David Lloyd-Smart takes a look at the best comic book villains to grace the silver screen. From Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luthor to Batman’s foe The Joker…who will come out top?
There’s an abundance of superhero films out there, born from the imaginative pages of comic books old and new. From Iron Man to Batman to Superman and Hellboy, it is the hero whose name finds its way to the forefront of the poster. There it is – held up in lights and immortalised. But as anyone who has ever watched a great comic book movie adaptation knows – the villain is often the most important ingredient. Indeed, without a great bad guy, the superhero’s superpower can’t be put to the test. So let’s celebrate the bad guy, let’s put the villain on the stage…here’s Top 10 Films’ greatest comic book film villains…
10. Sebastian Shaw – Kevin Bacon (X-Men: First Class)
The head of the Hellfire Club, Sebastian Shaw is a strong and powerful mutant. Bacon plays this character well but is slightly overshadowed by his young counterpart actors Fassbender and McAvoy.
9. Loki – Tom Hiddleston. (Thor and Avengers)
A relatively new British actor with bags of talent portrays Loki in a manor befitting the God of mischief.
8. The Penguin – Danny Devito. (Batman Returns)
I don’t think this role will ever be attempted again in the onscreen world of Batman. Devito does a great job of turning the very comic booky villain into a scary and evil onscreen villain, with the help of Tim Burton’s dark Gotham City.
7. Lex Luthor – Gene Hackman (Superman 1, 2 and 4)
Although I still don’t feel any actor has managed to portray Lex Luthor in the way he appears in the comic books, Hackman comes close. Coming across as a top businessman with ruthless ambition to be untouchable at the top, Hackman does a great job and his growing obsession with the Man of Steel becomes more and more heated across the series progresses, likening it to the comic books.
6. Magneto – Sir Ian Mckellen (X-men 1, 2, 3)
Over the three films Magneto is ever present and a constant threat. Believing himself to be a hero and saviour to his people Magneto will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Mckellen plays the character perfectly while showing a respect for his greatest enemy/friend in Xavier, while on the other side he is ruthless and unforgiving to those who he feels have wronged him.
5. Deacon Frost – Stephen Dorff (Blade)
Frost is the perfect foil for Blade. Where as Blade is moody and brooding, Frost is the brash outspoken young vampire with ideas of grandeur above his station within the vampire society. Dorff plays the character with an air of coolness but at the flick of a switch turns it into a fiery temper.
4. The Green Goblin – Willem Dafoe (Spiderman)
Dafoe does a great job of playing the dual personalities of Osborn and the Goblin at war with each other until they find a common goal – the destruction of Spiderman and the things he loves.
3. Kevin – Elijah Wood (Sin City)
Unemotional and unfeeling, Kevin is the ultimate killer and will not stop until he gets his prey. Elijah Wood’s controlled, almost still portrayal of the character – with the staring eyes that seem to look at you but through you – makes for a very unsettling villain.
2. The Joker – Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Christopher Nolan’s vision of the Joker is played with the exceptional acting ability of Heath Ledger. Ledger demonstrates the psychotic nature of the Joker and creates an aura of fear on screen.
1. The Joker – Jack Nicholson (Batman)
Tim Burton’s original Batman, for me, has the best portrayal of the Joker. Nicholson mixes the character’s whimsical nature with his ultra violent side showing a true madness that likens it to the comic books. I know this might be a controversial choice but it was very close between number 1 and 2.
Written and compiled by David Lloyd-Smart.
Your turn – who are your favourite comic book villains in film?
Discover More on Top10Films.co.uk:
Search our collection of Top 10 lists sorted by type:
THEME | ACTOR | DIRECTOR | TIME PERIOD | GENRE | COUNTRY | SPECIAL INTEREST | FUNNY
See the A – Z of films featured on Top 10 Films / Check out our film review database