Ask any actor and they’ll probably tell you they like to play the villain rather than the hero. Villains are more interesting and — let’s be honest — usually steal the movie from the hero.
Villains drive the action and emerge as worthy adversaries for the hero. Without a villain, the movies listed here would be… dull.
In most cases, especially in 1930s-era gangster dramas, the villain pays for his crimes. But sometimes he walks away scot-free, like Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects. Some are purely evil, while others are just plain bonkers. (Yes, we’re looking at you Norman Bates.) One thing is for sure: none of these villains would be found in one of the best romantic comedies of all time.
The range of movie villains here is breathtaking, spanning from unrepentant murders and corrupt cops to mechanic sharks (Bruce in Jaws) and possibly ghosts (Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street). There are murderous housewives and queens, and faceless hunters. Some are based on real-life people, which makes their villainy even more disturbing. Despite their badness some elicit a measure of sympathy (like Baby Jane Hudson).
Whether they scare you or amuse you, villains make great movie viewing. Sit back and enjoy an escape to the dark side.
To identify the 50 most popular villains of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the American Film Institute’s (AFI) The 100 Greatest Heroes and Villains. Casting and movie information also comes from the AFI.