Hollywood aspires to offer audiences “likable” protagonists, but an iconic movie is often only as good as its primary villain. More than mere obstacles, these essential characters laugh in the face of common morality and chew up scenery as a result. They lend the movie itself more dimension while inspiring increased levels of audience engagement. On the ride home from the theater, it’s the villain that probably has people talking the most. (These are the 50 most popular villains of all time.)
Cinematic history provides no shortage of examples. From Darth Vader to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, key villains have lent their respective films an enduring legacy. Behind each of these seminal characters, of course, is a talented actor, without whom the role would fall short. Think of Vader without the booming voice of James Earl Jones or Lecter without Hopkins’ chilling portrayal and you quickly get the idea. (These are the most popular “Star Wars” characters.)
To compile a list of the most memorable movie villains, 24/7 Tempo exercised editorial discretion to determine performances that made a particularly lasting impression of evil, gleaning information on production dates and casting from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon.