22 Actors Who Have Mastered The Art Of Playing Villains

Over 2.0K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 22 Actors Who Have Mastered The Art Of Playing Villains
Voting Rules
Vote up the actors who always make the best villains.

Sometimes, actors only hit it big after playing a villain or two, and some actors go their whole careers without ever once playing a bad guy. Others, though, kind of make playing bad guys their whole deal, and they are often really good at it. Whether they're versatile actors who have played a little of everything - including some iconic bad guys - or the kind of actors who play characters you love to hate pretty exclusively, this collection features some of the top actors known for playing villainous parts.

Yet these aren't actors who keep their light under a bad guy bushel. We've got Oscar winners aplenty here - and some of them won their awards for playing villains - so vote up your favorite actors who are so good at being bad...

Photo: No Country for Old Men / Miramax

  • 1
    1,714 VOTES

    The Villains: Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK, Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula, Stansfield in The Professional, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in The Fifth Element, Drexl Spivey in True Romance, Dr. Smith in Lost in Space, Mason Verger in Hannibal, et al.

    The Actor: Gary Oldman has played, well, pretty much everybody at one point or another. He's been Pontius Pilate and Commissioner Gordon, punk rock legend Sid Vicious and Winston Churchill and Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. He's been a wizard, a spy, a rabbi, numerous scientists, and the devil. He's also played lots and lots of villains. His breakout performance for mainstream audiences was probably in Francis Ford Coppola's baroque 1992 adaptation of Dracula, where Oldman played the eponymous count under old age makeup, Victorian dress, and even several monstrous transformations. He even went toe-to-toe with one of cinema's most iconic villains, Hannibal Lecter, when he played (under acres of prosthetics) the sadistic Mason Verger in Ridley Scott's Hannibal.

    1,714 votes
  • 2
    1,650 VOTES

    The Villains: Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd, et al.

    The Actor: While many modern viewers may know him best as the conflicted Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series, whose definition as a villain is questionable, Alan Rickman already had a well-trod reputation for playing nefarious, reptilian roles long before he donned the robes of Hogwarts' master of potions. In fact, his breakout role came more than a decade earlier, when he played one of the most memorable villains in cinematic history - the terrorist mastermind Hans Gruber in John McTiernan's original Die Hard.

    1,650 votes
  • 3
    1,332 VOTES

    The Villains: Colonel Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, Chudnofsky in The Green Hornet, Cardinel Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, Walter Keene in Big Eyes, Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Spectre, et al.

    The Actor: Already an established thespian in his native Germany, Christophe Waltz burst onto the American movie scene with the role of the villainous Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino's World War II opus Inglourious Basterds. The part nabbed him his first Academy Award, and led to a swell of roles in English-language films, most often playing villains. In 2015, he even took on the mantle of perhaps James Bond's most famous nemesis, Blofeld, in Spectre, a role he reprised in the climactic film of the Daniel Craig era, No Time to Die.

    1,332 votes
  • 4
    1,434 VOTES

    The Villains: Jack Torrance in The Shining, Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick, the Joker in Batman, Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men, Frank Costello in The Departed, et al.

    The Actor: Jack Nicholson broke into the business working with Roger Coman all the way back in the 1960s, in horror films like Little Shop of HorrorsThe Raven, and The Terror. By the time he appeared as Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick's legendary adaptation of The Shining, he had already won an Oscar for his lead performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Jack Torrance changed the trajectory of Nicholson's career, however. Always someone who played outsiders and rebels, he began playing villains with increasing frequency, perhaps most notably when he took on the role of the Joker in Tim Burton's first Batman movie in 1989.

    1,434 votes
  • 5
    1,155 VOTES

    The Villains: Dracula in the many Hammer Dracula films, Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Saruman in Lord of the Rings, Count Dooku in Star Wars, et al.

    The Actor: Has anyone played quite so many of cinema's most famous monsters and villains as Sir Christopher Lee? The imposingly tall Englishman has been Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Mummy, and many others. He's played the evil wizard Saruman and the Sith Lord Count Dooku. He's been the devil, a cult leader, and more vampires than you can shake a cross at, played parts as varied as Fu Manchu and Rasputin, and gone up against the likes of Hercules and James Bond (and even Captain America, in an ill-starred TV movie from 1979). And that's only counting the villainous roles in his prolific and lengthy career, which spans nearly 300 films.

    1,155 votes
  • 6
    1,257 VOTES

    The Villains: Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Darkness in Legend, Pennywise in It, Hexxus in FernGully, Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island, et al.

    The Actor: Few actors are as synonymous with villain performances as Tim Curry, who has carried on the mantle of charming purveyor of nightmares once held by the likes of Vincent Price and Boris Karloff. Curry's breakout role may have been in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but he has also played the devil more than once, the sewer-dwelling clown in the TV mini-series version of Stephen King's It, and many others. With more than 200 credits in his filmography, Curry is also one of the most prolific actors around, even while many of his credits are voice roles, including plenty of cartoon villains who have gone up against everyone from Scooby Doo to Jedi knights.

    1,257 votes