TOPS: 10 Infamous Villains of Tinseltown

Every so often an actor is presented with a villainous role – a role that’s considered despicable, heinous, menacing, cruel or psychotic.  When acted properly, these characters (and actors) transcend time and go on to become infamous for their psychosis, violence or socially conflicting beliefs.  Above all, these characters have been portrayed so well, they’re being named As Seen By’s 10 infamous villains of Tinseltown:

#10:  Jeremy Irons (voice) – Scar – The Lion King (1994)

 In Disney’s 1994 classic The Lion King, Scar is the menacing, evil lion intent on having the throne at Pride Rock and will do anything it takes to rule over the pride lands, which entails him killing Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones), banishing Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and forming an allegiance with the hyenas, one of the lions natural adversaries.  Scar is successful in all of his quests for power until a grown Simba returns to claim his rightful place in the circle of life “as the one true king.”  Regardless of the outcome, Scar is one of the most memorable and merciless animated villains of all time, afterall, he does kill his own brother. 

#9:  Meryl Streep – Miranda Priestly – The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Who could forget the amazing performance Meryl Streep turned out as the ruthless editor of Runway, a high fashion magazine. Streep’s demeanor and condescending, dismissive attitude make her a formidable villain in film history.  Streep worked her way to an Oscar nomination through her portrayal and cold, harsh delivery of one line in particular, “that’s all.”  In the film, Priestly is feared by all of her co-workers and subordinates and her opinion “is the only one that matters.”  As it turns out, Miranda Priestly is speculated to be based upon the editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, who as it turns out is an institution in fashion.

#8:  Betty Lou Gerson (voice) – Cruella De Vil – 101 Dalmatians (1961)

 Someone call the fashion police!  If I may borrow a term from WWE Diva Beth Phoenix, it seems this TOPS list has two glamazons in it!  Cruella De Vil is a terrible woman – she wants dalmatian puppy skin to make a fur coat!  PETA would not be happy about this at all.  What’s worse?  She kidnaps the dalmatians, luckily none of which were processed into Cruella’s evening wear but that doesn’t mean she isn’t perhaps the most villainous animated character ever – after all, she’d turn Scar into a rug.  She’s infamous for representing a popular trend that drew increasing protest during the 1980s, real fur clothing. 

#7:  Bryce Dallas Howard – Hilly Holbrook – The Help (2011)

If you saw last year’s hit movie The Help, then you already know who Hilly Holbrook is.  She’s the town racist and “socialite” ringleader responsible for the “Home Help Sanitation Initiative,” a bill that she proposes to require separate bathrooms for blacks because they “carry different diseases.”  Howard’s performance is highly commendable because from start to finish she has the audience hating her.  When I saw this film, there were people behind me saying, “Oh no she didn’t” and “I wanna slap this bitch.”  She’s definitely a polarizing figure and one of the most detestable snobs in any movie, ever. 

#6:  Ralph Fiennes – Lord Voldemort – Harry Potter (2005, 2007, 2010, 2011)

 Actor Ralph Fiennes was tasked with bringing “The Dark Lord” to life in four of the eight Harry Potter films.  Lord Voldemort causes a shudder in people with the mere mention of his name and he eventually begins gaining on-screen prominence about mid-way through the ultra-successful franchise.  Harry Potter’s biggest adversary killed his parents, uncle and numerous others on his quest to destroy “the boy who lived.” What makes Voldemort so intense is the insane amount of power he has and his relentless aggression.  Fiennes adds another dimension to the character with his whispered, eerie vocals.

#5:  Kathy Bates – Annie Wilkes – Misery (1990)

 Perhaps actress Kathy Bates presents the most psychotic female villain ever in Annie Wilkes.  When her favorite author, Paul Sheldon (James Caan) wrecks during a freak blizzard on his way through Colorado, Annie, a former nurse, rescues him and takes him back to her cabin in a remote area.  Based on the book by acclaimed horror writer Stephen King, Annie’s obsession with Paul’s Misery series of books escalates leading to the famous scene where she breaks his ankles with a sledgehammer.  From that moment and the end of the film, Annie shoots and kills a police officer and tries, unsuccessfully, to kill Paul but meets her end thanks to a small steel pig.  Bates won an Oscar for her portrayal in Misery.  Oh and did I mention, Paul discovers somewhere in the middle that in the past she was a baby killer?  Some nurse. 

#4:  Heath Ledger – The Joker – The Dark Knight (2008)

 With Ledger’s untimely death, his portrayal of The Joker immediately catapulted into the annals of film history.  Ledger gave us his absolute best performance as the eerie, physical and murderous archenemy of Batman (Christian Bale) and the Academy agreed by giving Ledger a posthumous Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.  The Joker’s scruffy and grungy appearance combined with his Glasgow smile made him feel more twitchy, unstable and edgy.  Factor in Ledger’s extremely well-done vocal intonations and you have before you one of the best portrayals of a villain in Hollywood history. 

#3:  Margaret Hamilton – The Wicked Witch of the West – The Wizard of Oz (1939)

It should go without saying that The Wicked Witch of the West is one of the most infamous film villains.  The character was created during a time when cinema was flourishing and Technicolor was still a fairly recent (then) technology.  Margaret Hamilton had a pitch-perfect voice and cackle to match her near-hideous look, both of which she threw around on her quest to obtain the ruby slippers.  Her most famous line “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too,” is without a doubt one of the most memorable movie quotes, which is often referenced or used still today in movies and television.  Sure, The Wicked Witch wasn’t terrifying, per se but she is still one of the longest running and most successful film villains ever. 

#2:  Anthony Hopkins – Dr. Hannibal Lecter – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

 “Hello Clarice.” Remember that line?  This man is creepy and not just creepy, I mean creepy, creepy.  If you don’t believe me then I’d say go ask him yourself but chances are, you won’t come back alive.  Anthony Hopkins plays Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a forensic psychologist who happens to be a sociopath with cannibalistic tendencies.  Between his odd demands and knowledgable, intricate detail Dr. Lecter seems to always be in control of the situation, even in prison.  His infamy is that much greater because at the end of the film he escapes and sends a “congratulatory” note to FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) containing details of her worst memory.  His villainous efforts weren’t unrecognized either as Hopkins won his first and only Oscar for his performance.     

#1:  Anthony Perkins – Norman Bates – Psycho (1960)

Director Alfred Hitchcock had a knack for horror/suspense films, so it should come as no surprise that actor Anthony Perkins was able to turn out his most memorable performance as Norman Bates.  Norman is Mother and Mother is Norman in this tale of a murderous man with a fractured psyche.  Following the death of his father, Norman and his mother became inseparable, that is until she found a lover.  Norman, consumed with jealousy killed his mother and her lover and tried to erase his wrongdoing by bringing her back to life in his mind and mother is equally as jealous, killing anyone Norman feels attached to.  Perkins does a phenomenal job tackling the role through subtle nuance.  For example, there’s a moment before the steps when he is speaking, his stature is shy and timid – suddenly mother takes over and Norman assumes a confident stance before heading up the stairs.  The shower peep-hole and stabbing have intimidated audiences for decades and will continue to do so for decades to come. 


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