Counting Down The Ten Worst Movie Super Villains
While we have love to root for our favorite superheroes at the movies, it’s the villains that we really love to hate. The villain can really make or break a movie regardless of how much our inner fan is geeking out to see our beloved comic book characters brought to life.
We’re continuing our countdown of the worst movie super villains we’ve endured over the years. Let’s jump right in with one of an amazingly bad on-screen representation of everybody’s favorite anti-hero:
10. Ryan Reynolds/Scott Adkins as Wade Wilson in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)
A wisecracking, fourth-wall-breaking remnant of the creative disaster zone that was comics in the 1990s, masked mercenary Deadpool nevertheless remains a huge fan favorite, and so there was a good deal of anticipation when it was revealed he’d be featured in stand-alone spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and played by smart-mouthed rising star Ryan Reynolds. The result, however, serves as one of the very best examples of studios and screenwriters fundamentally failing to understand how to use a character: they essentially killed off Wilson, replacing him a brainwashed, hodgepodge Darth Maul-ish adversary for Logan to battle at the film’s conclusion. Reynolds is sort of fine (if a little annoying) when he’s a hero in the early scenes, but by the end, he’s replaced by martial artist Scott Adkins in all but the most extreme of close-ups, though as it’s essentially an entirely different character, that’s kind of fine. As with most aspects of the film, he makes very little sense as a character (deploying his various powers one at a time, in order for there to be reveals) rather than just offing Logan immediately, and that the character known as the “merc with a mouth” ends up with his lips sewn up (and, after that, decapitated) shows how little the Fox executives knew what they were doing. Fortunately both Fox and Reynolds will get to redeem themselves with 2016’s Deadpool stand-along movie… we hope!
9. January Jones as Emma Frost in “X-Men: First Class” (2011)
Aside from the opportunity to see younger versions of their favorite characters brought to life by top-quality acting talent like James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence, one of the reasons fans were excited about Matthew Vaughn’s pre-boot X-Men First Class was that it finally saw one of the mutant franchise’s most beloved characters brought to life properly. Emma Frost, also known as the White Queen, a powerful telepath who can also turn her skin into diamonds, has been one of the X-Men’s most popular villains (though, as is often the case with the comics’ continuity, she’s also fought on their side more than once, and has even led the heroes), and after a fleeting cameo in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” finally got a proper part in “First Class,” in the form of Mad Men star January Jones. Except you rather wish that they hadn’t bothered. In the comics, Frost is a powerful and independent character, but here, she’s mostly second fiddle to Kevin Bacon’s bland Sebastian Shaw, an agency-free sex-bot and the worst example of the film’s icky, exploitative representation of women. Maybe a better choice of actress could have brought extra shading, but Jones (while she’s done good work on Mad Men, Jones is almost impossibly stiff in the part. Despite being freed from custody at the end of the movie, it’s no surprise that she didn’t appear in the franchise follow-up X-Men: Days if Future Past.
8. Colin Farrell as Bullseye in “Daredevil” (2003)
One of the nicest things you could say about Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil is that it’s inconsistently cast. Few would pick Ben Affleck as their ideal choice for the blind superhero, but Michael Clarke Duncan was inspired as villain The Kingpin. Jennifer Garner was a bit insipid as Elektra, but people like Joe Pantoliano and Jon Favreau did some solid work in supporting roles. And in theory, then-rising star Colin Farrell, fresh off a good job as an antagonist in Minority Report, could have been fun as fan-favorite villain Bullseye, a man so accurate he can kill someone with a peanut. He certainly seems to be having a good time, chewing scenery like it was made of toffee. But the whole thing’s just kind of misjudged. Farrell brings a kind of white-rapper swagger to the part, but a House of Pain kind of swagger, and it comes across as campy and cheesy rather than ‘cool,’ which is what it seems to be going for. The look is also pretty botched: as was the vogue, Farrell doesn’t wear the costume from the comics, which isn’t necessarily a bad decision, except that the bald-head/target score combination conspires to literally make Farrell look like a dick. Dodgy accent aside, it’s not the actor’s fault: everyone in this movie is so adrift that you can’t blame him so much. But it’s still a huge waste of what could have been a very memorable adversary. Fortunately Marvel has gotten Daredevil right with its Netflix series. With Elektra and Punisher joining the series in Season 2, we can only hope Bullseye gets his shot at redemption in Season 3.
7. Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond in “Green Lantern” (2011)
Ok, so there is an element of shooting fish in a barrel when we target anything to do with the widely reviled and inarguably shit Green Lantern, but some fish really do deserve two in the head, just to be sure they’re really dead. On paper, Hector Hammond seems a fairly promising adversary, in the odd, ephemeral universe of ‘Green Lantern’ that is — infected by some sort of fear essence which magnifies his latent feelings of resentment and inadequacy toward his father, Hammond becomes telepathic and telekinetic, and perhaps understandably, as a result, insane and psychotic. But a universe in which Will is a source of power and Fear is a Yellow Energy that can be passed on from the Fear Entity Parallax, or something, needs some nifty storytelling chops to sell, and some sympathetic and relatable characterization to ground the frou-frou. None of which we get here as Sarsgaard morphs from a guy with a tragically receding hairline into a tic-laden grotesque with a pulsating, bulbous forehead, who resembles the Elephant Man without the pathos and whose motivations, especially once his hated father is dead, are a complete mystery to us, and who the script pretty much abandons in the final act anyway. And that’s not to mention the bad taste left by a film whose moral is essentially that the buff, popular, jock fighter pilot dude will always win out over the socially inept brainbox. At least Ryan Reynolds gets to redeem himself with a real superhero movie soon.
6. Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face in “Batman Forever” (1995)
Take it from someone who was nine years old at the time: the idea of recent Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones and comedy megastar Jim Carrey playing two of Batman’s most iconic foes, Two-Face and The Riddler, in a new movie was just about the most exciting thing you could ever think of. And at the time, I’m pretty sure I lost my mind over Joel Schumacher’s day-glo nightmare Batman Forever. But in retrospect, the film’s a highly painful experience, and that’s in part thanks to the villains. Carrey is as over-the-top as you might imagine as Edward Nygma, but at least feels like he’s at home; he’s positively minimalist next to Jones, clearly and palpably cashing a paycheck and dreading the whole thing. The character has a unique and tragic conceit in his split-personality, but the film ignores it entirely, turning Harvey Dent (played by Billy Dee Williams in the first “Batman” film) into a purple-faced, fur-suited megalomaniac. And as for the performance? Well, it’s fair to say that the actor is someone who’s at his best when he’s underplaying not when he’s doing a screeching, wildly misjudged riff on his character from JFK. The only remarkable thing about this performance is that Schumacher had worse to unleash with his next time at “Bat.”
5. Julian McMahon as Doctor Doom in “Fantastic Four” (2005) AND “Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer” (2007)
While we could spend a grear deal of time arguing about which portrayal of Doom wins, the new reboot of The Fantastic Four has been demolished so soundly by fans and critics that it almost seems like piling on to include Toby Kebbell’s role in this list. So we’ll focus on the first man to inhabit the metal mask, Australian actor Julian McMahon, who left a very low bar to clear. The mid-00s “Fantastic Four” movies aren’t terrible so much as mediocre and forgettable, but their treatment of one of Marvel’s most iconic bad guys is one of their biggest problems. They dump much of what makes him unique (that he’s literally the king of his own country) in favor of making him a yet another bland, corporate type, which at least explains why the interchangeably handsome McMahon landed the gig. His plans are never especially clear or distinctive, and even in the slightly superior sequel, the filmmakers never nail the look, with Doom looking more like he’s from “Steel” than his Marvel heritage. Obviously it’s not the easiest task for an actor to play a megalomaniac behind a metal mask, as evidenced by Kebbell’s take in the newest film (see, we couldn’t help ourselves) but Doctor Doom simply deserves better.
Read More: The Fantastic Four
4. Rhys Ifans as the Lizard in “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012)
So perhaps the Raimi Spidey series needed a reboot, but did it really deserve this one? This writer came only recently to the Marc Webb’s megahit, and left reeling at the film’s largely positive reviews and $750m worldwide take. Is everybody high? What, aside from Garfield and Stone’s endearing chemistry, does this film have to recommend it? And in the middle of the stew of bad, sits a turgid, badly written and poorly CG’d villain in Rhys Ifans‘ Lizard. One of the marks of a great villain is nuance, and nuanced he ain’t, in fact he appears to be playing three entirely separate characters who don’t even seem like they share a nodding acquaintance, let alone a consciousness. First, he’s the slightly untrustworthy scientific genius for whom Gwen Stacy improbably interns at the shady corporation that houses the spider that bites the boy… and so on. Second, he’s a crusading but tortured idealist, haunted by his missing arm, who out of protective instinct won’t rush to test his serum on humans despite pressure from his bosses. And third he’s a huge rampaging Lizard monster thingie that kills without compunction. If you compare the fluency and coherence of, say Doc Ock’s characterization in Spider-Man 2, you realize just how much Kurt Connors/The Lizard here doesn’t so much have an arc as do a bunch of stuff and then stop. And then you think of the box office take and despair.
3. Topher Grace as Venom in “Spider-Man 3” (2007)
Again a character spawned of the quote-unquote dark, cool era of 1990s comics, Venom — a dark mirror of Spider-Man, created when the alien symbiote that Peter wore as a new costume bonded with his rival Eddie Brock — was an instant hit with fans, instantly becoming one of the characters’ most popular villains, and even being mooted for his own movie, in development from writer David Goyer at New Line in the early 00s. In fact, he was so popular, that apparently, he was forced on director Sam Raimi by Sony against the director’s wishes for his final installment in the franchise, Spider-Man 3. And boy, does it show. The bloated third movie was already top-heavy with villains, but the inclusion of Venom couldn’t feel like more of an afterthought: the symbiote only bonds with Brock at the end of the second act, and the character gets so little screen time than he never becomes much of a threat, or much of anything, really, with Raimi’s heart still evidently with Sandman, who’s reduced to a second fiddle. As for the casting, “That ’70s Show” star Topher Grace landed the part of Brock, and it’s easy to see what they were going for: Grace is someone who could have played Parker at one point, and the idea of him being a sort of evil doppelganger makes sense. But Grace simply isn’t menacing in the role, and you’re never particularly scared of him. That Spidey takes him down by literally banging two metal bars together seems to speak to the contempt that Raimi had for the character, and his reluctance to include him.
2. Mark Pillow as Nuclear Man in “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace” (1987)
Of all the elements of the deeply un-fun Sidney J. Furie-directed Superman IV, the unfunnest of all has to be its wretched, wretched villain. In a would-be clever nod to the film’s macro theme of trying to establish peace in a world bedeviled by nuclear proliferation, this guy is born of energy flare that happens when Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, by this stage as much on autopilot as anyone and lumbered with an awful nephew character, played by Jon Cryer in a transparent Poochie-style attempt to woo younger viewers) steals one of Superman’s hairs, attaches it to a nuclear bomb which then gets thrown into the sun. As a result he’s a supposed clone of Superman, though he looks totally different and sounds like his “father” Luthor (Hackman voiced the character too) who should possess all his powers and therefore be a worthy adversary. With one tiiiiiiny flaw: he needs the sun to live and so can be defeated by anyone clever enough to step into the shade or go inside. The film is the nadir of the Superman canon, and presumably a big slice of the reason that nearly 20 years would pass before anyone came near Supes on the big screen again.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze in “Batman & Robin” (1997)
It was the stuff ’90s nerd dreams were made of: Batman (played by the debonair George Clooney, no less), facing off against the most iconic action star in the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie was playing Mr. Freeze, a villain with an appropriately tragic back story, and in true Joel Schumacher fashion, he looked spectacular, painted an icy, glittery blue and a toy-friendly suit and Mad Max-ish car. What the audience, and maybe even the future Governor of California, probably weren’t banking on, was that Schumacher and writer Akiva Goldsman had doubled down on the camp even from Batman Forever. The result was that Freeze’s backstory was pretty much botched, and that Arnie barely gets to have a line that isn’t some kind of terrible, terrible cold-related pun. The Austrian Oak was never exactly known for his line readings, but he has so little to work with here that even his impressive screen presence doesn’t make much of an impact. Batman and Robin is still, correctly, the byword for the very worst that the superhero genre can offer, and Schwarzenegger makes an appropriately awful villain. Perhaps the only redeeming feature is that he makes co-villain Uma Thurman, as Poison Ivy, look slightly less terrible in comparison.
courtesy of IndieWire
What do you think? Who tops your list for worst super villain on film?