The 50 greatest movie villains of all time, ranked

  • Movie villains are essential pieces to great movies.
  • And some — like the Joker, Norman Bates, and Annie Wilkes — have become iconic.
  • Here are the best movie villains of all time, ranked.
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Whether it's in a galaxy far, far away or a house across the street, a movie villain has many forms. But what makes them all alike, if done correctly, is they can leave a permanent mark on an audience (not to mention earn an Oscar).

Whether they are pure evil like put-the-lotion-in-the-basket Buffalo Bill from "Silence of the Lambs" or so bad we can't help but watch like Michael Myers from the "Halloween" franchise, villains can make good movies great and great movies into classics.

Here are the 50 greatest movie villains of all time.

Note: James Bond villains and Disney-animated villains are not included.

50. Biff Tannen ("Back to the Future" franchise)

Perhaps one of the biggest bullies in movie history, we watch Biff terrorize the McFly family over three movies with his "butthead" taunts. And with that, actor Thomas F. Wilson will always be a part of movie history.

49. Norman Stansfield ("Léon: The Professional")

Gary Oldman loves every moment while playing this crooked cop who needs "EVERYONE!!" to take out a hitman (Jean Reno) who just wants to be left alone.

48. Emperor Palpatine ("Star Wars" franchise)

The evil overlord of the Sith is the ultimate puppet master of a galaxy far, far away.

47. Hans Gruber ("Die Hard")

This terrorist mastermind may not have been as memorable if it weren't for the amazing acting by Alan Rickman, who made the character so fun to watch.

46. Buffalo Bill ("Silence of the Lambs")

"Silence of the Lambs" is so diabolical it gave us two memorable villains (we'll meet the other one later).

Ted Levine's portrayal of the serial killer "Buffalo Bill" (real name James Gumb) who is in search of making the perfect woman suit from actual women's skin is horrific regardless how many times you've seen the movie.

45. Staff Sergeant Barnes ("Platoon")

In Oliver Stone's gripping look at the Vietnam War the performance by Tom Berenger as the scarred-up, tough-as-nails Sgt. Barnes is a chilling one. He's so demented his men are convinced "the only thing that can kill Barnes is Barnes."

44. Joan Crawford ("Mommie Dearest")

The off-camera life of actress Joan Crawford is brought to startling life thanks to Faye Dunaway's performance. An adaptation of the memoir by Crawford's adopted daughter Christina Crawford, we watch how the actress manipulated and abused her family. Topped with the classic line: "No wire hangers!!!"

43. Damien ("The Omen")

As the son of an American ambassador (Gregory Peck) who turns out to be the Antichrist, Damien's evil is heightened becomes it comes from what looks like a very cute-looking child, played perfectly by Harvey Spencer Stephens.

42. Hedy Carlson ("Single White Female")

Jennifer Jason Leigh's performance led to a generation of women being completely frightened about getting a new roommate. Hedy Carlson's complete obsession with Allison (Bridget Fonda), even getting the same identical haircut she has, makes her a worthy addition to this list.

41. Alex ("A Clockwork Orange")

There are some villains that are so bad you can't help but root for them and that's the case with the lead in one of Stanley Kubrick's most demented movies. Malcolm McDowell's sinister Alex and his "ultra-violent" ways lead to some very dark moments, but the way Alex does everything means you just can't turn away.

40. Amy Dunne ("Gone Girl")

Don't ever cheat on your partner. That's the moral of the story in "Gone Girl," as Amy Dunne shows what payback is. Disappearing on her fifth wedding anniversary and concocting a plan so it looks like her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), is responsible, Amy (played perfectly by Rosamund Pike) pulls off a mix of twisted liberation and revenge.

39. Harry Powell ("The Night of the Hunter")

This con artist and serial killer who pulls in his prey as a preacher has the creepiness turned up to 11 thanks to Robert Mitchum's twisted performance.

38. Missy Armitage ("Get Out")

Who would think just having some tea would cause such fear, but thanks to the storytelling of Jordan Peele and a performance by Catherine Keener we are given one of the most chilling villains in recent memory: the keeper of The Sunken Place.

37. HAL 9000 ("2001: A Space Odyssey")

The evil computer system of the Discovery One spacecraft seemed like such a sci-fi thing back when Kubrick made "2001." Would you really be surprised if that happened now?

36. Margaret White ("Carrie")

Piper Laurie received an Oscar nomination playing the demented mother of Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), who in her troubled and very religious parenting leads to a thrilling encounter with her daughter at the end of the movie that should remind all parents to keep sharp things away from the kids.

35. Chucky ("Child's Play" franchise)

This murderous children's toy has become a horror staple.

34. Gordon Gekko ("Wall Street")

Michael Douglas delivers the ultimate anti-hero of the 1980s: a Wall Street suit. With his killer appetite for a stock and his "greed is good" mantra, Gekko epitomizes pure evil for some and is an idol to others.

33. Baby Jane Hudson ("What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?")

Bette Davis earned an Oscar nomination for her pure evil performance as a former child star who torments her paraplegic sister.

32. Detective Alonzo Harris ("Training Day")

Denzel Washington did one better than Davis and won an Oscar for his villain role of a corrupt LAPD detective. Like several of the other villains on this list, what makes Washington's performance of Harris so great is throughout you think perhaps he isn't as evil as we think. But then it turns out he's even worse.

31. Freddy Krueger ("A Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise)

He's been tormenting our dreams since the 1980s and we still can't get enough of him.

30. Nurse Ratched ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest")

The heartless "big nurse" that was first brought to life in the Ken Kesey novel was elevated in the big-screen version by Louise Fletcher, who earned an Oscar for her performance.

29. T-1000 ("Terminator 2: Judgment Day")

The greatness of "T2" is it goes and makes a terminator that can realistically go up against the one we met in the first movie. The T-1000, played by Robert Patrick, is also impressive because of the ground-breaking CGI that James Cameron used to pull off its liquid metal body.

28. Calvin Candie ("Django Unchained")

Leonardo DiCaprio's first time in a Quentin Tarantino movie is some pure evil s— as he plays a super racist plantation owner. The performance is one of DiCaprio's most outlandish and shows that his talents are perfect for Tarantino's world.

27. Gollum ("The Lord of the Rings" franchise)

Like the T-1000, what makes Gollum so memorable is the CGI used to bring this evil character to life. And there's also the voice and motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis.

26. Immortan Joe ("Mad Max: Fury Road")

The evil overseer of The Citadel and the loyal War Boys was the perfect foe in the latest "Mad Max" movie. But here's a fact that amps up the evilness: the actor who director George Miller cast for the role, Hugh Keays-Byrne, is the same one he cast to play the villain, Toecutter, in the first "Mad Max" movie back in 1979.

25. Michael Myers ("Halloween" franchise)

The legendary homicidal maniac with a thing for Jamie Lee Curtis continues to entertain us with his evil ways.

24. Lord Voldemort ("Harry Potter" franchise)

The dark lord, who no one dares speak his name, is given full villainy thanks to the performance by Ralph Fiennes.

23. Predator ("Predator" franchise)

This hunter from another planet first showed up to face off with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1987 movie and ever since has collected the skulls of countless humans.

22. Annie Wilkes ("Misery")

Here's another twisted character from a Stephen King novel. Played masterfully by Cathy Bates in the 1990 movie (which earned her an Oscar), this nurse helps her favorite author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) back to health after a car accident. But the problem is she's a complete psycho, who has no plans of ever letting Paul leave her home again.

21. John Doe ("Seven")

Kevin Spacey's twisted performance is only on screen for a brief time, but it adds another level to the super creepiness of this David Fincher classic.

20. Jason Voorhees ("Friday the 13th" franchise)

Another classic villain makes the list. Voorhees' body count over his movies is hard to compare to anyone else. And the twisted way he's killed people over the decades has become almost an art form in the horror genre.

19. Thanos ("The Avengers" franchise)

The best villains are the ones that are as layered and complex as the heroes. And that is certainly the case with this Titan. After many movies of just being talked about, he's put front-and-center in "Avengers: Infinity War" and in the process it puts the movie on another level than most in the franchise.

18. The Alien ("Alien" franchise)

The xenemorphy has been terrorizing people in space since the late 1970s (and even has faced off against the Predator). With its acid blood and inner mouth that shoots out at its victims, when it comes to villains in sci-fi this one is pretty iconic.

17. Phyllis Dietrichson ("Double Indemnity")

Sometimes a great villain has someone else do their dirty work and that's the case with this classic femme fatale played by Barbara Stanwyck. She received an Oscar nomination for her performance as a wife, who seduces an insurance agent (Fred MacMurray) to kill her husband.

16. Keyser Söze ("The Usual Suspects")

This villain is so evil that the criminals we're following in this movie are scared to death of him and his legend. His evilness is also amped up when we realize at the end of the movie that he was the weakest member of the crew (played by Kevin Spacey) the whole time.

15. Hans Landa ("Inglourious Basterds")

Here's another evil Tarantino character: Christoph Waltz earned an Oscar for his performance as the "The Jew Hunter," who seems to outsmart everyone until he comes up against Lt. Aldo "The Apache" Raine (Brad Pitt) and his team of "Basterds."

14. Leatherface ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre")

This horrific villain with a love for his chainsaws from Tobe Hooper's classic still gives movie fans sleepless nights.

13. Tyler Durden ("Fight Club")

Brad Pitt and Edward Norton combine their talents to present the duel personalities of the central figure in David Fincher's movie. There's the guy, who's fed up with life and goes off the grid (Norton) and then there's the guy, who builds a cult and tries to bring down capitalism (Pitt).

12. Pennywise ("It" franchise)

Whether your favorite Pennywise is performed by Tim Curry or Bill Skarsgård, it doesn't matter. Both performances makes the character a chilling iconic villain.

11. The Wicked Witch of the West ("The Wizard of Oz")

This is one of those villains that has been embedded in our minds for generations. As the main villain of Oz, who torments Dorothy and her little dog, too, this may have been the first movie villain you encountered in your life.

10. Mr. Potter ("It's a Wonderful Life")

Legendary actor Lionel Barrymore brings this despicable character to life. Epitomizing the scrooge of Bedford Falls, he shows his true evilness when he keeps the cash that the absent minded Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) leaves by accident in his office.

9. Norman Bates ("Psycho" franchise)

With a kind face and quiet voice, Anthony Perkins crafted this villain into the most memorable from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

8. Alex Forrest ("Fatal Attraction")

Glenn Close brought a ferocity to this character, who is brushed off by the man (Michael Douglas) she's having an affair with, that you could make the case that the things she did were justified (though boiling the family bunny may have been too much).

7. Terminator ("Terminator" franchise)

It's the movie that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a movie star. As the indestructible T-800 (and with the line "I'll be back"), Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron created a villain that to this day (despite numerous awful sequels) we can't get enough of.

6. Amon Goeth ("Schindler's List")

Ralph Fiennes is pure evil as the commandant of a Nazi concentration camp.

5. The Shark ("Jaws")

Nicknamed Bruce (after the first name of Steven Spielberg's lawyer), this mechanical shark didn't get much screen time, and didn't operate very well behind-the-scenes, but that's what made it so horrific. Just the idea of something down below was scary enough. But at the end, when it finally got its time on screen, it didn't disappoint in how evil it can be. Thanks to ol' Bruce there are people who are still scared to go in the water.

4. Hannibal Lecter ("Silence of the Lambs" franchise)

Yes, Buffalo Bill is pretty bad in this movie, but it's Hannibal the "cannibal" who is the true villain. Played perfectly by Anthony Hopkins, who won an Oscar for the performance, he would go on to play the role in two sequels. And the character itself has also shown up in a TV series.

3. Anton Chigurh ("No Country For Old Men")

Javier Bardem's portrayal of this cold-blooded killer led to an Oscar win. It also led to the character being one of the most evil in the Coen brothers filmography thanks to his use of a coin to decide a person's fate and his weapon of choice, a captive bolt stunner.

2. The Joker ("The Dark Knight")

There have been many great portrayals of DC Comics villain The Joker, but Heath Ledger's went beyond any of them. Appearing in the middle movie of Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, his performance would not just earn him an Oscar, but elevate the movie to become one of the best comic book blockbusters of all time.

1. Darth Vader ("Star Wars" trilogy)

It's hard to think of a villain who is as memorable and has influenced so many others than Darth Vader. Whether he's Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) turning to the dark side (and killing younglings in the process) or as the Sith Lord, voiced by James Earl Jones, who can kill a man by crushing his throat by using the Force, Vader is the gold standard of villainy.

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