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Work must intrude: Snarky’s Favorite Cinematic Villains

November 16, 2009

It’s probably a cliche to note that villains are infinitely more interesting than heroes, but I am not one to avoid a cliche. I’m writer. That’s just what we do. Though I am probably in the minority (again, can I get some affirmative action supports on this?) of people who actively root for villains in movies. I do. I hope they will finally thwart Bond or at least send John McClane to a sanitarium. Anyway, here are my favorite villains from movies.

Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) from the action movie classic Die Hard

While the default setting of Bond villains was megalomania cut with a side of snark, it seems like most villains in American films are entirely too unlikable. Light on charm or wit. There are some exceptions, but honestly, they can be a bit boring.

And then Hans Gruber blew into town with his merry band of terrorists, two of whom bear a striking resemblance to 80s pop stars (Huey Lewis and Sting). Despite being a rather distasteful human being, he was quite charming, articulate and didn’t really froth at the mouth except towards the end.

In real life, no Joe Schmoe cop would be able to outwit this guy, but eh, what can you do. Gruber laid the smack down in a reasonable manner and I liked how he drawled all his words as if taking hostages and taking over a building was the most boring thing on his to-do list that day.

Classic line: “Mr. Takagi, I could talk about industrialization and men’s fashion all day, but I’m afraid work must intrude, and my associate, Theo, has some questions for you. Sort of fill in the blanks questions, actually.”

Sir Hugo Drax at tea.

Sir Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) from Bond movie Moonraker

Sir Hugo Drax has a simple, albeit diabolical, vision. Blast a bunch of hand selected genetically superior humans into an intergalactic hooptie he calls “Moonraker”. Moonraker was on loan to the UK, but Drax then got a back case of takerbackitis and hijacked the shuttle mid air! Like most Bond villains, he does of explaining of his values without regard to past history and ultimately this contributes to his downfall.

I like his mixture of refinement and ruthlessness. He utters one of his infamous lines while daintily sipping afternoon tea. I appreciate that commitment to ritual.

Classic Line: “Look after Mr. Bond and see that some harm come to him.”

Congressman Shelly Runyon

Congressman Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman) from The Contender

Moral ambiguity is usually not the domain of villains, and Shelly Runyon is no exception. As a powerful and often times ruthless statesman, Runyon mows down anyone who stands in his way. His oily charm and unabashedly hateful disposition is a throwback to seventies villains. He sinks to impossible lows, introducing naughty pics to a congressional hearing while stating that such pictures have no place there.

Classic Line: “What I say the American people will believe. And do you know why? Because I will have a very big microphone in front of me.”

These are some of my favorite movie villains. Who are yours?

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Charlie permalink
    November 16, 2009 3:46 pm

    I love Alan Rickman. Since his performance in Die Hard, most American action films had their villains played by British actors. He was probably the best though. Often his popular performances are delivered in the same way (eg. Robin Hood, Harry Potter…)

    My favourites?

    – Edith Massey in Desperate Living
    – Alan Rickman in Die Hard / Harry Potter (so enjoyable)
    – Lee Byung-hun in The Good The Bad The Weird (emo bad!)
    – Timothy Dalton in The Rocketeer (maybe Hot Fuzz is you prefer)
    – James Le Gros in Living In Oblivion
    – Anything where I find myself cheering for the ‘bad guys’!

    Look, you got me list making!

  2. November 16, 2009 3:50 pm

    Ooh I forgot about James Le Gros! That was some fine villainy!

  3. Charlie permalink
    November 16, 2009 3:51 pm

    “What about ME up close, HER afar…”

  4. Mike S. permalink
    November 16, 2009 4:17 pm

    I liked Tom Cruise’s character Vincent in the film Collateral. The character wasn’t as interesting or memorable as Hans Gruber, but he was cold and purposeful in action and his moral justification for his actions was more intelligent and interesting than most similar hired killers.

    Charlie reminded me of Lee Van Cleef in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

  5. November 16, 2009 5:07 pm

    I really liked Cruise’s measured performance in Collateral. I found his character’s motivations as interesting as his process. That’s rare. For the most part Cruise outside antics get on my nerves, but that performance was criminally ignored.

    His performance was where I hoped DeNiro’s performance in Heat was going. I think his character was way too much motivation and not enough adherence to process. While it made for a taut climax, it felt completely disloyal to the spirit of the character.

  6. Mike S. permalink
    November 16, 2009 10:18 pm

    Oops, I forgot one! Rutger Hauer’s character Roy in BladeRunner. I still get tears when he dies, vicious killer though he was.

  7. November 17, 2009 6:55 am

    Ahhh Rutger! Nighthawks too!

  8. redlami permalink*
    November 17, 2009 11:02 am

    Too many movie villains are cartoonish, which is why it’s ironic that my favorites – the ones who I find most three-dimensional and believable – are actually cartoons or puppets.

    • Audrey II (voiced by Levi Stubbs) from Little Shop of Horrors
    • Yzma (voiced by Eartha Kitt) from The Emperor’s New Groove
    • Borg Queen (Alice Krige) from Star Trek: First Contact
    • Hal 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain) from 2001
    • Edgar (Vincent D’Onofrio) from Men in Black
  9. November 17, 2009 11:11 am

    Edgar (Vincent D’Onofrio) from Men in Black

    “Uh, I’m looking for a man – a dead man…”

  10. redlami permalink*
    November 17, 2009 11:29 am

    I just realized that D’Onofrio isn’t actually a puppet, he just does such a good job as Edgar that I think of him as one.

  11. November 17, 2009 11:30 am

    Clearly you have not watched Law & Order: Criminal Intent

  12. redlami permalink*
    November 17, 2009 12:56 pm

    Alan Rickman is a fantastic villain… if you haven’t already seen Quigley Down Under, you’re in for a real treat.

  13. Charlie permalink
    November 17, 2009 1:02 pm

    No, I’ve not seen this. I shall see if I can find it! He’s always worth watching.

  14. Charlie permalink
    November 17, 2009 1:03 pm

    I’ve just remembered David Hess. This man scares the poo out of me.

    I hear he is a really lovely man in real life…

  15. redlami permalink*
    November 17, 2009 1:07 pm

    It’s got the added bonus of some great chemistry between Tom Selleck and Laura San Giacomo.

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