A compelling story is always important, but if a movie doesn’t feature an engaging hero and an effective villain, it can be quite difficult to make a lasting impact. A suspenseful showdown between a protagonist and their archenemy is electric when it’s done right, and often stories are reduced to the final conflict between their opposing forces.
Movies need a hero that they want to root for, but it’s not uncommon where the villain leaves an even greater impact on audiences. Sometimes these villains are even given their own movies because they’ve dwarfed the hero’s popularity.
10 Freddy Krueger Haunts Dreams And Weaponizes The Subconscious
The Nightmare on Elm Street horror franchise remains one of the most prolific slasher series of all time. It’s fair to say that in most slasher series it’s the hulking monster that’s the most popular character, but Freddy Krueger’s morbid means of execution and sly sense of humor give him a bolder personality than Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. The Elm Street Movies have had recurring characters and final girls, but Freddy is in a league of his own and is emblematic of the surreal slasher movies. He’s even had his own music videos and phone hotline.
9 Hannibal Lecter Is An Evil Genius With A Twisted Appetite
Anthony Hopkins makes such an impression in Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs (1991) as Hannibal Lecter that it’s easy to forget that he’s only in the two-hour movie for 24 minutes. Less is more with Lecter, as the audience learns, but this brilliant murderer’s charm is hard to deny. The audience’s fascination with Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter reached such a fever pitch that author Thomas Harris was pushed to write Hannibal-centric novels that reveal the characters’ backstory, which were quickly made into feature films. The success of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal series has only reigned the audience’s passion for this iconic character.
8 Norman Bates Is Proof That We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) Continually subverts expectations and it takes a while for the film to properly reveal who’s the main character. Admittedly, Norman Bates is Psycho’s villain, but in some ways, he’s just as much of a victim as the people that he attacks in his motel.
Bates’ erratic mental state has him in a constant state of war with himself and lost in permanent psychosis. Norman is a tragic and complex character study, which is exactly why Psycho’s subsequent Make him the main character who must live in fear over whether his dark urges will again arise.
7 Pennywise Represents Everyone’s Greatest Fears And Gives All Clowns A Bad Name
Stephen King is responsible for dozens of iconic villas, everyone and everything, from Cujo to Annie Wilkes, but Pennywise the Dancing Clown is a haunting figure who’s hard to top. Every rendition of Pennywise has been disturbing, but Bill Skarsgård’s interpretation of the nightmarish shapeshifter in Andy Muschietti’s two-part modern IT (2017 and 2019, respectively) movies is on a whole other level. Skarsgård brings a certain innocence to Pennywise that makes his evil even more vile. Both IT movies have stacked casts, but Pennywise is what sticks with the audience long after the credits roll.
6 Darth Vader Has An Iconic Design That Amplifies His Evil
Star Wars’ Darth Vader is one of the biggest movie characters of all time. The villain has been parodied countless times over and even those with zero knowledge of Star Wars are still familiar with the Sith Lord. Darth Vader is at his most frightening in George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy where he’s largely left as a menacing mystery. The whole aim of Lucas’ Prequel Trilogy was to explain Vader’s backstory and to create empathy for the conflicted Anakin Skywalker. This is still rewarding storytelling that’s a testament to Vader’s popularity, but he’s strongest as a villain in his earliest appearances.
5 Jigsaw Makes Sure There’s Always A Method To His Madness
There are nine films across the graphic Saw horror franchise and they owe a large part of their success to Jigsaw’s twisted psychology that fuels his traps.
Jigsaw, also known as John Kramer, perishes at the end of Saw III, but his teachings continue to drive frequent copycats. John Kramer stands out the most among the many Jigsaw Killers because he actually wants to prompt improvement in his victims And there is some way to win his games, even if it’s not going to be pretty.
4 Anton Chigurh Is A Conduit Of Justice In An Unbalanced World
The Coen Brothers are responsible for dozens of classic pieces of cinema. There are consistent hits throughout each chapter of the Coens’ career, but No Country For Old Men (2007) was a breakout picture that depicts the directors at their darkest. Every element of No Country For Old Men contributions to its bleak themes, but the real centerpiece is Javier Bardem’s provoking performance as Anton Chigurh. It’s such an unconventional approach to an antagonist, but the methodical calm that he brings to Chigurh makes him even more intimidating and unpredictable.
3 The Predator Is A Precision Hunter Who Loves A Good Challenge
The Predator franchise might not be viewed with the same reverence as Aliens, but there’s a dedicated fan base, and if nothing else, the titular alien hunter’s design is some of Stan Winston’s best work. Alien’s Xenomorph is terrifying in its own way, but Predator’s Yautja race has much more personality. The idea that these aliens are skilled hunters makes them even more frightening. Alien has the throughline of returning protagonist Ellen Ripley to keep them going, but Predator’s heroes lack the same impact – even if Arnold Schwarzenegger is in on the carnage.
2 Hans Landa Is Frightfully Charming As A Ruthless Killer
Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker whose characters often occupy shades of gray (to say the least) and his most entertaining figures tend to be the most despicable. Inglourious Basterds kicks off the film maker’s strong relationship with Christoph Waltz, who has grown into one of Tarantino’s most consistent performers. Waltz plays the film’s villain Hans Landa, a cold and calculated SS officer, but his charismatic work in the role won him an Academy Award. The audience roots for Inglourious Basterds’ heroes, but it’s a lot harder to remember the names of Shosanna Dreyfus and Aldo Raine, whereas Hans Landa immediately comes to mind.
1 The Joker Is Dark Figure Who Inspired Captivating Performances
It’s become somewhat in vogue for comic book villains to receive their own standalone films analyzing their frayed mental states independently of the superhero they’re frequently pitted against. DC’s Joker has grown into the most successful version of this. Batman is a fantastic superhero, but he’s significantly more restrained than the manic heights that the Joker plays in. Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s Joker performances are still talked about today and made a greater impact than their corresponding Batmen.
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