Empire made a poll for film and television’s greatest villains for their September issue and you will check out that list below.
Boris Karloff in Frankenstein.
“The template for all movie monsters. What made this character completely terrifying was his innocence. He was driven to monstrousness through no fault of his own. He was the creature born of unexamined ambition and intellectual ego, created to exalt his maker without regard or consideration of what it meant to be human. Karloff was probably not meant to “create a character” or “act”, but how could he avoid it? Juxtaposed with the stylised melodramatics of his fellow cast-members, Karloff’s performance is simple and economic. Behaviourism before it was stylish. He never did anything like it again throughout his long career.”
Bela Lugosi in Dracula.
“This is a complete snooze of a movie but Lugosi’s performance makes it a classic. It is not scary now, but in it’s day… wow! My favourite Lugosi bad-guy is Igor in Son Of Frankenstein. It’s a brilliant, crazy, one-of-a-kind character, lamely satirised in Young Frankensteinby Marty Feldman.”
Richard Widmark in Kiss Of Death.
“The template for every homicidal maniac in cinema. The original gene-sequence for The Joker. This was Widmark’s film debut. He won an Oscar for it… which probably saved him from a lifetime of reprising Tommy Udo. I think this character was so upsetting that audiences and the studios never wanted to see it again. So they reinvented Widmark as a leading man. As a piece of acting, he was never as good.”
Humphrey Bogart in The Petrified Forest.
“This role made Bogart a star. He’s crazy good as Mantee. And it came out of nowhere. Bogie made almost no impression in the dozen or so films he did before this one. Something clicked with this character. This guy was so bad, he had to get it in the end. What was weird about this Mantee dude, though, was that it seemed like he knew it, like he wanted it more than anyone else in the movie or anyone else watching. It wasn’t a death-wish so much as a craving to be set-free from his own madness.
James Cagney did something like it in White Heat, but Cody Jarrett had charisma as a psychopath (and a ton of excuses). Mantee was just a horrible person who knew he was horrible. He hated himself just a little bit more than he hated everyone else. And it’s another simple, still, even stiff performance that just obliterated every other actor on screen.”
Robert Mitchum in Night Of The Hunter.
“Only the kids know he’s a heel because, well, they’re kids. Also he kills a dog. Fuck him!!! Shelley Winters’ performance as the oblivious, needy, love-starved, widowed mom has a lot to do with how scary Mitchum is in this movie. You just watch this movie unfold with absolute dread cause the kids are so smart/cute, the mom is so pathetic/stupid, Harry is so calm/sociopathic, and the DOG IS DEAD!!! FUCK HIM!!!”
Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear.
“Harry Powell beats Cady as Mitchum’s best bad guy, but both are top notch Mitchum bad-guys. Mitchum’s Cady is so scary, angry, cruel and single-minded that Robert De Niro, at his most powerful as an actor, couldn’t come close in the remake. And I love De Niro.”
Henry Fonda in Once Upon A Time In The West.
“Fonda as Frank kills it! Another cold, cruel, relentless bad-guy. Nothing redeeming about him. This is the villain that Sergio Leone was building with Lee Van Cleef in his Dollars trilogy. Casting Fonda took balls but Fonda’s balls were way bigger when he agreed to play it. And boy-oh-boy does he play it. This character is straight out of a Cormac McCarthy novel. Frank is Anton Chigurh’s meaner, tougher, crueller grandpa.
Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men.
“Like I said, straight-line drawn from Fonda’s Frank to Anton. Plus, he won the Oscar for it.”
Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
“Okay. This is the only movie that ever scared me. Really scared me. Nightmares, chills, palpitations, the works. Still does. And Linda Blair was like 12 or 13 years old! The whole movie is brilliant. William Friedkin is off-the-hook talented. Hands-down the best director of the early ’70’s – an era filled with “best” directors. And Regan was no-doubt his creation. But Linda was the actor playing the role and… She. Was. Perfect. And check this out: she had to be both the bad guy AND the victim! She did NOT win an Oscar but she should have. Tatum O’Neal – a ten-year-old – won it for playing… a ten-year-old. Linda Blair was robbed. But that whole Oscar year (1974) was screwy.”
Robert Englund in A Nightmare On Elm Street.
“So Freddy became silly by the end (Freddy Vs. Jason). But Robert’s performance powered the entire franchise. And one can’t overstate how truly terrifying Freddy was at the beginning. The character himself was monstrous, but it was the concept that a maniac lives and wreaks his revenge in the dream plane that turned the genre on its head. How good an actor do you have to be to make that real? Wes Craven thought it up and made it work, but without Englund it doesn’t become the gamechanger it was. Watch that movie again. It’s cheesy and campy and there are a lot of moments that do not hold up. But Freddy Krueger saves it every time. Just when you think you are too cool for it, Freddy jumps out and doesn’t just startle you, he shocks you. He’s not supposed to be able to do what he does. He’s not supposed to be able to cross over from your subconscious. Freddy is a genius creation, cast with a genius actor.