1st February 2022

In our latest Top 10 rundown, we’re analysing evil with the best movie villains ever seen on the big screen. For more great video content and Top 10 movie lists, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

What makes a great movie villain? Is it their capacity for evil, the relentless pursuit of their desires, or their willingness to hurt and destroy that compels and fascinates us? We’ve scoured the movie vaults and archives to bring you our list of the Ten Greatest Movie Villains Of All Time.

We’ve scoured the movie vaults and archives to bring you our list of the Ten Greatest Movie Villains Of All Time. For more great video content and Top 10 movie lists, subscribe to our YouTube channel.


Subscribe to our YouTube channel


10. The monster

Who are they?
Starting us off at ten, we’re looking at the villain that isn’t human. The monster antagonist – not metaphorically, literally – often doesn’t have much to offer in the way of dialogue or depth, but has provided some of the most iconic adversaries in movie history.

Classic examples:
Effects legend Rob Bottin broke new ground to give us a gruesome, shape-shifting killer alien in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). Steven Spielberg created fear in the unseen by not revealing his man-eating shark until over an hour into Jaws (1975). And in Predator (1987), a team of commandos go from pursuers to prey when a bloodthirsty extraterrestrial begins to hunt them, for sport.

Our winner:
It’s in yet another thing from another world we’ve found our number 10, however. We’re heading into deep space with the Alien series, for the… Xenomorph.

First appearing back in 1979 as the deadly Alien in Ridley Scott’s science fiction/horror classic, the Xenomorph has endured through the decades to become one of Hollywood’s most recognisable movie monsters. Designed by Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Gieger, the Xenomoprh is a bioengineered, parasitic killing machine which has multiple sets of teeth, acid for blood, and is birthed by bursting through the chest of its hosts. Add in the embryo-planting facehugger and egg-laying Alien Queen, and we have one of the best lifecycle concepts in science fiction, a terrifyingly grounded creature, and the greatest monster in movie history.


9. Horror icon

Who are they?
By their very nature, horror movies live or die on the strength of their antagonists. Sometimes human, sometimes supernatural, and very often terrifying, horror has produced some of the most iconic villains ever, andthe horror icon is what we’re looking at for our number 9 spot.

Classic examples:
The Omen (1976) courted controversy with its depiction of murderous Damien – a young child revealed to be the Antichrist. Freddie Krueger invaded the dreams of teenagers to become one of the most iconic villains of the 80s in A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984). And a group of friends are massacred by a gang of violent outcasts, led by chainsaw-wielding Leatherface, in The Texas Chain Saw Masssacre (1974).

Our winner:
For our selection though, we’ve gone for another classic movie and another killer behind a mask. It’s Halloween, and… Michael Myers.

Making his screen debut in John Carpenter’s seminal slasher film in 1978, we firstly see Michael Myers as a young boy who murders his older sister then, after spending 15 years institutionalised, as a young man who returns to the neighbourhood one deadly Halloween night. A landmark in horror, Halloween made over 200 times its budget at the box office, developed into a huge, money-spinning franchise, and virtually singlehandedly created the slasher subgenre. As for the man in the William Shatner mask, Michael Myers has been at the heart of almost every film in the series and, more impressively, has influenced, inspired and, sometimes, just been plain copied by, just about every horror movie director, writer, and villain-playing-actor since 1978.


8. The Antihero

Who are they?
Sometimes, our main character isn’t particularly courageous, idealistic, or even trustworthy. Sometimes,, our protagonist doesn’t seem to have any heroic qualities at all. Dating back to The Iliad and Thersites, the Antihero tale is one in which the filmmakers flip the narrative, and a character who might typically be the antagonist, becomes the viewpoint we follow.

Classic examples:
Stanley Kubrick takes us to a dystopian England, and inside the mind of ultraviolent delinquent Alex DeLarge, in A Clockwork Orange (1971). Tony Montana stakes a claim on the cocaine trade in Miami, murders anyone who stands in his way, and becomes the biggest drug lord in the state, in Scarface (1983). And New York cabbie, Travis Bickle, grows increasingly detached from reality as he dreams of cleaning up the filthy city, in Taxi Driver (1976).

Our winner:
Even among those cinematic giants, though, there is a standout. We’re in 1940s New York Mafia territory, for the ultimate antihero. The Godfather (1972)… Michael Corleone.
Acclaimed as one of the greatest pieces of cinema ever created, The Godfather is also Hollywood’s most outstanding fall from grace story. Starting as a returning war hero ashamed of his family’s criminal dealings, we watch as Michael reluctantly becomes involved in the family business and loses himself in a cycle of violence, lies, and betrayal. Bolstered by one of the greatest supporting casts ever assembled, The Godfather is Michael’s story and, helped by a stunning central performance from Al Pacino, Michael Corleone is, and, most likely, will always be, the greatest Antihero ever put on film.


7. Femme Fatale

Who are they?
We’re turning our gaze to female characters now and, for the seventh spot in our rundown, we’re looking at the Femme Fatale. An archetype of literature, art, and cinema, the femme fatale is often a mysterious and beautiful woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising, deadly situations.

Classic examples:
Amy Dunne stages her own disappearance, frames her husband, and leaves a trail of death, deceit, and destruction, in Gone Girl (2014). In Double Indemnity (1944), provocative housewife Phyllis Dietrichson charms a salesman into a crooked scheme involving insurance fraud and murder. And, in the Batman series, feline femme fatale Catwoman uses superpowers and sensuality to manipulate, coerce and dominate the men around her.

Our winner:
For our pick, though, we’re heading to 1987 and the thriller-drama genre, for Fatal Attraction, and its bunny-boiling antagonist… Alex Forrest.
Facing rejection after a weekend fling with married man, Dan Gallagher, book editor Alex Forrest becomes an obsessive stalker, and Dan finds himself in a battle to save himself and his family. Starting the movie as a strong, smart, and successful businesswoman, Alex, in her descent from hurt anger to unhinged aggression perhaps embodies the late 1980s fear of the single white woman and feminist advancements but, in an Oscar-nmoniated performance portraying insecurity, instability and worsening metnal illness, Glenn Close created one of the most iconic antagonists of the 80s, possibly the most memorable femme fatale outside classic fim noir, and made our number 7 pick, an easy choice.


6. The Unstoppable Force

Who are they?
Onto number 6 now, and we’re looking at that villain that will not stop. Ever. Our protagonist knocks them down but, no matter how hard they fall, this bad guy or girl keeps getting back up. They’re relentless, merciless and, seemingly, unnaturally unstoppable.

Classic examples:
Ivan Drago is a Siberian Express as he kills Apollo Creed and goes after the Italian Stallion, in Rocky IV (1985). When an escapist theme park populated by androids malfunctions, the guests find themselves hunted by a robotic gunslinger, in Westworld (1973). And in Terminator 2 (1991), John Connor finds himself running for his life when the shape-shifting, liquid metal T-1000 is sent from the future to kill him.

Our winner:
Our number 6, though a man of flesh and blood, is as unstoppable as any cyborg, and that;s what makes him so terrifying. From No Country For Old Men (2007), it’s… Anton Chigurh.
After Llewelyn Moss comes across a drug deal gone wrong, and decides to keep the cash for himself, he finds himself tracked and hunted by merciless killer, Chigurh. In a thrilling story of reflection and secrets, expertly crafted by the Coen Brothers, and featuring superb performances from a stellar cast, it’s Javier Bardem’s chilling, and Oscar-winning, turn as Chigurh that lingers longest in the memory. A hitman who takes lives on the whim of a coin toss, Chigurh executes victims like cattle, with a captive bolt stunner, and has been named by psychologists as among the most realistic portrayals of a psychopath ever put on screen. A stunning performance, a truly terrifying creation, and the most unstoppable villain, on our list..


5. The Authoritarian

Who are they?
Into the top 5, and we’re looking at a classic Hollywood villain – the evil authoritarian. An antagonist who is in a position of leadership and, due to corruption, self-serving ambition, or psychopathy, wields that power ruthlessly and without mercy.

Classic examples:
In Training Day (2001), narcotics detective Alonzo Harris secretly works for the Russian mob, and bribes rookie detectives to do the same. Warden Norton rules with violence, stands in the way of justice, and sanctions murder in The Shawshank Redemption (1994). And Emperor Commodus, murders his father, executes our hero’s family, and tries to seduce his own sister in Gladiator (2000).

Our winner:
When it comes to corrupt authority figures carrying out evil in the name of duty, though, there’s only one place we’re going. And that’s Oregon State Mental Hospital for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and… Nurse Ratched.
When Randle McMurphy is transferred to a mental institution on a statutory rape charge, he finds himself on a ward dominated by Nurse Ratched, a cold, manipulative tyrant who mentally abuses and psychologically intimidates her patients. If McMurphy serves as a Christ-like figure, bringing hope and dignity to his fellow inmates, Nurse Ratched is the Antichrist, fighting him at every turn. Featuring a stunning, Oscar-winning performance from Louise Fletcher, Ratched represents authority, conformity, bureaucracy, repression, oppression, and death and, most chillingly of all, she breaks McMurphy in the climax. A genuinely disturbing villain, and she does it all cold, calculated, and by barely raising her voice.


4. The Mastermind

Who are they?
Bad guys – and women – in movies sometimes look to assert their domination through great strength, wealth, or just their willingness to go as far as it takes. The more disturbing and dangerous villain, though, is often the one whose power is all in the mind. Blessed with a towering intellect, mastermind villains can’t be outthought, outwitted, or manipulated, and our list simply had to include them.

Classic examples:
Legendary criminal Keyser Soze outsmarts and fools his colleagues, the police, and us for the entirety of The Usual Suspects (1995). Hans Landa hunts Jewish holocaust refugees with merciless will-breaking efficiency in Inglourious Basterds (2009). And cannibalistic killer Hannibal Lacter uses his psychiatric background to help FBI agents track down serial murderers.

Our winner:
All of those names are worthy of making our list but, for our number 4, we’re going back to 1988, the night before Christmas, for action classic Die Hard and it’s seasonal scoundrel… Hans Gruber.

When New York cop John McClane visits his estranged wife at her office Christmas party, the festivities are interrupted when a group of terrorists, led by criminal genius Hans Gruber, take over the building with the aim of stealing $640million in bearer bonds. Where McClane is foul-mouthed, family-centred, and flawed, Gruber is a classically educated mastermind, who quotes James Baldwin and wears John Phillips suits. Played with a sociopathic charm by Alan Rickman in his first feature film role, Gruber will kill without hesitation when required, and predicts strategies from the LAPD and FBI, out-maneuvering both. An iconic antagonist, one of the great action movie bad guys, and our pick as the greatest mastermind villain


3. The ‘Unstable’ villain

Who are they?
Into the final 3 on our list now, and we’re looking at villains whose mindset has become unstable. Their behaviour is erratic, illogical, and impossible to predict which makes them one of the most terrifying and dangerous entries on our list.

Classic examples:
Psychotic drug lord Norman Stansfield executes 12-year-old Mathilda’s entire family, thn goes after the girl herself, in Leon (1994). Psychotic Amon Goth is based on a real-life Nazi concentration camp commandant, making the events of Schindler’s List (1993) all the more terrifying and tragic. And, when isolation fever and writers block set in, Jack Torrance turns from a devoted family man to an axe-wielding psychopath in The Shining (1980).

Our winner:
Jack Torrance came within a whisker of taking our third place but, after a Chigurh-style coin toss, that spot goes to another horror icon. From Psycho (1960), it’s the boy only a mother could love… Norman Bates.
When Phoenix secretary Marion Crane steals $40,000 from her employer and goes on the run, she stops for the night at the ramshackle Bates Motel and, after meeting its proprietor Norman, she never leaves. A young man suffering from dissociative identity disorder after years of emotional abuse, Bates has a highly eccentric personality, an obsessive interest in taxidermy, and unhealthy relationship with his mother, to say the least. Presented via an astonishingly deranged performance from Anthony Perkins, Norman’s out of touch views on women, sexuality, and society send him down a path that leads to the most famous murder ever seen in movies, and made him – and Psycho – indelible parts of Hollywood history.


2. Two sides of the same coin

They say a protagonist is only as good as his or her adversary, and that’s never more true than in our next category – the yin and yang. Whatever it is that makes our hero unique, the trait is shared by our villain but, where one uses their power for good, the other appropriates it for evil. They are, essentially, two sides of the same coin.

Classic examples:
A second son of Krypton, General Zod share’s Clark Kent’s superpowers but tries to rule the world, not save it, in Superman II. Like Neo, Agent Smith knows kung fu, and knows he’s in a simulation but wants to preserve the fantasy, not end it, in The Matrix Trilogy (1999-2003). And Khan Noonien Singh is a tactical genius and leader of people but can’t see past his thirst for vengeance against Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982).

Our winner:
It’s in one of the most iconic villains in all of popular culture where we find our selection, though. From Gotham City and Batman’s rogue’s gallery, it’s… The Joker.

Starting as an invention of comic book writers Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson back in 1940 as an adversary to their latest superhero, Batman, The Clown Prince Of Crime has been through many incarnations in the decades since, but his roots have never changed. An agent of chaos uninterested in wealth or personal gain, The Joker’s MO is to create anarchy, cause civil terror, and watch the world burn. That he has been portrayed on screen so many times in so many acclaimed performances is testament not just to the superb acting, but the enduring genius of the Joker as a unique creation and how, almost a century later, he continues to captivate, shock and excite audiences in a way few villains ever have.. The opposite of Batman in personality and appearance, the Joker is the Dark Knight’s perfect antithesis, his most challenging opponent, and one of the most iconic villains in movie history.


1. The ‘All-powerful’ villain

And here we are. We’ve reached number 1. We’ve highlighted a lot of brilliant bad guys and women already but, for the number 1, we’re looking at the All Powerful villain. This is the antagonist who completely outmatches our hero. They’re stronger, more experienced, wiser, more powerful and, seemingly, an impossible obstacle for our main character to overcome.

Classic examples:
Evil incarnate The Wicked Witch Of The West sets her flying monkeys on Dorothy, and her little dog too, to dominate her subjects in The Wizard Of Oz (1939). The world’s greatest supercomputer, HAL-9000, malfunctions and kills most of his ship’s crew, in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). And Arnold Schwarzenegger’s merciless cyborg kills with the ruthless efficiency of a machine, when he travels through time to murder Sarah Connor, in The Terminator (1984).

Our winner:
Where else is there to go for our number 1, though, than to a galaxy far, far away to talk about the Star Wars series and it’s unforgettable villain… Darth Vader.

A former Jedi lured to the Dark Side of the Force, Darth Vader has had an impact and influence on popular culture like no villain before or since. The revelations of his youth – podracing and killing, er, younglings – may not have improved Vader’s legacy, but it’s his appearances in the original Star Wars trilogy which created the mythos. A blend of tragic antihero and unstoppable exponent of the Force, Vader’s presence hangs over every Star Wars movie, whether he appears in them or not. David Prowse is the man in the suit, and it’s Ralph McQuarrie’s design work, coupled with James Earl Jones’ booming voice that combine to create the legend. A character that fits into almost every category on our list, he is the most recognisable, influential, and iconic antagonist to ever hit the screen and, for us, the greatest movie villain of all time.


So what do you think of our rundown? Do you agree with our selections, or think we’ve missed out some obvious choices? Let us know in the comments below and subscribe for more All The Right Movies videos.