Spoilers for The Dark Knight, Avengers, Thor, Star Wars Episode IV, Star Wars Episode V, Star Wars Episode VI, Avengers Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther, Captain America: Civil War, The Lord of The Rings series, The X-men Franchise, and The Harry Potter Series.
Joker. Loki. Darth Vader. Thanos. Killmonger. Helmut Zemo. Sauron. Magneto. Voldemort. In my mind some of the best villains to date. Chaos. Scheming. Intimidating. Empathic. Correct. In different combinations, these attributes can make a great villain. I am going to dissect each villain, which attributes they possess, and why that makes them some of the best.
Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger was something special in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A good and compelling villain with a good motivation, who was in the right. In Black Panther, his motivation for taking over the throne of Wakanda was the suffering of African-Americans around the globe that Wakanda could help. He was a wonderful foil to T’challa. (A foil is a character who makes the attributes of the main character shine better) His lust for violence made the main character T’challa try to stop violence and not kill him at the end. His goal made T’challa see the error of his beliefs and open the borders of his nation that his ancestors had refused for thousands of years.
1) How is a giant flaming eyeball a good villain 2) He is a good villain not only because of his menacing look but also because of the amount of build-up and dread the director Peter Jackson managed to give him. When making the film he justified the look by making a giant eyeball a compelling a deadly enemy who can deliver a threat to the protagonists. Got It?
A compelling villain with a slightly noble motivation who poses a true threat to the god-like Avengers while being a normal human. How can a normal man pose a threat to a billionaire in a metal suit, a super soldier, an assassin, an archer who never misses, a literal god, and a giant green hulking brute? (no pun intended) The solution in Zemo’s mind was to have them kill each other. As he puts it:
“An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumbles from within? That’s dead… forever.”
In the previous Avengers movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, a team-up movie before, his family was killed when the city of Sokovia fell on his home and killed his wife and kids. He blamed the Avengers for it and used the murder of Iron Man’s parents by Captain America’s best friend to tear them apart in hopes of killing each other for him. He had good motivation, a good idea of executing his goal, and IT WORKED. Yes, he was one of two or three MCU villains who had their plan work. That is one of three out of over 30.
I couldn’t choose which one to talk about so I picked both. Ian McKellen’s and Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto. Both are fantastic. Both are the perfect foil for their long time friend. Similarly to someone who we will discuss in a little, Magneto thinks of himself as the hero. Mutants are hated and persecuted. In his mind, the only way to achieve peace is by rebelling against humans, causing him to battle his greatest friend, Charles Xavier. The arc he has over the seven or so X-men films he has appeared in is incredible. He goes from being captured by Nazi’s, having his parents killed by them, having his wife and kid killed by humans, to trying to kill President Richard Nixon in the ’70s, to trying to kill every president in the 2000s, to murdering a senator in the 2000s, to watching mutants get wiped out in the near future, to forgiving humanity in the ’90s. He has a really long and confusing history.
“Apology accepted.” “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” “When we last met I was but the learner now I am the master.” “No, I am your father.” Instantly recognizable and quotable. While helpful in making him a good villain, the quotes alone do not sell it. It is his intimidation and relationship to the hero. In case you didn’t hear, he is Luke’s Father. Dart Vader relies on two things to be a great villain. The first is the amount of intimidation he creates. What makes him so intimidating is not the action of him showing up but the reaction when he appears. And the deep voice and creepy breathing don’t hurt. The other reason which a lot of villains use is having a personal relationship with the hero, in this case, being his father.
Yeah his name is Loki
Another villain with a personal relationship with the hero. Instead of being his father, he is his brother. A brother who tries to get his brother banished, lose his hammer, lose the throne, killed, and almost gets his adopted father killed too. This guy ↓
And actually ends up killing his biological father. This guy ↓
Then in Avengers, he allies himself with Thanos to take over Earth and inadvertently creates “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”
Another extremely well built up villain. we see a bit of him on a dude’s head in the first movie, his sixteen-year-old soul from a diary in the second movie, don’t see him in the third, and finally, see him reborn at the end of the fourth. By the time he eventually is reincarnated you can’t help but want him to lose. He like many others is a villain who sees himself as the hero. For centauries wizards had to hide from muggles and like Magneto, Voldemort thought it would be better for wizard-kind to rise up and rule over muggles.
“I am inevitable.” Inevitably being a great villain. Unlike many, he is not a soulless, heartless, emotionless, obstacle for the hero. Instead, the Avengers are an obstacle for him. In his mind, He is the hero. The scariest villain is the one who thinks they are the hero. In his mind, he is a normal man who watched his planet die and is on the heroic quest to save the universe. By wiping half of it out so the remaining half will have enough resources to survive. He is a hero in every way except for the extreme way in which he goes about reaching his goal. He is ruthless, willing to kill anyone to get the infinity stones. Empathetic as he cries when he has to throw his daughter off a cliff. The most terrifying is the fact that he is righteous. He saves the universe.
Last but most certainly not least is Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning Joker. He is the exact opposite of Thanos. He is the villain. He knows he’s the bad guy. He is chaos. He lies, He cheats, He kills for the fun of it, and he cannot lose. Just like Thanos and Zemo, he wins. If Batman were to kill him he would win because Batman would break his cardinal rule. His only rule; No killing. Batman would be a murderer in the eyes of Gotham. If Batman doesn’t kill him, Gotham would suffer. Gotham suffered. He did what was thought to be impossible; He broke Gotham’s, White Knight. He forced Batman to kill Two-Face and he became a murderer in the eyes of Gotham. He forced Batman and Commissioner Gordon to lie. He forced them to lie so that when the truth was set free, his goal would be achieved. There would be Chaos.
Killmonger has good motivation and is correct. Sauron has a menacing look and a massive amount of build-up. Zemo has a noble reason and poses a true threat while being just human. Darth Vader has relatability to the hero and massive intimidation. Magneto is righteous. Loki has a personal relationship with the hero, a good personality, and is willing to kill his father, banish his brother, and almost kill his adopted father to get the throne. Voldemort has a well-planned build-up. Thanos is the hero who saves the universe. Joker cannot lose and will bring chaos.