Theory 94… The Good Villain Theory

Over the past week or so… my wife and I have watched 5 of the 6 Rocky movies. Yep… summertime TV is pretty bland… but thanks to Spike TV and our trusty DVR… we’ve had ourselves a ROCKY MOVIE MARATHON…. and it’s actually been quite fun. Dare I say Laura has even “gotten in” to the movies. We’ve even had a healthy debate if Talia Shire (Adrianne) could be considered remotely pretty in any of the movies (probably not!). It’s been good, fun entertainment… except for the horrific Rocky 5 which… which is torture to watch.

I’m not a big-time movie guy… but I’ll tell you this… MY THEORY is that a good movie will almost always have a good villain. I’m not always a fan of the double twisted plot…. the surprise ending, or the-good-guy-is-really-the-bad guy thriller. Nope… usually I prefer a straight forward villain…. the mean as hell… shivers down your spine… cruel and cold… make-you-want-to-toss-something-at-the-screen type of villain. Perhaps that’s why I liked those Rocky movies so much…. they featured some of the best villains of all time (granted… I was at an impressionable age when those Rocky movies were popular in the mid-eighties).

So here’s a run down… in no particular order… of my top 10 favorite villains ever…. Let me know if I’ve missed anyone!

IVAN DRAGO (Dolph Lundgren) Don’t kid yourself… this guy was as mean… and unstoppable as the Soviet Union itself in the middle of the cold war! As a steroid using mountain-of-a-man… he had punching power that was 3 times greater than other professional fighters! Never did a villain inspire so much hate by saying so few words. Ivan Drago had only six lines in the whole movie… but his infamy as an all-time villain was cemented (at least in my mind) after pummelling Apollo Creed to death in the ring… then heartlessly mumbling the line…”if he dies, he dies”. You want to create a good villain? Just have him violently beat to death a hero that you’ve spent 3 movies building up! Dare I say that watching Rocky defeat him in the end made me feel a bit… ~gulp~… patriotic?

DARTH VADER (James Earl Jones, David Prowse) In a vacuum… Darth Vader is the greatest villain of all time. If you just take the first Star Wars movie (also known as episode 4)… you can’t top Darth Vader. But that’s a bit like saying Michael Jackson was the greatest musician of all time… sure he may have had the biggest hit ever… but you’ve got to take into account the back story. YES… the look, the name, the black outfit, the powerful dark “force”, and the James Earl Jones modified mechanical voice are absolutely terrifying…. and you’ve got to admit that Darth Vader broke the mold for a villain! BUT…. doesn’t it get watered down with the fact that he’s really just the father of Luke and Leia.? Not to mention he ends up being a good guy in the end! Plus…. he’s subordinate to a less frightening villain (the emperor). THEN… and it’s a big THEN… you’ve got the whole Anakin Skywalker… George Lucas brain fart… (i.e. the first three movies in the Star Wars saga). To me…. Darth Vader just isn’t as scary any more… instead of being frightened by the voice of James Earl Jones… I’m sickened by the thought of Hayden Christensen. Sad.

EDWARD ROONEY (Jeffrey Jones) So he might not be that scary… but this guy was fun to hate! Plus… he sort of plays into the notion that many of us have… of a teacher, or other superior… who is “out to get me”. But really… Edward Rooney is partly on this list as a tribute to the late John Hughes who died last week. Hughes wrote and directed some of the best movies of the 80’s… and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was at the top of the list. One things for sure… of all the villains I’ve listed… Edward Rooney took the brunt of the bad karma… and it was sure fun to watch him suffer!

KING EDWARD LONGSHANKS (Patrick McGoohan) Longshanks wins the toughest-guy-with-the-weakest-offspring award. Braveheart has long been one of my favorite movies and Longshanks is a truly vicious villain. He’s got some good lines in the movie “The trouble with Scotland… is that it’s full of Scott’s”… and he makes some cold and calculating strategic moves… but his presence on this list is due (in large part) to the scene where he tosses his son’s friend out of a window to his death.

GRAND MOFF TARKIN (Peter Cushing) Yes… he might have been overshadowed by Darth Vader in the original Star Wars movie… but unlike Vader… he doesn’t come with the baggage. Grand Moff Tarking was left out of George Lucas prequel experimentation…. so his character and legacy has remained untarnished over the years. He was only featured in the original Star Wars…. where he was a powerful sociopath intent on finding the hidden rebel base. This fictional mass murderer pulled the trigger on an entire planet! If there’s a fictional hell… he’s front-row-in-first-class. I still get chills when I think of him saying to Leia “Don’t worry… we’ll deal with your rebel friends soon enough” then that sound….. ZZZZZZZEEEOOOOUUUUWWWWW!

COLONEL WILLIAM TAVINGTON (Jason Isaacs) You gotta give Mel Gibson credit… his movies feature some abhorrent characters. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie The Patriot, but Colonel William Tavington is a pretty messed up dude. He basically kills off about half of Mel Gibson’s extended family before he finally catches a sword in his abdomen with about 2 minutes left in the movie. Any character that locks women and children in a chapel and burns them to death deserves consideration on this list. Plus… you’ve gotta love the British accent and Caledon Hockley hair!

HENRY POTTER (Lionel Barrymore). This greedy son-of-a-gun almost ruins my Christmas eve every single year… until Harry Bailey, Sam Wainwright, and the rest of Bedford Falls come out to help good ole’ George Bailey at the end of the movie. I hate this cold hearted… dishonest cripple. Funny thing is… he truly reminds me of perhaps the coldest and greediest person I’ve ever known (in real life)…. he even looks a little bit the same… right down to the gray hair!

WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST (Margaret Hamilton) The only women on the list… and you could make an argument that she is the worst villain of all-time. There’s just something about that green face… the screechy voice… that violent tornado… her willingness to torture a cute little dog… and those flying monkey’s. She’s a frightening force! Heck… even the way she MELTS away at the end while shrieking! My kids get terrified when they see her on Wizard of Oz… and I remember being terrified myself as a youngster. She broke the mold for a villains much the same way that Darth Vader did 40 years later.

CLUBBER LANG (Mr. T) You never guessed that two villains from the ROCKY movies would have made my list…. but you’ve got to give Clubber Lang is props… he was the ultimate bully… with a big mouth! How about when he comes out to the unveiling of Rocky’s statue on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum… just to rain on Rocky’s parade and insult his wife in front of the cameras! Plus… he roughed up Mickey and may have contributed to his death. I’d rate Ivan Drago a little bit more frightening…. but it was sure great to see the Southside Slugger get knocked out at the end of Rocky III!

AMON GOTH (Ralph Fiennes) I said above that I wouldn’t rate my villains in any particular order. But in actuality… this guy would probably top my list. It might be because Ralph Fiennes did such a magnificent job acting out the part… or it might be because Stephen Spielberg captured the essence and terror of a Nazi run concentration camp. But in the end… I think it’s just the realization of how horrible this man, Amon Goth, really was…. and how much disregard the Nazi regime had for human life. I can only watch Schindlers List about once every ten years or so…. and that’s enough. When a villain is so bad that you don’t even want to watch the movie…. that’s when you top my list!