain, Dominic Greene, whose evil plot involved bogarting the world’s water supply. Given that 007 is typically battling things in the realm of complete global annihilation, you can bet that Greene’s scheme barely deserved to register.
10. Plants, The Happening
If you’re tracking the downward trajectory of M. Night Shyamalan’s career, The Happening checks in at rock bottom for the maligned director. Known for his twist endings, the one we saw here was disappointing at best, and laughably moronic at its very worst.
The twist in question: The plants of the world are rebelling against mankind and releasing a chemical into the air that makes people want to kill themselves. Factor in Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel sleepwalking their way through an easy paycheck and it’s a tough movie to watch.
9. General Grievous, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
When General Grievous was hastily introduced in the third installment of the Star Wars prequels, it came as something of a surprise that a new primary villain had appeared seemingly out of nowhere. We knew just about nothing concerning his origin, why he was important, or why he was even worth caring about.
When he finally met his maker at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi, none of those questions were ultimately answered, making for a disappointing ending to a poorly fleshed-out baddie.
8. Venom, Spider-Man 3
To say that Topher Grace was miscast as Venom in Spider-Man 3 would be the understatement of the decade. The That ’70s Show star never managed to give off anything more than a distinct “Eric Foreman wearing a weird black spandex suit” vibe, speeding the Spider-Man franchise on toward what would be the saga’s first reboot effort.
7. Count Dooku, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
General Grievous wasn’t the only poorly constructed villain in the Star Wars prequels, with Count Dooku popping up in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones as little more than a run-of-the-mill monologuing bad guy. It speaks volumes to just how boring Dooku was when he was decapitated in the very first act of the next film, putting to bed another forgettable prequel character.
6. Laurel Hedare, Catwoman
We could spend an entire article listing off all the things wrong with the standalone Catwoman movie, but for now, we’ll focus on the villain, Laurel Hedare. Played by Sharon Stone, Hedare is a beauty product mogul, with an evil plan to sell women makeup that melts their faces off. It’s a motivation so profoundly dumb that it’s distractingly bad, even in a movie highlighted by Halle Berry drinking milk out of a bowl like an actual cat.
5. Lex Luthor, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Jesse Eisenberg’s bafflingly frenetic take on Lex Luthor numbers itself among some of the worst acting in all of superhero cinema. Moving forward, fans can only hope that the iconic villain is sidelined for bigger and better bad guys.
4. The Architect, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions
With the Architect in The Matrix Reloaded, we get an attempt at pseudo-intellectual philosophy in a sci-fi movie. The attempt fell flat on its face though, as the apparent creator of the entire Matrix platform spouted off an interminable, stream-of-consciousness monologue that’s guaranteed to put you to sleep every time you watch it.
3. Deadpool, X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Committing perhaps the greatest sin in comic book history, 20th Century Fox saw fit to completely ruin Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. How exactly did they manage to do that? For one, by sewing the mouth of a character literally nicknamed the “Merc with a Mouth” shut.
Thankfully, we’ve since gotten redemption in the form of a Ryan Reynolds-led reboot movie, but there’s no forgetting the terrible first cinematic iteration of Deadpool.
2. Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Oof, where to start with this one. This mistake can be blamed on a bunch of people, first among them writer and director George Lucas, for making Anakin Skywalker into a petulant, easily duped caricature. Some of that blame also lands at the feet of Hayden Christensen, for his flat-as-cardboard performance, closing out a prequel trilogy jam-packed with bad villains.
1. Mr. Freeze, Batman & Robin
No villain can top the cringeworthy ice puns delivered ad nauseam by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Batman & Robin. After the first two or three jokes, it starts to feel less like a necessary facet of his character and more like complete and utter overkill, a phrase that aptly describes most Batman movies circa that era of DC.
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