Underappreciated movie villains

I feel like the classic movie villains all have their fans and a richly deserved share of the pop culture pie, from old standards like Dracula to relative newbies on the scene like Freddy Kreuger, who’ve proven their staying power through many, many sequels and remakes. I was thinking today of some memorable villains of the screen who I feel haven’t been appreciated enough, and what makes them so viciously evil.

My two nominees:

**Bob Wolverton from Freeway (1996)

In this modern update of the Little Red Riding Hood story, runaway Vanessa (Reese Witherspoon) has finally made it to her grandmother’s trailer, only to enter and find that serial killer Bob Wolverton (Kiefer Sutherland) has murdered her grandmother.

Vanessa: You fucker! You killed my grandma!
Bob Wolverton: That’s not all I did to grandma. :eek:

Kiefer Sutherland has played a lot of bad guys, but there’s something gleefully sadistic in Wolverton’s delivery of this line that has stayed with me for years after I saw this movie. Rarely has a serial killer so richly deserved the brutal beatdown that ensues.

Pinhead from the Hellraiser franchise

Now this one might seem as an odd choice, as Pinhead (Doug Bradley) isn’t exactly obscure, and he’s been in a lot of sequels of varying quality. Certainly his brilliant design is unnerving, and he and the other Cenobites have, at least in the first couple of movies, perhaps the most interesting motives and themes of the horror monsters of the same general time period. Pain as ultimate pleasure… demons to some, angels to others… that’s *intriguing *if you’re of a certain bent.

But what I feel seperates Pinhead from the other horror icons such as Jason and Michael Myers (who are silent) and Freddy (who is always ready with a cheesy one-liner) is the elegant and almost detached way he goes about his business. He is the high pope of Hell. He will have eternity to know your flesh. And he plays poker against Lemmy from Motörhead in the *Hellraiser *video.

Pinhead: Go on… but trick us again child, and your suffering will be legendary even in Hell!

That’s a badass threat. But what’s most badass about it is that it’s delivered by a villain who is fully capable of delivering on his promise.

I always thought The Tall Man from the *Phantasm *movies was one of the scariest mo-fos ever seen on the silver screen. Understated and soft-spoken, but always ready to crush you and turn you into a dwarf to work in his alternate-dimensional sweatshops. The low-budget production values just made it all the more dream-like and eerie.

Based on nearly half a century of horror fandom, I’ve often argued that Angelus from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel The Series is one of the most terrifying of screen villains.

I think it is a combination of the contrast with his non-evil, rather tediously mopey Angel persona, and the sheer delight he takes in his sadism - which, it should be noted is as much psychological as physical, although he certainly doesn’t scorn physical sadism.

This is a great movie for all those reasons. No CGI monsters, no people being hacked apart, no guns a’blasting. Just scary low-budget creepiness. Similarly, “Carnival of Souls” has a mysterious strange man following the heroine around.

Cerdic from the Clive Owen King Arthur of a few years ago. He was the best thing about that movie. Any villain who says "Are you challenging me? If you’re challenging me, you have to have a sword in your hand. While my heart beats, I rule and you hold your tongue… or I’ll cut it out. " to his own SON over a minor disagreement is one badass mofo. Not to mention the old man dropped a couple of the knights of the round table in single combat.

Excellent choice (“Last time I tortured someone they didn’t even have chain saws”), though of course Angelus is more a TV than a movie villain. Even worse, I learned recently (don’t ask me how) that there is an unrelated, non Buffy-verse comic book character out there who stole his name: Cite

Marty Augustine in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye is one of the best villains in the history of film.

What makes him such a good villain is that he will do anything – and that includes letting the hero go free. Most villains will only do evil; Augustine can’t be predicted at all.

He is introduced in a scene with his girlfriend in the room. While meeting with Marlowe, he goes to her and tells Marlowe how much he loves the woman, speaking of her in very loving, tender words. It is clear that this is real love, and he loves her more than anything else in the world.

Then he smashes her in the face with a bottle. He then turns to Marlowe and says, “You, I don’t even like.”

That’s what makes a superior villain – complete unpredictability. Few villains have it (the only one that comes to mind is the creature in Theodore Sturgeon’s “It”). It much easier to write an evil guy than to write one who is convincingly unpredictable.

I’ve said this many times before - I think the ultimate screen villain of all time is The Scorpio Killer, played by Andrew J. Robinson, in Dirty Harry. No other villain has the same degree of horrific craziness and loathsome evil, combined with utter weaselly-ness and craven cowardice. There are so many scenes where you would give anything to be able to step through the screen and beat the everloving shit out of him; the one that comes to mind the most is when he’s kicking Dirty Harry, who is down on the ground and defenseless, wearing a ski mask and shrieking in this crazy, effeminate way; the part where he hijacks the school bus is another. He is just SO fucking evil! And not just evil but annoying. I was disappointed by the ending of that movie; I was hoping Dirty Harry would beat him to death with the butt of his pistol, while stomping on his nuts.

Waingro from Heat is a close second. What a son of a bitch! Just the kind of villain that is repulsive, sleazy and totally hate-able. Like the Scorpio killer, he’s not just evil but also irritating; he has a face that you just want to punch. This is a testament to Kevin Gage’s acting.

Will Patton as Pritchard in No Way Out with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman is up there too. Just a craven, evil, weaselly bastard.

I guess by now you’ve realized that my favorite villains are the ones that you just hate, the kind with no redeeming qualities, and not “badass” types like Darth Vader who are evil, but also…well, badass. The villains I like are the completely unlikeable kind.

Alan Rickman in the first Die Hard film.
Cold-blooded, great voice, everyone cheers as he falls to his death at the end.
Alexander Godunov as Bad ass # 2 was great, also

“And I don’t fancy spending the next month trying to get librarian out of the carpet.”

Two come to mind whenever I think about under-rated movie villains. First is Preacher Harry Powell from Night of the Hunter. While a psychopathic man of the cloth might seem old hat to movie audiences now, the movie was filmed in 1955. The character was played by Robert Mitchum, the plot involving his chase of two young, orphaned children who know his secret (and who have a secret of their own to protect), across Depression Era West Virginia. Creepy creepy.

My second is a movie no one ever thinks about because it’s a comedy: Big Ern McCrackin, played by Bill Murray from the 1996 Farrelly Brothers film Kingpin. I love this movie because, hey, it’s goofy slapstick and absurd. But the thing that made Big Ern such a great villain is that, while our protagonists (and hence, the audience) see him for the low-life scumbag that he is, somehow, some way, he’s managed to pull the wool over everyone else; the media giving him a pass on a recent paternity suit filed against him (“Oh, that’s not a case at all. The woman’s a stone-face liar. Let’s not even talk about that. I pulled out of her really early on that one”), the general populace praising his charity work (his foundation involves spending “quality time” with widowed, single mothers), and the fact his fans fawn over him allows him to grope and molest those of the female persuasion unchallenged (he even felt up Morganna the Kissing Bandit during a bowling tournament). Total asshole. Great villain.

Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber was a great villain; but he hardly qualifies as “underappreciated.” :slight_smile:

I’ll nominate Charles Dance as “Benedict” in the underappreciated Last Action Hero.

Some quotes:

:Testing things in our world (the real world, not his native “movie” world):


Jubal Early from Firefly.

Since we’re including TV villains as well, I nominate the Hands of Blue guys from Firefly. We only saw them in action once and they killed every single person they came into contact with… even though all those people were on their side! They also did it while well-dressed and polite and they didn’t get a single drop (of the copious amounts they created) of blood on their suits.

Hamilton from Angel was awesome too. He lectures Angel while kicking the shit out of him and only loses because he’s too in love with the sound of his own voice. He is also secure enough in his manhood to tell Angel “We won’t be making love on that couch… anytime soon.”

As for movies, Christopher Walken as leather-pants-wearing Angel of Death Gabriel in The Prophecy. He chews a lot of scenery but kicks a lot of ass at the same time. The heroes don’t defeat him, SATAN does! A villain that can only be killed by the goddamn devil is a powerful villain indeed.

I also thought John Leguizamo was great as Tybalt in Romeo + Juliet. One angry mofo for sure. When Romeo surrenders to him he is just too blinded by hate to understand what is really going on. Awesome performance.

Carlo Rota as Papa Joe in The Boondock Saints. At first he’s charming (“I’ll have a Coke!”) but by the end of the movie his charm is his worst feature. It’s a stand up and cheer moment when he royally gets his.

I love The Last Action Hero!

Two of my favorite villains, possibly underappreciated, were played by the same actor: David Warner.

The Evil Genius in Time Bandits.

“If I were creating the world I wouldn’t mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o’clock, Day One!”

“God isn’t interested in technology. He cares nothing for the microchip or the silicon revolution. Look how he spends his time, forty-three species of parrots! Nipples for men!
Slugs! HE created slugs! They can’t hear. They can’t speak. They can’t operate machinery. Are we not in the hands of a lunatic?”

And Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, who finds himself at home in “modern day” San Francisco.

“Ninety years ago I was a freak. Today I’m an amateur.”

Cameron’s movie Titanic had some of the Worst Dialogue Ever.
However, I loved Billy Zane’s rotten, smarmy, cowardly white-tie Caledon Hockley.
“A real man makes his own luck.”

He was also terrifying as the psychopath in Dead Calm.

There’s something about this actor that makes me react like most people react to snakes. He plays a villain often enough, but even when he’s not, I feel like hissing at him

Although it’s not terribly well known, The Salton Sea, a terrific flick IMHO, contains not only an under-appreciated villain, but a genuinely spooky one. I am referring to Vincent D’Onofrio’s character ‘Pooh-Bear’. Fond of scrambled brains for breakfast, he also has a way with starving, rabid badgers. :eek: Truly unsettling.

And, Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet can’t be appreciated to much. “Baby wants to fuck. Baby wants to fuck blue velvet!”

I always thought that this guy was scary as hell and the only person that the equally dastardly JR really feared.

His eyes at 1:08 are brilliant.

My OP specifically requested movie villains, y’all.

Anyway, I concur on Benedict from The Last Action Hero. A great contrast to the tough guy Jack Slater, he’s urbane, snarky, and a wonderfully over-the-top 90s villain. I see from his IMDB page that Charles Dance has been working steadily since forever, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in anything more high profile than this movie. A shame.