15 Movie Villains Who Outshined the Hero

15 Movie Villains Who Outshined the Hero

Villains often captivate audiences even more than heroes in films. A charismatic, complex villain played to perfection can be far more compelling than the story’s protagonist. With so many iconic villains in cinema history, it’s difficult to narrow down the ones that truly outshone their heroic counterparts. But certain villains left such an indelible mark that they eclipsed the memory of the movie’s nominal hero. We explore some of the most prominent examples of villains who won over audiences’ hearts in contrast to the heroes they opposed.

To compile this list of movies in which the villain was more popular, 24/7 Tempo reviewed thousands of movies on IMDb and reviewed Reddit threads.

The Joker in “The Dark Knight”

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
  • Played by: Heath Ledger
  • IMDb score: 9.5 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 94%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 94%

Over a decade later people still gush over Heath Ledger’s incredible performance as Joker in the film “The Dark Knight.” His unhinged character brought goosebumps to viewers and was so remarkable that Batman could’ve been invisible in the film!

He did such a good job that he was nominated and won multiple awards for his role, although he sadly never got to accept the awards. Heath Ledger won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role posthumously.

Freddy Krueger in “A Nightmare on Elm Street”

Source: Courtesy of New Line Cinema
  • Played by: Robert Englund
  • IMDb score: 7.4 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 95%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 84%

Horror movies are a lot of fun to watch. Although we’re supposed to root for the main character or hero, sometimes, the villains or monsters are the best. This is the case in the A Nightmare on Elm Street films.

Freddy Krueger is iconic and a popular villain. His horrifying look gives viewers goosebumps and has been so popular the franchise has spanned multiple movies in the same universe, including with other horror characters like Jason.

Think about it. Do you remember the name of any of the characters from the first film, or just Freddy Krueger and his striped shirt?

Cruella Deville in “101 Dalmatians”

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
  • Played by: Glenn Close
  • IMDb score: 7.3 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 98%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 76%

One of the most iconic and popular female villains is Cruella Deville. She completely steals the show in any adaptation she’s in. The 1961 animated film, “101 Dalmatians” stars Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella, an aristocrat who loves fur and wants the dalmatians to make coats out of their fur!

Despite being evil though, it’s hard to keep your eyes away from the frantic and eccentric character. She wears flashy clothes and has even gotten a spinoff series starring Emma Stone as Estella.

King Jareth in “Labyrinth”

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures
  • Played by: David Bowie
  • IMDb score: 7.3 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 75%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 86%

Who doesn’t know about Jareth the Goblin King and the ruler of the labyrinth? He is one of the most popular male villains. Although Sarah was an incredible character in the 1986 fantasy musical, Jareth is a memorable villain. He wears unique clothes and big hair and was portrayed by David Bowie.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget he’s a villain. He grants Sarah’s wish by stealing her baby brother. The Goblin King gives her 13 hours to solve his labyrinth before her brother becomes a goblin and is lost forever.

Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs”

Source: Courtesy of Orion Pictures
  • Played by: Anthony Hopkins
  • IMDb score: 8.6 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 95%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 95%

“The Silence of the Lambs” is a chilling horror film released on February 14, 1991, in the United States. It’s considered one of the best horror movies of the last few decades and stars Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, an intelligent cannibalistic serial killer.

Anthony Hopkins brings this unique character alive in such an incredible way. He did so well that he won an Academy Award for Best Actor and a British Academy Film Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Darth Vader in “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
  • Played by: David Prowse / James Earl Jones
  • IMDb score: 8.6 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 93%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 96%

Star Wars is unforgettable. You don’t have to be a fan or watch a movie to recognize the characters, especially Darth Vader. This villainous character is complicated and easy to spot.

There aren’t many characters completely dressed in black sci-fi armor, mask, and all, with a cape. Even if you don’t recognize the look, many people are aware of the character’s heavy breathing and the line “Luke, I’m your father.” Fun fact though, while many people know this line, it was never in the movie! Instead, he says “No, I am your father.”

Loki in “Thor”

Loki in "Thor" | Tom Hiddleston in Thor (2011)
Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures


  • Played by: Tom Hiddleston
  • IMDb score: 7.0 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 77%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 76%

Marvel movies have been all the rage since the mid-early 2000s. A popular character in the Marvel universe is Loki, who first appears in the first Thor film where he’s a villain.

Loki is a mischievous character and a master of Asgardian magic and sorcery. He’s Thor’s adopted brother, but their relationship is complicated. Although known as a villain in the first Thor film, he changes significantly in the universe and even has his own show on Disney+.

Anton Chigurh in “No Country For Old Men”

Source: Courtesy of Miramax
  • Played by: Javier Bardem
  • IMDb score: 8.2 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 93%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 86%

“No Country for Old Men” is a great movie directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. It was released on November 9, 2007, in the United States and features great actors like Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson, and Josh Brolin.

Javier Bardem portrays the villain of the film, Anton Chigurh, a strange hitman devoid of feeling. Throughout the movie, he flips a coin which decides the fate of a person. Javier Bardem’s iconic performance has earned awards like an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a British Academy Film Award.

Jason Voorhees in “Friday the 13th”

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
  • Played by: Derek Mears
  • IMDb score: 6.4 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 66%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 60%

Sometimes villains are better than heroes. Their eccentric and outlandish personalities are hard to look away from, even if we know they are evil. Jason Voorhees in “Friday the 13th” is no exception.

Unsurprisingly, another horror film makes our list. This horror slasher features Jason Voorhees, a serial killer sporting a goaltender mask and brown jacket. After the first film was released in 1980, many other sequels, crossovers, and video games were too.

Norman Bates in “Psycho”

Psycho (1960) | Anthony Perkins in Psycho (1960)
Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures


  • Played by: Anthony Perkins
  • IMDb score: 8.5 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 97%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 95%

“Psycho” (1960) is a classic horror movie that is a favorite for many. It stars one of the most memorable characters in horror history, Norman Bates. Norman Bates is the owner of the Bates Motel and a serial killer who resides with his deceased mother.

Anthony Perkins’ portrayal of Norman Bates is phenomenal. It leaves viewers at the edge of their seats trying to understand his motives and what is real or not. The movie was nominated for many awards including the Academy Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, and Bambi Awards.

Erik Killmonger in “Black Panther”

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • Played by: Michael B. Jordan
  • IMDb score: 7.3 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 96%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 79%

Also on our list of movies in which the villain was more popular is “Black Panther,” but honestly, many of the characters were wonderful. Erik Killmonger is worth a mention. He’s a villain who is easy to relate to, especially after seeing his back story, but is still a villain at the end of the day.

Michael B. Jordan does a great job of bringing this comic book character to life alongside Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther.

Dr. Robotnik in “Sonic the Hedgehog”

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
  • Played by: Jim Carrey
  • IMDb score: 6.5 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 63%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 93%

Who says villains have to be serious? Another movie in which villains were more popular is the “Sonic the Hedgehog” film released in 2020. This silly movie has an even sillier and outrageous villain that is possibly the most memorable part of the movie.

Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Dr. Robotnik stole the show! His animated movements were captivating. More people remember his character than any other, not including Sonic!

Bowser in “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures
  • Played by: Jack Black
  • IMDb score: 7.0 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 59%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 95%

Continuing our list is another fun and lighthearted movie. Released in 2023, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” was a hit among moviegoers. The movie scored an impressively high audience score while maintaining a low Tomatometer percentage.

This high audience score probably has a lot to do with Bowser, the King of the Koopas. Jack Black plays this loveable villain who wants to win the heart of Princess Peach. He constantly fails, but sings a fun song about Peaches!

Kevin in “Split”

Kevin in "Split" | James McAvoy in Split (2016)
Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures


  • Played by: James McAvoy
  • IMDb score: 7.3 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 78%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 79%

“Split” is a horror thriller film following Kevin Wendell Crumb. He is a man with 23 distinct identities, although a new one dubbed “The Beast” is starting to emerge. In the beginning of the film, he kidnaps three girls as his alter-ego Dennis. One of these girls is Casey, the only one that survives.

Kevin is a terrifying character because of the fight between the characters. Although we watch as Casey and the other girls try to escape “The Beast”, the real star is Kevin and his many identities.

Pennywise in “It”

Source: Courtesy of New Line Cinema
  • Played by: Bill Skarsgård
  • IMDb score: 7.3 / 10
  • Tomatometer: 85%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 84%

“It” also known as “It Chapter One” is a horror movie adapted from the 1986 novel of the same name. The movie follows a group of friends as they navigate living in a town with a strange clown named Pennywise that kills children, like Georgie, Bill’s brother.

Pennywise is eye-catching and hard to miss. This monster adorns white face paint, bright red hair, and a white and red clown costume. He terrorizes the friend group, which continues when they are adults and return to the town.

Are you not tired of reading about villains? Check out the most iconic movie villains in film history.

Sponsored: Tips for Investing

A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit.

To top