Robert Duffin continues the countdown of his top ten movie villains in honour of the arrival of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, which opens in theatres this weekend…
“People scare better when they’re dying.”
You can’t do a list of villains without someone from the Old West, and Fonda’s Frank just about pips all the others. One of cinema’s greatest heroes up until this point, Sergio Leone’s genius stroke of casting had Fonda play against type as a gunman for hire. The story goes that Fonda turned up on the set with a beard and contact lenses in an attempt to appear more like a bad guy. Leone quickly informed him that the best way to play it would be with his normal features, and suddenly those baby blues became the ice-cold stare of a killer.
6. Ming The Merciless (Max Von Sydow) - Flash Gordon (1980)
Zarkov: We are only interested in friendship. Why do you attack us?Ming: Why not?
There’s just something incredibly satisfying about seeing a proper thesp ham it up a bit. Bergman’s actor of choice for displaying the intricacies of the human condition finally grows a silly beard, shaves his head and prances around in a red cape. Merciless ruler of the planet Mongo, Ming’s truly diabolical plan sees him sending the Moon out of orbit with his Death Ray in order to destroy the earth in a film producer Dino De Laurentiis had hoped Fellini would direct. Hmm. May the power of Ming compel you!
5. Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) - Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
"Sister, sister, oh so fair, why is there blood all over your hair?"
Mired in the legendary feud between two great actresses is a truly iconic villain. Baby Jane is driven by something far more potent than a desire for power; she is an old woman desperate for the days when she was a child star, taking out her frustration on her invalid sister. Davis reportedly burst into tears when she saw herself in full make up on the set, and you can’t blame her. The caked on make-up mask adds a layer of horror to the wretched old hag whose shudder inducing performance of one of her childhood hit songs is equally disturbing and pitiable.
4. Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) - No Country For Old Men (2007)
"What's the most you've ever lost in a coin toss?"
A contemporary choice, but one that will no doubt remain on villain lists for decades to come. There’s almost something perversely enjoyable about watching Chigurh go about his business, further adding to the darkly comic tone that imbues the film. He arrives in scenes like an ominous storm cloud, forever changing the landscapes that he crosses, usually leaving them dripping with the blood of those who get in his way. Bardem’s performance is positively chilling, proving that even the devil has bad hair days. “Are you going to kill me?”… “Did you see me?”
Check out Montage tomorrow for Robert’s final 3 villains as well as the Montage review of The Dark Knight. In the meantime, discuss your top movie villains using our comment box.