Posts Tagged ‘greatest screen villains’

Agents of Chaos: The Greatest Screen Villains of Our Time

August 8, 2008

Now that seemingly the whole world is writhing in the throes of the post-orgasmic glow of The Dark Knight (at least I am; the global box office seems to be backing me up on this one), it seems like a good time to address the best bad guys in Hollywood history.

AFI’s list of 50 Greatest Villains is over 5 years old, and while it’s a largely credible one, its age leaves a lot of highly qualified candidates with lengthy, impressive resumes of staggering evil out in the cold. AFI just recently rejigged their Greatest Films list with no other apparent purpose than to fuck with viewers’ minds, so why not redo this one when there’s great credence? So, leading the charge to stake their claims in the splendidly burnished hall of infamy that would make Stalin groan in envy, are these fine young gentlemen, these Agents of Chaos:

5. Anton Chigurh (Played by Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men)
Why: He’s an unstoppable, unflappable killing machine, a menacing presence with an insatiable appetite for destruction and misery. If the Terminator were Latino with a fucked-up hair-do and took a maniacal delight in killing people (and wasn’t a cyborg from the future; who the hell’s gonna buy that?)…he’d have some serious Green Card issues. Other than that, he’d be Anton Chigurh.

What’s Against Him: Said fucked-up hair-do.
Accolades: Best Supporting Actor Oscar, in the Best Picture winner; my #3 film of 2007.

4. Daniel Plainview (Played by Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood)
Why: Well, let’s see…he ruthlessly exploits, manipulates and cheats everyone, and when he finds someone may have done likewise to him, he shoots the guy dead. His little son (and partner) is wounded in a freak industrial accident, so he ships him off to boarding school to be rid of him. He gets baptized so he can get drilling rights. Cuts off his son at the knees when he learns the lad wants to go into the business on his own (thus becoming a competitor, the one thing red-blooded capitalists can’t stand). Mercilessly taunts a fallen preacher over supper, then puts him out of his misery by bludgeoning him to death. With a bowling pin. But perhaps the most biting indictment is that he is the embodiment of the no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners capitalism that is America. ‘Nuff said.
What’s Against Him: A borderline homicidal fascination with milkshakes. The naked irony of the American Film Institute picking a character embodying the worst excesses of America. Played by a Brit.
Accolades: Best Actor Oscar, in my #2 film of 2007.

3. Captain Vidal (Played by Sergi Lopez in Pan’s Labyrinth)
Why: Amon Goeth (he of Schindler’s List fame), meet your long lost Spanish twin brother, identical in maniacal levels of unbridled evilness. Not since Ralph Fiennes scared audiences shitless with his chilling Nazi (are there other kinds?) in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (wow that sounds odd) have we been presented with a villain this wicked and grounded in ideological and historical believability. This guy isn’t evil – that’s merely what he eats for breakfast, which is made short work of by a digestive system that’s no stranger to cracking walnuts whole. And what’s worse is that he’s never over-the-top or losing his cool (even when his servant takes a page from the Joker’s book and tries to “put a smile on that face”). And holy shit he shot a child – a little girl, in cold blood. Wrestle 30 alligators or be interrogated by Captain Vidal? The choice is obvious: I’ll fancy my chances with the gators.

El Capitan; a true G

El Capitan; a true G

What’s Against Him: TheSpanish actor in the Spanish film by Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro isn’t American enough for the American Film Institute.
Accolades: He sure as shit wasn’t American enough for an Oscar nom, in my best film of 2006.

2. Bill The Butcher (Played by Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs Of New York)
Why: First off, does Day-Lewis need a hug? Not getting enough love from Rebecca Miller? This vicious meanie outdoes even poor Daniel Plainview, who at least has table manners (and likes milkshakes). Bill is riveting to watch; unpredictable, unscrupulous, unrepentant, and totally bat-shit out of control. And the best part? He’s not insane, unlike some people (hate to mention names…Plainview…). This probably has to go down as one of the best lead performances this decade; watching Day-Lewis in action is like watching a magician play, if such play constituted impaling puppies and kittens and embalming them alive.
What’s Against Him: Leonardo DiCaprio. In a film that was a mangled mess. But more significantly: Leonardo DiCaprio. And Cameron Diaz.
Accolades: Apparently the Oscars couldn’t overlook the sorry mess that was DiCaprio and Diaz trying to act. That and Adrian Brody as yet another Holocaust survivor; can’t pass those ones up.

1. The Joker (Played by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight)
Why: He is the epitome of an Agent of Chaos. Everyone else on AFI’s list would look up to him with a mixture of awe, admiration, and dread, as evinced by the growing puddle around their Hush Puppies. I’ve never experienced as awesome, grandiose (yet grounded), frightening, menacing, haunting, brilliant, riveting a presence in a film as the first time I saw The Dark Knight. We’re talking about a guy so badass that, despite being a gal-lovin’ kinda guy (forget Brokeback Mountain and stick with me here), would gleefully fuck you in the ass and cum in your eyes and tell all your friends about it. Suddenly Jack Nicholson’s hammy incarnation of the uber-villain (#45 on AFI’s list) remembers a hernia appointment he really has to get to. But seriously: Heath disappears into this character like no other actor (not even Daniel Day-Lewis, or Jamie Foxx in Ray) ever, since perhaps Ben Kingsley as Gandhi (The Joker’s opposite in every way imaginable). It’s frightening, it’s daring, it’s mind-blowing, it’s brave, and, yes, more than a little tragic.

The new face of villainy and chaos

The new face of villainy and chaos

What’s Against Him: Nothing; even the Bat-Man’s had to install Bat-Diapers into his suit for every time he encounters his arch-nemesis.
Accolades: An Oscar, dare I say…? Wickedly deserving, in my #1 film of 2008 and #2 of the decade.