Almost every film, comic book, novel, computer game, and nerd fantasy has a hero. And every hero needs a villain who can challenge him but not (usually) actually defeat him. It’s the heroes that generally get all the glory, saving the world from the evil clutches of the villain and getting the girl. But often it’s the bad guys that really capture our imagination – they get the coolest weapons and costumes, or have the coolest goals. Most often, that goal is to rule the world/universe/galaxy.
Of course, then this upstart hero comes along and ruins the would-be rulers carefully laid plans without a care for the hard work and thought that’s gone into constructing a planet-killing space station or all-encompassing religious regime.
However, there are also those villains that haven’t quite thought it out. You know, like the guy we all know who has this great plan to make a fortune, but hasn’t really figured out how it will make any money. Yeah, that guy. They get their own list a little later.
So here is our list of the ten bad guys who did it best! (In no particular order)
10) Sauron (Lord of the Rings)
A being so powerful that even when robbed of a physical body, he can assemble a horde of orcs, goblins and Nazgul, and build himself an awesome pointy tower. And then take over a land for them to live in. He’s been around since the world was created (in fact he had some part in its creation according to the Silmarillion), and even after his boss was caught and banished, he escaped. He creates the Rings of Power in order to get the Elves on side, and then forges the One Ring to rule them all! He wipes out the Numenoreans (Aragorns ancestors) and is a hairsbreadth away from conquering the whole world when the Last Alliance of Elves and Humans stops him – barely. Then he comes back, looking for his bling, and once again is poised to trample all before him. If only it hadn’t been for those damned Hobbits…
9) Boba Fett (Star Wars)
Unlike most of the others in this list, Mr. Fett (my personal favourite entry to this list – Rooney) doesn’t lead an army or head an organisation. He’s just a lowly bounty hunter, whose dad happens to be the DNA donor for the entire clone army. But he is indisputably cool. He has the armour, the ship, a flamethrower gauntlet, the freaking jetpack – and he captures the roguish Han Solo! Ok, ok, so he also has the dubious honour of lamest ‘death’ scene ever, but as readers of the Star Wars novels will be aware, he actually kills the Sarlaac and busts out of there to resume his galactic arse-kicking. Oh, and did we mention that he has a fight with Darth Vader and doesn’t die? I mean, he doesn’t kill Vader, but he also doesn’t get chopped up with a lightsaber. He also eventually goes on to rule Mandalore and makes the Mandalorians a warrior race again. Much cooler than Dog the bounty hunter. And no lame sunglasses either.
8 ) Predator (Predator I/II)
Wrist blades: check. Swivelling shoulder-mounted plasma cannon: check. Boomerang-blade thing: check. Big crab-like alien face: check. Wristwatch that doubles as a nuclear bomb: check! If I had to be hunted across the galaxy (or even just the South American jungle) there are few things I’d like to be chased by less than one of these chaps. They live for the hunt, and care nothing for the suffering of their prey – though they do have a twisted code of ethics, and won’t usually attack unarmed targets. They’re bigger than you, have better tech than you, and want nothing more than to rip out your skull (complete with spinal column) and polish it up to display on their spaceship’s mantel piece. So fighting them is hard at best, and even if you do succeed, they’ll just set off their gauntlet and blow up you and everything else in a two mile radius. Violent, ugly, ruthless, and good at it. Oh, and did I mention that they can turn invisible? Pretty effective villains if you ask me!
7) Warmaster Horus Lupercal (Warhammer 40,000)
For those familiar with him, Horus needs no explanation. For those not, here we go… Once the favoured some of the Emperor of Mankind, he turned on his father and Humanity when they were on the verge of a golden age for mankind, with aliens and mutants wiped from the galaxy leaving mankind unchallenged and guided by the immortal Emperor. He lead fully one half of his brother Primarchs (genetically engineered super beings) and their Space Marine legions (lesser genetically engineered super beings) in revolt against their former allies, and brought the Imperium and indeed Humanity to its knees in the name of the Chaos Gods. He killed at least one of his brother Primarchs (the noble Sanguinius) and his actions resulted in the death of more. He even mortally wounded the Emperor himself, at the cost of his own life, thus condemning Humanity to a slow decline into a dystopian empire and ultimate defeat. Not only was this chap a great villain, but he was never really stopped. He was killed utterly, even his soul being destroyed, but his work was done, and Humanity was doomed to descend into chaos and death.
6) Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt (Watchmen)
A villain who wasn’t in the strictest sense, a villain. I mean sure he detonates a series of massive bombs/fakes an alien invasion (depending on whether you’re referring to the film or the comic), and is thus responsible for all the associated death destruction, but he also prevents mankind from destroying itself in a nuclear war. He’s a genius smart enough to fool the world into uniting together to face an outside threat (either aliens or Dr. Manhattan), he outsmarts and/or kills his hero peers, has near super-human abilities, and only reveals the final stage of his plan when it’s already happened! That final trait would get him on this list even if he were a dribbling idiot in a nappy, even though it is terribly unsporting of him. He also sits at the top of both a business empire and a criminal one, both of which he has built from the ground-up himself with his considerable mental prowess. So even though he’s ostensibly a good guy, the ends don’t really justify the means…
5) Padan Fain/Mordeth (The Wheel of Time)
Master Fain starts the series (which is finally concluding after twenty years of books) as a travelling salesman and – secretly – a Darkfriend. As the series progresses, we find out that he gets taken by the Dark One (the source of all evil and the ultimate bad guy in the series) and changed, so that he can always track the series’ protagonist Rand al’Thor. Then he goes to a damned city that is possessed by the spirit of its deceased corrupt people, and basically merges with it. He has crazy powers, a big ol’ dagger that kills instantly from the smallest scratch and he is nasty. Like straight up, baby-eating nasty. The Dark One can’t stop him, and he’s hell-bent on killing, well, pretty much everyone. The final book hasn’t been released yet, so we don’t know Fain’s eventual fate, but I’m betting it’ll be awesome.
4) Kerrigan, Queen of Blades (Starcraft)
We first meet Kerrigan as a feisty psychic assassin. She then gets captured by the hideous Zerg Swarm, and is reborn as the Queen of Blades, a strangely arousing (or is it just Rooney that feels that?) Zerg/Human hybrid bent on dominating the galaxy – starting with the Humans and Protoss found in her home system. She creates Psionic storms with her mind, eats underlings to heal herself, has weird claw/wing/tentacle things that can tear siege tanks apart, and after the Overminds demise, she rules billions upon billions of very nasty face-eating monsters. Of course, by the end of Starcraft 2’s first chapter she’s been “saved” and returned to Human form, but until then, she was a sexy villain that’d eat your face off. And you’d die smiling (well, Rooney would at least).
3) Cthulhu, (Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos)
A creature so far beyond Human comprehension that just to see it would drive you stark-raving mad. High Priest of the Great Old Ones (unnatural alien creatures who ruled the Earth before Humans appeared), Cthulhu generally spends his time ‘sleeping’ in his home, the sunken city of R’lyeh, dreaming the dreams of an abomination and awaiting the day when he and his kin will awaken and cause mass insanity and mindless violence in mankind before removing us and resuming their rule of all that we know. This chap can’t be fought, can’t be bargained with, and can’t be stopped. All we can do is hope that we die quickly and relatively painlessly when he finally awakes and reclaims the world we inhabit…. (And don’t ask me how to pronounce his name!)
2) The Saint of Killers (Preacher comics)
A Confederate soldier with a hate so cold and immense that it froze the flames of Hell when he got there. Then God gives him a pair of pistols that can kill anything, will never miss, and never run out of bullets. Which the Saint promptly uses to kill the Devil himself. And some time later he uses those very same pistols to wipe out half the US Army, almost the entire Angelic Host, and God. That’s right, this chap (who, incidentally cannot be killed, even taking a direct hit from a nuclear missile without a scratch) killed God. Blam. Shot him down. He cannot be killed, he cannot miss, and if he shoots you, you will die. Possibly the scariest villain on this list.
1) Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious (Star Wars)
First off, this chap succeeded. He ruled the galaxy with a (wrinkly) iron fist and 10,000 volts of Dark Force lightning. Through a combination of intelligence, guile, scheming, and mastery of the Dark Side of the Force, he ascended the ranks of politics until he was legitimately ruler of the Republic. Then he really let rip and took over the galaxy, killing off or apprenticing almost everyone that could be a threat to him. And although his methods and ultimate goal (the complete enslavement of all sentient life to his will – a bit like David Cameron really) were a little harsh, the side effects would have been unbroken peace for one and all. Which is more than any of our leaders have managed!