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The Film: Based on the real life story of notorious South Boston crime boss and leader of the Winter Hill Gang, James Bulger, Black Mass is a fictionalized account of the story. The plot focuses on Bulger becoming an informant for the FBI as they try to shut down a rival gang tied to the New England mafia and the lack of control the lead FBI agent seems to have over the ever-violent and unscrupulous Bulger.
The Villain: James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) is a heartless, self-centered psychopath with no loyalty to anyone or anything but himself. He uses his status as an informant to better improve the strength of his own hold on the neighborhood and with information gleaned from his handler, murders and intimidates those who oppose him. He smart, resourceful and one step ahead, making him a cool, collected, monster.
Why He Got it Right: Like Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), Bulger is a tinderbox waiting for a spark and anything can set him off. One never knows where he stands and whether he’s on your side or not. His dead eyes and icy grin can mean anything but often mean the worst. He is a portrait of villainy and leads with fear in every scene. It’s Edward Scissorhands without the heart.
The Film: Two young boys walking in a country field come upon a seemingly deserted Sheriff’s car. Initially reluctant to approach, they soon gain the courage to climb inside, start the engine and go for a joy ride. Unfortunately, the car belongs to Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), a murderous, corrupt cop who has something very valuable in the trunk of the car. Now he’s got to find the boys before they discover the secret and turn the law against him. (Read our review).
The Villain: Sheriff Kretzer is, on first impression, a wiry, panicked little man devoid of a real plan, which is probably the case, but he is also resourceful and able to stay one step ahead of the action. It’s clear he’s never faced any real challenge before, or at least kinks in his nefarious schemes. The sudden loss of his car, and the evidence within are so shattering to his routine, he almost can’t believe it’s true. But once we see how smart he is, and how well he moves in the deep dark waters of malevolence, we fear him and for the safety of the children he pursues.
Why He Got it Right: Sheriff Kretzer is the perfect villain because he’s disguised as a hero, able to fool those unable to see his true dark nature. With all the tools of “good” at his disposal, he’s able to manipulate the system in his favor. Clever, determined, and relentless, Kretzer is creepy, dangerous man.
The Film: The fourth in the Mad Max film series, this latest sees a rebirth of practical effects done right with some of the greatest actions sequences arguably ever put on screen. While the story keeps the titular hero (Tom Hardy) in the periphery, the plot spends most of its time on the mesmerizing Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as she betrays the corrupt leader of The Citadel, stealing his tanker truck and his four wives. It’s a road warrior movie that changed the name of the game and established 70-year-old director George Miller has a true visionary. (Listen to our podcast review).
The Villain: Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played in the original Mad Max, 1979) is a behemoth of a man, once known as Colonel Joe Moore, a veteran of The Oil Wars, and now the ruling dictator of the The Citadel, a towering rock that houses a great store of water. Older in age and stocky, he suffers from a respiratory condition but because of his status, wears an elaborate breathing mask adorned with horse teeth, giving him a fearsome appearance. The leader of a cult of War Boys who follow him religiously to the death, Immortan Joe keeps beautiful women as wives and sex slaves, though he considers this a better life for them than the alternative. Rationing water rather than sharing it, he has become godlike among the wretched who come to find salvation from the oppressive world outside.
Why He Got it Right: Menacing, looming, singular-minded, Immortan Joe is molded from the classics, a creature of few words but using bold actions. His followers are unquestioning and his vision clear. The audience likes him because they want the hero to defeat him. Joe is a masterpiece of design and delivery, destined to be long remembered as one of film’s nastiest villains.
The Film: Set twenty years after the catastrophe of the events of Jurassic Park, the park is now in full operation with thousands of visitors coming to the island every day. Dozens of dinosaur species populate the resort, including one terrifically genetically designed monstrosity that has some pretty impressive skills for a giant reptilian predator. But have no fear, there are also raptors, this time in captivity and highly-trained by former NAVY officer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). Things should go smoothly. (Read our review).
The Villain: InGen Security Operations chief Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) sees a lot of potential in the raptors and the Indominus Rex, the beast that is meant to be the next big draw at the park. He wants to militarize them and put them on the front lines, but is getting resistance from Grady, who thinks it’s a mistake. But naturally, when the Indominus Rex escapes, and the park’s ludicrously inept contingency plans for such an event leave no other options available, Grady concedes and rides out with his raptors to take down the massive killing machine. Hoskins, cold, analytical and self-serving, is short-sighted, unable to see the real threat is not the dinosaurs but man’s wasted efforts in trying to control nature. Greedy and selfish, he sees acceptable losses in the experiment, making him a despicable villain.
Why He Got it Right: Hoskins is a business man who only sees dollars, a bean counter more interested in profits than progress. Fascinated by the work that Grady is doing, he’s confident that the raptors have incredible potential and throughout, pushes Owen to move forward with his plan. In classic fashion, when trouble does escalate to out of control situations, he takes over the park’s command center, declaring himself in charge, a hubristic statement that seals his fate. A slippery villain with a forked tongue.
The Film: The latest chapter in the long running Star Wars franchise, and the first in the next trilogy, Episode VII sees the return to action of many of the major players from the first trilogy, including Princess (now General) Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) as they face a new threat in the First Order, a splinter of the old Empire, led by a mysterious and powerful lord called The Supreme Leader. With new heroes Finn (John Boyega), a former Stormtrooper, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a Resistance pilot, and Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger with some powers of her own thrust into the fight, the fate of the galaxy is once again hanging in the balance. (Read our review).
The Villain: Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) was born as Ben, a human with Force abilities who was trained as a Jedi under his uncle’s tutelage, but fell to the Dark Side and eventually became a powerful commander in the First Order. Obsessed with his grandfather, a former dark lord, he was lured even further by the influence of a menacing Dark Side Force-user named Snoke. Wearing a mask, and exhibiting incredible control over his powers, he is a young man conflicted and pulled by both sides despite his eagerness to be one with the Dark Side. Vicious and prone to fits of temper, he is frustrated by his apparent weakness and commits horrible acts that weighs heavy. His encounter with his father, who tries to bring him back, completes the circle and seals him as a man lost to hate. While he lacks the long-term legacy of the one he longs to imitate, he remains a crucial figure in the First Order and a frightening master of the Force.
Why He Got it Right: His immaturity and need to be accepted in the eyes of the Supreme Leader give him the vulnerability we the audience can relate to, even if he is cruel and dark. It hints a possible weakness that might save him, but it also marks him as desperate, making him dangerous and unexpected. His appearance is decidedly awesome, with some nods to the man he hopes to replace, harkening back to a classic bad guy cut. Ren is an outstanding villain in the Star Wars canon.
The Film: Based on the true story of the infamous 1996 Everest disaster that left 16 people dead, the film focuses on Adventure Consultants founding member Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and the small crew of climbers he guided on that fateful expedition. While experienced, some climbers are not prepared for the conditions and begin to deteriorate. When a storm suddenly develops, things get much worse. Rescue attempts become suicide missions and one by one, each face the wrath of nature at its worst. (Read our review).
The Villain: While a mountain might not initially seem like an obvious choice for a villain, in Baltasar Kormákur’s flawed film, the most sinister element is the setting itself, filmed with breathtaking affection, it turns from an awe-inspiring majestic destination to a death-dealing maleficent beast in a blink, reminding us that we are merely tolerated guests on this chuck of rock in space.
Why It Got it Right: Any good villain convinces the hero and audience that they are in fact not the villain at first, revealing themselves at the opportune time and place. Mount Everest is a cold, inhospitable creature that does its best to warn those who try to defeat it, but when they venture close, it strikes with a ferocity only the worst in film can deliver. Everest is the villain few will face but everyone knows.
The Film: In the not so distant future, a brilliant, eccentric billionaire has developed near true artificial intelligence and has brought a employee of his search engine company to test his latest model, a robot that appears almost perfectly human. But will she pass the Turing test and prove herself Man’s equal? Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the inventor, has used collected data from his search engine to create a “brain” that is the most intelligent, most complete AI ever created, able to “think” and process as well as a human. Now it wants out. (Read our review).
The Villain: It might seem easy to label every one of the characters in Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller as the bad guy, but it is the information, the technology used to collect it, and how freely we give it up that stand out as the real villains. Our unrelenting human desire to have an identity that both conforms to everyone and yet remain individual in the global social media construct has us offering even the most minutia of irreverent personal information into a system that never forgets, always compiles, and shares exponentially. The villain is an amalgam of us.
Why It Got it Right: While the series of humanoid robots Nathan created are the assembled stages of the collected information he has formed into the AI, it is the “brain” and not the body that is the real villain. While Ava (Alicia Vikander) is visual trap, an innocent appearing, friendly and personable female in the mold of a Frankenstein monster, it is the data within that has created the real creature to be feared. We have created the monster. As the film ends, it is loose, hiding in plain site, and smart enough to defeat its creator.
The Film: In the 24th James Bond film and the fourth for current Bond Daniel Craig, the plots sees Bond facing his most dangerous foe yet, the secret, global criminal organization called Spectre. Set immediately after the events of Skyfall (2012), Bond finds himself out of a job when MI5 and MI6 are merged and conscripted to join the “Nine Eyes”, a global surveillance and information-gathering project that is believed will significantly reduce terrorism and major international criminal operations, effectively ending the need for the “00” program. (Read our review).
The Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is the reclusive but immensely powerful leader of Spectre, who has orchestrated much of the violence and criminal activity that has kept Bond so busy of late. His organization is far-reaching with members in high places, all over the world, all willing and able to follow his directions at any time. Bond learns that Blofled, using the alias Franz Oberhauser, has been staging horrific terrorist attacks around the world, necessitating the need for the Nine Eyes, promised that he will, in return, be given unlimited access to any information the system collects. He is the ultimate global bad guy.
Why He Didn’t Get It Right: While director Sam Mendes manages to create a memorable entrance for the film’s villain, everything else about the character falls flat, mostly due to a mistaken attempt at maintaining the cheesy approach of the character’s early iterations in the 1960s and 70s. Gifted actor Waltz can’t find the right tone as well, inadvertently channeling his own Col. Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds (2009) for much of the performance. But all that’s superficial to the way Blofeld is written. We’re told he is the author of all Bond’s pain, including the events in all the previous three films. But how? And why? Silva (Javier Bardem) in Skyfall was getting revenge on M for abandoning him. It had nothing to with Bond. In both Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008), we were introduced to Quantum, an organization crafted to be the next Spectre, but nope. It was all some shady decoy for the real Spectre. Blofeld becomes less and less a super-smart villain as the film progresses and flounders in parody by the end, where we see him sitting on a stool, sock-less, tapping at a computer that drills little holes in Bond’s head (to no effect). He then traps Bond in the blown out former MI5 headquarters, which is now wired to blow up (again), with 8×10 headshots of faces from former Bond movies taped to the walls, and tells Bond his new girlfriend is tied up somewhere in the building. Go find her before the place goes boom. It’s not just silly, it’s outdated and not, like the makers portend to claim, an homage to the past. It’s just bad writing. This new Blofeld is 2015’s worst villain.
Are there any villains you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.