NOTE: There are some mild SPOILERS in this post.
Recently Moviefone.com posted their list of the Top 25 Best Movie Villains of All Time. They regularly put out lists that are meant to be timely (this list being a response to the upcoming release of The Dark Knight) and I enjoy them because they are regularly a little off-beat; exchanging more popular choices with one's that are reasonable, although unexpected.
I was clicking through and I indeed found some typical choices with some (semi-) surprises mixed in. Some I enjoyed; such as Dr. Christian Szell from Marathon Man. Some I found to be a little off but not quite objectionable; like Tom Powers from Public Enemy. (Side note: I don't know if any film star has ever so exclusive to their era like James Cagney was. Seriously, what's the appeal today?) Numbers 4 (Hannibal Lecter), 3 (Wicked Witch of the West) and 2 (Darth Vader) were very basic. But the #1 Movie Villain of All Time according to Moviefone.com... Lord Voldemort.
Great Movie Villain? Really? I know Moviefone has it's quirky tastes, but Lord Voldemort is a very, very dumb pick.
Let me be clear, Moviefone.com isn't exactly my go-to destination for thoughtful lists and rankings, but I had come to welcome neat their lists when I checked showtimes for movies. I gotta say, my fairly low expectations were far from met. For shame, Moviefone.com (whose contributors I'm sure are reading)... For shame..
I got to thinking, and decided I'd construct a list of my own:
The Top 10 Best Movie Villains of 2000 to early July 2008 (forget about The Joker for now)
10. Anton Ego (voice by Peter O'Toole), Ratatouille
OK, so he's not a full-blown villain. Yes, Peter O'Toole delivers a tear-jearking speech in one of the sweetest scenes I've ever scene, revealing Ego to be not as heartless as we thought. But it's hard to forget he 1) ruined Gusteau and 2) makes Linguini and Remy cower in fear! That's bad news bears.
9. Teddy Gammell (Joe Pantoliano), Momento
8. Victor Quartermaine (voice by Ralph Fiennes), Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
This is Ralph Fiennes at his most villainous! (at least in this decade)
7. Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper) and Deputy Director Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), The Bourne Identity
The face of Treadstone, the organization reasonable for the plight of Jason Bourne, in The Bourne Identity was Alexander Conklin, played by Chris Cooper (below; centered). His superior was C.I.A. Deputy Director Ward Abbott, played by Brian Cox. Together they offered solid performances, and had me waiting impatiently for Jason Bourne to land his revenge.
What about Joan Allen? As actors, I like Chris Cooper and I hate Joan Allen. Aside from Cooper having a far more distinct and negative character, I couldn't possibly consider Joan Allen to be one of the "great villains" of the series' because her performance was so poor.
After Identity, my hatred for any specific character withered a little anyway. Bourne still had questions to be answered after the first film, and Conklin was only the beginning of bad (and progressively worse) guys he needed to kill or compromise if he ever wanted some peace of mind. The series was thereby made much more about an ambiguous league of villains (Treadstone, the C.I.A., "the system", etc.) than any particular one. The chase (as well as the premise) is much more fresh in The Bourne Identity than the sequels, and I think that has something to do with Supremacy and Ultimatum lacking a strong, stand alone villain like Cooper.
6. Jesse James (Brad Pitt), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Jesse James and Robert Ford present a Topdog/Underdog-type conflict, where the victor isn't quite clear. I think you could make an argument for either as the villain. I felt more for Robert Ford but, more importantly, I didn't feel at all for Jesse James.
The movie did not lead me to an understanding of Jesse James for a reason. I don't think he was painted as a person capable of being understood. This much I know: he's complex and destructive. He is vicious. The movie is largely the tale of Robert Ford in his attempt to understand Jesse James. Even after James is dead, the quest to understand James continues. It proves so fruitless for Ford that the only way he reaches any resolve is by way of a bullet in his head.
5. Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), No Country for Old Men
4. Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), The Matrix trilogy
The Matrix came out in 1999, and it was the inferior sequels that were released in the 2000s to qualify it for the list. (I say "inferior" but I believe they still work collectively to make a very good movie.) Agent Smith became prominent in The Matrix Reloaded, but I'm going to consider his role in the entire series.
I also wanna toss this out there: Is the fight scene in the courtyard (above) in The Matrix Reloaded the best choreographed action scene so far this decade? There's definitely a couple of contenders, but I think it might be.
3. Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), Ocean's Eleven
Of course I'm partially rooting for Danny Ocean and co. because they are so lovable, but it'd be impossible to do otherwise with Terry Benedict as cold and despicable as he is.
2. Harlem Maguire (Jude Law), The Road to Perdition
I don't think this performance receives enough mention. Jude Law (above) is terrifying as Harlem Maguire, in a movie that also seems all too forgotten.
1. The Jews (Various), The Passion of the Christ
I'm kidding! But what a first post that would be, right?
1. Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), There Will Be Blood
A popular and deserving pick for the best movie villain of 2000 to early 2008.