Thursday, March 19, 2009

All-Time Favorite Villains

I saw a poll online the asked people to submit their favorite villains from TV, movies and books. That got me thinking about mine. The best stories have to have the best villains; that’s what makes them worth hating. So I started going through my memory banks to figure out who my favorite villains were. Naturally, I came up with too many for a simple Top Ten (or Twenty) list. Villains can be considered “best” for many reasons and come in many varieties, so I divided them up into categories. I’ll start with:

8. The Terminator T-100 (Arnold Schwartzenegger) from “The Terminator”.

I suppose you could be charitable and say, he wasn’t inherently evil, it was just the programming, but his effect on the main characters was that of a nightmare.

Key quote: “That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with, it doesn’t feel pity or remorse of fear and it absolutely will not stop… EVER… until you are dead.”

7. The Queen Alien from “Aliens” (The Queen, the drones, the whole damned species.)
Good thing we have Ellen Ripley on our side. I’d hate to see a squad of these things running all over the place. Fast, smart, deadly, dagger-like tail, small jaws inside big jaws, rows of teeth, lots of drool and acid for blood.

Key quote: “Get away from her, you BITCH!” 6. The Big Alien Bugs from “Starship Troopers”
These things are just nasty and there are way too many of them. This was a movie that basically revolved around attractive young male and female soldiers being killed in horrible ways by giant space-bugs. Not that I’m against that… But I’m always unsettled by the scene pictured above, where a small band of soldiers are trying to hold a fort against wave after wave of these killer bugs. Kind of like The Alamo if it were sponsored by “Raid.”

Key quote: “Kill everything with more than two legs!”

(Obviously, the audio isn't from the movie.)

5. Monster from “Cloverfield”

This movie used the original “Jaws” formula of rarely showing you a good look at the monster. (albeit without the sterling acting chops or masterful storytelling) You just don’t know what the hell this thing is, but what you do see is compelling and quite scary.

Key quote: (none, really, but this will have to do) “Beth lives in Midtown. Midtown is that way. You know what else is that way? Some horrific shit! “

4. The Shapeshifter from “The Thing” (1982 John Carpenter version)

Another alien… this one is dug out of the ice by a crew stationed somewhere north of the Arctic Circle. This thing can take the form of anything it kills, so dropping it into this isolated camp in a frozen wasteland made for a very claustrophobic, paranoid thriller. The scene where it busts out of a body and the head separates, then grows big old crab legs and skitters away… that was just something out of an LSD hallucination. No one ever forgets that scene. But just to remind...

Key quote: “I dunno what the hell's in there, but it's weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

3. The Great White Shark in “Jaws”
This is a “villain” that changed lives. Anyone that was alive in 1975 and went to the beach couldn’t help feel a bit uneasy about venturing into the water, whether it was an ocean, a lake or a puddle. I know this movie scared the living crap out of me back then. The shark was clunky by today’s standards and didn’t always work, so Spielberg compensated by not showing it very often. And the unseen monster, even when you basically know what it is, is often scariest.

Key quote: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” (What did you think I was going to use, “Here’s to swimmin’ with bowlegged women.”?)

Special note: The speech Quint gives about surviving the sinking of the USS Indianapolis still gives me chills, and is almost as unnerving as the shark itself.

2. The Toy Clown from “Poltergeist”
OK, now it’s getting personal. It’s a clown thing, and again, Spielberg always seems to know what scares me. I’ve always hated clowns. When I was little, I used to have recurring nightmares about a clown trying to get me. I think it goes back to when I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad. (sorry… that’s a Jack Handey quote.) To tell the truth, I got a shudder just pulling the photo above. And the one below…

Key quote: “Now clear your minds. It knows what scares you. It has from the very beginning. Don't give it any help, it knows too much already.”

1. Pennywise the Clown from “It”
Another shudder… Tim Curry was a brilliant choice to play Pennywise, the evil clown-monster from Stephen King’s “It”. This is a clown that taunts you, mocks you, makes fun of you, then bites your arm off. And this was just a TV movie. I’m actually kind of relieved that it was never a feature film.

Key quote: “I'm every nightmare you've ever had. I'm your worst dream come true. I'm everything you ever were afraid of.”

Coming soon: “Comic” villains and “Character” villains.

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