They say it takes a good villain to make a great hero, and only a few figures in the history of cinema have managed to play these good villains so utterly perfect that they evoke our emotions and seize our love. Of course, each and every one of us might have our list of adorable movie antagonists and stay aghast when others do not take our viewpoint regarding their acting skills. With that being said, we have selected four of the highly admired movie antagonists that have appeared on almost every list in this regard.
Joker (The Dark Knight 2008)
By far the best and most loveable movie antagonist of all time has to be “The Joker”, portrayed by the legendary Australian genius Heath Andrew Ledger. The villain has decided, for apparently no good reason, to ruin the city of Gotham. Joker is remarkably different from other antagonists we know of. All the “bad guys” we remember have several shared features, such as possessing some sort of superhuman power or an army of cruel thugs/soldiers that help them conquer every battle and bring the protagonist to the point of destruction. They usually have the upper hand and are considerably stronger than the “good guys”. Typically, it’s the desire of gaining more money or power that gives them the heart to commit terrible crimes.
With Joker, however, it’s quite a different story. He is a nihilist who denies every moral concept and runs the city into a wave of chaos and confusion, casting a shade of fear over it. His small gang has no extraordinary capabilities whatsoever, and he is as ordinary as just anyone around us. It’s only his dead soul and rotten sense of humanity that distinguishes him from us. Despite Batman, who is armed from head to toe and flies whenever he feels like to, Joker has no great outside support and relies solely on his own talent. As for his motives, his sole desire is “to watch the world burn”, as Alfred Pennyworth puts it in the movie. Combining all of these, the viewer is presented with an amazingly real-life villain who’s been fed up with the world’s injustice and is now deriving the wedge between his fellow townspeople to taste what he has been going through.
Anton Chigurh (No Country For Old Men 2007)
The second antagonist on our list is Anton Chigurh (played by Javier Bardem). A serial killer in “No Country for Old Men” whose stern look and gruff voice keep the viewer on edge and make them believe he is capable of doing just about anything. The fair-haired guy is a figure rooted in ambiguity, kills in cold blood and shows no mercy to his victims. He kills a dozen people in search of a bag of money and gets away with his acts without getting into too much trouble. There is nothing typical about him. From his unusual haircut and clothing to his random killings and cryptic threats, he is the perfect stranger who outwits those trying to escape from him. His favourite murder weapon, a captive bolt stunner, is typically used to slaughter cattle, illustrating Chigurh’s cold disregard for human life. His shotgun is equipped with a muffler, letting him perform his devilish act in silence. Whenever Chigurh meets a new character, anything can happen, and we’re locked in suspense. All these details make a lovely, unforgettable antagonist out of him. Someone we might have to wait for decades to see his like again.
Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds 2009)
There is always something praiseworthy about those who perform the ordinary in an unordinary manner, and that is what Hans Lenda (portrayed by Christoph Waltz) does in “Inglorious Basterds”. Typical villains rely mainly on aggressive actions or sudden outbursts to show their vice and immorality. Hans, on the other hand, reveals the demon inside him through a mere act of speech. It’s not his pointy jaw or the SS uniform that makes him terrifying, but rather his change of tone and a motionless look which he maintains in almost every scene. Every time he interrogates a person in the movie, he starts with warm greetings and joyful conversations. He then slowly coaxes his interlocutor into a corner through words and subtlety, leaving them no choice but to confess and obey. Hans Landa is the portrayal of a highly civilised SS colonel who is well familiar with the social norms of contemporary France but resorts to his brutal self when needed.
Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of The Lambs 1991)
There are several reasons why Hanibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is considered a perfect antagonist in cinema history. What makes Hannibal Lecter so interesting is the terrifying descriptions we hear about him before actually seeing him in the movie. This sustains a high level of curiosity in the viewer’s mind and makes them wonder what sort of animal they’re about to see. When the viewer finally gets to see him, he proves to be the right demon talked about. A psychopath, himself a former psychology doctor who knows how to terrorise his adversaries through his careful use of words, direct gaze and murder skills. Whenever he kills a person, he does it in the most inhumane manner by amputating them to scare off those chasing him. Among other features contributing to his scary character are his maroon eyes, six-finger left hand, and his profound sense of smell, which makes him even more like an animal. Last but not least, His name “Hannibal” brings the word cannibal to mind. The talented psychology doctor is more of a comedy killer who is so confident of his superiority that takes his time to joke with anything of grave importance.
Whether we confess it or not, antagonists are as favourable as protagonists to many of us and we love scrutinising their character. There are countless lists of great antagonists available that you might consider studying. This article introduced four outstanding figures who have appeared in almost all such lists. Share your views and tell us what you think of these characters!