Most of the time, we watch movies because of the heroes. We start off wanting to see someone get the girl, save the world, and come out of it all alive and relatively unscathed. But even more often, we end up loving the villains our heroes are fighting against a little bit more. With their cunning natures, ruthlessness, and cruelty, the villains aren’t necessarily the ones we root for in our favorite films, but they do make the journey for our heroes a lot more interesting. Of course, sometimes, there is a villain so captivating, that you can’t help but root for them a little bit. We all have that one, a favorite cinematic serial killer or a cunning psychopath that we almost, just a little bit, hope ends up beating the good guy. This list has plenty of those, from so bad they’re good business tycoons to straight up blood-soaked murderers. The characters here aren’t the good guys, they don’t save the day or have honorable intentions. Their hands are stained with blood and their motivations are always a little murky. Even still, they add some nail-biting suspense every time they grace the screen. And for that, we salute them.
15. Bill The Butcher – Gangs Of New York
Daniel Day Lewis is known for being an amazing character actor but his work with Martin Scorsese in Gangs Of New York completely takes the cake. Bill The Butcher is a ruthless crime-lord in 19th century New York City. A staunch racist and xenophobe, Bill seeks to advance politically through murder and the incitement of violence. Early on it becomes clear that Bill The Butcher receives his moniker due to his actual profession and his love of tearing people apart. Between Daniel Day Lewis’ excellent acting skills, the backdrop of New York in turmoil, and the fact that all of us naturally root for Leonardo DiCaprio’s success, Bill is a character that you won’t be able to get out of your head for long after the film is over.
14. Patrick Bateman – American Psycho
No matter how you feel about the ending of American Psycho, you have to admit that Patrick Bateman is one terrifying dude. To most of the audience, Patrick isn’t scary the way that chainsaw wielding horror villains are scary, but he is frightening in his apathy and unpredictability. By day, Patrick Bateman is a successful investment banker; his life is filled with expensive Scotch, flashy business cards, and his fiancee Evelyn (played by Reese Witherspoon by the way). By night, he is a torturous, murderous psychopath with zero remorse and an ever-loosening grip on reality. The way Christian Bale navigates this character is genius; everything from his unhinged smile to his often hilarious physicality do nothing but make us more interested in Patrick.
13. Nurse Ratched – One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest
Nurse Ratched is like every fear you’ve ever had about being mistreated by a medical professional come to life. Well…Come to the silver screen. In One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, evil Nurse Ratched has almost complete control over a group of vulnerable asylum patients. She isn’t physically violent or loud, in fact, she is rather polite. It’s her cold, callous nature, lack of respect for her patients, and eerily calm demeanor that make her so villainous. She is severely deluded with the belief that her patients require her cold, harsh treatment to get better; a viewpoint that makes her extremely dangerous and easy to hate. First time actress, Louise Fletcher played her role so well that she earned an Academy Award for this terrifying job.
12. Jack Torrance – The Shining
Is there anything more evil than a man who literally tries to murder his wife and child? The Shining is one of the most iconic horror/thriller movies of all time, and Jack Torrance is one of Jack Nicholson’s most popular roles. The entire film is centered around a writer’s slow decline into insanity. What starts with a family of three moving to an empty hotel ends with something much more sinister. With exuberant acting, amazing visuals, and a truly unique story, the audience gets to watch as an already unlikable character becomes downright monstrous. Jack Nicholson’s acting in The Shining is A+. His performance as Jack Torrance is extremely unsettling and genuinely scary, he embodies everything a good movie villain should be.
11. John Doe – Se7en
Kevin Spacey has played many a villain, unlikable characters, and a lovable rouge in his day. Playing bad guys is kind of his bread and butter. But his role as John Doe in Se7en is just as unique as it is unsettling. It takes an amazing character to steal the show away from Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, especially when his screen time ticks in at under 30 minutes. Half religious fanatic and full-blown psychopath, John Doe is a serial killer who bases his murders off of the seven deadly sins. Instead of singular gunshots or slit throats, he kills his victims through things like forced overeating and long-term torture. Some are completely innocent and some more deserving than others, but Doe’s careful planning of their murders and terrifying psychopathy make him one of the scariest villains on this list.
10. Amy Dunne – Gone Girl
Many people argue that Amy Dunne isn’t a villain at all. No matter how justified you find her actions in Gone Girl, you have to admit that she certainly isn’t the “good guy”. Gone Girl starts off as the sad tale of a missing wife and her suspicious husband, but just when you think you’ve figured out what has happened, the story changes. Amy Dunne, desperate for revenge, is crafty, cunning, bent on ruining the life of her cheating husband by framing him for her murder. Amy represents a type of character that isn’t extremely common, female villains who are bad without remorse. Gone Girl doesn’t end with Amy getting her comeuppance or even her sought-after revenge, but her characters stays with us all the same.
9. Hans Gruber – Die Hard
Some of the most popular villains in the history of film come from ’80s movies. Some are so popular because of how hilariously, mind-numbingly awful they were and others are popular because they made the films they were in cultural staples. Hans Gruber is definitely the latter. Played beautifully by the late Alan Rickman, Hans Gruber is the main antagonist in Die Hard. Armed with an unstoppable German accent and filled with relentless ambition, Hans is a terrorist in a great suit who is set on stealing $640 million in bearer bonds from a Los Angeles vault. The good guy (John McClane) wins out in the end, but it isn’t before Gruber puts him through hell and helps turn die hard into one of the most iconic films in movie history.
8. The Joker – The Dark Knight
Many men have played the iconic role of The Joker and many have done a great job, but none as well as Heath Ledger in The Dark Night. The Joker has always been a curious character, he is funny, unhinged, and 100% villainous. Even with all of this, he remains one of the most well-loved characters of all time. Heath Ledger’s joker manages to embody all of these characteristics while also retaining a sense of extreme likability. Clad in a purple suit and made up with a white face and a painted on smile, The Joker is particularly viscous in this incarnation. Heath Ledger’s extensive preparation for the film pays off beautifully, so much so that even nine years later, people are still raving about it.
7. Norman Bates – Psycho
Any list discussing villains that fails to include Norman Bates is severely lacking. In demeanor, Norman isn’t like the other villains on this list. He isn’t striving towards some crazy goal or determined to bring a hero down, he’s just a super weird guy. Dressed in khaki pants and sweaters with a personality that is befitting a shy, prep school boy, he doesn’t seem threatening at all. There is something so interesting about a normal guy who turns out to be a total monster. Norman Bates is so terrifying because he is shown as a sweet, slightly odd, but ultimately unassuming man. Once the full extent of his true nature is revealed in the final moments of the movie, the results are so shocking that they truly put the “horror” in this classic horror flick.
6. Alex Forrest – Fatal Attraction
If there was ever a movie that served as a warning against cheating on your spouse, Fatal Attraction would be it. A steamy extra-marital affair quickly turns sinister when Alex Forrest (played by Glenn Close) becomes obsessed with and starts stalking the family of her ex lover (played by Michael Douglas). In Fatal Attraction Alex is so much more than your typical angry ex girlfriend. She tries to commit suicide in front of the object of her affections in an attempt to get him to stay with her. She kills his daughter’s pet rabbit and leaves it in his family’s home as a warning. She even tries to murder his wife with a butcher knife. Glenn Close carries Fatal Attraction on her beautiful shoulders with a terrifying amount of ease and style.
5. Lord Voldemort – Harry Potter
In conversations surrounding serious villains, Lord Voldemort is often written off as a simple children’s story book character, but he is so much more than that. While his physical appearance is terrifying all on it’s own with his sickly grey skin, his snake-like features, and his creepily long finger nails, it is his ideologies that makes him a true villain. Voldemort’s propensity for hurting children and his quest to “purify” the magical community by ousting certain populations are so terrifying because they remind us of things in our own history. The Harry Potter series ends with his defeat, but Lord Voldemort fights to the death to ensure that he is victorious before his downfall; A fight that ends in the death of beloved characters and plenty of heart-wrenching moments.
4. Amon Goeth – Schindler’s List
Even if Amon Goeth wasn’t based off of a real person, he would still be one of the worst (read: best) villains ever to grace a movie screen. Schindler’s List takes place during the Nazi regime in a Polish concentration camp. Liam Neeson plays the title character but Ralph Fiennes plays Amon Goeth, a character based on a real man by the same name who was a special brand of evil. From the random shootings that he rains down on the inhabitants of the camp to the extreme mistreatment of his Jewish maid, Goeth is a true depiction of real evils of the time. The only real reprieve from the violence he inflicts on the innocents around him stems from the visual evidence of his execution at the end of the movie.
3. Annie Wilkes – Misery
It doesn’t matter how much you love your favorite author, your affections have absolutely nothing on Annie Wilkes. When famous novelist Paul Sheldon suffers a horrible car accident, he is rescued by nurse and superfan Annie Wilkes. Instead of the tender loving care he should be receiving, Paul suddenly finds himself trapped in her secluded home with nowhere to run and no one to turn to. Annie forces Paul to write a new novel to her liking, frequently punishing him when he does something she doesn’t like. The film features an ankle clobbering scene that is so brutal you may actually feel nauseous afterwards. There are plenty of discoveries about Annie’s past along the way, showing us time and time again that Annie Wilkes is one truly disturbed force of nature.
2. Darth Vader – Star Wars
Villain or not, Darth Vader is one of the most well-known characters in human history with one of the most popular movie lines to ever exist. Whichever order you choose to watch the Star Wars series in, you either see a beloved character become an iconic villain or you find that villain revealed to be an iconic character. Clad in all black with a deep, obscured voice, Vader is a tyrant with big dreams that involve murdering Jedi’s and destroying the rebels. We don’t care how sympathetic his backstory is or how much we loved Anakin Skywalker, even if you don’t find him as particularly scary as you did as a child, we can all agree that Darth Vader is the best at being the absolute worst.
1. Hannibal Lecter – The Silence Of The Lambs
Who would we be if we didn’t put Hannibal Lecter as number one on this list. Murder is something that almost all of the villains on this list have in common, but murder combined with cannibalism, that’s something different altogether. In The Silence Of The Lambs, Anthony Hopkins plays Hannibal Lecter, a clinical psychiatrist who also happens to be a people-eating serial killer. Lecter’s ability to worm his way inside the minds of just about anyone draws on our deepest fears. Even his most iconic lines send a shiver down our spines when we hear the words flow from his muzzle covered mouth. Hannibal’s villainy is made even more terrifying by the fact that, at the end of the film, he walks away scot-free.