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Empire's greatest villains – the villains who voted

Image for Empire's greatest villains – the villains who voted

For the September, 2016 issue of Empire (#327, Suicide Squad cover) we thought we'd compile a Greatest Film And TV Villains list with a bit of a difference. Rather than just poll the office and end up with the usual suspects at the top, we went to the villains themselves. 28 responded (two of them too late for the number crunching and the print deadline, but we won't name and shame them here), and their choices are below. They made for a fascinating final tally, as interesting for its ommissions as its inclusions. Neither Alan Rickman in Die Hard nor Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner got anywhere near the Top 50. And while there were some votes for television, no small-screen bad guys scaled those heights either.

Check out the magazine for the final list, arrived at by draconian mathematical system. For in-depth discussion of the results, be sure to spend an hour or so with this dedicated Empire podcast. But for our nefarious panel's individual picks of the greatest screen villains of all time, read on. Many thanks, once again, to all our voters.


Tobin Bell (Jigsaw)

Tobin Bell as Jigsaw

  1. Lee J. Cobb as Johnny Friendly in On The Waterfront
  2. Lee Van Cleef as Jack Colby in High Noon
  3. Gary Oldman as Ivan Korshanov in Air Force One
  4. Tommy Lee Jones as Gary Gilmore in The Executioner’s Song
  5. John Jarrett as Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek
  6. Meryl Streep as Amanda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada
  7. Marlon Brando as Rio in One Eyed Jacks
  8. Margaret Hamilton as The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard Of Oz
  9. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as The Break-in Burglars in Home Alone
  10. Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver

Steven Berkoff (Victor Maitland)

Steven Berkoff in Beverly Hills Cop

  1. Jack Palance in Shane. A most compelling, malevolent and demonically attractive gun for hire.

  2. Laurence Olivier in his film of Richard III. Hypnotic power and savagery in using language like rapiers. Never been bettered.

  3. James Cagney in White Heat. Here Cagney explodes in a way no one else has ever done before or since. Dangerously attractive.

  4. Toshiro Mifune in Throne Of Blood. So powerful and so physically dexterous, no Macbeth has ever matched it.

  5. Lee J .Cobb as Johnny Friendly in On The Waterfront. An effortless study of power with a sense of danger. He was frightening.

  6. Laurence Olivier as Christian Szell in Marathon Man. Olivier, like no other actor, slips and slides the skin of the Nazi making him both attractive and evil.

  7. Bette Davis in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane. No one can act female neurosis as Bette Davis did in this remarkable study.

  8. Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of The Sierra Madra. Bogey plays madness like no other actor on earth. A shockingly raw performance.

  9. Bruno Ganz as Hitler in Downfall. A most remarkable study of Hitler that amongst all the others stands head and shoulders above them – not excluding mine of course, which was in the series War and Remembrance, though I give Ganz first place!

  10. Ben Kingsley as Don Logan in Sexy Beast. His performance could never be bettered. It is brilliant as only a classical actor could do.


Josh Brolin (George W. Bush)

Josh Brolin as George W. Bush

  1. Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men. Even if I wasn’t the one he was coming after, the character Javier created would still haunt my nightmares.

  2. Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight. Villain or hero, this was simply one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on screen.

  3. Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. Unhinged is an art form when it’s done by Dennis Hopper.

  4. Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity. Ultimate, iconic, and forever the high-water mark for the femme fatale.

  5. Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List. Evil incarnate, perfectly represented by one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with (honorable mention to Voldemort).

  6. Henry Fonda as Frank in Once Upon A Time In The West. One of the best villains of the Western genre. Ruthless from the shocking first scene to the final shootout.

  7. Betsy Palmer as Mrs Voorhees and Ari Lehman as Jason in Friday The 13th. Simply put, I have never been so scared in a movie theater.

  8. Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler. The fact it was a success story made this sociopath’s tale that much more disturbing.

  9. Tom Hiddleston as Loki in The Avengers. Rich, complex, and dangerous. I’ve got a lot to live up to as the big bad in the MCU.

  10. Richard Dreyfus as Dick Cheney in W. No explanation necessary.


Clancy Brown (The Kurgan)

Clancy Brown as Highlander's Kurgan

Some people just sent lists. Others added a line or two of explanation. Clancy Brown wrote us 2000 words. We've therefore given him his own separate feature, which you can view here. Many thanks, Clancy, for going far above and beyond the call of duty.


William B. Davis (Cigarette Smoking Man)

William B. Davis - The X-Files' Cigarette Smoking Man

  1. Laurence Olivier as Richard III in Richard III
  2. Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs
  3. Glenn Close as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction
  4. Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
  5. Bruno Ganz as Hitler in Downfall
  6. Frank Finlay as Iago in Othello (1965)
  7. Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing in Dallas
  8. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho
  9. David Proswe as Darth Vader in Star Wars
  10. William B. Davis as The Cigarette Smoking Man in The X-Files!

Rebecca De Mornay (Peyton Flanders)

Rebecca De Mornay in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

Given how much I love movies, there are at least 25 memorable screen villains that immediately spring to mind, and I do include The Hand That Rocks The Cradle among them, given the film's terrific direction by Curtis Hanson.

  1. Robert Mitchum in Night Of The Hunter
  2. Henry Fonda in Once Upon A Time In The West
  3. Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
  4. Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man
  5. Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver
  6. Jack Nicholson in The Shining
  7. Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest
  8. Kathy Bates in Misery
  9. Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada
  10. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
  11. Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind
  12. Richard Attenborough in 10 Rillington Place
  13. Marlon Brando in The Godfather
  14. John Huston in Chinatown
  15. Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  16. Al Pacino in Scarface (one of my favorite performances of all time)
  17. Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
  18. Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula
  19. Rebecca De Mornay in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (I thought it wouldn’t be fair to Curtis – or Peyton – to leave her out!)
  20. Christopher Walken in The Prophecy
  21. James Coburn in Affliction
  22. Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator
  23. Denzel Washington in Training Day
  24. Mo’Nique in Precious
  25. Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds

Billy Drago (Frank Nitti)

Billy Drago in The Untouchables

  1. Bela Lugosi in Dracula
  2. Boris Karloff in Frankenstein
  3. Peter Lorre in M
  4. Anthony Perkins in Psycho
  5. Anthony Hopkins in The Silence Of The Lambs
  6. Kathy Bates in Misery
  7. Lon Chaney in The Phantom Of The Opera
  8. Jack Nicholson in The Shining
  9. Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men
  10. Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs

Christopher Eccleston (Malekith The Accursed)

Christopher Eccleston as Malekith in THor: The Dark World

All of the performances I've chosen achieve recognisable human complexity. They are malign, but they are performed with absolute truth and brilliant control and skill: something I have summarily failed to do with all my villains and I apologise.

  1. Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice
  2. Christopher Lee as Dracula in Dracula
  3. James Cagney as Cody Jarrett in White Heat
  4. Robert Carlyle as Albert "Albie" Kinsella in Cracker
  5. Edward G. Robinson as Lancey "The Man" Howard in The Cincinnati Kid
  6. Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger in Goldfinger
  7. Max Shreck as Count Orlok in Nosferatu
  8. Keith Gordon as Arnie Cunningham in Christine
  9. Tom Bell as Frank Ross in Out
  10. Lee J. Cobb as Johnny Friendly in On The Waterfront

Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger)

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger

  1. Anthony Hopkins in The Silence Of The Lambs
  2. John Cassavettes in Rosemary's Baby
  3. Lionel Barrymore in It's A Wonderful Life
  4. Bruce Dern in The Cowboys
  5. Lee J. Cobb in On The Waterfront
  6. Barry Foster in Frenzy
  7. Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List
  8. Donald Sutherland in Bertolucci's 1900
  9. Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke
  10. Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men

Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched)

Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

My list is in no particular order, but I put Karl first because I'm partial to him. He once spelled out for me what it is to play a believable villain: you don't "play" a villain. You play that person in those circumstances.

  1. Karl Malden in One Eyed Jacks
  2. Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men
  3. Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List
  4. Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast
  5. John Huston in Chinatown
  6. Dirk Bogarde in The Servant
  7. Bette Davis in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
  8. Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood
  9. Anthony Perkins in Psycho

And just for fun, Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There are so many more. I could go on. Oh, Kathy Bates in Misery!

Can I vote for myself? I want to beat Tony Hopkins! I'm only joking. Of course he'll win. I'm just jealous.


Alan Ford (Brick Top)

Alan Ford as Brick Top in Snatch

  1. Jack Palance in Panic In The Streets
  2. James Cagney in White Heat
  3. Lee Marvin in The Killers
  4. Lawrence Tierney in Dillinger
  5. Gaston Moschin in The Godfather Part II
  6. Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs
  7. Joe Pesci in Goodfellas
  8. Niels Arestrup in A Prophet
  9. Christopher Walken in True Romance
  10. Wood Harris in The Wire

Michelle Gomez (Missy / The Master)

Michelle Gomez in Doctor Who

  1. Mary Poppins is number one of course.
  2. Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest) for obvious reasons.
  3. Lionel Barrymore as Mr Potter (It's A Wonderful Life). Nobody has the right to make Jimmy Stewart cry!
  4. Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington (All About Eve). Skilful deploy of eyebrow.
  5. Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmations). Just the name is deliciously evil.
  6. Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.
  7. Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. Excellent work!
  8. Darth Vader, although we all know he was really the Green Cross Code Man.
  9. Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth (Schindler's List). Truly chilling! Diabolical.
  10. Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver). We all tread a fine line, but here there was no line to tread: just an unadulterated psychotic meltdown.

Sid Haig (Captain Spaulding)

Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding in House Of 1000 Corpses

I grew up on the classics, so here we go.

  1. Lon Chaney as The Phantom of the Opera
  2. Boris Karloff as The Monster in Frankenstein
  3. Bela Lugosi as Dracula
  4. Lon Chaney Jr (who I had the pleasure of working with in Spider Baby) as The Wolf Man
  5. Vincent Price in House Of Wax. I was in the theatre on opening night, one of the first 3D movies, and it scared the hell out of me.
  6. Doug Bradley as Pinhead in Hellraiser
  7. The zombies in Night Of The Living Dead
  8. And one of my all-time favorites Cujo. There's just something about a 200-pound dog trying to eat your car.

Daryl Hannah (Elle Driver)

Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver in Kill Bill

  1. Margaret Hamilton as The Wicked Witch Of The West in The Wizard Of Oz. The first villain I ever saw on film. The classic villain. She derived so much pleasure from the suffering she wrought upon her foes. It was terrifying and startling as a child and she totally informed and inspired my interpretation of Elle Driver in Kill Bill. Particularly her melt down scene, shrieking "I'm melting, oh what a world, what a world" came to me when I was in the bathroom freaking out after having my second eye plucked out.

  2. Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?. I also discovered this film at a very young age and it was so disturbing but perfect. Of course Baby Jane is really a victim, but one whose injustices have turned her into a heartbreaking-but-frightening monster. My best friend and I are obsessed with this film and because of its impact on our budding psyches we find that we regularly check in with each other to be sure we aren't dressed too Baby Jane Hudsonish

  3. Robert Helpmann as The Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He was just super creepy and scary, every child's nemesis.

  4. Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. She was so impenetrable, cruel, frustratingly calm and controlling. I also thought of her during the scene where I kill Budd in Kill Bill and have to coldly tell him just how he's going to die.

  5. Bruce Dern as Asa Watts in The Cowboys. He was so threatening, heartless and merciless to the young boys in the classic John Wayne film that I've been scared of him ever since.

  6. Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes in Oliver!. Mean, mean, and dangerous. I actually met him once by chance when I was only 9 years old, shortly after seeing the film. My family was staying at a small hotel he was at and I met him by the pool with a diving board and a high dive. I'm sure he was just trying to be friendly, so as I passed by he asked me if I was going to dive off the high dive. I was frozen with fear and I misconstrued his question as a sadistic instruction. I had never been on a high dive, in fact I had vertigo but I did exactly what he said like all the orphans in Oliver!. After braving the steep, vertiginous stairs, walking the plank and closing my eyes i dove smashing down in a searingly painful belly flop. He laughed and probably to sooth my evident pain dubbed it a "StarDive" saying my head, two outstretched arms and two splayed legs looked like a starfish splatting on the water. He told me to do it again, I complied over and over. Oh the pain.

  7. Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. One of the darkest characters I can think of. Actually, I don't like to think of it.

  8. Lawrence Olivier as Christian Szell in Marathon Man. Szell will leave all who see him, forever anxious at the dentist

  9. Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad. Patient, quiet, lethal control.

  10. Bill McKinney and Herbert Coward as the Mountain Men in Deliverance. Their stalking, evil ignorance and eager exploitation of weakness haunts.


Michael Ironside (Darryl Revok)

Michael Ironside in Scanners

  1. Robert Mitchum in Night Of The Hunter
  2. Henry Fonda in Once Upon A Time In The West
  3. Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men
  4. Richard Widmark in Kiss Of Death
  5. Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner
  6. Klause Maria Brandauer in Colonel Redl
  7. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
  8. David Thewlis in Naked
  9. George C. Scott in The Hustler
  10. Kathy Bates in Misery

Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy)

Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter

  1. Peter Lorre as Hans Beckert in M. A whistling child-killer. Need I say more?

  2. Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas "I’m funny how? You mean I’m funny like a clown? I amuse you?" Scariest lines ever delivered by a short golfer in a wig.

  3. Robert Helpmann as The Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Every parent’s worst nightmare, played with unforgettable, balletic glee.

  4. Jeremy Clarkson in Top Gear. Nigel Farage with a 1970s wig and terrifyingly bad jackets.

  5. The Alien / The Shark / Michael Myers in Alien / Jaws / Halloween. Malign, relentless, unstoppable forces. "Hands up," "It’s all over," or "My dad’s the chief of police" just aren’t going to work. There’s no negotiating, just running and dying loudly. Preferably semi-naked.

  6. George Sanders as Shere Khan in The Jungle Book. He won best supporting actor Oscar for All About Eve, so he knew his onions.

  7. Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. Both the hero AND the villain. You hold your breath at everything he does. His thinly veiled insanity – which we now know as PTSD – makes the world a minefield, and bracing yourself doesn’t help.

  8. Laurence Olivier as Szell, "The White Angel" in Marathon Man. The British Dental Association’s least favourite film. So they say. Olivier at the end of his life, but not at the end of his prodigious powers. "Is it safe?" God, no. The film (and William Goldman’s account) that gave birth to the famous “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?” anecdote so beloved of people who’ve never tried acting.


Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp)

Famke Janssen in GoldenEye

  1. Nurse Ratched played by Louise Fletcher – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
  2. Alex DeLarge played by Malcolm MacDowell – A Clockwork Orange
  3. Amon Goeth played by Ralph Fiennes – Schindler’s List
  4. Annie Wilkes played by Kathy Bates – Misery
  5. Hannibal Lecter played by Anthony Hopkins – The Silence Of The Lambs
  6. Daniel Plainview played by Daniel Day Lewis – There Will Be Blood
  7. Alex Forrest played by Glenn Close – Fatal Attraction
  8. Michael Corleone played by Al Pacino – The Godfather Part II 9. Eve Harrington played by Anne Baxter – All About Eve
  9. Viet Cong Guard played by Ding Santos – The Deer Hunter

Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toecutter / Immortan Joe)

Hugh Keays-Byrne in Mad Max: Fury Road

  1. Rod Steiger – In The Heat Of The Night
  2. Marlon Brando – Apocalypse Now
  3. Eli Wallach – The Magnificent Seven
  4. Ted Levine – The Silence Of The Lambs
  5. Morgan Woodward – Cool Hand Luke
  6. Jackie Weaver – Animal Kingdom
  7. Judith Anderson – Rebecca
  8. Alan Rickman – Die Hard

My favourite film director is Ken Loach: all his villians are great.

And I would like to give a special mention to Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road!


David Patrick Kelly (Sully)

David Patrick Kelly as Sully in Commando

  1. The Id Monster in Forbidden Planet. We have met the enemy and it is us.
  2. Peter Lorre in M
  3. Robert Mitchum in Night Of The Hunter
  4. Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard Of Oz. I actually did Chekov's Three Sisters with her at B.A.M. in '76.
  5. Lionel Barrymore in It's A Wonderful Life
  6. Thayer David in Journey To The Center Of The Earth
  7. Grace Zabriskie in Wild At Heart
  8. Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men
  9. Samuel Jackson in Jackie Brown
  10. Eleanor Audley (voice of the Wicked Stepmother) in Disney's original Cinderella

Ben Kingsley (Don Logan)

Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast

For my list, I have tried to choose from archetypes and non-fiction, as these have a deeper effect on the audience's imagination and, at best, the categories overlap.

  1. I must include Shakespeare's "heroic" villains, as Harold Bloom calls them: Iago (from Othello), Macbeth and Richard III, played on screen by Sir Kenneth Branagh, Michael Fassbender and Sir Lawrence Olivier respectively.

  2. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; an unflinching performance by Louise Fletcher.

  3. Tommy DiVito from Goodfellas, played by Joe Pesci; unnervingly unpredictable.

  4. Harry Lime from The Third Man, played by the great Orson Welles.

  5. The Queen from Mirror Mirror; an exquisitely witty performance by the lovely Julia Roberts.

  6. Erika Kohut, The Piano Teacher, where the stunning Isabelle Huppert combines forces of creation and destruction with consummate ease.

  7. Adolf Hitler from Downfall, where Swiss actor Bruno Ganz achieves the hitherto impossible by placing on the screen the psychopathy of he whom "the German people, in their bewilderment, worshipped as a god".

  8. Amon Goeth, from Spielberg's masterpiece Schindler's List, played by Ralph Fiennes. "


Alice Krige (The Borg Queen)

Alice Krige as Star Trek's Borg Queen

  1. Heath Ledger – The Joker – The Dark Knight
  2. Robert Mitchum – Reverend Harry Powell – Night Of The Hunter 3. Louise Fletcher – Nurse Ratched – One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  3. Malcolm MacDowell – Alex Delarge – A Clockwork Orange
  4. Marlon Brando - Colonel Kurtz - Apocalypse Now
  5. Orson Welles – Harry Lime – The Third Man
  6. Richard Attenborough – Pinkie – Brighton Rock
  7. Marlon Brando – Don Corleone – The Godfather
  8. Orson Welles – Hank Quinlan – Touch Of Evil
  9. Cruella Deville - 101 Dalmations
  10. Andy Sirkis – Gollum – The Lord Of The Rings
  11. Trevor Howard – Captain Bligh – Mutiny On The Bounty
  12. Jack Nicholson – The Joker – Batman

John Lithgow (Eric Qualen)

John Lithgow in Cliffhanger

  1. Robert De Niro, This Boy's Life. A vastly underrated film with one of De Niro's great performances, paired with teenager DiCaprio. A bonus: it's one of the few times De Niro used an accent.

  2. Ralph Fiennes, Schindler's List. An Oscar-winning villain, and the perfect illustration of "the banality of evil."

  3. Linda Fiorentino, The Last Seduction. She's the ultimate femme fatale, and almost succeeded in bringing back film noir.

  4. Morgan Freeman, Street Smart. One of the scariest performances I've ever seen, and the breakout role of Morgan's magnificent career.

  5. Margaret Hamilton, The Wizard Of Oz. Well, how can you leave her out? The leading character of every childhood nightmare.

  6. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence Of The Lambs. I've gotta hand it to him, even though I was next in line for the role.

  7. Anthony Perkins, Psycho. Completely indelible. He wins the award for creepiest of my ten best.

  8. Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton. This was the first time I saw the breadth of Tilda's talent: the best portrayal ever of corporate duplicity.

  9. Kathleen Turner, Body Heat. Another great femme fatale, and one of the sexiest ever.

  10. Orson Welles, The Third Man. Who but Welles could pull off such genial villainy? He's brilliant, in a brilliant film.


Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre)

Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale

  1. Peter Lorre - M
  2. Christopher Walken – True Romance
  3. Anthony Hopkins – The Silence Of The Lambs
  4. Anthony Perkins - Psycho
  5. Robert Shaw – From Russia With Love

David Morrissey (The Governor)

David Morrissey as The Governor in The Walking Dead

  1. Freddie Fletcher as Jud Casper in Kes. I hated him. I recognised him so much. I knew him. He was like so many boys above me at school or brothers of boys that I would see hanging around by the shops. Those high waisted bags, platform shoes and bum fluff beards. Ciggies and dirty fingernails. When Billy sees him walking across the playground into school and he has to go and hide in the boiler room, my heart was thumping. Even the teachers were scared of Jud. He haunts me to this day.

  2. Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas. The scene when Tommy turns the tables on Henry Hill is petrifying. How he turns from laughing and joking to pure menace and violent rage. "What do you mean I make you laugh? I'm a clown for you or... what?" is so frightening, and then back again. You never know what he will do next, a total loose cannon. Brilliant.

  3. James Galdofini as Tony Soprano in The Sopranos. In the same vein as Tommy DeVito. But given its a seven-season TV show (the best TV show ever made) we get a much more complex and richer character. Gandolfini was excellent in the role. He was ruthless and cruel but you came to understand and appreciate his dilemmas. You couldn't agree with his actions, but you were clear of his motives and that is an amazing achievement.

  4. Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man. One of the many terrifying Villains played by Lee, but this is my favourite. He's a presence throughout rather than a fully fledged character, but you feel his control and power over the people and the end scene is played with such orgasmic pleasure that it takes your breath away. Not as much as it took Edward Woodward's breath away, but pretty damn close.

  5. Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. You need a still, quietly powerful presence to take on Jack in this movie. You are never going to control his mad rage by topping him, you have to have a calm secure menace to beat him. Louise Fletcher had all that. She was so good in fact it damaged her career I think. People were so scared of her afterwards.

  6. Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight. But The Joker has never let me down in any interpretation: Romero, Nicholson, Ledger all took this character and made him frighteningly attractive. It is the perfect pantomime villain, evilly comic and sadistically camp.

  7. Gian Maria Volontè as Ramon Rojo in A Fistful Of Dollars. Evil, ruthless, sadistic, all the things you want in a villain. His laugh was the most horrible thing. When Leone did those crash cuts from long shot into the close up of his eyes it freaked me out. Played to the hilt by the great Italian actor Volontè. See also For A Few Dollars More.

  8. The great Peter Vaughn as "Genial" Harry Grout in Porridge. He could chill you to the bone by smiling at you. His cell was a palace and you were left in no doubt who ran that prison. Not McKay or the Governor. Always Grouty.

  9. Lee J. Cobb as Johnny Friendly in On The Waterfront. This is one of my favourite films of all time. And Lee J. Cobb as the brutal, bullying, brilliantly named Friendly is magnificent (as is all the acting, it has to be said). The fight at the end when he beats Terry up is so well staged: Friendly wins the battle, but loses the war.

  10. William Smith as Falconetti in Rich Man, Poor Man. I've only just realised that Falconetti had an eye patch. Wow, he must have had a bigger influence on me than I thought. I remember him pursuing Nick Nolte in this series and then the next day at school all the kids frightening each other by saying "Falcon Eddie's coming to get ya!"


Robert Patrick (T-1000)

Robert Patrick in Terminator 2

  1. Anthony Hopkins – The Silence Of The Lambs
  2. Robert Englund – A Nightmare On Elm Street
  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger – The Terminator
  4. Gunnar Hanson – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
  5. Dennis Hopper – Blue Velvet
  6. Darth Vader – Star Wars
  7. Robert De Niro – Taxi Driver
  8. Jack Nicholson – The Shining
  9. Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
  10. Ralph Fiennes – Schindler's List

Joseph Pilato (Captain Rhodes)

Joseph Pilato in Day Of The Dead

Before any others: Tom Powers & Cody Jarrett (James Cagney, The Public Enemy & White Heat). A double barrel shotgun of contempt, greed, and ultimate hatred of authority. Then:

  1. Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro, The Godfather Part II). His sense of long term strategy. He was more dangerous than he allowed himself to be thought of before the confrontation. But once the confrontation happened, you realized you were outwitted and he was thinking ten miles down the road. He would not stop at anything to get what he wanted.

  2. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence Of The Lambs). He dominated the scene with those eyes, the introduction of him just standing there and gazing, his subtlety and stillness and his ability to listen created this aura.

  3. Tony Montana (Al Pacino, Scarface). From the beginning, he started almost at the top of his energy and rage, all the way through to the brilliant end.

  4. Sonny Corleone (James Caan, The Godfather). Very loveable and suave, but you look at that fight scene where he beats up Connie's husband, Carlo. The one moment where Sonny bites Carlo's hand hanging onto the railing and then takes the top of the garbage can and mercilessly beats him.

  5. Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark, Kiss of Death). Because he laughed when he pushed an old lady down the stairs in a wheel chair.

  6. Lt. Cmdr. Philip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart, The Caine Mutiny). Because he grasped the steel balls and never let go of them.

  7. Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi, Dracula). His elegance overshadowed his true evilness.

  8. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum, Night Of The Hunter). He masks his evilness in the cloak of the clergy.

  9. The Thing (James Arness, The Thing). In about 20-45 seconds of actual screen time, he made a generation fear the unknown of outer space.

  10. Richard III (Laurence Olivier, Richard III). He's evil personified, a hunchback. Like Bette Davis said, "What a Hump."


Andrew Robinson (Scorpio)

Andrew Robinson in Dirty Harry

  1. I loved Jack Palance in Shane. What a presence; and there was always real thinking going on. The way he created this attractive sadist with an amazing smile.

  2. Javier Bardem was perfect in No Country For Old Men. Guy's pure genius; such control of so much energy. Villains need to scare me – or evoke some kind of response – and he did.

  3. James Arness as the original The Thing, but that's because when I saw the movie as a kid I vomited an enormous amount of popcorn when the Thing burst through the quonset hut door. Talk about response.

  4. Young Brit actor, James Norton, in the BBC limited series Happy Valley. I think the most effective villains often radiate high intelligence, or at least an innate canniness.

  5. Lorraine Toussaint in Orange Is The New Black. I believe it was the second season and the show was never better when she was subtly scheming to take over the prison.

  6. Robert Shaw as the blonde-haired villain Red Grant in From Russia With Love. Great presence and intelligence. As with Bardem, thoughts become actions.

  7. Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins, two very different but equally effective Hannibal Lecters in Manhunter and The Silence Of The Lambs.

  8. Jessica Walter in Play Misty For Me. A brave performance devoid of vanity.

  9. I loved the The Maltese Falcon group of heavies: Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, and especially the underrated Elisha Cook Jr. Lorre's performance as the child killer in the German film, M, is for the ages.

  10. In a world of villains, Iwan Rheon in Game Of Thrones stands out. "Smiling, damned villain…"

  11. Another thought, kind of abstract (but not for an old guy), is the villain in the Michael Haneke film Amour: aging, the diminishing of faculties, death. This is the villain the elderly couple, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, struggle against.


Kurtwood Smith (Clarence Boddicker)

Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker in RoboCop

Bad guys! These are the performances that made the strongest impression on me, "villianwise": work that scared me or troubled me, that had the kind of emotional affect that stayed with me and gave me the creeps long after I saw the film, or made me reassess things in and around my own life. They are listed in chronological order and it should be no surprise that almost half of them are from when I was a kid. Only three of the performances are in movies that came out after I had begun working in film and the last one is over 25 years ago. No good villains since then? Hardly! But things don't have the same punch and the effect doesn't last. My fault not the actors. I appreciate much work but don't hang onto it as long! That's life, that's age and that's sad! But:

  1. Ernest Borgnine as Fatso in From Here To Eternity. Big, bone crunching mean, crazy eyes and sick smile. I have tried to avoid prison all my life to make sure I didn't run into Fatso.

  2. Jack Palance as Jack Wilson in Shane. All in black with his hatchet face and evil voice you knew he'd do you bad... kid or not.

  3. Robert Mitchum as Harry Powell in Night Of The Hunter. The godless man of God, with love and hate tattooed on the four fingers of opposite hands. He is a very religious fanatic, oh so charming as he murders his way towards money that is hidden in a child's doll. And of course he ends up in charge of the children.

  4. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho. A really wonderful and nuanced performance that went from a sweet-but-odd guy to a full blown psychotic, cross-dressing, serial killing mama's boy.

  5. Lee Marvin as Liberty Valence in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Tough, mean, bullying, but with a dark sense of humour. A performance I remember more in fun than fear. Still the baddest man in the west.

  6. George C Scott as Bert Gordon in The Hustler. That great voice and commanding presence. He was a power in his little world.

  7. Paul Newman as Hud in Hud. An attractive badass! A real snake in the garden. Everyone in this family was drawn to him but all he wanted was to drag them down. Fun to hang around with though. For a short while!

  8. Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. His total commitment to this role comes across on screen with all the bizarre and offensive behavior that entails. Truly one of the most frightening performances I've seen.

  9. Terry O'Quinn as Jerry Blake in The Stepfather. Such a smooth, charming and believable sociopath! A real estate salesman who murders his families because they disappoint him. So effective as both friendly family man and raging monster.

  10. Anthony Hopkins as Dr Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs. Wonderful to watch the way he captures the intelligence and sense of humour of the guy. Also the fun and playfulness. But there is always the sense of the carnal. This is a man that eats people and enjoys it, who feels he swallows the essence of his victims. Truly frightening and at certain times unfortunately memorable!