“Every villain is a hero in his own mind.”
Spandex loving movie fans everywhere have been spoiled for choice over the past few years with the sheer amount of big screen superhero adaptations. But we all know that a hero is only as strong as his nemesis, the super-villain. In our continuing and somewhat futile, rebellious attempt at being cool, fans have slowly gravitated towards the villain in recent years even more so than the hero. As important as the protagonist is in the movie’s success, for longevity’s sake it’s equally important to nail the villain too. So here’s my list of the best super-villain performances-
5. Jim Carrey as The Riddler (Batman Forever)
Val Kilmer’s Batman may not have been the quintessential portrayal of the Dark Knight and the Joel Schumacher movie certainly wasn’t anywhere the best – it wasn’t the worst either – but one shining light throughout was Jim Carrey’s turn as Edward Nygma, the mad former Wayne Enterprises employee who would later don the green lycra as The Riddler. His performance was colourfully over the top and would have no place in today’s realistic take on the comic book world, but unlike Tommy Lee Jones overtly silly Two-Face, it worked just fine. Carrey’s Riddler often gets forgotten about because of the general distaste for Schumacher’s movie. It’s a shame because Jim Carrey is brilliant. Personally I would like to see Carrey revisit the role in the future as an older version of the ginger tinged scientist.
4. Jack Nicholson as The Joker (Batman 1989)
Tim Burton’s 1989 adaptation of Batman could well be hailed as the most iconic and influential comic book movie of all time. Without it, who knows how writers, directors and actors would approach the source material today. The dark tone set the bench mark for future superhero instalments but it wasn’t Michael Keaton’s turn as the Caped Crusader that blew fans away, it was Jack Nicholson’s take on The Joker. His curious blend of eccentric, laughing outbursts and devilish mischief helped turn the tables on bad guys in movies. Did we really want Batman to beat The Joker? Really? Nicholson has this unique ability to scare you with his smile, something he does quite often during the course of the movie. And those eyes are just terrifying.
3. Ian McKellen as Magneto (X-Men 1-3. X-Men Days of Future Past)
When you think about it Magneto isn’t really a super villain so to speak, he’s more of a longtime adversary to Charles Xavier. Former friends torn apart by their diverging objectivity of the human race. But in the end they both strive for the same cause – despite opposing methods – to help sustain the life span of mutants. As a highly experienced thespian and stage actor, Ian McKellen quite frankly shocked us all with his intense and thought provoking portrayal as Erik Lehnsherr. He made the character more than just a comic book bad guy, more than just an ageing mutant. His expressive exchanges with his fellow actors and delivery of dialogue harked back to a tortured past. By making Magneto feel human to the audience, he has remained synonymous with that world and is probably the most valuable and entrancing character on the roster.
2. Tom Hiddleston as Loki (Thor, Thor: The Dark World, The Avengers)
Who would have thought that Loki would propel himself to super villain stardom way back when the first Thor movie debuted. Obviously the writers had a huge hand in his growth but much of his cinematic success is down to Tom Hiddleston’s enigmatic charisma. There’s no doubt his boyish, good looks helped bring in the female crowd but even the manliest men out there couldn’t help but be seduced – in a completely hetrosexual way – by his wily presence on screen. It really helps the cause when it’s so evidently apparent that Hiddleston’s enthisasim for the role has never waned throughout three pictures. Having perfected his comedy timing on the set of Avengers, he also manages to steal scenes from under the feet of the heroes with his menacing tantrums.
1. Heath Ledger as The Joker (The Dark Knight)
In a vain attempt not to follow the status quo, I really tried to find a more suitable No.1, honestly I did but no matter how long I thought about the argument I simply couldn’t dispel Heath Ledger’s beguiling and harrowing performance as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Comparisons to Nicholson’s version will always be up in the air – they both share the unquestionable need to destroy Batman, as well as the purple blazer – but with Ledger’s variant, he delivers a more sadistic, chaotic depiction of Nicholson’s criminal clown. Heath took the darker side of Nicholson’s stint and turned it up about five notches. He’s a psychopath, so by definition he is exempt from even the basic form of human empathy and his sole quest beyond all other reasoning is to be the antithesis of Batman in every way. Whatever Batman stands for, The Joker pulls himself in the other direction. Once you go there it’s very difficult to replicate anything of that magnitude and Heath’s performance only heightened that fact. There’s no doubt his untimely death was a factor in the world’s obsession with the role and it’s impossible to determine whether he ever would’ve got the same recognition. Either way, every time you watch The Dark Knight you discover subtle nuances in his portrayal, there’s several layers not always visible. In twenty years from now, heck even fifty years from now, people will still be talking about his Joker and that’s what really matters.
Let me know your thought on your favourite super villain performances and don’t forget to cast your vote below.
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter