5 Phenomenal but Utterly Detestable Movie Villains

The topic of villains has cropped up here several times over the past few weeks. In today’s Phenomenal 5 I want to look at villains but with a slight twist. Obviously the audience isn’t supposed to root for the villains when watching a film. But we all know that some movie antagonists and more evil than others. In fact, some are down right detestable. Those are ones we are exploring in this list. I’m sharing 5 phenomenal yet utterly detestable bad guys. These are the guys that you grow to dislike so much that you end up anxious for their demise – the messier the better. There are plenty to choose from so I wouldn’t say this was the definitive list. But there’s no doubt that these 5 phenomenal villains are unquestionably detestable.

#5 – AGENT STANSFIELD (“Leon: The Professional”)

Gary Oldman has a history of playing deplorable villains. But I don’t think any are as detestable as his Agent Stanfield in Luc Beeson’s “Leon: The Professional”. Stanfield is a corrupt DEA Agent who is a stylishly dressed pill-popping addict. We hate this guy immediately as we see him fly off the handle and murder an entire family including a young child. The slaughter is all over some missing cocaine that was being stashed in their apartment. The only survivor is 12-year old Mathilda (Natalie Portman) who can identify and tie Stanfield to the slaughter. Stanfield makes Mathilda and her protector, a hitman named Leon (Jean Reno) his prime target. Stanfield is a slimy and despicable villain who is willing to waste anyone that inconveniences him, even children. How can he not be on this list?

#4 – SEAN NOKES (“Sleepers”)

My wife still says she has a hard time liking Kevin Bacon due to his performance as reform school guard Sean Nokes in 1996’s “Sleepers”. I can’t say I blame her. A group of mischievous boys from Hell’s Kitchen end up being sent to Wilkinson Home for Boys after their antics finally catch up to them. But one of the heads of the school is a disgustingly vile guard who uses his authority and power to abuse the boys in every way possible. He verbally abuses them. He beats them. He and his guard buddies even sexually assault them. It’s a strong but disturbing and uncomfortable performance from Bacon which is one reason this character is perfect for this list. The movie leaps ahead 14 years later where two of the boys run into Nokes. They reintroduce themselves to him and lets just say that the results are certainly satisfying.

#3 – COLONEL TAVINGTON (“The Patriot”)

In “The Patriot” Mel Gibson plays a respected man who due to past experiences is reluctant to support the colonies decision to go to war with England. But his perspective changes when he encounters Colonel Tavington (Jason Isaacs), a vicious and ruthless English officer whose known as “The Butcher” by his fellow Englishman. Isaacs’ arrogance and calloused view of human life is never more evident than in the scene where he takes the life of Gibson’s son followed by the comment “Stupid boy”. Also locking an entire village in a church and flippantly burning them alive does nothing to endear Tavington to us. And then there’s his showdown with Heath Ledger’s character, Gibson’s oldest son. Tavington is about as detestable as a villain can be and when he meets up with Mel Gibson on the battlefield we are ready for him to get whats coming to him.

#2 – CAPTAIN VIDAL (“Pan’s Labyrinth”)

Writer and director Guillermo del Toro created a dark but fantastical world in his 2006 fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth. In the film, young Ofelia and her pregnant mother come to live with her new stepfather Vidal. He’s a military officer stationed in the mountains of Spain and tasked with squelching a rebel movement against his cause. We quickly learn that Vidal is not only a brutal military man but also extremely hateful and eventually abusive towards Ofelia and her mother. Vidal is one of those characters that is so cruel and so evil that he makes your skin crawl. This violent sociopath soon completely loses touch with reality and the pure evil in his heart is realized. It all leads to a heart-breaking final scene with Ofelia face-to-face with an unbridled Vidal who ends up solidifying his spot on this list.

#1 – AMON GOTH (“Schindler’s List”)

One of the things that makes Ralph Fiennes’ Amon Goth from “Schindler’s List” so terrifying and detestable is the fact that he is based on a real person. This Nazi SS officer oversaw the slaughter of thousands of Jews in his brutal death camps. Fiennes gives a tremendous performance bringing this vile and psychopathic mass murderer to life on screen. We see him issue orders that results in the deaths of so many. He personally shoots men and women in the head in order to make examples out of them. He even sits on the terrace of his hilltop home overlooking the camp and shoots random prisoners with his high-powered sniper rifle for no real purpose other than his sadistic hatred. We’ve seen lots of Nazis in cinema history but none are as unnerving and deplorable as to murderous savage Amon Goth.

And there they are, 5 phenomenal villains that we can all agree are detestable. See someone I missed? Please take time to let me know who you would have included on this list.

39 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal but Utterly Detestable Movie Villains

  1. Nice selections there Keith particularly Oldman. I’d definitely include him. I’d also include Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill “The Butcher” in Gangs of NY and Willem Dafoe as Bobby Peru in Wild at Heart and due to my recent rewatch of Cape Fear, DeNiro’s Max Cady.

    • Cady was right there in the running. He’s certainly detestable. Bill the Butcher is interesting. He’s without a doubt a vile & evil man but there’s something so mesmerizing about his character. Sure I wanted him to face the music, but I also wanted to hear every word he said. I hope this is pointing to some deeper issues of mine! Gulp! 😉

    • Thanks man! As I mentioned to Mark, Bill the Butcher is just to mesmerizing for me (sick, I know). And I can’t include Bardem even though he’s one of my favorite villains ever! He’s just too funny sometimes. He’s a great villain – just not “utterly detestable” for me.

  2. Gary Oldman’s Sansfield is one of my very favourite film villains of all time. So much of that has to do with Oldman’s portrayal. A villain I really love to hate.

    Great choice with Viddal from Pan’s Labyrinth. There is no warmth in him whatsoever. Cold and just damn evil!

    • You know it’s funny, I just noticed a familiar theme with every one of my picks. To some degree or another each one of these villains have hurt, abused, or killed children. I guess that’s one sure way to make my list of truly hated villains!

    • Vader? Sure Vader is evil and he kills a lot of people but he’s not that totally detestable villain that the others on my are. And of course we learn that he started as an innocent young boy and ended doing the right thing. He is a great villain but not really a detestable one.

  3. I can’t stand looking at Bacon anymore, not that I “liked” looking at him before. But I could have shot him myself!

  4. Great list! Amoen Goeth would be my number 1 too, Kevin Bacon was indeed really creepy in Sleepers, he is such a good actor as he can pull off being villains and likable characters equally well – like he did in Frost/Nixon and Mystic River.

    • Thanks! Glad someone else agrees with me about Fiennes’ performance. He was so evil and so unnerving. And as I mentioned my wife still doesn’t like Kevin Bacon because of his role in sleepers! Thanks for checking out the list!

  5. Great list, Keith! I haven’t seen #3 and 4 but I take your word for it that they are despicable. Amon Goeth has to make the list as he’s just oh, there’s no word! I second Fernando’s comment on Tim Roth, I tell you I wish I could reach the screen and just slap him!

    • I’ve got to check out Roth’s performance. Goeth just has to be #1. His evil is on an entirely different level. Again, I think a lot of it may be due to the real life monster that Fiennes depicts. And trust me, you would despise Tavington from “The Patriot” as well.

      • Yeah and the fact that Goeth is based on a real person just gives me the chills! I might give The Patriot a watch, I generally like Mel Gibson and it’s also got Heath Ledger in it right?

      • Yes it does. Gibson is fantastic and this was one of those roles that really woke me up to Ledger. It does pound you emotionally but I really, really like “The Patriot”. Would love to hear your take on it.

  6. Great selections! This is a weird one but you know who really pisses me off every time I watch the film? Carrie Anne Moss’ character in Memento. She is soooo evil. Doesn’t really deserve a place here though.

  7. I got a few recommendations
    1. Noah Cross from Chinatown, he seems like a grandfatherly figure at first but he turns out to be an extremely vile and vicious villain who has committed innumerable crimes and even gets away scot free in the end.
    2. Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, she is the most hate able character I have ever seen
    3. Frank Booth from Blue Velvet, one of the most perverted, sadistic, and unsettling villains
    4. Vukmir from A Serbian Film, the main villain of the most controversial and repulsive film ever made, Who would root for such a vile specimen of humanity
    5. Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek, unlike those other Horror icons, Mick is 100% human which makes him more terrifying
    6. Middle Eye from Apocalypto, not the main villain but he’s even worse then his master and the other Mayan warriors, has too many cruel moments to count,
    7. Commodus from Gladiator, a brilliant example of historical villain upgrade
    8. La Tenia from Irreversible, crossed the point of no return in just ONE SCENE, which is one of the most disturbing scene ever filmed
    9. Peter and Paul from Funny Games (both versions), this was supposed to be message against violence
    10. John Doe from Seven, a frightening, nihilistic, and deadly serial killer, who much more can you get?

    • Peter and Paul… Great choices. Sickening, unnerving and utterly detestable. Commodus for sure and how did I miss John Doe? Great mentions!

      • I have so many in mind, I’m a pro on villains, I loved watching Peter and Paul in both versions of Funny Games, Michael Pitt was unsettling and highly cruel. I also liked watching Kevin Bacon as Sean Nokes from Sleepers, other sadistic guards in mind would be Captain Hadley from Shawshank Redemption and Percy Wetmore from Green Mile. Another good choice would be the libertines from Salo 120 days of Sodom, their acts of evil could fill countless pages. Warden Samuel Norton is also perfectly detestable since he tried to prevent an innocent prisoner from being released. Other good choices would include Krug and his gang from Last House on the Left, Nurse Ratched from One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, lil ze from City of God, and Henry from Henry Portrait of a serial killer.

  8. If there was ever a film adaptation for Blood Meridian, I would definitely add Judge Holden on the list, He’s almost like the Devil in disguise.

  9. How about Edwin Epps from 12 years a Slave and Calvin Candie from Django Unchained? They are some of the most savage and brutal slave masters ever to appear on screen.

  10. How about Alonzo Harris from Training Day. Mrs. Carmody from The Mist, Kakihara from Ichi the Killer, Roark jr from Sin City, Mr. Potter from It’s a wonderful Life, and Sgt Barnes from Platoon

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