The Best Bad Guys in Movies (and Books)

(image credit: Glutnix)

Update: Hello, everyone who’s stumbling across this post thanks to Google searches for “bad guys in movies.” I’ve updated to include more traditional best bad guys (I know you’re all looking for Hannibal Lecter!) — please feel free to comment and let me know who your favorite on-screen baddie is. I promise I won’t bite.

Back in the day, villains were moustache-twirling cardboard cutouts or bomb-wielding lunatics, with little purpose other than to serve as a foil for the hero. But today’s bad guys have evolved – they get their own backstories, motivations, personalities, and fan clubs (Loki, anybody?). They are heroes in their own minds, if no one else’s.

I love bad guys – as anyone who’s read the House Phoenix books can probably tell. So I wanted to share my list of the best villains in movies and books, and invite you to share yours.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising. Absolutely a brilliant performance in a brilliant role, and the bad guy everyone loves to hate, and hates to love. The guy is a cannibal, and we still think he’s awesome and root for him to win. I thought Hopkins was best as Lecter in Red Dragon — but I’ve got a soft spot for Ed Norton, so I might be biased there.

Favorite dialogue line: “Now you’re being rude, and I hate rude people.

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Col. Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper), American Beauty. If you didn’t shed a few tears at the turning point for this understated villain, you’re probably not human.

Favorite dialogue line: “Your wife is with another man and you don’t care?”

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Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman), The Fifth Element

Favorite dialogue line: “Not one or two or three but four stones!”

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Eddie Sakamura (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), Rising Sun (also a novel by Michael Chrichton)

Favorite dialogue line: “He’s afraid to get caught with me, so he uses my car and kill himself. Ah, I didn’t like the color anyway.”

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Prince Vegeta (voiced by Christopher Sabat in the American translation of) Dragon Ball Z. Yes, I called him a prince. He deserves the title.

Favorite dialogue line: “Raise your hands up right now or you’re all going to die!”

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The Patrician, Lord Havelock Vetinari, from the Discworld series by Sir Terry Pratchett

Favorite dialogue line: “Do not let me detain you.”

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Shan-Yu (Miguel Ferrer), Mulan

Favorite dialogue line: “How many men does it take to deliver a message?”

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Tzekel-Kan (Armand Assante), The Road to El Dorado

Favorite dialogue line: “It needs more…body.

——————-

Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi), Con Air

Favorite dialogue line: “There is no medicine for what I have.”

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The Joker (Mark Hamill), Batman: The Animated Series

Favorite dialogue line: “You…you shot me. That’s not funny. That’s not funny at all.”

———————

Gabriel, Angel of Death (Christopher Walken), The Prophecy

Favorite dialogue line: “You have any idea how hard it is to get one of those?!”

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Of course, this isn’t a complete list of my favorites. Jenner is among them, but that’s a given. So who’s the best bad guy you’ve ever watched or read about?

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