Mandatory Top 10 of the 2010s: Best Movie Villains
It has often been said that a hero is only as good as their villain. We don’t necessarily run into psychopathic gods, clowns, Sith lords, music instructors, or wives daily, but we do in the movies. The quality of movie villains varies; their motives need to be compelling, their treacherous plans need to be masterful, and their evil soliloquies must stick the landing—the hero damn near needs to pale in comparison. The 2010s were filled with quality villains; the maniacs we’ve been introduced to had us questioning whether or not we even wanted the hero to win. Victory would mean the end and we didn’t want it to end. Nevertheless, the following list compiles the greatest movie antagonists of the past ten years.
Cover Photo: Lucasfilm
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10. The Armitage Family in 'Get Out'
Jordan Peele's debut film, Get Out, had a lot to say in a genre that doesn't usually say it. If you want to say something about contemporary race relations there might be no better antagonist than a family that both appreciates and appropriates black culture by transferring their brains into black people—achieving a perverse and "hip" form of immortality.
9. Kylo Ren in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
What makes Kylo Ren such a good villain (outside of Adam Driver’s acting chops) is that deep down he’s just an insecure little boy. Regardless of where Disney’s trilogy has taken him, in The Force Awakens, he’s a Darth Vader fanboy, desperately trying to live up to his grandfather’s legacy. He wears a mechanical-looking mask with a muffled voice just to resemble Vader. On top of this, he does some truly horrible things, not the least of which is murdering his father, Han Solo.
8. Calvin Candie in 'Django Unchained'
Leonardo DiCaprio's turn as the despicable slave owner Calvin Candie is one of his greatest performances. Playing against type, DiCaprio completely commits to the jarring and hateful nature of Candie. The character’s racism pretty much sets the standard for Django Unchained’s setting, making Django’s struggle to free his wife all the more panic-inducing. On top of this, DiCaprio interjects enough of his usual charisma into the role to make Candie the type of villain who lights up the screen.
7. Immortan Joe in 'Mad Max: Fury Road'
Hugh Keays-Byrne (who also played Toecutter in the first Mad Max) plays the grotesque, barely alive beast of a man that is Immortan Joe. His respiratory mask and bulky physique make him appear otherworldly. As the ruling dictator of the Citadel (he’s in control of the water), he leads a cult of War Boys and keeps an assortment of beautiful women as sex slaves. He epitomizes everything that makes Miller’s iconic world appealing: he's ruthless, quirky, and bold. Immortan Joe is a classic villain, who says very little but does so much that the audience needs to see him defeated.
6. Pennywise the Dancing Clown in 'It'
Bill Skarsgård’s contemporary take on Pennywise is pretty much perfect: a wonderful combination of silly and scary. When we first meet the cosmic shape shiftier who feeds on children, we aren’t necessarily terrified. Much like Georgie, we don't know what to quite make of him but much like Georgie, when that arm comes flying off, we’ve figured it out (albeit too late). As he spends the movie priming his prospective dinner with fear, that fear also compromises the audience, making us all feel like scared little kids again.
5. Raoul Silva in 'Skyfall'
Daniel Craig's Bond movies were in need of a game-changing villain and that's exactly what Javier Bardem delivered. Raoul Silva is James Bond on a very bad day who's forsaken his country and occupation for entitled mayhem. From his obsession with M to his brilliant rats rants, Sliva is one of the most entertaining Bond villains we've ever seen.
4. John Fitzgerald in 'The Revenant'
When people think of The Revenant, they think of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-winning performance. That performance would not have been possible without Tom Hardy’s villain. After Hugh Glass’s mauling, John Fitzgerald kills Glass’s son and leaves Hugh to die. It is Fitzgerald’s wretchedness and the aforementioned betrayal that brings out the worst/best in Glass. Even though much of the movie showcases DiCaprio, when he faces off against Hardy in the climax, the two feel like equals.
3. Thanos in 'Avengers: Infinity War'
Some have said that Marvel has struggled to bring compelling villains to the MCU; however, iconic villains like Loki, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, and Thanos say otherwise. Anyone of these could’ve made this list for elevating their respective movies and pushing our heroes to their absolute limits; however, Thanos takes the cake. Thanos’ presence looms over several MCU movies. When we get to know him in Avengers: Infinity War, his population control logic and twisted sense of self-righteousness set him up as the most intimidating force in the MCU.
2. Terence Fletcher in 'Whiplash'
What makes Terence Fletcher such a great antagonist is his familiarity; he’s just a music teacher, the kind of aggressive motivator anyone of us could encounter in our professional or academic careers. As Fletcher, J.K. Simmons plays a villain masquerading as a mentor who demands perfection by any means necessary. He’s often violent and manipulative but those ends seem to justify the means. Andrew’s (Miles Teller) success and Fletcher’s subtle approval at the movie’s end leave us contemplating...well, everything.
1. Amy Dunne in 'Gone Girl'
It’s one thing when someone is a psychopath; it’s another when they are a clever psychopath. It would’ve been easier for Gone Girl and Rosamund Pike to make Amy Dunne a one-dimensional character; however, what we get is anything but. The movie ups the ante when it shifts from the more conventional POV (that of Nick Dunne) to Amy's; she's an unreliable narrator who is brilliant, unwavering, and imposing. Amy Dunne is virtually unbeatable; no hero in her story can match her. She does, in the end, win.