A rogue's gallery of movie super-villains, from bad to worst by Steve Ryfle
Every good super-hero needs an arch-enemy. Now that the 15-cent comic books of decades past are being reinvented as $150-million movies, some of the great actors of our time are having devilish fun, playing evil madmen (and women) bent on world domination.
Super-villains can be mere mortals with diabolical minds, or other-worldly beings with awesome super-powers. They not only threaten the future of truth, justice and the American way, but they also give meaning to every soul-searching super-hero's existence -- in short, they make a man flying around in blue tights, red boots and a cape seem not so silly after all.
Here's a rundown of the greatest super-villains of the movies, ranked according to their sheer evilness:
|1. Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in "Superman" (1978). Hackman needs no ray beams or body armor -- he's the ultimate bad guy, living in a hideout under the Metropolis subway system, hatching a plan to become the ultimate real estate tycoon by destroying half of California with a nuclear bomb! Superman, where are you? |
|2. Jack Nicholson as the Joker in "Batman" (1989).|
Horribly disfigured by a mishap in a chemical plant, Nicholson loses his mind as no lunatic has ever lost his mind before. And when he seizes control of Gotham City's underworld, the Clown Prince of Crime is born.
|3. Terence Stamp as General Zod in "Superman II" (1980). A mere rabble-rouser back home on Krypton, Zod's "dense molecular structure" makes him Superman's equal in every way here on Earth. With sidekicks Ursa and Non at his command, Zod goes on the ultimate rampage and trashes the White House, all in pursuit of global conquest. |
|4. Alfred Molina as Dr. Octopus in "Spider-Man 2" (2004). He's flabbier than most super-baddies, and perhaps he should've kept his shirt on. But he's got some badass mechanical arms and he'll risk the lives of millions of Manhattanites in pursuit of his mad-scientist agenda.|
|5. Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto in "X-Men" (2000). |
The world is on the brink of war between mutants--people born with special powers--and everyone else, who considers them freaks. Some people want to solve the problem peacefully, but not Magneto, who knows how to speed up the mutation process in all humans, creating a new, all-mutant race! With super-freaks Mystique and Sabertooth at his beckoning, Magneto won't let his evil plan go unfulfilled.
|6. Danny Devito as the Penguin in "Batman Returns" (1992). Abandoned by birth by a respectable family, this deranged and deformed dude takes a most unusually villainous route to upturning Gotham City--he runs for Mayor, backed by a megalomaniacal millionaire, hoodlums and real penguins to boot! What he may lack in super-powerfulness, Penguin more than makes up for in all-out grotesqueness.|
|7. Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin in "Spider-Man" (2002). With a flying boogie board, exploding pumpkins and an outlandish green costume, Green Goblin has the best props of any super-villain and his fashion sense is undeniably eye-catching. Unfortunately, his motivations for going ballistic (he wants revenge for being ousted from his corporation) aren't the most inspired.|
|8. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy (tie) in "Batman and Robin" (1997). These two get votes simply for the way Arnie and Uma tear up the scenery. Mr. Freeze (wearing silver pancake makeup) threatens to put Gotham on ice unless he's paid a huge ransom; he needs the money to find a cure for his wife's mysterious disease. Poison Ivy (in green leotards) has lips of venom and a knack for genetically enhancing plant life.|
|9. Colin Farrell as Bullseye and Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin (tie) in "Daredevil" (2003).|
This film would have been a big dud if not for the villains. Bullseye is a lunatic with expert targeting skills, and the ability to turn most anything into a deadly weapon. Kingpin, meanwhile, is the biggest crime lord in New York--literally.
|10. Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in "Batman Returns" (1992). Halle Berry was just a wannabe back when Pfeiffer donned the skintight duds and slinked across the screen. The only reason she doesn't rank higher is that Catwoman really isn't a super-villain. She's a misunderstood, shady figure, much like Batman, with whom she toys with, romantically and otherwise, oh so well. Meow!|
|Dishonorable Mentions: the Un-Super-Villains|
|Jim Carrey as the Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face (tie) in "Batman Forever" (1995). Good actors, bad roles. Carrey is a disgraced genius inventor who wants revenge on Bruce Wayne. Two-Face is a disfigured bad guy who wants Batman dead. Trouble is, they're both kind of boring.|
|Scott Paulin as Red Skull in "Captain America" (1991). In the comic books, the Red Skull is a NAZI. He is not Italian. Hello? Inane writing, but what else could be expected from this low-low-budget, hardly seen, very bad movie.|
|Joseph Culp as Dr. Doom in "Fantastic Four" (1994). Produced by Roger Corman, this film was never released due to legal constraints (although "bootleg" videos can be found if you know where to look), and that's a very good thing. The evil Dr. Doom of the comic books is reduced a shadow of his ironclad self here.|
|Mark Pillow as Nuclear Man in "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" (1987). Lex Luthor steals a lock of Superman's hair and creates Nuclear Man, an android that gets its power from the sun. Trouble is, this movie was made on a paltry budget and the result is cinematic super-cheese.|
|Nick Nolte as Absorbing Man in "Hulk" (2003). Actually, Nolte isn't truly playing Absorbing Man, a villain that goes way back in Hulk comic-book lore, but certain similarities are striking. The thing that makes this character most despicable is his scientific experimentation on his own young son--a totally unnecessary plot twist that turns the film into a somber Greek tragedy when is should have been all about Hulk smashing stuff. |Syndicated Columnists
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