One might think that it will be a relatively easy task to compile a list of the top ten Hollywood villains of the millennium, given that the millennium is just in its thirteenth year. However, that notion is quickly disabused when one sees the truly epic movies that Hollywood has been generating year after year. Unlike the gun wielding beefy one dimensional villains of the eighties, whose sole purpose was to prove how macho the leading man is, these brilliant intense characters tend to outshine the heroes on most counts. Their carefully nuanced portrayal of these deeply disturbed characters tends to keep the spotlight fixated on them. However, more than anything, the reason we love our modern day villains so much is because there is a reason they are so very bad. The good men made them that way. And turns out, the good men aren’t as good as we thought they were. In the eternal battle between good versus evil, the ultimate challenge is not to retain your goodness in a world trying to corrupt you. The challenge is to remain human.
10. Micky Cohen, Gangster Squad
It is often the unhappy scars of childhood that determine the path of life for us. Micky Cohen, LA’s infamous gangster, had the most brutal childhood of all and grew up, in turn, to become a brutal man who ruled with an iron fist and took pleasure in sadistically eliminating his enemies. This enigmatic man was immortalized on screen by Sean Penn, whose acting prowess needs no elucidation. The way he played the cold, calculating murderous gangster made this movie a force to reckon with. Americans who saw Cohen come alive on screen, thanks to Penn’s brilliant portrayal, shivered in their seats and thanked providence that they did not live in post-world war two America. Terrible things happened then. Terrible things even happen now. But a world without Micky Cohen is a safer, nicer world.
9. Frank Costello, The Departed
Jack Nicholson feels right at home doing negative roles. His work in movies like The Shining and A Few Good Men are bone chilling to say the least. His inclusion in an article listing the top ten villains if any century in Hollywood is an inevitability more than an honour.But since we speak strictly of the past thirteen years, then we have to pick one that fits the time frame. Nicholson’s role as Frank Costello in Martin Scorsese’s brilliant 2007 flick, “The Departed” earns him that place. Based on the notorious gangster Whitey Bulger’s life, Nicholson added drama and depth to a character whose notoriety will earn him a place of grudging respect in the audience’s mind. It is hard to write of the movie without giving out spoilers, so watch it if you still haven’t. If only for Nicholson’s performance.
8. Voldemort, Harry Potter
Be it the little orphan boy telling Albus Dumbledore, “I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me”, or the handsome young man seductively getting Ginny Weasley to do his evil tasks for him or ultimately the grotesque faceless monster that holds the fate of Harry Potter, Hogwarts and the rest of the magical world in his fingertips, Voldemort has enthralled us with his sinister aims and motives ever since the first Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone” hit stands. With the handsome Ralph Fiennes transforming into the ugly and deadly Voldemort, we saw this man come alive in the screen and in our dreams. J.K. Rowling said in an interview that she created Voldemort based on the cruel dictators of history like Mussolini and Hitler. And on screen, Voldemort was supposed to have created tragedies that rivalled the holocaust.
7. James Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes: The Game Of Shadows
The quintessential British villain, James Moriarty was nonetheless a foe that even Sherlock Holme’s was not clever enough to tussle with, or at least so director Guy Ritchie wants us to believe. For the real truth to emerge, we may have to wait for the final instalment of the movie in the Sherlock Holme’s trilogy but one thing is certain. The subsequent villain has very big shoes to fill if he hopes to surpass the benchmark set by Jared Harris as the wickedly sinister James Moriarty. The extremely accomplished professor was as well versed in the art of fighting and boxing as he was in the intricate knowledge of the sciences. His smooth finesse was but a natural charm that sliced through the reserves of strangers and audiences before they could decipher what hit them. An enigma to the screen till the very last minute, it’s a pity that he perished in the movie because we have not had enough of him yet.
6. Joker, The Dark Knight
In a life plagued with many ups and downs, Heath Ledger’s last role as the magnificent villain Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” was undoubtedly the finest performance of his career. When fans drove into movie theatres by the millions to pay their last respects to the troubled actor, they were instead entranced by the performance of a lifetime. Joker will always be special because it was the last role of a fine actor who died too soon, but that does not deter the fact that it is also one of the scariest villains on screen this millennium.
5. Gru, Despicable Me
A movie that aimed to make fun of villains and their motives, Despicable Me saw the second most loveable villain to be featured on this list. Gru fancied himself a supervillain and would do anything to hold on to that dubious honour. When a newbie villain on the block threatens to dismantle him from this throne by pulling the most evil task of all- stealing the moon- then Gru tries his level best to snatch that title back. Yet fate has more in store for him and his adorable little minions when unexpected fatherhood derails his plans to take over the world. This is one movie where villain is pitted against villain and the unlikeliest hero emerges winner. The hero for me was the little girl who taught Gru what it is like to love someone wholeheartedly.
4. Magneto, X Men
This dynamic and legendary comic book character has been played on screen by two great actors- Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender. Both brought their own unique traits to a multifarious character that has confusing shades of black, white and grey juggling the audience’s loyalty every time it utters a dialogue. You want to hate Magneto for the way he treated Mystique in X Men: The Last Stand. But after watching the heart rending story of little Eric Lensher in X Men: First Class, how can you judge the man after what he has been through? Are we really better than him to be in a position to judge him? Good villains captivate you. But the best villains make you think. Magneto is a first class villain who will always be remembered as the best of the best.
3. Killian Aldrich, Iron Man 3
The most explosive movie to be produced by Marvel this year, Iron Man 3 takes twists and spoilers to a whole new level. Audiences have known and loved the charismatic Tony Stark ever since the first Iron Man movie hit theatres. His villains, the ever typical arch nemeses, not quite so much. Then comes the mind blowing Killian Aldrich, played superbly by Guy Pierce. His acting, looks, suaveness, nuances and his personality- the whole combination so utterly charming yet so deadly. The hotter modern day villains keep getting, the harder for us not to lust after them. We know we are supposed to hate them, but how to when they look like this.
2. Megamind, Megamind
If you have not seen this movie yet, then you are missing a sweet sweet lesson of life. In Megamind we see that a villain is not born one. He is made one because no one wants to be friends with him, play with him or bother to understand him. A lonely little boy full of shattered dreams has no other choice but to become a villain because every other form of enjoyable existence is denied to him. He struggles in love and life and is confused so tremendously when his inner goodness clashes with his idea of his evil self. But more importantly the movie questions, albeit in a very funny and enjoyable way, what is evil without good. Evil exists because good exists. In the absence of goodness, evil does not thrive. Rather it is demotivated and fizzles out into nothingness. For the world to be a balanced and happy place, it is important for both to exist side by side. This fundamental lesson of life helps Megamind forge his destiny ultimately as a hero of life.
1. Raoul Silva, Skyfall
I was this close to adding Javier Bardem’s work as Anton Chigurh from, “No Country For Old Men” as a selection for top ten villains of this millennium. But since I am limited to only ten names and there are so many brilliant characters to feature, mentioning the same actor twice would seem blatant nepotism. And if I am absolutely forced to feature one, then Raoul Silva from Skyfall would be the most obvious choice. Bardem’s cold hearted Raoul Silva scared us, creeped us, threatened us and ultimately did the one thing that villains are not supposed to do- stole our hearts. His heart wrenching story made him a bigger hero of movie than James Bond himself. The rise, fall and utter betrayal of an agent forms the crux of his story, and at least for this one movie, I wanted the villain to win.