Cold-Blooded Movie Villains You Didn't Realize Were Real

List Rules
Vote up the movie villains you didn't know actually existed.

There are plenty of great and terrifying fictional villains, but nothing is scarier than movie villains who actually existed. Imagine walking out of Friday the 13th and realizing that Jason is actually real. Well, with a lot of historical dramas depicting horrific villains, that's actually the case. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction (but luckily, villains aren't the only movie characters that are real). 

In general, going to the movies is an escape from the real world. A chance to get away from the horrors of life. But the films on this list offer quite the opposite; they serve to showcase what the absolute worst of humanity has to offer. 


  • 1
    2,259 VOTES

    Bill The Butcher In 'Gangs of New York'

    In Gangs of New York, Bill the Butcher is the leader of a gang called The Protestant Confederation of American Natives. In a fight that opens the film, Bill takes out the leader of a rival group. This act is witnessed by the rival leader's son, Amsterdam, who returns to New York as an adult to seek vengeance. At this point in time, Bill now controls every crew in New York. To get close to him, Amsterdam joins Bill's gang and becomes his protege. After Amsterdam's identity is revealed, Bill's vicious nature is more fully revealed, and he retaliates by running a pike through one of Amsterdam's allies. 

    The real-life Bill the Butcher was a man named William Poole, who was the son of a butcher and became one himself. Eventually, Bill joined and started to lead a gang called the Bowery Boys, who were fiercely anti-immigrant. Poole was eventually slain by a group of men led by a man he had earlier brutalized in a street fight. 

    • Age: Dec. at 33 (1821-1855)
    • Birthplace: New Jersey
    2,259 votes
  • 2
    1,356 VOTES

    Colonel Tavington From 'The Patriot'

    The Patriot follows Captain Benjamin Martin, a vet who opposes the American Revolution. Regardless, it comes, and Martin's eldest son, Gabriel, enlists in the Continental Army. Meanwhile, on the homestead, Martin and his wife open up their home to injured soldiers on both sides of the conflict. After Gabriel comes home on leave, a British Colonel named William Tavington comes into the story to capture Gabriel as he believes him to be a spy. Along the way, Tavington kills the Continental soldiers who were being helped by the Martins, and he sets fire to their home. When one of Martin's other sons goes to save Gabriel, Tavington kills him. Throughout the film, Tavington is frequently exceedingly malicious in his attacks, oftentimes going after the families of soldiers fighting against him. 

    While there is no British colonel named William Tavington, this character is based on a real-life British soldier named Banastre Tarleton. History.com describes Tarleton as the "most feared officer in the British army during the war for American Independence." Tarleton is most famous for what he did during the surrender of Charleston. After the fighting ended there, the Continental soldiers tried to surrender, but Tarleton ordered his troops to keep firing. 

    1,356 votes
  • 3
    1,142 VOTES

    William Brocius In 'Tombstone'

    Curly Bill is the leader of a group known as the Cowboys that practically take over a town in the film Tombstone. When the audience first meets the Cowboys, they're in the process of massacring the police officer attendees of a wedding. From there, they continue to cause trouble for Wyatt Earp and his friends in the town of Tombstone. After Curly Bill takes out the town Marshall, Wyatt intervenes and has him arrested, but he's freed after no one wants to be a witness. From there, Wyatt and his boys have a gunfight with the Cowboys, and multiple members of the crew are killed. The violence continues from both sides until Curly Bill and his second-in-command are both felled. 

    The real-life Curly Bill, named William B. Brocius, followed a similar path as his character in Tombstone. In real life, William arrived in the town of Tombstone around the age of 33 and immediately started causing trouble. Bill was a noted murderer, sometimes out of revenge, but often for no real reason. Just like in the movie, William died at the hands of Wyatt Earp, who was getting revenge for the murder of Morgan Earp. 

    • Age: Dec. at 37 (1845-1882)
    • Birthplace: Crawfordsville, Indiana
    1,142 votes
  • The Three Musketeers opens with the Musketeers swiping airship blueprints designed by Leonardo da Vinci, and then in turn having those blueprints taken from them by the Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers. For the rest of the film, the Duke of Buckingham is more of a secondary antagonist than anything, but the movie does end with the Duke leading a fleet of warships towards France. 

    In real life, George Villiers was a man whom King James fell in love with, and George used those emotions to gain political power. Villiers was something of a Warhawk, and he eventually led an expedition against France. 

    • Age: Dec. at 56 (1550-1606)
    917 votes
  • Captain America: The First Avenger pits Steve Rogers in the middle of WWII, but in lieu of him fighting actual historical figures, the good captain faces off against Red Skull and his Hydra agents. Interestingly enough, when DC tried to make their version of a world war superhero film, they pit Wonder Woman against a very real enemy, General Ludendorff. 

    In the film, Ludendorff is trying to create an even more effective and deadly form of mustard gas. Ludendorff's actions are so evil and repugnant that Diana believes him to be Ares, the god of war, in disguise. But Diana eventually defeats him and discovers that he is not, in fact, Ares. 

    Sadly, in the real world, Ludendorff actually existed, and Wonder Woman did not. General Erich Ludendorff, born in 1865, was a German commander most famous for winning the battle of Tannenberg. He was a big advocate for the expansion of Germany's military, so one couldn't really be blamed for thinking Ares was behind him. 

    • Age: Dec. at 72 (1865-1937)
    • Birthplace: Kruszewnia, Poland
    1,151 votes
  • In the 1999 Brendan Fraser-led film The Mummy, Imhotep is an ancient Egyptian who becomes the titular Mummy hundreds of years after his demise. In 1290 BCE, Imhotep is a high priest who begins a romantic affair with one of Pharaoh's mistresses. This leads to the mistress's doom, which Imhotep tries to reverse by performing a resurrection. Instead, Imhotep is stopped by Pharaoh's bodyguards and buried alive with flesh-eating beetles. Years later, when Rick O'Connell leads a team of adventures to Imhotep's tomb, they accidentally reawaken him as a powerful mummy. 

    While Imhotep was never resurrected to wreak havoc on the modern world as a mummy, he did actually exist in ancient Egypt. Well, a prominent Egyptian man named Imhotep really did exist, but the movie takes some liberties. The real-life Imhotep was an architect, astrologer, and personal minister to an Egyptian king named Djoser. While he was never resurrected, the real-life Imhotep's legacy was kept alive by a cult that worshipped him as a deity. 

    • Birthplace: Memphis, Egypt
    1,284 votes