Top Ten Memorable Villains

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is brought to you courtesy of BiffCo, International Genetics Incorporated, and SPECTRE. We also tried to get Virtucon Industries to give us a mention in their next ransom demand, but their fee was a little pricey: ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Top Ten Memorable Villains

Books

1. Rebecca and Mrs Danvers, from Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – In Du Maurier’s creepy Gothic novel, Rebecca is the faceless deceased wife of the hero, Max de Winter. Although she never appears in the novel (or the film) she’s creepy because she feels so present, despite having died years before. Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper and friend (perhaps lover?) of Rebecca, is kind of like Rebecca’s earthly muscle. She slinks around the house and generally makes the heroine quake with fear right down to her teeny-tiny little boots.

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2. Severus Snape, from Harry Potter Okay, so I’m cheating a little here, because Snape isn’t technically a bad guy, in the broadest sense of the term. But the brilliant thing about him is that even though he theoretically turns out to be good, he’s still quite morally ambiguous. It makes his character incredibly compelling.

3. The Auditors, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series – The Auditors are a prime example in the field of mysterious, faceless villains. A seemingly limitless troupe of grey-cloak-wearing entities who are determined to wipe out all trace of individuality, beauty, and passion – in other words, all the messiness and wonder that defines humanity – they’re seemingly impossible to truly destroy.

4. Count Olaf, from Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket – Ah, Count Olaf. The scheming wannabe actor has a taste for amateur theatrics, bad disguises, and stealing money from defenceless orphans. Although the Baudelaire orphans always manage to see through Count Olaf’s disguises straight away, the many useless adults that people these novels never seem to be able to tell when Olaf is up to no good. You’ve got to wonder whether adults really are as dense as Snicket seems to suggest. Then you accidentally watch a few minutes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

5. Captain Hook, from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan – Although he comes across as a bit of a clown in the Disney movie, in the play you kind of feel sorry for the down-on-his-luck pirate captain. You get the feeling he’d rather be listening to classical music and eating caviar in his cabin, not terrorising a bunch of illiterate kids in their PJs all his life.

6. The White Witch, from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – She lures kids into her vehicle with candy. Enough said.

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7. Missy/The Master, from Doctor Who – The Master is one of The Doctor’s oldest and biggest rivals, next to the Daleks. But my favourite incarnation of the Doctor’s ancient rival has got to be Missy. I’m doubly fond of her because not only does Michelle Gomez do an absolutely fantastic job with the character, making her both mad yet strangely likeable, but her appearance in the eighth season of the show totally supports my theory that Time Lords can switch gender with each regeneration (I mean, if they can change every cell in their body, logic dictates…). This issue is the focus of an intense and furious debate between myself and a person close to me who shall remain nameless for their own protection. Because they’re still a bit red-faced about it, to be honest.

8. The Cylons, from Battlestar Galactica – Artificial Intelligence is a scary concept, for the most part because it comes with a whole host of ethical problems most humans just aren’t equipped to deal with. The mysterious Cylons from Battlestar Galactica embody these issues. As AIs that are indistinguishable from humans, they infiltrate the Battlestar Galactica fleet and force the human characters (and viewers) to confront ethical questions about the nature of humanity and technology.

9. The Gentlemen and Der Kinderstadt, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy has a whole host of creepy guys to choose from. Not to mention that their ‘Big Bads’ – supervillains like the seemingly unbeatable First Evil – are wonderfully memorable. But if there’s two villains whose faces still haunt my nightmares, it’s the chilling Der Kinderstadt, who sucks the life out of children, and The Gentlemen, a troupe of uber-creepy clown-faced dudes who show up in the night and steal people’s voices so they can’t scream when The Gentlemen come to harvest their internal organs. Just thinking about them gives me the wiggens.

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10. Darth Vader, from Star Wars – Special mention must go to Darth Vader, because this helmeted, heavy-breathing figure haunted my nightmares years before I even saw the Star Wars movies for the first time. I’m not kidding. I had nightmares about him hiding under my bed. Vader is such a well-known pop culture figure you don’t even need to have seen the movies to know about him. Call it Evil Brand Name Recognition.

Which villains do you find the most memorable?

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8 thoughts on “Top Ten Memorable Villains

  1. Michelle Gomez steals every scene she appears in: her standout role for me was as a hospital admin bod in the Green Wing TV series, in which she was deliciously and predictably unpredictable.

    Like you I prefer nuanced villains, such as Long John Silver, rather than outright psychopaths. But my favourite? I hardly know where to start …

  2. Ha! Brilliant list. I completely with you on Snape. He is a bit of a villain really, just not on the bad side. He’s my favourite character in the whole thing, I enjoy the mystery of him.

  3. I’d consider Snape, if not a villain, at least an antagonist. I don’t care if he’s working for the Order. He bullies school children (to the point where Neville at least actively fears him) and he takes out his hatred of James, which he should have gotten over a decade ago, on James’s son. He’s certainly not a very nice individual no matter how much espionage he’s done.

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