Although, in the context of this article, “villain” may be loosely applied to some of the characters on this list, that doesn’t detract from the fact that their actions prove to be more than just a thorn in the side of their heroic counterparts.
From wanton destruction to crushing the spirit of anyone and everyone to fall prey to their wickedness, these are the people we love to hate (or, at least, I do).
5. Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) – Rocky IV, 1985
Standing 6’5”, this giant from a bygone Soviet-Russia era is played by the equally daunting Dolph Lundgren and serves as the primary antagonist to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, the Italian-stallion who reached [fictional] acclaim as America’s greatest boxer.
In Rocky IV, Ivan Drago enters the ring for an exhibition-boxing match against Balboa’s former enemy turned best friend for life, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). However, when the Russian kills Creed in a brutally one-sided brawl, he shows his true colours as both ruthless and merciless, dropping the haunting quip, “If he dies, he dies” with soulless indifference.
Without a doubt, this is the best of the Rocky saga, chock full of great tunes and climaxing in a powerful speech about getting along with your fellow man.
4. Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) – Judge Dredd, 2012
In this modern adaptation of another Stallone classic, Karl Urban reprises the role of ultimate authority figure, Judge Dredd. Although Urban performs a more than capable rendition of the judge, juror and executioner, the real show stealer is Lena Headey’s villainous crime lord, Ma-Ma.
Ma-Ma keeps her subjects in line by controlling the supply of an addictive reality-altering drug called SLO-MO (and, of course, no short supply of high-powered sci-fi artillery), making her a formidable opponent for the futuristic law enforcement team, The Judges.
Juxtaposing Dredd’s drive for stability and justice with unbridled anarchy and violence, Ma-Ma is truly a force to be reckoned with. She even has a number of cops under her pay roll so, you know, don’t mess with her.
3. Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) – Batman Begins, 2005
Surprise, surprise; I’m banging on about Batman again. Perhaps an uncommon selection as the best antagonist to the Caped Crusader, but Ra’s Al Ghul (brilliantly portrayed by everyone’s favourite Irishman, Liam Neeson) snaps up this spot instead of the Joker because of what he represents.
Whereas the Joker enjoys anarchy for anarchy’s sake, Ra’s has a more chilling vision in mind. Having lived for centuries, Batman’s former teacher and friend reveals to our plucky hero that he has orchestrated some of the world’s most significant catastrophes; from the sacking of Rome to the Black Plague, Ra’s Al Ghul has tasked himself with ensuring that the greatest cities of the world are systematically destroyed before they fall into corruption and injustice.
Although his ambitions are not of an inherently evil intent, Ra’s Al Ghul carries out his goals with complete disregard for any innocent life caught in the crossfire and, even in death, continues to wreak his fury upon Gotham.
2. Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) – Game of Thrones, 2011–
Again, maybe not everyone’s choice favourite for biggest bastard on the show but, let’s face it, he’s by far the coolest (I’m looking at you, Joffrey, you little snot bag).
Serving as the head of Westeros’ most wealthy family turns you into a bit of a stickler when it comes to self preservation, it seems, and Tywin is of no exception. As a result of this, Charles Dance’s cold father of three doesn’t really care who suffers at the expense of ensuring his family legacy remains preserved, even if (ironically) his children ultimately pay the price for his scheming.
However, what really makes Tywin Lannister an infamous villain is his orchestration of The Red Wedding. The North will remember, Tywin.
1. Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid) – Star Wars Saga, 1977 – 1983, 1999 – 2005
So, finally, coming in as the ultimate baddie in this pointless list is the Star Wars Saga’s master of puppets, Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid). This guy really was a horrible sod, to say the least, but he was bloody good at it.
From starting a galactic war to eradicating the valiant Jedi order, to corrupting the chosen one and, ultimately, declaring himself the sole leader of a new Empire, Palpatine did everything in his power to ensure that he was uncontested in his rule and crushed the spirits of an entire galaxy (save some pesky rebels).
Plus, he shoots lightening out of his hands.
There we have it then, a pointless list! Some honourable mentions before I sign off:
Darth Vader – Star Wars Original Trilogy (1977 – 1983)
Roy Batty – Blade Runner (1982)
Saruman – The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001 – 2003)
Regina George – Mean Girls (2004)
Asajj Ventress – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 – 2014)