3x3: the worst movie villains

This is one of those topics that almost not worth doing. I mean, there are so many movies with bad villains. Weak villains, over the top villains, miscast villains, tepid villain stunt casting, and so on. So what makes one bad villain worse than any other? We try to puzzle it out at the 1:28 mark of our Hanna podcast.

Our picks:

3. Jar Jar Binks in Phantom Menace
2. Sauron in Lord of the Rings

  1. Jack Nicholson in The Shining

3. Cary Elwes in Twister
2. Gene Hackman in Superman

  1. Jack Nicholson in Batman

Tom Chick
3. John Travolta in anything where he plays a villain
2. CG Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy

  1. Joan Allen in Death Race

Okay, what are your picks and what makes them worse villains than usual?


Hey now, Travolta as villain was the only good thing about Broken Arrow.

“Please don’t shoot the nuclear weapons.”

Harry Knowles considered that movie good enough to name his equally beautifully written site after a line from…Er.

How is Jar Jar a villain in The Phantom Menace?

It’s in Attack of the Clones that he actually puts forward the motion in the senate that leads directly to Palpatine getting emergency powers and even then its not a villainous act but rather that he is simply a convenient pawn not aware that Palpatine = Sith.

Unless Kellywand is running with the rather amusing crazy fan theory that Jar Jar was the ultimate insider and was actually the guy pulling everybody’s strings. Someone better not tell George about that one or he’ll add an extra scene at the end of the Blu Ray Return of the Jedi version which plays like the “reveal” from The Usual Suspects

First off, haha Tom will read all this.

Secondly, I admit my list is terribler even than usual. Tom’s is iffy. Dingus’ is annoyingly perfect.

But also secondly, I think my original angle was that that unwittingness was what made Jarjar a “worst” villain. But in my view a villain based on how much harm he caused for sucking at a job, one of major responsibility. Which was admittedly given to him for no reason whatsoever by Padme, who we’re told is awesome at her job, which means she was the real villain. (Who’s the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who anoints him?)

But since Jarjar was the one who brought the Empire to power and thus caused everything in the OT to transpire, obviously he was the actual Chosen One written about in that pivotal retconned Sith prophecy that’s never quoted, explained, questioned, or interpreted correctly. On an unrelated note, when I was a kid, for much of the 3 years between the release of “Empire” and “Jedi,” I was convinced that by the process of elimination the Other whom Obi-Wan’s ghost had cryptically spoken of to Yoda while watching Luke’s X-wing depart HAD to be C-3PO.

Tom? Thoughts? Paul Walker for Threepio in the reboot? Same hair, same affinity for vehicular CG, both have a short round-headed sidekick with thick arms and motor-oil inside him…It writes itself.

Raul Julia in Street Fighter…so sad that was his last role before dying.

Man, John Travolta was great in Face/Off. Silly concept for a movie, fantastic execution and probably some of the best acting from JT and Nic Cage since.

Don’t be so sad. He was in a TV movie between Street Fighter and death.

Well putting it that way the Jedi Order and most of the senate that they were advising on a personal basis are the real villains of the prequels for being so amazingly dense and incompetent with regard to how they dealt with everything, while at the same time supposedly being incredibly capable and having awesome cognitive abilities. I don’t think you can single out Jar Jar as clearly the guy had limited abilities to start with, whereas maybe the Midichlorians as well as giving you fly skills with lightsabers actually halved your mental age.

Though it really goes back to the main truth of the Red Letter Media guys reviews - all characters in the prequels are f*ing dumb and spent 99% of the time doing inexplicably dumb stuff.

I’m not sure if “worst villain” means best at being a villain or a particular villain that simply do not do it for you. But assuming the latter, than I would have to nominate the pedophile Clare Quilty as he appear in the 1962 version of Lolita. That is because he is played by Peter Sellers, and I simply cannot take Peter Sellers seriously as a villain.

Gary Oldman in 5th Element. He looked completely retarded in his plastic costume with jam flowing down his forehead… which is a shame 'cause his previous role (Stansfield in Leon) is one of the best villains ever.

  1. Brian Doyle-Murray as Jack Ruby in JFK.
  2. Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK.
  3. Tommy Lee Jones as Clay Shaw in JFK.

Special mention to Joe Pesci in gold body paint as David Ferrie in JFK.

(This is unfair, really. I just couldn’t take JFK seriously.)

Albert Milo in Basquiat?

is one of the best villains ever.

Can I get a second for Cate Blanchett in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Now, usually I loves me some Cate, but dear God, her character was horrendous. Just bland, bland, bland, with a side of “Vere are Moose und Squirrel?” cartoonishness.

All plant life in The Happening.

But really: all of The Happening.

This. They both did a good job setting up their characters and then a great job doing the switch, but adding something a little different. Cage-troy is a maniac, but a devious one. Travolta-troy adds a certain sarcasm to the character. Which makes sense, he’s just pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes and gotten his nemesis good. And now he’s living behind enemy lines and nobody knows about it. He’s in the middle of the greatest practical joke ever. And god, the lines. . .

“Fresh Tactics!”

“Do you have a message for Castor Troy?”
“Interception! Our team’s got the ball now!”

They’re so corny but yet they work because you can see Sean Archer saying something that terrible. But the way Troy-as-Archer says them.

So awesome.

I could eat a peach for hours.

You are wronger than anyone has ever been before.

Using Kelly Wand’s logic for Jar Jar, I’m nominating R2-D2 as a worst villain since he was retconned to being a jerk by keeping silent all throughout the original trilogy even though he knew Luke and Leia were Darth/Anakin’s offspring. Oh, and for not using his rocket jets to solve problems.

I don’t care for villains that have such a fetish for militaristic control that they spout the line, “I’m declaring martial law!” Then they misuse that power in dumber and dumber ways. Maybe they meant well, but they just make the plot so much harder for the hero!

  1. James Woods as Gen. Hein, Ret., CGI, in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

  2. Tim Roth as Thade in Planet of The Apes (the Tim Burton remake)

  3. Bruce Willis as Major General William Devereaux in The Siege.

(In full disclosure, I had to look up all the character names. And I only saw the trailer and read some reviews for The Siege, but didn’t actually watch the movie beyond two minutes of it on TBS.)

Blasphemy! Julia was brilliant as Bison and clearly the best thing about the film (faint praise, I know).

Aside from his hat-centric seduction in a room filled with portraits of himself, he was acting so hard you could taste it, and had some great lines.

“For you, the day Bison came to your village was the most important day in your life. For me…it was Tuesday”.

He also had the smartest evil genius thing ever: clothing that includes an automatic resuscitation mechanism.

First of all, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg was great. I will not sit still for any dissing of Zorg.

Bad villains?

  1. Charles Muntz in Up. A completely uninteresting, nothing character. A real misfire for Pixar.

  2. Godzilla in Godzilla (American version). First, Godzilla works best as a surly protector vs another monster. But if you’re going to make him the bad guy, make him (or her) badass. The America Godzilla spends most of the movie running away, and no Atomic Breath? Lame.

  3. Simon Gruber, Die Hard With a Vengeance. Hans Gruber, as played by Allan Rickman is one of the great villains in modern cinema history. Suave, intelligent, witty, brutal when he needed to be, all that jazz. By comparison, his brother Simon Gruber played by Jeremy Irons, is just a loud, hammy nitwit.