The Most Popular Villain of All Time

Source: Courtesy of Orion Pictures

Most stories that have a hero also have a villain. Otherwise, it would be hard to inject tension into a drama. Even in comedies, the lead character often has a foil. Famous villains are also often the most compelling characters in a story, such as mobster Michael Corleone in the Godfather series.

The range of movie villains is breathtaking, spanning from unrepentant murders and corrupt cops to mechanical sharks (Bruce in “Jaws”) and possibly ghosts (Freddy Krueger in “Nightmare on Elm Street”). There are murderous housewives and queens, as well as faceless hunters. Some villains are based on real-life people, which makes their villainy even more disturbing. Despite their badness, some elicit a measure of sympathy (like Baby Jane Hudson).

To identify the most popular villain of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Heroes and Villains. Casting and movie information also came from the AFI.

The popular villain in film is Hannibal Lecter. He appears in 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs” and was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins.

In the film, former psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter helps FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in her pursuit of another serial killer, “Buffalo Bill,” who murders and skins young women. Both leads won Academy Awards for their performances in this psychological thriller, which should not be accompanied by a meal of fava beans and liver.

Lecter’s character appears in several films, including “Red Dragon,” “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal Rising.” The role helped bolster Hopkins’s already impressive list of important and well-regarded films, the most recent of which is “The Father” (2020). The role of Lecter brought him an Oscar for best actor. He is the oldest man ever to receive that honor.

Click here to see all the most popular movie villains of all time.