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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Who is your favorite villain from all of pop culture?

Today’s question comes from reader Patrick, who wants to know:

Who is your favorite villain from all of pop culture? Patrick elaborates: “Who’s the most entertainingly evil (fictional) being that you like to quote?”

I’m not sure that I have a favorite villain, but The Princess Bride’s Prince Humperdinck’s “I killed you too quickly last time” comes in handy once in a while.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • sm

    Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer! So evil and British…

    “I just can’t take all this namby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody Indians! You won! All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That’s what conquering nations do. It’s what Caesar did and he’s not going around saying ‘I came, I conquered, I feel really bad about it.’ The history of the world is not people making friends – you had better weapons and you massacred them. End of story.”

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    I hate lists like these because my favorites vanish when I need to think of them.

    That said, I doubt anyone can top Darth Vader on my list. An icon of evil, especially in “Empire Strikes Back”.

    “I am altering the deal, pray I do not alter it any further.”

  • Anne

    I would not be able to choose, I’m a sucker for the baddies. And tend to side with them, especially when the gooddies start talking in sappy cliches.
    Last night though..

    +++Sherlock by Steven Moffat Spoilers!!!!+++

    how much did that moriarty stink? I mean, he was so annoying I wanted to smush his face and throw him in the pool so I didn’t need that whiny pinch in his voice anymore. He was trying to be joker like I guess, but it came out high school bully. Completely ruined the eposode for me. Untypical bad casting by the otherwise brilliant Moffat.

    +++end of spoilers and comment+++

  • Oh, there are so many quotable villains in The Princess Bride. It’s hard to pick a favorite. Unfortunately, Vizzini’s assessment of the most well-known classic blunder has been all too appropriate lately: “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”

    One also must give a shout-out to Alan Rickman as pretty much any villain he’s ever played. “Because it’s dull, you twit, it would hurt more!”

  • Paul

    Yeah, Alan Rickman has great taste in villains to play, and roles in general, starting as far back as the first Die Hard movie.

    But Spike from “BtVS” is the villain I most hate to love.

  • Given it long thought. Honestly, it has to be…

    Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) Die Hard

    Winning moment: when he attempts to outwit McClane by pretending to be an escaped hostage

  • As far as quoting villains goes, Count Rugen always comes in handy during the flu season. “Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” (slight smile)

    For expressing admiration (sincere or otherwise), there’s always Vader: “Impressive. (pause) Most impressive.”

  • Hank Graham

    Bert Frobe as Goldfinger. What other Bond villain had the movie named after him? Yeah, Blofeldt with the Nehru jacket and the white cat is iconic (and Mike Myers has certainly gotten a lot of mileage from his parody of him), but Goldfinger made a far larger impression.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Oh… yes. Almost forgot The Joker.

    Heath Ledger’s Joker was amazing, but Mark Hamill’s take in the Animated Series will always be the definitive Joker.

  • Laura

    SHERLOCK SPOILERS

    “He was trying to be joker like I guess”

    ARGH. THANK YOU. I was talking about the show to a friend last night and said that he seemed to be doing some kind of British Joker impression, and she’s all, “no, what are you talking about, you’re imagining it.” He had the same intonations, the same attitude, and even a few similar lines!

    I, however, thought it was kind of cool, ’cause I really like the Joker. :D

    END SPOILERS

    And on that note, I must say that Ledger’s Joker has really redefined for me what a villain can do/be. So, he’s my favorite of recent years. I’d jump on the Spike bandwagon, except that after his first few episodes with Dru, I think he became an anti-hero rather quickly. Still love him, though!

  • amanohyo

    Charles Montgomery Burns exudes so much excellence, he could fire Vader, stick Spike in middle management at the blood bank, outsource the Death Star, steal Count Rugen’s lollipop, ship Hans back to the land of chocolate on the pony express, forget the Joker’s name, beat Goldfinger and Moriarity soundly in a round of golf, and still have enough time left before breakfast to enjoy a relaxing ride on the trolley from Battery Park to the polo grounds.

    Sorry, I’m still working off the testosterone rush from lion vs. tuna.

  • JJoseph

    “My plan is sheer elegance in it’s draconian complexity.”

    Manservant Neville (Mark Sheppard) from the Middleman

    Not my all time favorite villain, but I love the line

  • CoriAnn

    Well, he’s not a very competent villain, but I love Dr. Evil. I am often to be found grumbling about sharks and frikkin’ laser beams.

    But as far as my favorite all-time villain, that’s gotta be Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

  • Lisa

    I think the Mayor from Buffy was great. Cos he was such a nice guy, he just wanted to eat everyone. On the other hand, it was evil and insidious the way he abused Faith. He was really well written villain and the actor was fantastic.

    I, too, thought of Moriarty in Sherlock last night when I saw the question!

  • Isobel

    I was going to say the Mayor from Buffy! He’s brilliant – so polite, never uses bad language, such a twisted fatherly relationship with Faith. Just creepy in a very perfect fashion.

  • Froborr

    That’s a painfully hard question, there are so many! I can’t be expected to pick just one, so here’s a couple:

    Nakago from Fushigi Yuugi: One of the most thoroughly EVIL characters I’ve ever encountered, not in a cartoony mustache-twirling way, but simply someone who will do absolutely ANYTHING if it benefits him and have absolutely no regrets about it whatsoever afterwards. Crowning moment of evil: He finds a passed-out fourteen-year-old girl about to be raped. He kills the rapists and then, when she wakes up, LIES AND TELLS HER HE WAS TOO LATE TO STOP THE RAPE. All so he can then persuade her it’s her best friend’s fault, turning them against each other.

    The Master, Doctor Who: Do I really need to explain? On THIS blog?

    The Mayor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: For all the reasons listed above, plus his last words: “Well, gosh.” Even upon dying, he won’t swear. He’s pro-family!

  • nyjm

    Disney’s Maleficent is hands down the most bad-ass villain in their catalog, maybe in all of animation: wicked smart, mean as a hangnail and a very snappy dresser to boot. Her judgment in henchmen is atrocious, but definitely the last person you want to bump into a dark alley…

    For the most interesting villain: Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Lex Luthor in Superman Returns. It might be helped by an otherwise lack-luster movie, but he is just the epitome of intelligent antagonism.

    Favorite villain to quote: Jack Nicolson’s Joker: “Never rub another man’s rhubarb.”

    Zorg, Gary Oldman’s over-the-top sociopath CEO from The Fifth Element, is a close second.

  • the rook

    what, no star trek villains?

    khan? the borg? how about Q? Q was so awesome he (it? they?) transcended the mediocre episode that introduced him.

  • JoshDM

    Was going to post Lex Luthor, thought about it, then came to post Diehard’s Hans Gruber, and saw PaulW beat me to it.

    Hans Gruber.

  • Dokeo

    Since Brian beat me to Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham (“That’s it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.”) how about Arnold in Terminator, I’LL BE BACK!

  • Daniel

    No love for Hannibal Lecter?

  • Thinking more about entertaining and quotable villains: He’s more comically evil than evil evil, but Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb is hilarious, every time. Too many good quotes to list here.

    Alright, here’s one:

    Dr. Doofenshmirtz: [showing an acrostic poster] Anyway, today is the day we reveal to the Tri-State Area the existence of the “League Of Villainous Evildoers Maniacally United For Frightening Investments in Naughtiness!”

    Dr. Bloodpudding: You want us to be called “L.O.V.E.M.U.F.F.I.N.”?

    Dr. Doofenshmirtz: Oh, good grief. It doesn’t matter what we’re called. What’s important is that we get our evil message out to the people.

  • Oh, for pity’s sake. One woman, so far? How about the loathsome and hateful Dolores Umbridge who is worse than Voldemort for her banal cruelty?

    Or Faye Dunaway’s Milady in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers: “Perhaps I shall watch…” (shudder)

    Or Anne Reid as the Plasmavore in the “Smith and Jones” episode of Doctor Who: “I dare say this will hurt, but if it’s any consolation, the dead tend not to remember.” (Double shudder)

    And if all else fails, the Wicked Witch of the West! “No, we won’t kill them right away; we’ll let them think about it first.”

  • misterb

    Al Swearengen from Deadwood (played by Ian McShane).
    Al was the most realistically complex villian I can remember. He was certainly evil, but by the end of the show’s run, I was rooting for him against the more corporate evildoers he faced. The list of his quotes is completely unsuitable for a family web-site (or even this one)

  • Cam

    The mighty Monarch! I think we’re done here.

  • Mo

    Gollum. I’ve been quoting him since I was about 7. …And there’s so much to him, too.

    Although my Gollum voice sounds more like the one Tolkien does on those tapes of him reading than Andy Serkis’ voice in the movies, which occasionally confuses people nowadays.

  • Dolores Umbridge was indeed a far more effective villain than Voldemort. You saw her petty cruelty up close and personal, whereas Voldy was just too removed from most of the story and so hyped up that when you finally met him, he was underwhelming. At least for me.

    I’d say she’s probably the villain I’ve most hated in recent memory. I hated (in a good way) her so much that even her humiliating comeuppance seemed like less than she deserved.

  • Jurgan

    Oh, geez, there are hundreds. To Ninja: I agree that Voldemort was underwhelming, but I think that was intentional. It reminded me of Stephen King, especially Randall Flagg (hey, can Randall Flagg get a nod here?). The point seemed to be that, once you cut away all the bluff and bluster, evil is pretty pathetic. The crying baby in the train station drives it home. Umbridge was much more despicable because she should have been a hero but was more interested in preserving order than doing the right thing. Also, she was an educational villain, and as an educator that got to me. The maddest I got, actually, was when she said passing exams was “the whole point” of school- I have to deal with that attitude every day.

    I like the Mayor from Buffy, but I think he would have been a better villain if we’d had some idea of why he wanted to be a giant snake. It just seemed kind of random. But he had a lot of character, especially near the end when Faith got put in a coma and he tried to strangle Buffy in her hospital bed- that was the one time he was genuinely angry.

    Of course, I’ve got to give a shout out to Gargoyles, which had lots of great villains. The best were the main two (both voiced by Star Trek: TNG actors). First you had Demona (Marina Sirtis), a raging murderer who was directly responsible for the genocide of her clan, but went on a millineum long quest for vengeance against all of humanity because she couldn’t admit it was her own fault. Then there was Xanatos (Jonathan Frakes), who was just the opposite- a cool, subdued corporate villain who never saw himself as a villain, but rather was above the ideas of good and evil. Very unusually for a cartoon villain, he never held a grudge and didn’t care about what happened to his enemies unless he had some use for them. Also, he invented the Xanatos Gambit, in which the heroes win but the villain is able to use even a loss to some beneficial purpose for himself. Since he wasn’t trying to do anything drastic like take over the world (OF COURSE!), he could occasionally win, which kept him from getting weak and stale over time.

  • tinwatchman

    Ah, “most entertaining” villain. That makes it more difficult. See, I like complex villains who have some sort of a reason for their actions. So I’m a big fan of the Operative from Serenity, and Mr. Freeze from Batman The Animated Series. But if we’re after ENTERTAINING evil — bad guys who basically exist to do all of the things we kinda want to do, but can’t ’cause they’re bad? Hrm…

    … I guess, off the top of my head, I’d have to go with the Mayor from Buffy as well. There’s just something great about how he sees no contradiction between his squeaky-clean Mister Rodgers persona and becoming an all-powerful eldritch abomination that will devour humanity whole.

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