50 Most Popular Villains of All Time

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A great movie hero needs a great villain. These villains give beloved protagonists a reason to exist, to entertain, to go above and beyond in the pursuit of justice.

Oftentimes audiences find themselves drawn to these characters – on occasion preferring them to whomever the movie’s “good guys” are. Villains can be intriguing, as in the case of the Joker, who gained renewed popularity after being portrayed by Heath Ledger in 2008’s “The Dark Knight.” Sometimes they’re funny, like Biff from “Back to the Future”. Other times they’re simply so perfectly evil that they command respect, like Hannibal Lecter.

To determine the most popular movie villains of all time, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed metrics such as public online rankings, Wikipedia search volume, and film popularity.

Click here to see the 50 most popular villains of all time.

Many of the most popular villains appear in blockbuster film franchises. Darth Vader, while far from the only villain in the Star Wars universe, is both the most iconic and most popular antagonist in the series. Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter films also appears on the list. His popularity is buoyed by the widespread adoration for the film series. While these villains no doubt contribute to the overall popularity of their respective franchises, the huge success of the films feeds back into the public’s attraction to the characters.

A large portion of these villains also come from the popular genre of superhero movies. Seven are from the Batman universe, with others originating in franchises such as X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy. The creators of these characters seem to go to extra lengths to develop captivating villains so that the many stories starring their heroes do not begin to feel stale.

A third category consists of villains who gained a fan following after a single, influential film appearance. Jack Nicholson’s role as Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is one such example. Similarly is Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men.” Both characters were originally conceptualized by novelists before being brought to the silver screen by master filmmakers.

To determine the most popular villains of all time, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on both positive and negative user votes on rating website Ranker.com, Wikipedia page views over the last two years, and the number of user votes for each villain’s most popular film on the Internet Movie Database. The Wikipedia page views were given less weight in the index to compensate for not every villain having their own page.