Thursday, December 15, 2011

SciFiNow: The 25 Greatest Sci-Fi Villains

Superman II's classic triumvirate of villainy. General Zod, Ursa and Non.

This is SciFiNow #39's list of villains and while I may not agree with many of them, I certainly enjoyed their list and love when they put them together. I'm having a bit of fun with it here and I've applied alternate images from those selected for the publication.

25. Stay Puft [Ghostbusters]. Really? Yes, when I think villains the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man instantly springs to mind. Sweet, pure evil. It's still an interesting pick.

24. Bad Kirk [Star Trek: The Original Series, The Enemy Within]. Honestly, with all of the villains in the Star Trek universe, Bad Kirk is the best we can do? I'm sorry, and I like Bad Kirk, but he would not make my list of villains. The Borg anyone? The Klingons? Bueller. Bueller.

23. Davros [Doctor Who]. My recent coverage of Doctor Who's Genesis Of The Daleks certainly underscores the strength of this villain created for the Doctor Who serial. Still, Genesis Of The Daleks is ranked #3 in Doctor Who Magazine's The Mighty 200. Viewing that episode today, I was hard-pressed to believe there were only two episodes better than Genesis Of The Daleks despite the brilliance of this villain and the importance of this episode's legacy within the Doctor Who mythology. Ideas must be coupled with an entertainment factor. Nevertheless, as villains go Davros is a brilliant choice and with a UK-based magazine like SciFiNow it comes as no surprise Doctor Who would be properly represented here.

22. Cylons [Battlestar Galactica]. Another terrific selection. Which Cylon do you prefer? As much as I actually really enjoyed the Battlestar Galactica reimagining, the original series Cylon is still a mighty, tangible, thing of beauty, a genuine classic, a work of science fiction art as villains go. It remains a timeless unblemished science fiction Cadillac free of CGI distraction.

21. Pennywise [It]. Well, I guess. With all of Stephen King's work it's hard to narrow down just one villain. How about those Pac Man-munching Langoliers in all of their horrific, early CGI glory? Okay, bad example. Granted, who likes clowns? And who especially likes clowns with sharp, nasty teeth? Ronald and Willie the Whistle would be proud.

20. Roy Batty [Blade Runner]. An amazing, nuanced performance by one eternally underrated Rutger Hauer and a fantastic choice for the halls of villainy until, of course, that singular moment in time toward the end like all those tears in the rain.

19. The Thing [The Thing] The dog may not be the truest physical representation of the hideous nature of The Thing, but one of the clever beauties of Carpenter's creation was how it managed conceal its identity. When it did reveal itself it was generally through the face of benevolence eventually instilling the realization of mistrust and fear in the hearts of all those who remained alive. The great fear of the unknown became the unsettling and frightening monster in the room. The Thing is a classic, timeless villain.

18. Lex Luthor [Superman]. Admittedly, I know very little about Superman and maybe SciFiNow makes efforts to represent genres from across the board, but Lex Luthor probably wouldn't make my list given all of the wonderful comic villain creations in the Marvel and DC universes. The list of comic book villains is endless and certainly Lex Luthor is a good choice if you had to pick just one. The picture represents the classic, humor-infused performance by the one and only Gene Hackman from the original Richard Donner film, Superman [1978]. Hackman's version of Luthor may not be an accurate reflection of the true Luthor, but I bow to anything Hackman.

17. The Smoking Man [The X-Files]. This is a terrific choice and one that I probably wouldn't have picked, but it's very good. William B. Davis' performance gave us a quiet, delicious, seditious, vicious face of government evil in one of The X-Files' best recurring villains. He epitomized all that we fear and distrust in our government and Davis did it with devilish relish.

16. The Joker [Batman]. It's hard to tell which villain is intended [cartoon, film, TV series], but I suppose that's the point. The various incarnations of The Joker prove time and again you can't keep a good villain down. The villain is an iconic favorite and is certainly a good choice even if this malevolent voice of chaos wouldn't make my list. Again, the villains are countless from the various comic universes, but The Joker's sick and twisted industriousness certainly deserves respect.

15. The Master [Doctor Who]. Like the doctor, the Master has forged significant staying power as the ultimate doppelganger to the good doctor. Once again, it's safe to say this is a UK-based magazine. I hesitate to think The Master would have made an American publication as distinct a villain as he is. Of course, if this was a Japanese-based list you might find familiar faces from the Godzilla franchise. Monster Zero anyone? Megalon?

14. Alien [Alien]. This is one of the undeniably greatest of sci-fi/ horror creations to ever grace celluloid. It is the killing machine, the shark of outer space and is nearly as iconic as Darth Vader himself. H.R. Giger's influence on the Alien design is profound. Each director has proceeded to bring something special to its lasting creation. This both intelligent and primal creation is truly horrifying. Ridley Scott comes up big twice on the list.

13. Darth Vader [Star Wars]. It's Darth Vader! Say no more. Darth Vader is the single most iconic villain in science fiction. He probably deserves a perch at the top of this list as the face of the "dark side." Every ounce of innovation by all involved went into the creation of this dark figure. The breathing. The voice. The cape. The helmet. Every single detail is perfect. Darth Vader is THEE face of villainy, and yet an image and symbol of potential redemption. Those redemptive moments are powerful for the likes of Darth Vader, Roy Batty and others. But when they were bad, they were bad to the bone.

12. T-1000 [Terminator 2: Judgment Day]. Obviously some cutting edge CGI was implemented in the relentless T-1000's creation, but it was the stoic, unflinching performance by the slender Robert Patrick that really carried the role. A good choice that would not make my list.

11. Mr. Glass [Unbreakable]. I'd have to see the film again. It's been a long time, but hasn't left a completely lasting impression and thus Samuel Jackson's Mr. Glass would not make the cut for me.

10. Mankind [The Day The Earth Stood Still]. Okay. Well, I certainly understand the idea of evil from within and as human beings gifted with free will to make choices both magnificent and reprehensible I get it. Nevertheless, Mankind would not have made my list as a villain. I think that's called generalizing despite SciFiNow's specificity of example. It's a fair inclusion, but I definitely see our potential as something so much more... most of the time.

9. Agent Smith [The Matrix]. Not since Dr. Smith has their been a more delicious Smith villain. A terrific choice even if Dr. Smith deserves a spot. Agent Smith put Hugo Weaving on the map as a character actor and we have this brilliant villain's creation thanks to him and all he gave to the role as well as those who cast Weaving. Weaving really brings him to life. He's one of the highlights of the trilogy.

8. Ming The Merciless [Flash Gordon]. My Flash Gordon knowledge is severely limited. I have absolutely no historical perspective on the classic serial or Ming in any of the character's countless incarnations. I will say that I love actor Max Von Sydow and although he would not make my list here he was brilliant as Ming The Merciless in Flash Gordon [1980] opposite Sam Jones.

7. Hal [2001: A Space Odyssey]. As computers go... sure. I guess. Though, I have one at home that just hates me.

6. Biff [Back To The Future]. Was the character memorable opposite Crispin Glover's equally memorable McFly? Absolutely! Would Biff make my list? Uh, hell no! Biff! Really?

5. Zod [Superman]. Again, I have little to offer on Zod as a villain, but speaking directly to the character as brought to life in Superman II [1980], Zod is an awesome foe. Terence Stamp's performance is one of his most memorable despite an amazing body of work including his lead in The Limey [1999]. His performances are often striking and his understated Zod here in Superman II is incredible. However, the character would not have made my list despite this particular classic Stamp performance in the role.

4. T-800 [The Terminator]. Just as the T-1000 was the anti-T-800, the T-800 is the hulking original to the James Cameron franchise. Arnold Schwarzenegger embodied the classic and iconic image of The Terminator and made the man a star along with Conan The Barbarian [1982]. I've always enjoyed the Terminator films, except for the third entry, but the Cyberdine systems simply would not make my list.

3. Boddicker [Robocop]. Yes, a despicable, murderous sociopath and a more specific, proper example by SciFiNow of Mankind at its worst. While Boddicker is a horrific villain he is a boring choice and would not make my list. Besides, this is an extraordinarily evil, but ordinary villain who merely exists within a science fiction film. Yet, The Joker would be proud.

2. Khan [Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan]. A superb voice for super villains everywhere. Actor Ricardo Montalban and his amazing chest in one of his finest, most unforgettable performances.

1. Emperor Palpatine [Star Wars]. The man behind the curtain. The evil Sith Lord trumps the great Darth Vader. Emperor Palpatine is a fine selection and nearly as memorable as Vader. Though, Palpatine is a true villain with absolutely no redemptive quality. This is a truly unchecked evil, a smiling malevolence and may be the list's greatest villain in that regard. He probably would not have made my list, but he's a splendid option and deserves the top spot.

So many villains so few spots on a Top List.

There are omissions here that were glaring to me. Sometimes SciFiNow has a tendency to be all things to all people, which is the great thing about a personal blog. Any unconscionable omissions will be remedied in the near future with the official Sci-Fi Fanatic Top 15 Greatest Sci-Fi Villains [reserving the right to expand]. I won't give away my hand and I'm sure you share in some of the outrage fun. What's missing from your list? Still, the list is a fun one.

Here's one final point about what makes a great villain. In the Doctor Who documentary The Dalek Tapes extracted from Doctor Who's Genesis Of The Daleks writer Eric Saward reflects, "the best villains work when they're quiet." So true. The very best villains are in control, measured and yet powerful in their approach to any situation or crisis. Darth Vader is a great example of this. There are others and one in particular will make the top of my own list. Saward was making the reference to an interpretation of Davros in the 1980s, but it certainly applies elsewhere. It may not always be true, but it's a great observation. More villains to come! Stay tuned... or else!


le0pard13 said...

Hmm... interesting. Well, right off the bat I'd argue that the 'Stay Puft Marshmallow Man' is just the henchman of the true villain in the 'Ghostbusters' film, Gozer the Gozerian, the Sumerian shape-changer and god of destruction ;-). Same would go with Boddicker working for Dick Jones. I'm with you, too, on Bad Kirk. Silly choice that masquerades as clever. They also have Roy Batty and JC's The Thing, too low here. Though I am a fan of UNBREAKABLE, Mr. Glass is too high on the list, as is Ming The Merciless from 'Flash Gordon'. Biff from 'Back to the Future' would likely not even be on my top 25 (though top 50, yes). I do like their top two, though. Fun look at this, SFF. Thanks.

SFF said...

Leave it to you L13 to dig a little deeper into film mythology. I like it! Great point about Stay Puft and Boddicker. It's a bit like calling those heralds of Galactus the Bad Guys when Silver Surfer and Terrax were merely heralds of the big bad eater of worlds.

By the way, Galactus, now there's trouble.

I completely agree that Bad Kirk is just plain silly.

And your point about placement is another issue I did not mention. I agre with you that the placement is all over the map. There's no way Boddicker belongs to any Top 25 nevermind a Top 3. So, yes, placement is indeed random here apart from the top 2 as you mention, which are solid selections along with a handful of others.

Always good conversation starters. Honestly, if Stay Puft doesn't get you talking what will?


Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

Sci-Fi Fanatic! Are these the top twenty-five sci fi villains of just Films and TV (which is all they list) or do they include books, comics and other media as well?

Of the twenty-five villains on the list, only these six would make my list: Davros, The Master, Darth Vader, Agent Smith, T-800 (everyone forgets how badass he was in the first Terminator film) and Khan. I think putting them in any kind of order is tricky at best, but Vader and The Master would make my top five for sure.

These are some of villains that would make my list (in no particular order):

Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg from The Fifth Element

Ra from Stargate (the film)

The Shadows from Babylon 5

Scorpius from Farscape

Vladimir Harkonnen from Dune (the novel and the movie)

Zorak from Space Ghost (not the keyboard player from Space Ghost: CtC)

Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space (he tried to kill the Robinson’s – kids and all!)

Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless from The Wild Wild West

Dr. Zin from Jonny Quest

Those are just ones off the top of my head! I tried only to include TV and movie villains. I also excluded comic book villains – even if they were in a movie or TV show – because the superhero sub-genre is so dependent on its villains to drive the story and there are so many of them (my favorite is Doctor Doom –BTW) that it should have its own list.

SFF said...

Hello Doc.

Yeah, the SciFiNow list doesn't specify, but it's apparent from their 25 selections they are all over the map.

I agree. Comic book villains could easly make a Top 100 list.

Doctor Doom, Galactus, Skrulls, Brotherhod of Evil Mutants and the Abomination are just a handful of my own favorites. Good stuff.

I will say that your list, apart from the ones on this one, include three selections that will make my own. Nice selections by the way!

Unknown said...

Interestnig list, SFF. Like you and those who've responded so far I would disagree with a lot of SciFi Now's choices. As for my additions?

I always thought Dr. Lizardo from BUCKAROO BANZAI was a very memorable villain if only for all of the insanely quotable lines he spouts throughout the film.

le0pard13 said...

@ J.D. - excellent addition of Dr. Lizardo!

SFF said...

Dr. Lizardo. Yeah, I wouldn't know that one having not seen the film. But The Lizard from the Amazing Spider-Man could work for me. : ) Thanks J.D.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you for missing Scorpious from Farscape. Pretty sure he is more of a boss than the stay buffed dude.

SFF said...

LOL. Couldn't agree more.