The Top 10 Most Memorable Movie Villains

The Top 10 Most Memorable Movie Villains
Image credit: Legion-Media

Some people just want to see the world go up in flames.

Alex - A Clockwork Orange (1971)

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Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece was the film that launched Malcolm McDowell's career. The movie’s Alex wears extravagant outfits and thrives on violence. He’s arrogant, objectification of women is his middle name, and he's a big fan of Ludwig van Beethoven. At one point in the movie, Alex imagines flogging Christ, which adds iconoclasm to his collection of vices. Even government sanctioned brainwashing designed to make him hate violence is no match for him.

John Ryder - The Hitcher (1986)

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John Ryder hitches rides and then goes postal on the people that pick him up. The unhinged character is played to perfection by Rutger Hauer. Ryder is chaos incarnate, murdering and destroying everything in his path: he blows up filling stations, cuts off people’s fingers and tortures them to the point of suicide. We’re not even sure if he’s human at times.

Annie Wilkes - Misery (1990)

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Annie Wilkes is a nightmare of a devoted fan. She rescues her favourite author after an unfortunate car accident and takes care of him but when she learns he’s fixing to kill off her favourite character, Annie goes full ISIS on him, breaking his feet and torturing him to change his mind. Kathy Bates does a brilliant job playing Annie: she looks and acts like an unhinged sect leader willing to sacrifice you to her gods with zero hesitation.

Max Cady - Cape Fear (1991)

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In this remake of a 1960s home invasion noir, Robert De Niro plays a tattooed maniac who did time in prison for rape and is now driven by revenge. He loves fat cigars, Hawaiian shirts and hot school girls. He a walking, talking Nietzschean abyss and sees himself as the hand of justice. After getting out of prison, he decides to take revenge on the lawyer who deliberately foiled his defence. He stalks the lawyer’s family to the crazy tunes of Bernard Herrmann. It seems at times that Max is the devil himself, seeing how he turns his targets’ life into hell on earth.

John Doe - Seven (1995)

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John Doe re-enacts mortal sins, creating not just murder scenes but installations depicting lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride with the victims as the centrepieces. The police just can’t keep up with him, until he decides it’s time for the final installation, envy, with himself as the centrepiece. We know what’s in the box, we know what’s going to happen, but we also know nothing can stop it.

Patrick Bateman - American Psycho (2000)

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This guy is a sociopath, rapist and murderer obsessed with business cards, pop music, porn and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He's your typical yuppie that exudes intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes. He kills his victims to tacky 1980s tunes, except maybe it’s all in his head. Weirdly enough, this does not make him seem any less dangerous, only more insane.

Anton Chigurh - No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Javier Bardem plays the ultimate killing machine. Anton Chugurh is more than just a contract killer, he is Death himself. He is unstoppable, and doesn’t even seem to be human at times. He’s the Nietzschean Übermensch, for whom people are no better than cattle. His hairdo may be really silly, but when you look in his eyes, laughter will be the last thing on your mind.

Hans Landa - Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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Hans Landa is cruel and deadly, but he’s also refined and aristocratic. He speaks several languages. Hunting down and murdering jews is just a job and when push comes to shove, he’s totally cool with switching sides to save his hide. Christoph Waltz creates an unforgettable character. He will amuse, intimidate and mock you all at the same time. You know you hate his guts, but you also know you want to keep talking to this guy.

Amy Dunn – Gone Girl (2014)

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Amy is the ultimate femme fatale for whom it’s not enough to just leave her husband, she has to completely destroy him. She lies and manipulates. She is the ultimate unreliable narrator as the story is first told through her diary, which she conveniently leaves for the police to discover after she pulls off her disappearing act. And even when she has her back against the wall, she still manages to turn the tables on her hubby.

Immortan Joe - Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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Immortan Joe rules the wasteland with an iron fist, doling out water to his subjects from the Citadel. With his clear plastic armour worn over oozing sores, long white hair and a skeleton-smile mask that hides a breathing apparatus, the guy looks disgusting and intimidating at the same time. And he’s not one to forgive and forget. When his wives try to escape, he leads a crazy chase across the desert, leading a motley crew of road warriors in all sorts of apocalyptic vehicles, including one blind dude playing a flame-throwing electric guitar. Immortan Joe and his militia are completely out of this world.