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This week’s Five by Friday is about our favorite baddies from books, movies, and television!
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5: The White Witch, The Chronicles of Narnia
The White Witch is arrogant and cruel, and considers herself to be above all rule. She views others as tools to be used or obstacles that stand in her way and must be demolished. Though she appears human, which helps her to deceive many human males upon first encounter, she’s otherworldly with her tall imposing figure, amazonian strength, and her ability to wield magic with a wand. This magic is capable of turning people into stone and she uses the petrified remains of her enemies to decorate the halls of her ice palace.
4: The Joker, Batman
The Joker is quite possibly my favorite comic book villain of all time. He’s certainly the first one I was ever introduced to as a child when I watched Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in Batman. Joker’s ability to challenge Batman, to push him beyond his limits, produces some of the most exciting stories in DC’s universe. His goal isn’t to kill Batman, no that’s far too easy in his mind, and doesn’t lead to the payoff that he’s looking for. Killing Batman won’t drive him insane, it just makes him dead. No, Joker’s goal is to break Batman completely by forcing Bruce’s hand to kill him. He takes pleasure in pushing others to the brink and watching them fall off the edge.
3: Amon Goeth, Schindler’s List
Unlike the others on this list, Amon Goeth is terrifying because he was real. Goeth, also known as Hitler’s Nazi Butcher, was the the commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in Poland during World War 2. He personally oversaw the deaths of thousands of Jews who had resided in the camp, Schindler’s List even depicted his despicable practice of shooting camp internees for fun. Amon Goeth is the reason that I am terrified of Ralph Fiennes (it didn’t help that he went on to play No-Nose Voldemort) and cannot watch anything he is in without thinking of this character instead.
2: Grand Admiral Thrawn, Star Wars
Thrawn is a fabulous villain because he’s one of the few who makes the reader question if he’s really even a villain at all. He’s highly intelligent, calculating, cold, and methodical. Without him the remaining pieces of the Imperial Army would’ve fallen to the Rebels long before Zahn’s trilogy. He is a ruthless commander who has to make the difficult decisions, renege on promises, and even play dirty when it’s necessary, as most in the upper echelons of any military command have to do with the situation calls for it. Yes, he’s the opponent to Luke Skywalker, but with only a few minor twists he could easily have been the hero. And that’s why he’s such an incredible villain.
1: Dolores Umbridge, Harry Potter
Dolores Umbridge, is hands down, the most terrifying villain in the entire Harry Potter series. Sure, she’s presented visually as being all sweetness and light, wearing pink and having a fondness for kittens rather than wearing black with a twinge of crazy a la Bellatrix. She’s terrifying because she’s real. To put it bluntly, she’s a bitch, and with the weight of the Ministry of Magic behind her, she has real power to do terrible things. She enjoyed inflicting pain on others and she enjoyed watching them in pain. SHE TOOK PLEASURE IN INFLICTING PAIN ON INNOCENT CHILDREN WHO WERE POWERLESS TO STOP HER. She is malicious, calculating, and above all believes that she is doing the right thing. Which is utterly horrifying.
5: Hans Gruber, Die Hard
Alan Rickman makes this role, for me. His calm and collected demeanor is what really nails down how creepy he is as a villain, and makes you believe that he probably could have gotten away with everything, had it not been for
those damned kids John McClane. You get the impression that not only is he clearly the smartest of the villainous bunch, but that he’s more terrifying to even his own henchmen than he lets on. Had Die Hard been a superhero origin film, my bet is he’d have survived to be John McClane’s archnemesis, but since these are all mere mortals… well, you know how it ends. Rickman’s performance makes this one of my favorite action movies of all time, and also one of my favorite Christmas movies.
4: Joffrey Baratheon, Game of Thrones
Man, this guy. What a little shit. He’s the guy everyone loved to hate, and for good reason. He’s an entitled brat with unwarranted power, set by falsified birthright to a throne he never should have been allowed to sit on. But because of his mother’s machinations and the deaths of everyone that could have used his true lineage against him, the Iron Throne was his–and he used it to terrorize the people around him for his own enjoyment, focusing the worst of his power play against women. It was no surprise his name became synonymous for jerk behavior (http://dontbeajoffrey.com became a useful link to throw at people who spewed major spoilers on social media) and loops of him getting slapped became huge hits on YouTube. This guy was terrible, and it was a great load of fun to hate him, loudly and often.
3: The Penguin, Batman Returns
I saw this movie when I was probably too young to be watching it, and had recurring nightmares about this guy and his creepy penguin hands. Furthermore, despite being a girl, his kidnapping of all the first-born sons of Gotham had me extra scared he would come through my window at night and take me as well. This specific iteration of the Penguin is on my list of top villains specifically because he’s the first villain to really get into my head and scare the living daylights out of me. And to this day, I can’t look at Danny DeVito without seeing Oswald Cobblepot (which made the episode of Friends where he was a stripper really uncomfortable to watch).
2: Dolores Umbridge, Harry Potter
To me, Dolores Umbridge is far more terrifying than Voldemort ever was in the Harry Potter series, because while Voldemort is kind of a black and white guy (“I want to kill Harry! I want to rule the world!”), Umbridge is full of nuance. She’s realistic. She wholeheartedly believes that the things she does are for the benefit of the students of Hogwarts and the wizarding world (for the most part; some of her actions are fueled by pure spite). She’s a fantasy facsimile of real-world politicians that do terrible things motivated by fear, spite, and bald-faced cruelty. She believes that her medieval, torturous methods are acceptable (blood quills! Agh!). And that’s what makes her truly believable, and truly loathesome.
1: Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty
There’s something about Maleficent’s singular fixation on ruining the King’s life by destroying his daughter specifically because she wasn’t invited to a party that makes her my favorite. She’s truly deranged, there’s no getting around it. The fact that she fixates for 16 years on finding Aurora because she just has to see it through just adds flame to the “she’s off her nut” fire, and yet she’s also exceptionally smart, exceedingly powerful, and has a commanding, memorable presence. Plus, she transforms into a dragon! You can’t tell me that’s not amazing. Sleeping Beauty has also been my favorite Disney film for about as long as I can remember, and so she has long held the throne at the top of my list of villains.
Who are your favorite bad guys? Share with us in the comments!