Most people grow up picturing themselves as one of the myriad movie protagonists. The list of favorite characters or superheroes is almost infinite: Each one left a mark not only on the silver screens or television but on our lives as well.
But, for each hero, a brave man or woman, in the motion picture, there has to be one nasty guy. Otherwise, there’s no conflict, no one to fight against.
So, what about antagonists, those incredibly terrifying villains we’ve seen thus far?
Some of them appeared in an Earthly environment, whether in the present or the past, such as Michael Myers (Halloween), Jason Voorhees (various actors in Friday the 13th franchise), Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger in Platoon), Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman in Leon: The Professional), Annie Wilkes (Cathy Bates in Misery), John Doe (Kevin Spacey in Se7en), Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington in Training Day), Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds), Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl), or Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained).
Others were part of fictional or dystopian worlds, such as Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund in A Nightmare on Elm Street), The Joker (Heath Ledger in The Dark Night), Alex (Malcolm McDowell at A Clockwork Orange), or Bane (Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises).
Then, there are Xenomorph Alien, Darth Vader, Predator, Gollum, and Chucky (children’s toy in Child’s Play), not to mention Pennywise (Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgard in It franchise).
(Speaking of the latter: I think we might have one LCB admin who’ll pick this one on the spot but, then again, what do I know.)
A portion of actors who brought some of those villains to movie screens got Academy Awards for their performances. Such a list would be incomplete without F. Murray Abraham, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gene Hackman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Tilda Swinton, and Charlize Theron — neither of their characters would qualify as scary, but they most certainly are antagonists.
Aside from the astonishing level of talent and dedication these actors invested in their roles, one of them paid an extra price in delivering potentially the scariest villain ever.
Sir Anthony Hopkins was so convincing in his Oscar role of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs that his girlfriend, Martha Steward, ended their brief relationship after seeing him in the movie, unable to separate Anthony from his character.
(As Martha told Howard Stern in his radio show, back in 2006: “Oh, I loved him, but he was… scary. I was going to invite him up to Maine; I have this beautiful home in Maine… but then I reconsidered because I saw that movie again. Do you want someone eating your brain while you are sitting in your beautiful dining room in Maine? I would have probably had a very nice relationship with Anthony Hopkins, but I couldn’t get past the Lecter thing.”)
By ‘villain,’ I consider the character itself, not only the actor who played it. And by ‘greatest,’ I mean the one which scared you the most and shook you to the bone.
As for me, the title goes to Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, in his Academy Award performance in No Country For Old Man.
I mean, Anton is pure, resident, psychopathic evil who lacks any conscience, remorse, or compassion whatsoever. He’s ruthless and deliberate beyond recognition, with an exceptionally high pain threshold. There’s not a person in the move that he does not kill or at least try to. And, there is something so calm about him that scares the living hell out of me.
But, the most frightening thing about Anton is that he’s so real: He can be anywhere or just about anybody. There’s nothing superhuman about him, no extra powers, only the brain wired to cause utter, aghast destruction.
(After all, the Coen Brothers always knew how to create genuinely memorable characters.)
Speaking of his appearance — equally scary to me — Bardem allegedly told his hairstylist that he’s “not going to get laid for two months” due to his hairdo in the movie. Sandra Bullock also reflected on this a year later during the 83rd Academy Awards, describing him as an actor “who managed to scare an entire nation with that haircut.”
Who’s the greatest villain in your book, that is — your movie, LCB’ers?
Please tell us why and what about such a character left a lasting, terrifying or shocking, impression on you. If you have more than one, the best just got better: Bring them all to the party! :)