When Michael Jackson (RIP) sang, “I’m Bad,” he couldn’t touch these 10 big bads. This list is not just about who was the most evil or who were the most hated bad guys. These villains all also hold the distinction of being crazy cool!
10. Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982; Star Trek: Into Darkness, 2013)
“I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you.”
(Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Star Trek had some “bad” aliens (racists), but there was really only one true bad guy. And he was baaaad: Khan! He is such a great bad guy that he is the only character besides the crew of the Enterprise to appear in all three incarnations of the original crew: the original 1960s series, the 1980s movies, and the recent J. J. Abrams reboots.
9. Tony Montana (Scarface, 1983)
“So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you.”
Tony Montana, the Cuban-born Miami cocaine kingpin with the “little friend,” just won’t die in the film-ending battle royale. He finally goes out in a blaze of glory after several minutes of taking out dozens of cartel hitmen. Only film buffs know that this Scarface was itself a reboot of the 1932 Paul Muni vehicle of the same name. That “Scarface” was named “Tony Camonte,” an Italian-American bootlegger during Prohibition. The end scene is much different, with Camonte giving up to the cops in the most cowardly manner. He was also loosely based on the original “Scarface” Al Capone, who died of complications from syphilis. Al Pacino’s Montana was definitely the baddest of the Scarfaces.
8. General Zod (Superman II, 1980; Man of Steel, 2013)
“Kneel before Zod!”
It’s a good thing that 1978’s Superman was a hit, eventually grossing over $300 million worldwide. That movie began on Krypton, with Super-Man’s father banishing General Zod and his two henchmen to the Phantom Zone (a spinny mirror place). He wasn’t seen again until the 1980 sequel. And he was awesome: imagine a cold, calculating warlord with Superman powers, except cool with an awesome black uniform and goatee. (We won’t mention the deep V-neck; it was the late ’70s, after all.) Plus, Michael Shannon’s 2013 take on Zod in Man of Steel might have been the coolest thing about that movie.
7. Venom (Spider-man comics, cartoons, and movies, 1988–present)
“We are Venom. We know the evil that men do.”
(Iron Man, vol. 1, no. 302 )
Venom started out as a costume change for Spider-Man introduced in the Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars crossover mini-series, became an evil alien symbiote slowly draining all of Spidey’s energy, and then became the absolute best thing that Todd McFarlane ever did (with the debatable exception of the independently published Spawn). Sadly, his one big screen appearance somehow featured Topher Grace from That 70s Show as Venom’s alter ego Eddie Brock. Despite this obvious strike against him, Venom is bad enough in the comics to deserve his place on his list.
6. The Predator (Predator movies and comics, 1987–2010)
“You’re one ugly motherfucker!”
(spoken by Dutch [Arnold Schwarzenegger], Predator)
For the purposes of this list, I will apply the name “The Predator” to any representative of the awesome race of planet-hopping game hunters. The Predator first took out Arnold’s whole team, including Carl Weathers and Jesse “The Body” Ventura, in the jungle. Then he got loose and took out a bunch of people in Los Angeles. Next the aliens from Aliens became the Predator’s victims. Finally, it was back to the jungle, but with a whole bunch of Predators, including some that were even bigger and badder than what we had seen before. Plus they all have dreadlocks. I only hope that we haven’t seen the last of the Predator(s).
5. Hannibal Lecter (Red Dragon/Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising books, TV, movies, 1981–present)
“You will let me know when those lambs stop screaming, won’t you?”
(The Silence of the Lambs)
Sure, he’s a cannibal, but that alone doesn’t give him this high ranking in this list. It’s the psychological games he would play with people. He toyed with minds like Play-Doh. Calm, cool, and collected. But then, just to be sure that he was a true badass, he went crazy psycho cannibal on his guards in order to escape. Then played more mind games with FBI agent Clarise Starling by telephone.
4. Keyser Söze (The Usual Suspects, 1995)
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.”
(The Usual Suspects)
No one paid any attention to “Verbal” Kint. To the other members of the makeshift gang of misfit criminals, he was just a handicapped scam artist. To the police he was the stupid pawn of a dirty cop. Yet he manipulated all of his enemies to be in the same place at the same time so he could take them all out in one fiery explosion. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Then he manipulated the police into letting him limp right out the front door. When he was younger, living in Turkey, and rivals tried to control him by threatening his family, Keyser Söze killed his own family first, before killing his rivals, their families, their friends, and basically burning their whole towns to the ground. “And like that, poof. He’s gone.”
3. The First Evil (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, TV, 1998–2003)
“Do you think I’m god?”
(Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 7)
The only reason that this literal “source” of all evil in existence isn’t higher on the list is that it does not have a physical form. It only affects the world by appearing to individuals in various forms to manipulate them psychologically. This means not only appearing to heroes in different forms to cause confusion or self-doubt, but also doing the same to other (physical) bad guys, like the über-vampire Turok-Han.
2. The Joker (Batman comics, TV, movies, etc., 1940–present)
“I’m going to kill everyone in this room.”
(Batman: The Dark Knight Returns [comic book, 1986])
“Tell me something, my friend… you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
(Batman [movie, 1989])
The Joker first appeared in comic books seventy-five years ago! For about half that time, he was the “Clown Prince of Crime,” using silly pranks against Batman. He was as campy as he was portrayed in the 1966 Adam West Batman television show and movie. Then came the 1980s. Frank Miller, in The Dark Knight Returns (1986); Alan Moore, in The Killing Joke (1988); and Jim Starlin, in “A Death in the Family” (Batman nos. 426–29, [1988–89]) took the Joker to the next level of crazy, completely redefining the Joker as a truly psychopathic clown. He killed the entire audience in a television studio where he was being interviewed; shot Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon; tortured her father Commissioner Gordon; and then actually killed Robin! That, and he’s a clown, so he’s totally creepy and scary just on principle.
1. Darth Vader (Star Wars saga, 1977–2005)
“You underestimate the power of the dark side.”
(Star Wars: Return of the Jedi)
Some might question Darth Vader as the baddest bad guy ever. Let’s look at his actions: he killed a bunch of children at the Jedi Temple, killed his pregnant wife, blew up a planet, and tried several times to kill his son. Definitely some serious bad right there, but top this off with awesome body armor, the voice of James Earl Jones, and the ability to choke someone out with his mind via Skype! Some might argue that Vader worked for the Emperor—and that would be valid if this list was based on who was the most evil. The Emperor may have been the most evil, but Vader was definitely the baddest!