Comic book movies are kind of a big thing now-a-days. At least one new movie pops up every summer and the quality of these films keeps getting better (for the most part). One of the reasons these movies are becoming such big hits are the villains our heroes must overcome. So I decided to create a list of who I think are the top 10 comic villains in film to date.
A quick rundown of the criteria I was going for. One, it had to be a comic book before it was a movie. Two, I’m talking about the live action incarnations so all the animated movies are eliminated. Three, I had to have seen the movie, but lets face it I haven’t missed many of the comic book films. So without further ado lets jump into the list.
10. Lady Deathstrike (X-Men 2)
Now they didn’t follow the origin of Lady Deathstrike with her film counterpart, but frankly I am quite okay with that. I enjoy the silent assassin type. The one that stands in the background making you think they are badass and once called upon they prove your assumption right. Sure she was under mind control the entire movie so she could have been a good person but we never saw that side of her, just the killer.
She’s deserving of a spot on this list because she didn’t kick ass once, but twice in the film. The first time came against Cyclops who never really stood a chance and proved to be easy pickings for her. Her second throw down was against Wolverine and she 100% whooped his ass. He looked like a 10-year old boxing Mike Tyson in his prime. She was quicker, smarter and overall more lethal than him. It was unfortunate for her though when she took a poor position. Or could we chalk that up to dumb luck for Wolverine?
9. The Penguin (Batman Returns)
At the time The Penguin was casted I don’t think any other actor could have been more right for the role but people of that time probably complained about this casting too. Saying things like “another comedic actor in a Batman movie?” It worked out well for the first Batman movie so Burton continued the trend.
Tim Burton’s vision of The Penguin was a lot more grotesque and animalistic than he appears in the comics but it fit the tone he was going for with his bat-universe and opened the door for serious, dark comic book villains. Sure the Joker in Burton’s first Batman movie was the first villain to popup in a dark comic movie and for as much as I enjoy Jack Nicholson’s Joker, he did go a bit over the top. Unfortunately the concept of a dark toned villain was lost in the Schumacher films to only resurface later in the 90s in Blade.
8. Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)
It’s a shame Hugh Weaving has said he would not reprise the role of Red Skull if ever asked because he did a pretty good job with it, helping erase the memory of the 1990 film version. His German accent wasn’t over the top and he embodied the Red Skull. A lot of credit for Red Skull goes to the costume/make-up department as well, with nailing the look. Making it look very real.
I may have been quoted in the past to have said Weaving can be easily replaced as the Red Skull seeing the makeup can really be slapped on anyone’s face, just as long as the accent is done right. Something I still firmly stand by. However I am not going to take anything away from the man for putting forth a good performance, one I feel worthy enough to land on this list.
7. Magneto (X-Men 1-3)
Sir Ian McKellen makes this list even though I don’t think he’s the best on screen Magneto. No, that goes to Michael Fassbender but he hasn’t really portrayed Magneto as a villain as we’ve seen so far (though debatable with First Class and DoFP). With that said I don’t think Ian McKellen is a bad Magneto, he’s actually quite good. He plays that I’ve been wronged for so long angle so well.
He may not have that comic book build of Magneto (not many do) but his acting chops are top tier. He breathed life into one of the greatest comic villains of all time and can be attributed highly for being part of ushering in the new era of comic book movies successfully. Making him completely deserving of landing in this spot.
6. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)
Say what you want about The Dark Knight Rises but Bane was a truly brutal force. He had zero regard for himself with his eye always on the prize. His first showdown with Batman was truly horrifying to see Bats struggle with not being able to hurt Bane. Sure Batman was retired for a few years at this point (8 to be exact) but lets face it being Batman for Bruce is like riding a bike for normal folks, you just don’t forget that.
After Bane ridded himself of the Dark Knight, he moved onto his next plan of anarchy in Gotham City. Showing just how big of a terroristic threat he was. Of course his second throw down with Batman did not go so favorably for him but when a man has to be taken out by a canon on the Batcycle (shot by Catwoman) it only shows how tough as nails the man really was.
5. Sebastian Shaw (X-Men: First Class)
Never did I think I’d see the day where Kevin Bacon played a comic book character and villain for that matter. He brought a character I never really cared for in the comics, Sebastian Shaw, to the big screen brilliantly. He made him more interesting in my eyes, but this can be attributed to how he was written as well.
In First Class the man had a pretty clever plan. Turn two super powered nations on each other, to bring about nuclear war ushering in a new world where Shaw can come out as ruler. It would have worked well too if he accounted for creating Magneto. A man hell bent on revenge for all the wrongs Shaw did to him, his family and his people.
4. Loki (Thor 1 & 2, The Avengers)
Tom Hiddleston is bloody brilliant as the god of mischief. His actions on screen commands the attention of the viewers and he is to Loki what Robert Downey Jr is to Iron Man for Marvel Studios. As both of them own those characters and it’s impossible to think of it any other way.
In my eyes he is the one villain in the Marvel cinematic universe deserving of his own movie, one that I think could work very well. It could usher in a change of pace for Marvel. With how things ended in Thor 2 this concept is very possible, unless they intend to undo all that with Thor 3. Either way Loki is deserving of a top 5 spot.
3. Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man 2)
Filling out the 3 to 5 spots. Was tough, real tough. On any given day I can shuffle the 3 of them around but ultimately I went with Doc Ock here because this was the first truly fleshed out super hero villain to be shown on film. He was a tragic character. Born by his own failing and haunted by that failing accidentally killing the woman he loved.
With all that, Octavius was left a broken man and slightly deranged by his new mechanical limbs. Leaving him with the idea he can only redeem the memory of his wife by going forth and successfully completing his project that killed her and made him into the monster he became. In the end he was given a heroic sendoff after Spider-man was able to make a connection with the real Otto Octavius who sacrificed himself for the sake of the city.
2. The Joker (The Dark Knight)
I’m sure most of you were expecting Heath Ledger’s Joker to be number 1. I mean the man did win an award for the role which was a big win for the comic book movie, showing how far they’ve come. Like my 3-5 spots are interchangeable depending on the day, this version of the Joker could very easily be #1 but at the time of writing this he is not.
What can I say about this version of the character that most of you don’t already know? He was reckless chaos, just wanting to the see the world burn. We’ll probably never get a better Joker. Which is a shameful mindset I must admit because it sets the bar impossibly high for the next actor to play the role but it also makes it totally clear why he deserves to be where he is on this list.
1. Winter Soldier (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
In a way this pick bookends my list. Start off with the silent assassin type, end with the silent assassin type. The Winter Soldier was scary good in this movie. Knowing he was Captain America’s best friend from childhood completely devoid of any human emotion helped with that. The first few scenes of him popping up showed him to be a nearly unstoppable force, especially the fight in the streets with Black Widow, Cap and Sam Wilson.
However one of the main reasons he landed on this lists top spot was the tortured soul aspect of the character. When they showed how they were keeping the dog obedient you felt something for Bucky. Here was a man being ripped away from who he formerly was with a small inkling that he can comeback from this and be redeemed. Which no doubt he will eventually return but as a hero (like he does in the comics). In the meantime he’ll sit right here on the top of my list as a villain, a truly tragic one at that.