Try as we might, there are some villains we just can’t help but love. Be it their charm, charisma or otherwise, they draw us in and we anxiously count down the time our hero is front and centre so that we might get a little more villain time. For the purposes of this list(which, obviously, is subjective, all opinions expressed are solely my own, yadda yadda yadda), I’ve stuck to villains who are undeniably evil. Any villain who redeemed themselves, was working undercover, any such thing, doesn’t qualify.
I’ll be honest – as much as this is my list, something just felt off about not having Loki in here. He’s here because I feel obliged to include him. I am not a Loki fan. Truth be told, Marvel movies in general leave me underwhelmed(there are exceptions-but as Cian can tell you, we once had a coversation where I told him I didn’t like the Avengers, and had absolutely no points to back it up. I just didn’t enjoy the movie that much. Mystery to me as much as you guys, because on paper, I should.)
So Paracelsus(Warehouse 13-also real life) got booted from this list in favor of Loki-but he’s staying well back at number ten. So let’s examine why the masses love him so much. Hiddlestone does play up the charm and confidence of the character, but others(just scroll down) have done it better. I think the main draw is just how relatable he is. Growing up as the second best – many know the feeling. Struggling to prove yourself through great effort, and failing every time – several of us have shot for our dreams at one point or another. He’s sympathetic. That with Hiddlestone’s portrayal of a cocky yet vulnerable god draws out our sympathy and understanding.
The eccentric criminal sporting an eye tattoo on his left ankle, a unibrow, and any number of ridiculous disguises. I always thought of Olaf as Inspector Clouseau if he was on the other side of the law. Only in a world where everybody in a position of authority is actually more idiotic than him.
Though most of the series focuses on just one of his criminal plans(stealing the Baudelaire fortune), he has committed several more heinous crimes. Like his parents, he is one of the criminals among the VFD, and has commited arson, murder and theft on multiple occasions.
Towards the end he earns our sympathy to a very very slight extent, when we learn the Baudelaire parents killed Olaf’s parents, his capability for love as evidenced through his affection for Kit, and helping her to give birth on the island.
Yet, even before we learn of his reason for fixating so much on the Baudelaires, we can’t help but wait for his next appearance. His next ridiculus disguise. His acting troupe. His eccentricity. And that’s it isn’t it? The eccentricity-be it in villain or hero, we love a character who defies the norm. He may be a ruthless killer-but he’s an inept, comical, stranger ruthless killer. And apparently we can’t get enough of that.
8. Handsome Jack
I mean, a new word may have to be thought up for this guy. The psychopathic villain of Borderlands 2, and protagonist of the “Pre-Sequel” is insane, dangerous, more than a little scary, amoral, manipulative and…hilarious. Despite looking forward to his radio chats and rare on screen appearances, he scared the shit outta me. I would not want to be facing this guy. At one point he chats to you on the radio to berate you on the futility of your actions, by telling a story about a father desperately trying to protect his children from Jack by attacking him with a spoon. Jack goes on, laughing the entire time, to tell us that he took out the father’s eyes with said spoon, and laughed at the father stumble around afterwards while his kids screamed. Scary…bloody villain.
He locked his own daughter away to use as a power source, set up a metropolis dedicated to himself, to shelter people from the havoc he was wrecking. He made constant PA announcements to remind the children that although they should love their parents, they should love Jack more.
And yet because of his humor, you know, asking us politely to off ourselves, or explain how he was going to name his pony after us by calling it Piss-for-brains, he remains the most memorable, and most laughed about character of the franchise. Either that, or there is something seriously wrong with me for liking this character. Ahem, moving on….
7. Matthew Keller
I mean this guy doesn’t even know what redeeming quality is. Described by Peter as the “anti-Neal”, Caffrey is a con-artist who doesn’t mind any collateral damage that might occur as a result. There is one reason, and one reason only that I, and I’m sure many of you will agree, that some of the best episodes of the show are those featuring Keller-he’s the only character in the entire series who can match Neal.
This is not a Wile E. Coyote type thing either. Keller keeps us guessing. He’s the Moriarty to Neal’s Sherlock. Most procedural shows, you turn on an episode, and you’re interested in how they get to the end. You know they’re going to succeed. Turn on an episode of White Collar. Keller’s there. You do not know who’s going to triumph.
Keller is so self assured in his ability as well, constantly taunting Neal, be it with games of chess or leading him to the edge of his radius like a leashed dog. He escaped from prison, kidnapped Peter and Elizabeth(two separate occasions), and had us believing that he killed Neal.
It’s why I was so sure at the end that Neal really was dead. Keller was certainly willing to do it and led Neal into a position where he could, quite easily.
Peter says it best – “He knows our playbook better than we do.” And we love him for it.
6. Big Ern
I was introduced to the majesty that is Kingpin around October last year. Goddam I love that movie. And how I hate Big Ern. And yet, even during my first viewing, I anticipated Big Ern’s next appearance.
The guy is completely amoral. Completely selfish. They haven’t yet created a scale with which to measure his ego.
To stand out as a loser in a movie where the protagonist himself is trying to manipulate someone into giving up their entire way of life just so that he can benefit from it is enough of a feat. There’s no heroes in this movie. But Big Ern-he’s the lowest of the low. And yet the people love him.
That’s the people in his world though. I mean, they were written that way. What excuse do we have? He’s played by Bill Murray, granted. Perhaps that gets us a little leeway. You can’t not love Bill Murray, it’s just not possible.
Beyond that, I don’t know-manipulative, demeaning, outright cruel – the guys a complete sociopath. But some part of me, some deep dark part that I want to stay hidden until my dying day, cried out for Big Ern to return to the screen. For now though, I’ll leave the uninitiated with a commercial that leaves the viewer with a pretty good sense of the kind of guy they’re dealing with here.
“Do you know the definition of insanity?” Actually being fascinated with a guy like Vaas? In that case, I daresay I’m not the only insane one among you guys.
His actions in the game are enough t make us fear and despise him. With villains becoming more and more intricate and clever-plotting, scheming, having an agenda-to have a villain like Vaas, someone who is doing this because he clearly enjoys it, is unsettling.
Working as the right hand man of Hoyt Volker, by assisting him in his drug smuggling and slave trading businesses, he is not content to simply kill those he has to for his boss. He enjoys seeing them suffer. Right at the start of the game, rather than simply shoot you, he ties you to a rock and sends you tumbling off of a cliff and into the water.
But where we get to really see his madness – the promotional movie Ubisoft made for the game featuring Christopher-Mintz Plasse, where he buried him up to his neck in sand and over the course of a few days, he almost drowned him, had spiders attack him and tricked him into eating his own companion to name but a few.
And yet all of the posters for the game featured him. You think Far Cry and your thoughts do not go to Jason Brody, or Volker – they go to Vaas. Perhaps memorable is a better word than likeable here. With the other villains on the list, we may be upset if they left their franchises. Though I don’t think any of us were sad to see Vaas go.
4. Hans Gruber
Alan Rickman just plays a hella good villain. But none were as chilling and entertaining as Hans Gruber. Parading as a German terrorist, he takes all attendees of a company Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza hostage in return for the release of a number of internationally renowned terrorists. In reality, it is but a ploy to keep the police distracted while he carries out a robbery in the banks vault.
He’s evil, and we’re certainly not rooting for him-but the real reason we enjoy seeing him on screen-his unpredictability. He doesn’t kill without reason, never displaying sadism – yet he never hesitates to put his finger on the trigger either.
His constant calm, sense of humor, and Rickman’s greasy vocals are what make him stand out. With lines like “Mr. Takgi did not see it that way, so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life” and, whilst making demands to the FBI regarding who he wants freed, “I read about them in Time Magazine”, we can’t help but get excited for every scene he’s in.
He also has one of my personal favourite death scenes in any movie ever, so that is the cherry on top of the cake that is this awesome, memorable villain.
3. The Joker
So many adaptations. So many voices. The iconic laugh. I wish I could come into this with a little more knowledge of the joker from the comic books. But sadly I’m lacking that, though I still love the character.
The man lacks motive. Every other character on this list, though they may enjoy what they do, has a reason for doing it. Not the Joker. In “The Dark Knight” he burned his half of the money. Bruce and Alfred even discuss what he’s after, with Alfred delivering the most chilling line in the movie. “Some people just want to see the world burn.”
We cannot even begin to comprehend him. He even gives Harvey Dent the opportunity to kill him, without ever knowing what way that coin was going to land.
And, as with others on this list, he does a lot of it with an unsettling calm. An unsettling glee in the work he does. The “magic trick.” The joke teeth.
He would consider it a victory if Batman ever killed him-if he ever pushed Batman far enough to kill him. He desires only chaos.
And the weirdest part about all of this? We don’t even know the guys name. After all these years.
To have a list of likeable villains and not have Crowley make an appearance should be punishable by a long trip to hell. Which, incidentally, he is the king of.
Starting off as a crossroads demon and climbing the ranks to be king of all, Crowley knows how to get what he wants.
He’s actually become a lot more likeable over the years as well. While at first the Cockney charm that Sheppard brings to all of his characters was perhaps the main draw, our initial encounters with Crowley all had him painted as a cackling evil villain. If a funny one.
Since then, he’s got more of an agenda. More than once there’s been an “enemy of my enemy” type dynamic with the Winchesters wherein they work together to defeat a common threat.
Even thought there’s a great deal of very obvious jokes made involving Crowley, the subtle unexpected moments make us love him all the more. He drinks a cocktail while Dean drinks whiskey, his sombrero picture with Dean, his disdain at being summoned instead of called.
Unpredictable, clever, Cockney, funny, and at his core, evil – Crowley’s gotta be a huge part of the reason that Supernatural returns for it’s eleventh season this September.
1. Sheriff of Nottingham(Keith Allen)
This one is perhaps a little self indulgent. Neither the show nor the character is particularly loved, but I am in that(admittedly small) number that adores both.
Allen brings a smile to your face in so may different situations with his reactions. His cowardice when Robin brings trouble to his doorstep, as he flounders behind his guards. His casual approach to his diplomatic meetings.
And yet all the time the extent of his evil is never once left in doubt. I remember shuddering in the very first episode as he left said meeting, wherein he met a pre-outcast Robin, and in his private chambers grabbed a bird from it’s cage and mercilessly break it’s neck to vent his frustrations.
And yet his childishness is ever present-he’s been known to knee a man in his groin and knock off his cap when he’s frustrated.
Some golden quotes include, sarcastically “A clue: no” and “Now now, please don’t kill my brother, my little baby, my inbred cousin.”
I can’t pinpoint why I love him so much. It confuses me. Objectively, he probably shouldn’t be number one on this list. But I think it’s the way his cruel comments are delivered with dark humour, his cowardice, and no doubt Allen’s portrayal plays no small part in it all.
All I know for sure is, I’m going to watch some more of it right now.
About the Author:
Rumored to have been born with a games controller in his hand, Noel Gleeson works as a Java Developer in Ireland and loves all things pop culture.