The Top 50 Villains of All Time

Everyone loves a hero, but there's always gotta be a villain. And sometimes we love those best of all. Here are our favorite villains, counted down by William Goss, Amanda Meyncke, Elisabeth Rappe and Jenni Miller.

Did we leave out your favorite?

50. Colonel Kurtz, 'Apocalypse Now' (1979)

As a legendary madmen lingering at the middle of a forest, Marlon Brando brings the heat of the tropics to his performance as Colonel Kurtz, an army man who led horrific attacks in Vietnam that push the boundaries of warfare. All attempts to shut down his reign of terror have failed, due to his military prowess, and one final attempt is made to curtail his barbaric activities. Brando is in remarkable form, muttering elegantly demented speeches and quietly, powerfully demanding attention until he seems to be the very center of the universe. -- Amanda Mae Meyncke

49. Miranda Priestly, 'The Devil Wears Prada' (2006)

We've all had a terrible boss in our time, but Miranda Priestley takes the cake as the coldest, most demanding, irrational and terrifying boss of all time. Allegedly based on the real-life editor of Vogue magazine Anna Wintour, this silver-haired cinematic version played by Meryl Streep rules over the fashion industry with an iron fist, and inspires fear in her employees without ever raising her voice. -- AM

48. Frank, 'Once Upon A Time in the West' (1968)

Angel Eyes in "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" was bad, but Frank is worse.  He's a man who will string a little boy up on his brother's shoulders and have him play a jaunty harmonica tune while wobbling. He'll disobey orders and gun a family down at their "Welcome home, new mommy!" picnic and then rape the woman it was intended for. And he did it all with the heroic, kindly eyes of Henry Fonda. -- Elisabeth Rappe

47. Keyser Söze, 'The Usual Suspects' (1995)

Who is Keyser Söze?! That's the question at the heart of this twisty-turny crime drama. The cops are puzzled by a crime down at the Los Angeles port that left 27 men dead, and the stories being told by the five guys they haul in for questioning are more and more confusing. The only thing they seem to have in common is a semi-mythical figure named Keyser Söze, a ruthless criminal mastermind. Do they know who he is? Or is he among them? Film fans are still arguing about it the better part of 20 years later. -- Jenni Miller

Mr. Blonde 46. Mr. Blonde, 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992)

Psychopaths are common in crime films, but Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) belongs to the exclusive club headed by Frank Booth and the Joker. They're always ready with their gasoline, razors and cool retro tunes, they maintain a ghoulish sense of humor about severed body parts, and they can shrug off civilian casualties with a perfectly reasonable explanation.  In Mr. Blonde's case, it's that he doesn't like alarms. It's hard to argue with that, especially since it might cost you an ear. -- ER

45. Edward Rooney, 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' (1986)

Ferris Bueller is Dean Rooney's Moby Dick. Sure, Ferris' education is his responsibility, but Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) really goes above and beyond when it comes to hunting down his wayward student -- like, say, breaking and entering. Naturally, Rooney is outsmarted by Ferris and undone by his own general hubris. Also, the Buellers' dog. -- JM

44. Phyllis Dietrichson, 'Double Indemnity' (1944)

Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) stumbles into a web of lust and deceit when he rings Phyllis Dietrichson's bell to sell her insurance. As the unhappy wife who plots to kill her husband and collect big bucks from his insurance policy with help someone who knows the insurance biz in and out -- Neff himself. Barbara Stanwyck smolders in this classic Los Angeles noir by Billy Wilder. -- JM

43. Joan Crawford, 'Mommie Dearest' (1981)

Joan Crawford's career didn't exactly go out on a high note, and her role in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" has become a true cult classic. "Mommie Dearest" takes it one step farther with its portrayal of the actress as a screeching, abusive mother who tortures her daughter for such minor infractions as using wire hangers or not cleaning the floors rigorously enough. Faye Dunaway slays as Crawford, turning out a performance that's both terrifying and awesomely campy. -- JM

42. Magneto, 'X-Men' (2000)

With his dapper air and quiet, unshakable demeanor, Sir Ian McKellen brings a great deal of charm to this deadly character that displays infinite care for mutant kind at the expense of all humans. Magneto, leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, can bend any metal force to his will, and he uses this power to terrify and manipulate as he attempts to bring about the reign of mutants. He also plays a mean game of chess. -- AM

41. Reverend Harry Powell, 'The Night of the Hunter' (1955)

Powell (Robert Mitchum) is every child's nightmare come to life, a black-clad boogeyman who robs you of home and mother and chases you tirelessly, waiting for you to stop so he can pop out from underneath your bed. The film tries to ground him in an earthly desire – money – but supernatural tracking skills and a climactic hymn battle suggest his true prey has always been "the little things" of the world. -- ER

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly40. Angel Eyes, 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly' (1966)

How do you know Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) is a force to be reckoned with? Because Blondie and Tuco – hardly the softest of fellows – are absolutely terrified of him. We never learn much about this gunslinger or his romantic moniker, but we do know he'll kill women and children to get what he wants and torture men for treasure.  Given the way the Good and the Ugly sweat in his presence, we suspect he's done a lot worse. -- ER

39. Cobra Kai Sensei, 'The Karate Kid' (1984)

Whether he's instructing his students to use cheap shots in order to win tournaments, threatening people when things don't go his way, or making racist statements towards the beloved Mr. Miyagi, the head of the Cobra Kai dojo is one sore loser, even turning violent towards his own students when they fail to live up to his expectations. Though he's soundly beaten time and again, this sensei relentlessly does his best to make life hard for the Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi. -- AM

38. Little Bill Daggett, 'Unforgiven' (1992)

In any other Western, Little Bill (Gene Hackman) would be a hero. He wears a badge, and he doesn't think swaggering visitors ought to be carrying six-shooters. He likes this town. He's building a house. But Daggett is callous, brutal and every bit as shady as the men he moralizes against. Given what he does to Ned, one might say he really does deserve the business end of William Munny's shotgun. -- ER

37. Leatherface, 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' (1974)

Even though he's a chainsaw-wielding maniac, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) is sort of at the beck and call of his grisly cannibal family; he even wears an apron to cook dinner (dinner being some hippie hitchhikers, of course). While it's true he's wearing a creepy mask made of human, he's awfully flustered about all these dumb kids who have showed up at his house. They're making such a mess, he'll just hang them up on some meat hooks over here, okay? Oh, and watch out for that chair made of human bones. He also dances with a chainsaw. -- JM

36. Gordon Gekko, 'Wall Street' (1987)

In this Oscar-winning performance, Michael Douglas insisted to the entire country that "[g]reed, for lack of a better word, is good." This sociopathic billionaire committed countless acts of fraud and insider trading in his relentless pursuit of money and power to become extremely rich at the expense of his soul. Gekko and "Wall Street" in general were all too prescient of today's recession, after Wall Street has collapsed in on itself from similar practices. -- AM

35. Agent Smith, 'The Matrix' (1999)

As an artificial intelligence program, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is unstoppable. He can also change his appearance, infinitely replicate himself, take over other programs, travel at the speed of light and fight our hero Neo tooth and nail to keep him in The Matrix at all costs. Generic, tireless and disgusted with humans, Agent Smith is terrifying in his unwavering mission. -- AM

34. Nurse Ratched, 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (1975)

Nurse Ratched rules over the mental institution with an iron fist, humiliating and terrifying patients into doing her will, often by withholding basic necessities or medication. There's something eerie, cold and inhuman about many villains, but in the form of the mechanical Nurse Ratched there's a heightened level of fear as she bullies and threatens so effectively that many patients are frightened out of their minds. Louise Fletcher demands respect and obedience in this Oscar-winning performance. -- AM

33. Noah Cross, 'Chinatown' (1974)

"I don't blame myself. You see, Mr. Gittes, most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and the right place, they're capable of anything." And that, readers, is Noah Cross (John Huston). He's as unruffled confessing his crimes as he is committing them. One imagines he follows up murder, manipulation and incest with a stiff drink, a tasty dinner and a good sleep, happy in the knowledge that he's always going to get away with it all. -- ER

32. HAL 9000, '2001: A Space Odyssey' (1968)

Villains don't always need a master plan or a big weapon to be menacing. They can be just a polite, stifling omnipresence and a bland (until it isn't) red light. HAL's killing spree may have resulted from a programming conflict, but there is something deeply unsettling about how extermination was his first resort. Once he begins lashing out in self-defense, one has to wonder if he isn't just a killer deep down in his circuits. -- ER

31. Sauron, 'The Lord of the Rings' Trilogy (2001 - 2003)

Take one part pure evil, one part unthinkable power and one part terrifying disembodied demonic eye and you've got Sauron, the titular Lord of the Rings. This terrifying demonic force threatens Middle Earth and all the inhabitants of that world with his powers. His all-seeing eye follows the hobbits and their companions on their quest to destroy Sauron's greatest possession, the Ring of Power, which is the one item that would allow all hell to break loose and Sauron to rule over the world. -- AM

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan30. Khan Noonien Singh, 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' (1982)

Infuriating, bombastic and charismatic, Khan (Ricardo Montalban) is a classic, old school villain that could walk into a Shakespeare play and be perfectly at home. (Well, except for that physique. Those pecs belong purely to space opera.) Unlike many master plan villains, Khan's goals are purely personal: He wants revenge on Kirk for the loss of his wife. The romantic angle makes you almost root for the guy. Almost. He does want to rearrange an entire nebula, and that's a bit much. -- ER

29. Mrs. Iselin, 'The Manchurian Candidate' (1962)

Has Angela Lansbury ever been so ruthless as she was in this classic flick? The Cold War is still in full swing, and Mrs. Iselin pretends to be the wife of a nice Senator who's got his eyes out for Commies everywhere. The truth of the matter is she's a secret agent for the other side with the end goal being a President who's in bed with the Communists. The key to it all is her brainwashed son Raymond, a former Sergeant who kills on command and forgets everything afterwards. "Murder, She Wrote," indeed. -- JM

28. Count Dracula, 'Dracula' (1931)

Would we have Edward and Bella without Bela? With his deathly demeanor and penchant for human blood, this original take on the famous bloodsucker launched a thousand imitations -- like "Twilight." While he strikes us a little outdated during daylight hours, watching Bela Lugosi after dark is chilling in a very modern way. -- AM

27. Catherine Tramell, 'Basic Instinct' (1992)

Sex and death have been kinky partners for a long time, but they melded deliciously together in the form of Sharon Stone's Catherine Tramell. She's as cold, impeccable and sleek as her beloved ice pick, and she revels in her enjoyment of all things forbidden. Everything about Catherine is designed to ensnare and allure. A sophisticated villain knows the real game is letting the victim know what they're in for... and making them want it anyway. -- ER

26. Auric Goldfinger, 'Goldfinger' (1964)

Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) is a gold-crazy cat with an eye on Fort Knox, but he doesn't want to just break into it. He wants to plant a so-called "atomic device" there which will make that gold worthless and his gold super precious! He also has his sidekick Jill killed by dipping her in gold, which looks quite glamorous, and he threatens Bond's family jewels with a laser. Fricking laser beams. -- JM

25. The Joker, 'Batman' (1989)

Nicholson's devastating performance and creepy delivery adds worlds to this already demented character, as he cackles and cavorts his way through this villainous role. Of course, he also brings the Nicholson flair to the role and makes it quite tempting to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight. -- AM

24. Hans Landa, 'Inglourious Basterds' (2009)

An opportunist clad in Nazi uniform, Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) isn't necessarily loyal to the cause, but he didn't earn his nickname "The Jew Hunter" by accident. Fluent in several languages, Landa already knows what he wants you to tell him and is very methodical in confirming where his quarry may be hiding. The little weasel also isn't above switching sides so as to better suit his professional ambitions. ­-- William Goss

23. The Xenomorph, 'Alien' (1979)

Let me count the reasons this particular creature has laid claim to our nightmares for decades: It can survive in the harshest depths of space. It evolves quickly at the cost of the closest incubator, fatally impregnating men as easily as it can impale women with its tail. It kills ruthlessly, moves silently, has a mouth within its mouth AND boasts acid for blood. The "perfect organism" really isn't too generous a label. -- WG

22. Max Cady, 'Cape Fear' (1991)

Robert De Niro plays a psycho that puts Travis Bickle to shame in Martin Scorsese's remake. Cady had 14 years in jail to figure out where his lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) went wrong during Cady's trial for rape, and now he's coming for Sam and his family. Stubbly, greasy and covered in jailhouse tattoos, Cady is most terrifying when he's wooing Sam's naïve daughter Danielle, played by Juliette Lewis. -- JM

21. The Evil Queen, 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' (1937)

Forget Charlize in her marvelous outfits and Angelina in her goth haute couture. The scamps at Disney drew up the OG Evil Queen way back before old Walt shuffled off to the Disneyland in the sky. She's so evil that she doesn't even need a name other than the Evil Queen. She's stylish and scary when she's not pretending to be an old lady pushing poison apples on fresh-faced maidens like Snow White. This is definitely a case where it's hard to beat the original. -- JM

Superman II20. General Zod, 'Superman II' (1980)

You have to admire Zod (Terence Stamp) for his megalomaniac ambition. He likes to challenge himself. He wants to rule a planet... so hey, how about this one where the yellow sun gives a man superhuman abilities? Terrific!  But when the Earthlings kneel a little too easily, Zod craves a little more action. You know, the kind only a son of Krypton can really give.  He loses the fight for Earth, but really, he's a winner just for trying. -- ER

19. Annie Wilkes, 'Misery' (1990)

There are fans, there are hardcore fans, and then there's Annie Wilkes, played by Kathy Bates in Rob Reiner's adaptation of Stephen King's novel. A retired nurse who adores Paul Sheldon's books, she "rescues" the author (James Caan) from a car crash, only to refuse to let him leave until he brings her favorite character back to life. Her psychotic tendencies go so far as to include breaking Paul's ankles with a sledgehammer to keep him captive. -- WG

18. Alex Forrest, 'Fatal Attraction' (1987)

Alex (Glenn Close) is a complicated villain, a manic creature that you pity and loathe in equal measure. After all, love has made us all certifiably crazy at some point in our lives. The sane snap out of it.  Alex merely becomes more ruthless, moving from sweaty and suicidal desperation to calculating, murderous brutality. Thirty years later, we still feel worse for the rabbit than we do for Michael Douglas' philandering character. -- ER

17. Michael Myers, 'Halloween' (1978)

The only thing creepier than a kid who kills is perhaps that kid all grown up and wearing a William Shatner mask. 15 years after he killed his sister, Michael Myers suddenly "wakes up" and escapes a mental institution with his shrink Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) in hot pursuit. Back in his hometown, Michael begins stalking a high schooler named Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and picking her friends off one by one. It's hard to tell what's scariest about Michael: that blank mask, his unwavering strength, or how he's in almost every shot, creepin' around in the background. -- JM

16. Jack Torrance, 'The Shining' (1980)

Isolated from civilization during a harsh winter, driven to drink by otherworldly forces and possessed by an "all work, no play" lifestyle, Jack turns from a well-meaning family man into a neglectful husband and violent father. It's one thing for his wife to bear the brunt of his temper (and, later, his terrifying Johnny Carson impression), but it's another for his son to find himself hunted down by a familiar face toting an axe. -- WG

15. Anton Chigurh, 'No Country for Old Men' (2007)

What if a drug cartel hired an associate to clean up its messes and got a force of nature instead? Packing a cattle gun (it takes foreheads and door locks out with equal ease) as he pursues his targets across West Texas, Chigurh (Javier Bardem) has a stilted voice, a looming presence, an awful haircut and a deliberate logic, pretending to favor the fate of a coin flip when he really wants to leave no loose ends. -- WG

14. Amon Goeth, 'Schindler's List' (1993)

Ralph Fiennes goes toe-to-toe with Liam Neeson as a Nazi who's in charge of cleaning up Krakow and shipping whoever is left to Auschwitz. Neeson, of course, plays Oskar Schindler, a businessman who tries to keep Jews out of the camps by employing them in his factories. Goeth, on the other hand, is a terrifying sadist who beats the Jewish maid he's in love with, coldly kills at random and is an overall nightmare. -- JM

13. Frank Booth, 'Blue Velvet' (1986)

Frank (Dennis Hopper) isn't just the dark grime underneath suburbia -- he's the uncontrolled id, the king of all things mean and nasty. He'll kidnap and kill to get what he wants, and when he's got her, he subjects her to nightly sadism. Frank is a madman who threatens to reach out of the screen, drag you into his car, pour you a Pabst Blue Ribbon and drag you to terrifying, crooning hellholes before beating you to death. -- ER

12. The Shark, 'Jaws' (1975)

Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) always described this villain the best: "a perfect engine, an eating machine... a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks." And thanks to the notorious technical difficulties caused by "Bruce," the animal antagonist of Steven Spielberg's breakout blockbuster became a more sinister, elusive, ruthless adversary, taunting Chief Brody with mere glimpses and ruining simple summertime seaside bliss for both Amity Island's populace and the average American moviegoer. -- WG

11. Freddy Krueger, 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984)

Childhood dreams should be safe from fear, but there's no hiding from Freddy Krueger, the terrifying child killer who kills in the real world as well as dreamland. This disfigured baddie played by Robert Englund made an entire generation afraid of falling asleep for fear that he'd slash them up when they least expected it. His bladed glove, mutilated visage and signature sweater makes Freddy one of the most terrifying and memorable villains committed to film. -- AM

Blade Runner10. Roy Batty, 'Blade Runner' (1982)

This deadly android played by Rutger Hauer is public enemy number one for Rick Deckard, a blade runner whose specialty is hunting down robots on the run. Batty, a replicant with crazy strength and smarts, is arguably one of the best characters on film -- a "prodigal son" yearning for the ultimate gift of life. But that doesn't stop him from leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. -- JM

9. Jason Voorhees, The 'Friday the 13th' Series (1980 - ??)

The simple hockey mask took on a whole new meaning after Jason slipped one on to hide his gruesome appearance, and began a reign of terror in 1980 that continues to scare people to this day. Whether he's hacking people up with a machete or killing in space, Jason's rage propels him to attack the immoral and he's had a thirty-year cinematic killing spree that seems unlikely to abate any time soon. -- AM

8. The Terminator, 'The Terminator' (1984)

A literally shining example (beneath all that synthetic flesh) of mankind's knack for ending itself through scientific pursuits, the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is the ultimate result of Cyberdyne Systems' achievement of self-aware technology. So clever are these machines that they send an assassin to take out rebel leaders before they've even been born, a perfectly programmed killer that can't feel pain or know mercy -- until, of course, it becomes the hero in the sequels. -- WG

7. Norman Bates, 'Psycho' (1960)

What more welcome sight to see in the middle of nowhere on a dark and stormy night than that of a friendly face at a quiet motel? Sure, Norman's social manner is a bit stiff, and his mother seems a bit oppressive, and he tends to observe and kill the guests while dressed in drag. It's not like Norman (Anthony Perkins) knows any better while he's doing the deed, and he can hide bodies like a champ. -- WG

6. Hans Gruber, 'Die Hard' (1988)

A pragmatic and proud businessman, this German terrorist/thief played by Alan Rickman is out to take the better part of a billion dollars from the Nakatomi Corporation. He isn't above getting his own hands dirty once New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) proves too much for his lackeys to handle, either. He's already figured out a way around FBI protocols, he's fully intent on killing hostages and he has no qualms about ruining a good Christmas party. The man clearly knows no bounds. -- WG

5. Lord Voldemort, The 'Harry Potter' Series (2005 - 2011)

The Dark Lord of the "Harry Potter" novels, He Who Must Not Be Named, didn't make his full-fledged appearance in the films until the climax of "Goblet of Fire." That's when he finally took corporeal form in the likeness of Ralph Fiennes (sporting some seriously weird snake nostrils) and began his brutal campaign against the boy wizard, his compatriots and the Muggle world at large in the name of immortality. He even split his own soul, man. That ain't healthy. -- WG

4. The Wicked Witch of the West, 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939)

Margaret Hamilton got green around the gills for her role as the Wicked Witch of the West in Victor Fleming's classic screen adaptation of L. Frank Baum's book. As is the epitome of wrongheaded vengeance, she pegs tragic sister-smashing accidents on hapless tourists, roofies innocent civilians, threatens to murder dogs and steal shiny shoes, and if that somehow weren't enough, she has an army of flying monkeys at her disposal. What non-wicked person would? -- WG

3. The Joker, 'The Dark Knight' (2008)

The Joker has always been a force of homicidal glee, a madman who wanted to see the world burn, but Heath Ledger dragged his Joker through the sticky floors of the circus, truly making him the nasty, skin-crawling antithesis to Batman. One doesn't ask why with this Joker, it's how a Glasgow-grinned fiend scurries around Gotham, unnoticed until his make-up is smeared, his hair is faded and he wants to make a pencil disappear. The truth has to be scarier than the scars. -- ER

2. Hannibal Lecter, 'The Silence of the Lambs' (1991)

With a mere 16 minutes of screen time, Anthony Hopkins made an indelible impression on pop culture as the incarcerated psychiatrist/cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter and earned an Oscar to boot. Lecter is a serial killer's serial killer, helping FBI Agent Clarice Starling to hunt down Buffalo Bill while turning the tables from within his cell. -- WG

Star Wars1. Darth Vader, 'Star Wars' (1977)

He's a masked telekinetic thug with a booming voice, an all-black wardrobe and a yen for ethnic cleansing. Although the classy and gentle James Earl Jones provides his voice, Vader won't hesitate to take out entire planets with his twice-built space cannon. Whether you're an Ewok or a Padawan, he's a man rightfully feared no matter how far away your galaxy is. -- WG