I always say a comic book movie is only as good as its villain and come to think of it that applies more broadly too whether it’s a Bond, Seagal, Batman, Van Damme or any other franchise outing. Conflict must arise long before there’s ever a hero to battle it and said conflict must be colourful, engaging, lively and personified by a being you can aptly hate, (or love depending on the complexities), laugh at, perhaps even relate with and live vicariously through. These are my top ten favourite film villains based on comic book characters! Keep in mind I’ve read virtually zero of the source material here and am basing my choices on their cinematic incarnations alone! Oh and there’s gonna be spoilers too so watch out !
10. Ego/Kurt Russell in James Gunn’s Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2
Kurt Russell as an entire planet! Or… something like that. He’s this cosmic deity who can sow seeds of himself all over the universe and essentially spread like an organism, but he’s also personified in humanoid form as Kurt Russell lol. It’s a really unique idea for an antagonist who appears affable enough off the bat (Russell is great at that) and begins to go mega-maniacal pretty soon.
9. Norman Osborne/Green Goblin/Willem Dafoe in Sam Raimi’s Spider Man
This pick is mostly thanks to Dafoe who seems born to play the part and milks it for all its worth in a demonic, cackling portrayal of psychotic break and violent menace. I can’t decide which is more effectively scary, the Goblin mask or his own contorted visage leering around at people.
8. Harvey ‘Two Face’ Dent/Tommy Lee Jones in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever
I know, I know, it’s a ridiculously over the top performance more akin to the Joker and there’s reasons for that stemming from Jones and Jim Carrey’s dysfunctional set relationship. However, this was the first Batman film I ever saw and I straight up idolized Jones’s ballistic take on Two Face for some time. He’s a loon but the costume and makeup is so garish, pimped out and played to the hilt the character is a blast.
7. The Violator/John Leguizamo in Spawn
Gangly Latino Leguizamo is a left field choice to play an obese, trash talking demon clown from hell but he has always been an actor to shirk the expectations and do whatever he pleases, always successfully. The Violator is a hyperactive lunatic monster dispatched by Satan to babysit unholy warrior Spawn (Michael Jai White) and crack a bunch of dirty jokes while he’s at it. He steals the damn film with amazing lines like “I’ve been doing this since you were soup in your Momma’s crotch.” Good times.
6. Senator Roark/Powers Boothe in Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City
No one abuses power and loves it more than Roark, a psychotic corrupt politician who has so many people in his pocket and shitting their pants in his shadow that he’s almost made it an institution to the point that he has his own mantra about it, delivered to a hospital bed ridden Bruce Willis in a thunderous monologue. That’s his only scene in the first Sin City film but Rodriguez wisely brought Boothe back as the central villain in the sequel where he *really* tears it up and chews fucking scenery like a monster.
5. Kesslee/Malcolm McDowell in Rachel Talalay’s Tank Girl
McDowell is no stranger to evil megalomaniac villains but this dude takes the cake in a severely underrated, subversive and very ahead of its time gem. Kesslee is the depraved, sadistic CEO of Water & Power in the distant post apocalyptic future, a dude who spends his time enslaving and exploiting innocent people, psychologically breaking down dissidents, offing his employees with casual abandon and.. uh… walking across broken glass barefoot just for fun. He’s a fucking piece of work and Malcolm knows just how to play him with equal parts genuine menace and sheepish tongue in cheek.
4. Lucifer/Peter Stormare in Constantine
Of all the Devil portrayals in film, Stormare’s kooky, creepy, laconic and terminally weird rendition has to be my favourite. He’s got one extended scene with Keanu Reeves’ John Constantine and it’s a hoot, a highlight of this overlooked horror/noir that I enjoy greatly.
3. Selina Kyle/Catwoman/Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns
Michelle is still the best movie Catwoman and I doubt anyone will ever top her. Sexy beyond compare, darkly comic, unstable and so much goddamn fun, she fills out that kinky Catsuit, relentlessly flirts with Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne and just has this scary, seductive edge that is so magical.
2. The Joker/Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight
I had to include this legendary piece of acting. For Heath, for the vivid and arresting vision of the Joker he gave us and for every little improvised tic, organic mannerism and off the cuff moment that make him such a memorable villain.
1. Top Dollar/Michael Wincott in The Crow
Overlord and supreme chieftain of a city in decay, Top Dollar is a strange, brooding sort with a taste for baroque flair, elegant antique weaponry, creepy occult sadism, a whole bunch of cocaine, sexual urges towards his witchy half sister (Bai Ling) and ritualistic tendencies. Wincott is one of the great underrated and makes this guy a villain for the ages with a haunting penchant for poetry and a ruthless, unforgiving edge.