From the vault: Tony’s top 10 villains

Originally posted 28 August 2017 on Nerds4Life

In many stories, a great villain is more important than an interesting hero. For the villain sets the stage, you see — laying out the challenges or obstacles for the protagonist to overcome. If Bowser hadn’t been snatching Princess Peach up all these years, Mario would be spending his days eating pasta and playing picross.

So it is with great (malicious) joy that I tip my hat to all of the baddies across history in this latest top 10 list. I’ll be looking at any fictional character from any medium, and no doubt I’ll have missed out on a few who really should have been included. In actuality, my list spread out to about 30 while I was compiling it, so just know that I’m incredibly upset that I had to omit Warwick Davis’ iconic portrayal of the evil leprechaun Lubdan. Golly, I loves me some Lubdan.

Be warned: Here there be spoilers. So watch your backs boys and ghouls, because we’re heading into some shady territory here that will leave you asking yourself if today… is Jimmy Shaker day.

10. Audrey II (Little Shop of Horrors)

Warner Bros.

Deception is a keen tool in any villain’s arsenal, and this heinous alien species has gotten it down to a fine art. Appearing initially as an innocuous houseplant, it manages to convince its hapless owner Seymour to feed it blood. As it grows bigger and hungrier, it begins to talk, demanding greater sustenance. In short: it wants to feast upon the very flesh of human beings.

Seymour may not be too keen on this idea, but the growing fame of the curious flora is too enticing for him to resist. In the original ending, Audrey II eventually overwhelms Seymour and conquers the entire planet – a grim tale that shows the folly of mankind’s greed.

Equal parts charming and sassy, Audrey II’s unforgettable dialogue and unique voice (supplied by Levi Stubbs) make it hard not to love. Not to mention, in the revised cinema ending, it has the two greatest words ever uttered by a villain before death. I can’t repeat it here, but I hope your morbid curiosity will compel you to search for yourself.

UPDATE: It feels almost weird to reflect on a time when I wasn’t permitted to write the phrase ‘oh shit’ with impunity.

9. Betelgeuse (Beetlejuice)

Warner Bros.

Perhaps more of an antihero than an outright villain, Tim Burton’s perverted wisecracking ghoul gets the nod on this list regardless. When newlyweds Adam and Barbara meet an untimely demise, their house is invaded by the Deetz family — every ghost’s worst yuppie nightmare. They choose to enlist the services of this bio exorcist, and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

This role wouldn’t be half as good had it not been for Michael Keaton’s tour de force performance, bouncing off the walls in a frenetic fashion as he teeters between manipulative, repugnant and hysterical. I wish Michael Keaton played a villain more often, he’s so good at it — whether it’s as a deceptive spectre or a hamburger mogul.

As an aside, Betelgeuse also makes for a charming protagonist, as shown in the cartoon spinoff of the same name. Did you know that the voice actor of this interpretation, Stephen Ouimette, also played Pompadour in Babar? What a talented fellow!

8. Mr. Perfect (WWF)

WWE

Oh screw you, it’s my list and he’s going in there, whether you like it or not!

This wrestling character from the 80s and 90s was one of the World Wrestling Federation’s most hated figures. Arrogant, boorish and snide, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig was also among the most gifted athletes on the roster. Whether it was his in-ring theatrics or his uproariously cheesy vignettes, he had a panache for being detestable.

Alas, Perfect never attained the WWF heavyweight championship, joining such luminaries as Rowdy Roddy Piper and the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase as elite heels who never got their moment on the top. Back in this more cartoonish era of wrestling, the good guys had a stranglehold on the belt; their rare losses just a placeholder until they could reclaim their glory. It’s just a shame that Hennig couldn’t have been among those placeholders. That would have been… well, perfect.

7. Shou Tucker (Fullmetal Alchemist)

Bones

When I mentioned that there would be spoilers in this article, this was the main one I was referring to. Known to some as the Sewing-Life Alchemist, this humble father gained a degree of fame for successfully creating a chimera capable of human speech. He is consumed by his work, and laments the difficulty and failures that come with such experiments.

When he finally succeeds a second time, the horrifying truth is revealed: his methods involve merging live animals and humans together — in this case, his own daughter with the family dog. The sickening discovery is one of the most shocking moments in anime, completely unexpected and unfathomably heinous.

One of the most intriguing elements of Shou Tucker as a villain is that he is completely unassuming, making the betrayal of his family all that more of a gut punch. He simply wants to succeed in his work, and sure enough, he found a way to do so.

6. Annie Wilkes (Misery)

Columbia Pictures

When the author Paul Sheldon badly injures both legs in a car accident in a remote part of Colorado, he is taken care of by local nurse, Anne Marie Wilkes Dugan. She professes to be a major fan of his work, particularly those that focus on her favourite character, Misery Chastain.

Wilkes refuses to let Sheldon leave her home, eventually going as far as breaking his ankles to prevent his escape. It is a compelling insight into obsession and insanity, and in much the same way that Sheldon is trapped, so too are we, unable to free ourselves from the hopeless confines of Wilkes’ life.

The original book even goes so far as to lead to Sheldon’s disfigurement at the hands of Wilkes, but regardless of which iteration you prefer, this deranged villain is one of Stephen King’s finest characters. And needless to say, Kathy Bates is an absolute master in the role, receiving an Academy Award for her portrayal.

…You dirty birdie!

5. Judge Doom (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)

Touchstone Pictures

When most people think of Christopher Lloyd, their memories probably go straight to the loveable Doc Brown from Back to the Future. But not me, no sirree — I have been too deeply scarred, I will always think of Judge Doom first!

…And Merlock from the DuckTales movie second. But I’m weird like that.

The ruthless judge of Toon Town, Doom is deadset on trying Roger Rabbit for suspected murder and bringing him to swift justice. He looms around Eddie Valiant’s investigation like a hawk, and as the pieces are put together, it’s discovered that not only did he perpetrate the murder, but he killed Eddie’s brother years ago.

And… holy smokes, he’s a toon! Doom’s reveal as a cartoon character is the stuff of nightmares, and I would literally flee the room as a child. Christopher Lloyd was my original boogeyman, and I don’t know how I would react if I were to ever meet him in person. Best not to risk it, methinks.

4. Kazuo Kiriyama (Battle Royale)

Akita Shoten

In this dystopian alternate reality, the Japanese government rules the country with an iron fist, banning rock music and anything else they have deemed controversial. Their most heinous act is the implementation of a program wherein 50 high school students are kidnapped, taken to a remote island, and forced to fight one another until only one remains.

The kids are always understandably terrified, except for one such competitor; the sociopathic loner, Kazuo Kiriyama. He decides to let a coin flip dictate his fate: if it’s heads, he will rebel against this injustice. If it’s tails, he will participate in the game. …Needless to say, the coin does not land on heads.

Kiriyama’s compulsion to act on his impulses makes him a fascinating character in every way. He will paint a beautiful picture simply because he feels like it, and then smash it to pieces immediately afterwards for the same reason. He has no sympathy nor remorse for his actions, and as such, he is the perfect candidate for this callous tournament. Special mention goes to Masanobu Ando for his role as Kiriyama in the film adaptation. In this version, the character has no dialogue whatsoever, allowing his physicality to do the talking.

3. Inspector Javert (Les Miserables)

BBC Studios

Whether it’s the book, the musical or the films, I absolutely love this character. It is said in literature that ‘the villain should believe that they are the hero of their own tale’, and rarely is this quite as true as it is with Inspector Javert. He is not operating out of greed or profit. He is simply a police officer who will do his job, no matter what the cost. Capturing the fled convict Jean Valjean is his singular goal, and in his mind, he will be doing the world a favour.

Javert is humourless and unswayed by pity, and it makes him a spectacular foil to the elements contained in Victor Hugo’s masterwork. We see the world through the eyes of the people, so we want Valjean to succeed, as well as the students fighting against oppression. Flip that perspective, though, and Javert is clearly striving for justice and what is right.

We are to despise Javert because he represents the man. The system. The machine. But we also must respect him for his conviction and his dedication. And his sweet singing voice, to boot!

2. Shuu Iwamine (Hatoful Boyfriend)

Those of you who were eagerly waiting for a gaming character to appear on this list, I hope you’re happy, coo.

In this bizarre Japanese dating simulator, you are the newest student enrolled at St. Pigeonation’s Institute, a school for — yep, you guessed it — birds. All of the usual otome tropes are present; the dependable best friend, the snooty jerk, the bizarre infirm. But amongst them, one perches most grandly. The first time you walk into the doctor’s office, this creepy partridge emerges to the tune of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, inquiring about your actions. Depending on your response, he may just outright kill you there on the spot.

Shuu is hideous in every way, and it is absolutely hilarious. Across the various routes, he murders students either for fun or experimentation purposes, even going so far as to sending remnants of one of his victims to the player character as a delicious gift. Shuu may not be as famous as some of the other villains on this list, but he has most certainly earned his place.

1. Ursula (The Little Mermaid)

Walt Disney Studios

When it all came down to it, there was only ever going to be one left standing, and in the back of my mind, I kinda suspected it would all boil down this way. Ursula the Sea Witch is one of Disney’s greatest villains, an expert manipulator and a powerful sorceress who seeks to rule the entire ocean. I can totally relate to that.

Made immortal by the impeccable talents of Pat Carroll, Ursula is everything the perfect antagonist should be: wicked, cunning and underhanded, and most importantly — right in almost every way. You may be inclined to disagree, but I feel as though Ursula was well within her rights throughout this movie. She outlined the details of the contract quite distinctly through song, a contract that Ariel willingly signed, and then when Ariel was unable to fulfil her condition, Ursula happily accepted her victory.

Where’s the chicanery in that? Oh sure, you’ll attest that bumping the boat over or using her magic to woo Prince Eric was cheating, but if Ariel had been more proactive, she might have succeeded in spite of this. It might be devious, but it’s not unfair! It’s just good business by our girl Ursula.

A shrewd negotiator. A sensual diva. And my favourite villain of all time.

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