With all of the hoopla on Ben Affleck being announced as the new Batman, there have been plenty of discussions as to whether or not Affleck can fill the shoes of Christian Bale. However, when Heath Ledger was announced for the role of Joker, it seemed as if the newly resurrected Batman movie franchise was going to be short lived. Yet somehow, Heath Ledger wowed the audience by delivering a new kind of cynical Joker unlike anything the world had ever seen before.
So this raises the question, what makes for a good movie hero and a good villain? Is it just the actor? The writing? The Director? I’m going to say yes to all of the above. There is a delicate balance and often, it is hard to attain. A great actor can’t make a memorable performance if the script is terrible. Lex Luthor comes to mind, played by both Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey. He was supposed to be a ruthless billionaire business man, and instead was turned into a cheesy real estate mogul.
But… talking about what makes this hero or that hero awesome can be super boring because frankly, it’s been done to death. So rather than bore you guys, and myself, I am going to look at some of my favorite villains of all time.
The Joker (Batman: The Dark Knight)
It’s hard to think of Batman without the mention of his nemesis, the Joker. The two have gone hand in hand for as long as I can remember. He was a criminal mastermind who always robbed, murdered, and wreaked havoc with a certain level of flair. Just by mentioning his name, I’m sure most of you already have a clear picture of him, with his white make-up, red lips, purple suit, and, lest we forget, his memorable, evil, maniacal laugh.
The thing is though, Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger portrayed a Joker that was different from all the other Jokers we’ve seen to date. Prior to the Dark Knight, the Joker came off as more of a silly criminal mastermind with a grab bag of gag toys. You couldn’t tell if they were actually dangerous. For the most part, most of the different iterations relied a little too heavily on the Joker’s laughter to get across the point that he was psychotic. He laughs in any situation, whether he’s about to be killed or kill. In other words, the Joker was a crazy criminal who loved to be in the spot light.
Heath Ledger’s Joker was different. He didn’t care about the money. He was all about breaking the status quo. He was intelligent, ruthless, and didn’t fear setting his own life on the line to prove a point. But more importantly, this Joker honestly believed that deep down, everybody in Gotham was just as crazy as him. All they needed was a little push. His ultimate goal, his piece de resistance, was to break Batman. If you notice in the movie, the Joker never personally kills anyone unless they are already criminals. It goes to show that there’s something to fear more than dying, and that is to be given the choice between death and becoming like the Joker. This following clip shows you just how cold, intelligent, and crazy the Joker is.
Keyser Soze (The Usual Suspects)
I’m not sure what I can say about this super villain without giving away too much of the plot. So as a warning to everyone reading this, if you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading right now and go watch the movie.
Did you see it? Good.
There are several ways I can summarize this movie. However, keeping in line with the theme of this article, I’m just going to say it’s about a criminal mastermind who convinces the world that he does not exist. Not only that, but if the movie is any indication of how he normally works, Keyser Soze is not afraid to get his hands dirty. For a mastermind to pull off the crimes while keeping his actual identity in both the real and criminal world a mystery makes him someone not to be trifled with.
Everyone knows Magneto, master of magnet. (Sorry. I just had to throw that in there. If you get the reference, kudos!) He’s the villain and leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants in the X-men series. As Charles Xavier’s dark counterpart, Magneto believes that the mutants are the next stage of human evolution, and therefore, must purge the world of their less evolved counter parts if they are to thrive.
What makes Magneto an amazing villain is the fact that it’s hard to label him as one when you understand his story. He’s a mutant who has been persecuted for who and what he is. He believes that the persecution will never end, or if it does, it won’t happen in his lifetime. In response, he takes matters into his own hands and does whatever is necessary to make the world a safer place for mutants, and mutants alone. In a sense, he is a father figure only trying to protect his children…by removing any and all threats. He’s powerful, intelligent, and charming when he wants to be. But at the same time, he has his weaknesses, like keeping him away, within a certain distance from any sort of metals. However, even with that weakness, people still fear him. This nets Magneto, at least in my book, as an awesome villain with a just cause. Well…just to a certain extent. He’s still a bit crazy.
The Operative (Serenity)
Much like Magneto, this man is willing to kill anyone all in the name of making the world a better place. However, where Magneto is the leader, the operative, like his name suggests, is more of a black ops CIA agent who takes his orders from the Alliance, the government which he works for. He believes that the Alliance is doing all that they can to make the worlds within the interplanetary alliance a better place. However, he also understands that in order to get there, some bones have to be broken. He’s evil. He knows it. But he’s willing to make the sacrifice for the greater good. Click here to check out the following scene where the operative calls the protagonist. It encapsulates everything that makes the operative a villain with a heart.
Bad Horse (Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog)
While he doesn’t make any sort of appearance until the very end, and it’s only for a brief second, he maintains a huge presence throughout the movie. He’s one of those villains that you only hear other villains talk about. In Doctor Horrible’s universe, Bad Horse is the head of an evil organization known as the “Evil League of Evil”. It’s a very prestigious organization that has a very stringent application evaluation process that requires the applicant not only to fill out paper work and get letters of condemnation from city officials, they also have to show that they are willing to commit villainous acts of crime. Of course, murder is not a requirement, but it’s definitely one of the options.