NEW YORK USA – JULY 30 2019: Friday the 13th slasher Jason Voorhees and Halloween Michael Myers , Nightmare on Elm Street Freddy Krueger – NECA Ultimate Jason and Freddy action figure – custom Myers

Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers (© Willrow Hood - stock.adobe.com)

We cannot forget those diabolical masterminds who make us simultaneously loathe and love them whenever we watch a movie. The best movie villains are the dark chocolate of the movie world, irresistibly wicked yet utterly delicious. That’s why StudyFinds did a deep dive into the top movie bad guys everyone roots for.

Have you ever seen a villain second-guess themselves? Probably not. They waltz into the plot with the kind of swagger most of us can only dream of. They’re master planners and genius manipulators; sometimes they even ooze charisma. They’re the ultimate chess players with every move meticulously planned, keeping us and the heroes guessing every step of the way. If there was an Oscar for sheer audacity, our no-good baddies would take it home every year.

If you find yourself always rooting for the bad guy, you are not alone. A recent study shows that 51 percent of people find themselves cheering on the villain when watching movies and TV. Additionally, 60 percent watch certain titles just for the villains. There’s just something about them that is so magnetic.

Ready to take a deep dive into the world of antiheroes? StudyFinds has compiled the ultimate list of the best movie villains mentioned most across 10 movie critic reviews. The experts have weighed in on their best recommendations and here they are! Did we miss your favorite villain? Tell us about it in the comments!

Joker and Batman
Joker and Batman (Photo by Patrick Collins on Unsplash)

The List: Best Movie Villains, According to Experts

1. Michael Myers

The experts’ top pick for best movie villain is none other than Michael Myers. “Michael Myers, the fictional serial killer from the ‘Halloween’ franchise has been terrorizing people for years. He was convicted of murdering his sister when he was just six years old and spent 15 years in a mental hospital before escaping to murder again. Michael Myers is one of the most iconic horror movie villains to ever grace the silver screen. So, what makes Michael Myers so scary? Michael Myers, as portrayed in the ‘Halloween’ movies, is a killer who stalks and slays his victims with knives. He is known for wearing a white mask that only covers half of his face. Michael Myers was created by John Carpenter in 1978 to be the main antagonist of the movie after noticing there weren’t any other major horror villains at this time,” says Filmmaking Lifestyle.

Jamie Lee Curtis & "Michael Myers" Costumed Guest at the sCare Foundation Benefit in 2011
Jamie Lee Curtis & “Michael Myers” Costumed Guest at the sCare Foundation Benefit in 2011 (Photo by Kathy Hutchins on Shutterstock)

Darkness has many faces, as we’re about to discover. “The shape. The silent killer. The psychopath with some serious family issues. It’s to co-writer/director John Carpenter’s credit that he turned an old William Shatner mask and some decidedly non-threatening attire into one of the most iconic killer characters in cinema history for the original Halloween. Michael is one of those who doesn’t need much in the way of personality or a massive backstory – we’re looking at you, Rob Zombie – to be effective as a threat. Like so many of his horror contemporaries, his impact has been diluted through the years, but in his original form, he can still strike terror into the hardest heart,” Empire Online writes.

How many times have you found yourself secretly cheering for the bad guy? “Like many horror movie villains, Michael Myers made a remarkably strong first impression before revealing an apparent inability to stay dead. He first terrorized the population of Haddonfield, Illinois in 1978’s ‘Halloween’ after escaping from a mental hospital and going on a violent killing spree,” says Collider.

2. Freddy Krueger

Every town has an Elm Street, right? Freddy Krueger was the second-most popular movie villain among experts. “With his crispy complexion and deadly digits, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’s’ Freddy Krueger was a chillingly effective bogeyman. But it wasn’t until dappy 1985 sequel ‘Freddy’s Revenge’ that the killer began to really take shape. While still carving up teenagers in their pajamas, Freddy (Robert Englund) developed a sense of humor, one that grew ever more demented. Freddy evolved into a lovable genre mascot, but losing his edge never dulled his appeal,” writes Empire Online.

Freddy Krueger
Freddy Krueger (Photo by Enrique Guzmán Egas on Unsplash)

But hang tight, because the world of Freddy Krueger isn’t just about slashing; there’s a backstory that’s worth the detour. “It turns out the only thing scarier than a slasher movie villain who’ll stop at nothing to kill you is a slasher movie villain who’ll stop at nothing to kill you while you sleep. Freddy Krueger of the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ movies does just that, tormenting his victims in their dreams and making them fearful of sleep, for that’s the only time when they’re truly vulnerable to his violent tendencies,” explains Collider.

As we thread the fine line between reality and dreams, Freddy’s legacy becomes even more intriguing. “The character was invented by Wes Craven and has been portrayed by several actors including Robert Englund, Jackie Earle Haley, and Nick Castle. He first appeared in Wes Craven’s 1984 horror film of the same name and has since been featured in nine other installments, as well as various spin-offs. Freddy Krueger is one of the most iconic horror movie villains to date. Freddy Krueger was a serial child killer who preyed on the children of Springwood, Ohio. He committed his first murder in 1968 when he slit the throats of 11-year-old twins Jason and Karen Stubbs after they had been sleeping over at their friend’s house,” says Filmmaking Lifestyle.

3. Lord Voldemort

Number three on our list of best movie villains is one of the great characters of the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort — but beware uttering his name. “Lord Voldemort might not appear physically in every single one of the Harry Potter movies, but he serves as an overarching villain for all eight films. His presence is always felt, even if he’s not always seen, though he comes to have more screen time and more of an impact on the overall plot as the series goes on, and as the films get progressively darker. Ralph Fiennes is largely responsible for making Voldemort such a memorable villain, portraying the character with scenery-devouring devotion from 2005’s ‘The Goblet of Fire’ onwards. He’s also got one of the most evil-sounding names in the history of fiction, and in-universe, he’s often literally referred to as ‘He Who Must Not Be Named,'” says Collider.

Slipping from the shadows of Hogwarts, we can’t forget Lord Voldemort’s eerie presence. “Once a prodigy destined for greatness, this twisted wizard fell into darkness and sought immortality at any cost. Consumed by his desire for power, his very name inspires terror among those who dare to speak it, casting a shadow over the magical world,” says Ranker.com

And as we tread cautiously through the Forbidden Forest, Voldemort’s influence becomes undeniably clear. “He is a being so evil; people can’t even say his name! As the main antagonist of the ‘Harry Potter’ series, Voldemort’s rap sheet is as long as it is diabolical. Responsible for the death of Harry’s parents, the Dark Lord waged war on Hogwarts to rule the wizarding world. His goal: rid the magical realm of anyone he deem ‘unworthy.’ Oh, and he tried to kill ‘the boy who lived,’ Harry Potter, every chance he got. Voldemort’s physical attributes are also terrifying, as are the gang of ‘Death Eaters’ he has by his side. And with the ability to produce some truly powerful dark magic, it’s no wonder other wizards fear him! It could also be the lack of a nose,” adds WatchMojo.

4. Sauron

Fourth on the list of best movie villains is Sauron. From the forging of rings to dark towers, Sauron’s intricate dance with power is a tale worth every twist and turn. “’A great eye, lidless, wreathed in flame.’ This description of the Dark Lord of Mordor is all well and good on paper, but how the hell do you make a massive fiery peeper remotely sinister on screen? Somehow, Peter Jackson and the ‘Lord of The Rings’ team pulled it off. It helped that the prologue shows us Sauron as an enormous, mace-wielding maniac, capable of twatting entire battalions with a single blow. But even when he loses his corporeal form, he’s the stuff of nightmares, flashing into Frodo’s mind whenever he touches the Ring and scouring the land around him like a very angry person looking for a contacts lens,” says Empire Online.

Venturing beyond mere battles and quests, the depth of Sauron’s dark allure beckons. “He’s ultimately a background character throughout the trilogy, and only really glimpsed in his physical form during the first movie’s prologue. As such, it’s the secondary villains that inevitably make more of an impact,” adds Collider.

As we navigate the tumultuous terrain of power and ambition, Sauron’s tale takes center stage. “Sauron struck terror in the hearts of all who knew his name! The creator of the One Ring, Sauron became the second Dark Lord and sought to conquer Middle Earth by creating the Rings of Power. The end of the Second Age saw him defeated in war, while the One Ring was cut from his finger. Completely dismantled, it took centuries for Sauron to rebuild. However, when he returned to power, he was beaten again following the destruction of the One Ring by a certain hobbit named Frodo. One thing’s for sure though, the pureness of Sauron’s evil is unparalleled! Don’t take our word for it, J.R.R Tolkien has stated that this villain is ‘as near to a wholly evil will as was possible.’” shares WatchMojo.

5. Hannibal Lecter

Number five on the best movie villain list is Hannibal Lecter of “The Silence of The Lambs.” “The recipe that made Hannibal Lecter’s character is too good to miss. He is capable, intelligent, manipulative, candid, cagey, well researched, six steps ahead, and charming. He is likable because there is a somewhat justifiable rationale for who he chooses as targets and why. The dialogue, filmmaking, and performance all combined to create one of the creepiest characters around, especially when you find yourself rooting for his escape. He brings that same excellence to the following films in ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Red Dragon,’ both of which are worth the watch,” shares StudioBinder.

Shifting our gaze from the mundane, the enigma of Hannibal beckons for a deeper dive. “Appearing in an abundance of adaptations over the years, no screen iteration of Hannibal Lecter has come close to Anthony Hopkins’s award-winning turn in 1991’s ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’ The film saw Lecter take part in a dangerous cat and mouse game with FBI agent-in-training, Clarice Starling. ‘Hannibal the Cannibal’ is highly disconcerting for many reasons, but it’s his appetite for human flesh that naturally creeps us out the most. Of course, Lecter’s refined tastes and manners are in contrast with qualities we associate with serial killers. And when you add in his elevated level of intelligence, it makes this villain even more of an intimidating threat,” writes WatchMojo

As we meander through the world of psychological thrills, let’s savor a moment with Dr. Lecter. “Winning Best Actor at the 1992 Oscars, Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of the despicable cannibal terrified audiences and has left a long-lasting impression with one of the greatest performances in cinematic history,” says Collider.

6. Joker

You can’t have a best movie villain list without the legendary Joker. Among the glitz and grime of Gotham’s underbelly, who stands out more than the Clown Prince of Crime? “Delving into the neon-lit streets of Gotham, there’s one smile we can’t help but recognize: the Joker’s. Unpredictable, manipulative, and twisted beyond belief, the Joker is easily one of the most notorious villains in modern history. He is also the greatest figure in Batman’s robust rogue’s gallery – and that’s the saying a lot. There have also been many different versions of the character portrayed on screen,” says WatchMojo.

Heath Ledger's The Joker
Heath Ledger’s The Joker (Photo by Bottle Top Photography on Shutterstock)

As we wade deeper into the psyche of Gotham’s most notorious villain, the Joker’s dance with darkness becomes even more fascinating. “Released in 2008, ‘The Dark Knight’ is the second film in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy. The film follows Bruce Wayne’s Batman, played by Christian Bale, police lieutenant James Gordon, played by Gary Oldman, and district attorney Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart, as they form an alliance to take down organized crime in Gotham City. Their efforts are thwarted by the anarchistic mastermind, the Joker, played by Heath Ledger. It’s not that hard to imagine how the Clown Prince of Crime is one of the greatest action movie villains of all time. This version of the Joker is a cold, calculating nihilist eager to watch the world burn,” says MovieWeb.

Navigating the colorful chaos of the Joker’s world, one finds humor, horror, and a hint of heartbreak. “The Joker first appeared in the 1989 film ‘Batman,’ though he is likely better remembered from Heath Ledger’s portrayal in the 2008 film ‘The Dark Knight.’ Set on watching Gotham destroy itself in chaos and anarchy, he orchestrates the death of Batman’s girlfriend Rachel and manipulates Harvey Dent into becoming Two-Face. The Clown Prince of Crime has a habit of changing his backstory, making it hard for him to be a relatable villain. Nevertheless, he’s certainly intriguing, and Ledger’s performance was simply mesmerizing. The fact that he doesn’t desire power, but simply chaos, makes him all the more difficult for Batman to contend with,” writes Screen Rant.

7. Thanos

Last, but certainly not least, on the best movie villain list is Thanos, who threatened to snap his fingers if he wasn’t included. “Driven by a twisted vision of universal balance, this powerful alien warlord embarks on a quest that involves immense destruction; seeking out powerful relics to achieve his goal. Calm but ruthless, with a surprising depth of emotional complexity, it’s hard not to be captivated by his single-minded determination to reshape the universe to his liking,” says Ranker.com.

Thanos character from Marvel Comics
Thanos character from Marvel Comics (Photo by Visanu Pongsuansri on Shutterstock)

As we navigate the vast tapestry of the Marvel Universe, one gem-obsessed villain stands out like no other. “Even the best superhero movies tend to be very upfront about showcasing battles between good and evil. The heroes might not be perfect, and the villains might have understandable motives, but it’s usually clear who’s the antagonist and who’s the protagonist. Thanos – showcased most in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ – makes for a unique example of a superhero villain, because his motives are explored in-depth, seeing as he’s the central character in ‘Infinity War.’ Thanos has more screen time than any other character does in this 2018 movie, and though he was featured briefly in MCU movies before ‘Infinity War,’ his quest to kill untold people to prevent overpopulation is explored most within this single film. Viewers can see where he’s coming from, though his questionable methods are also a cause for concern,” shares Collider.

As we orbit around the tales of heroes and gods, the gravity of Thanos’s mission pulls us in with a unique allure. “With a single snap of his finger, Thanos did the unthinkable: he wiped out half of the world’s population. To bring balance to the universe, Thanos sacrificed countless innocent lives. Man, woman, child, Avenger – it didn’t matter, no one was immune to the random ‘dusting’ that occurred. Throughout the history of super villains in film, no one has been able to pull off such inconceivable evil! So, when his plan came to fruition, moviegoers around the globe sat in jaw-dropping silence. How could this be? There was no way our heroes could return from such an astronomical event. Well, there was one way – one in fourteen million six hundred and five to be exact,” adds WatchMojo.

Which movie villain scares you the most? Leave a comment to let us know!

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About Te-Erika Patterson

Te-Erika is the Publisher of The Feisty News for Women, the only full-service news source for women. Te-Erika is also the author of How To Love a Powerful Woman, Leave Your Baby Daddy and Loving Female Led Relationships: Relationships that Empower Women. A graduate of The University of Florida, Te-Erika enjoys a thriving career as a digital content creator that has spanned more than a decade. She enjoys chocolate, wine and solitude, and she is currently living a quiet life in Montgomery, Alabama. Follow her @Te-Erika

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