20: Michael Myers
We begin with arguably the most iconic movie monster on the list, Michael Myers, aka The Shape. John Carpenter’s silent killing machine has stalked his way through a lot of movies (some good, some horrendous) and he’ll return for what is reportedly a direct follow-up to the original later this year.
How do you make an unstoppable killer cyborg from the future even scarier? Give him the ability to change his arms into stabby things, of course. Robert Patrick’s T-1000 gave Arnie’s iconic Terminator a run for his money in T2, but aside from a brief appearance in the lacklustre Genisys, the character has not been utilised in the franchise since.
18: Freddy Krueger
The crispy-fried dream demon of the Nightmare of Elm Street series is next. Freedy went on to become something of a parody of himself in the later instalments, which makes it easy to forget just how damn unsettling he was in Wes Craven’s original.
17: Agent Smith
Hugo Weaving made a name for himself playing the relentless villain of The Matrix trilogy, Agent Smith. Essentially created to keep Neo and his pals in the dark about the reality of their situation, Smith comes to actively despise humanity, making him all the more dangerous.
16: Norman Bates
We all go a little mad sometimes – but in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful Psycho, Norman Bates goes stark raving bonkers. It’s a testament to Anthony Perkins’ performance that we end up feeling a bit sorry for Norman, which somehow makes him even more chilling.
15: Emperor Palpatine
The first of three Star Wars characters on the list is the wizened, but mega-powerful Palpatine. First glimpsed very briefly in The Empire Strikes Back, The Emperor was revealed in all his glowering glory in Return of The Jedi before going on to become one of the few highlights of the Prequel films.
14: The Sheriff Of Nottingham
Cancel Christmas! the #14 spot goes to The Sheriff of Nottingham, played with scene-stealing relish by the late Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. A Rickman baddie actually made the list twice.. can you guess who’ll show up in the top 10?
13: Nurse Ratched
Another human villain here, but the despicable Nurse Ratched is arguably the most hateful/hate-able character on the list. Louise Flecher won an Oscar for her icy portrayal in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, and Mildred will soon return for her own spn-off TV series with Sarah Paulson in the title role.
Aside from a brief appearance in the prologue, The Dark Lord of Mordor obly manifests as a giant flaming eye in Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings trilogy. Not particularly terrifying, it’s Sauron’s constant, powerful influence over the main characters that makes him such a great villain.
Just beating the Dark Lord to the #11 spot is another LOTR favourite, Gollum. Though this sneaky wretch is the very definition of a sympathetic bad guy at first, by the end of Return of The King he allows his evil side to take over and does some pretty despicable stuff to Frodo and Sam.
10: The Alien
“The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility… A survivor; unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.” Yep, the nightmare-inducing HR Giger-designed Xenomorph from Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie well deserves the #10 spot.
He who shall not be named (well, it’s Voldemort) didn’t actually appear in the first few Harry Potter movies, but it was well established that he was a right evil bastard. By the time a nose-less Ralph Feinnes showed up to hiss his way through the final instalments, it was pee-pants city for many of the younger fans.
8: Anton Chigurh
The cattle-gun wielding assassin of The Cohen Brothers’ Oscar winning No Country for Old Men comes in at #8, and if you’ve seen the movie you’ll understand why. Javier Bardem’s Chigurh – no, not Sugar – is depicted more as a force of unrelenting evil than a man.
7: Kylo Ren
A controversially high ranking for young Ben Solo? Well, even some of the stanchest detractor of Star Wars: The Last Jedi admit that Adam Driver’s conflicted, but very dangerous Kylo Ren is deserving of praise, and the stage is set for him to become a truly iconic villain in Episode IX.
6: Hans Landa
Oh what a Cu…, err, “see you next Tuesday” Hans Landa was. The articulate, charming, and downright monstrous Nazi villain of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds comes in at #6. Christoph Waltz has been typecast somewhat since his Oscar-winning turn, but Landa will likely remain his most memorable role.
5: Hannibal Lecter
Of course Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter made the top 5. Anthony Hopkins diluted his take on the murderous Dr, Lector with less memorable appearances in Red Dragon and Hannibal, but there’s no denying the brilliance of his first turn in Silence of The Lambs.
4: Hans Gruber
Did you guess correctly? Course you did! Alan Rickman was such an enjoyable screen presence as Die Hard’s master thief that he managed to steal the movie out from under Bruce Willis’ bare, bleeding feet. Go on, admit it.. you were secretly hoping he’d win in the end.
Since his first appearance in Thor, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has seemingly turned over a new leaf (we’ll see how long that lasts), but at one point he was a truly menacing presence in the MCU – particularly in Joss Whedon’s first Avengers movie. Will we see the God of Mischief reclaim some of his villainous mojo in Infinity War?
2: The Joker
The second comic book baddie on the list is Heath Ledger’s Joker, who rightfully claims the #2 spot. The late actor’s take on the classic Batman villain is widely regarded as one of the greatest interpretations of any comic character, and infused Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight with an abundance of sinister, chaotic energy.
1: Darth Vader
Is anyone at all surprised by the #1 pick? Star Wars’ Darth Vader still remains the most recognisable movie villain in film history, and could well continue to top these type of lists forever. Vader now has a successor in Kylo Ren, but it remains to be seen if he can live up to the legacy.