14 Surprisingly Fun Villains In Super-Dark Movies

List Rules
Vote up the villains who added some flavor to the seriousness around them.

We all love to take in a super-serious, grim-dark film every now and again, don't we? Not all the time, mind you, but weighty films can provide some of the most memorable filmgoing experiences out there. And one of the great joys that comes from watching such a movie is when the actor portraying the villain, shockingly, is having a great time. Not just a great time… but a great time.

Like, when the actor is just chewing the scenery in a movie that is very much on the straight and narrow. Thank you, Colin Farrell, for providing two of these performances as the Penguin in The Batman and Bullseye in Daredevil. For other examples, think of Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege


  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is not the best Robin Hood movie around. Kevin Costner is woefully miscast. It's too long and convoluted. And, much like more recent takes on the character, it fails to highlight the sheer fun Robin Hood is meant to be. Even Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights understands that. The one person in Prince of Thieves who seemingly understood the material was the late, great Alan Rickman.

    Rickman absolutely steals the show as the Sheriff of Nottingham. While everything around him is all doom and gloom, Rickman gives the audience a zany, cartoonish villain for the ages. He giggles while killing his own cousin. The guy “calls off” Christmas. That's objectively hilarious! Where Hans Gruber and Professor Snape see Rickman play subtle, measured baddies, the Sheriff gives him license to be as outwardly campy as possible. Rest in peace, you great, great man.

  • While La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element, and Taken have their legions of fans, Léon: The Professional might be Luc Besson's most lasting work. And though Jean Reno is putting in serious work as the titular character and Natalie Portman showcases the immense talent that would make her an international superstar years later, it is Gary Oldman's unhinged performance as Norman Stansfield that takes the cake. 

    In the hands of a less-talented actor, Stansfield would merely come off as over the top. A caricature of real-life villainy, but nothing more. Thankfully, it is Oldman who brings him to life with all the drug-fueled insanity that comes with him. Have you ever seen someone menacingly sniff another person? Only a black-eyed, sweaty Gary Oldman could pull it off and remain so entrancing.

  • Daniel Day-Lewis is one of those actors. You know the type we're talking about. The kind that turns a simple, straightforward movie into a must-see event. To get a sense of his immense talent and clout, take the following into consideration: Day-Lewis has only appeared in a total of six films since 2002, and he ended up with an Academy Award for best actor nomination for four of them. He's won three Academy Awards for best actor since 1990 for crying out loud!

    Much like Day-Lewis's Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood, his portrayal of Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in Gangs of New York is equal parts hilarious and terrifying. Try not to smirk when he spurts out an insult near the beginning of the movie. “Is this it, priest? The pope's new army? A few crusty b*tches and a handful of rag-tags?” On the flip side, try not to be horrified as he repeatedly headbutts DiCaprio's Amsterdam Vallon with a blood-smeared face. No one really does it like Daniel Day-Lewis.

  • Denzel Washington is one of the last true superstars left in modern Hollywood. If you say “Denzel” when talking about Tinseltown, everybody immediately knows who you're talking about. That's the kind of fame he has. Slowly but surely, Denzel worked his way from off-Broadway plays to television and from the small screen to the big screen. And though he had garnered four Academy Award nominations by the turn of the century, including one win, he had yet to hold an Oscar for best actor. Until 2001's Training Day, that is.

    Even if you haven't seen Training Day, you're probably aware of Denzel's big scene by cultural osmosis. “King Kong ain't got s**t on me” is an incredible line, after all. As awesome as that infamous moment is, you have to watch the whole movie to revel in Washington's utter brilliance as dirty cop Alonzo Harris. He is equal parts hateable and entertaining. Truly masterful stuff.

  • Gollum In The 'Lord of the Rings' Trilogy
    Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers / New Line Cinema

    Tolkien fans were granted a few moments of comedic pleasure during The Fellowship of the Ring, usually by way of a hobbit or two, but by the time The Two Towers and The Return of the King rolled around, there were nearly no laughs to be found. It's not too surprising. You know… fate of the world stuff and all that jazz. Still, there was something mesmerizingly comical (at times) about Gollum throughout those two sequels.

    Sure, the tale of Gollum and/or Sméagol is tragic and his overall character is nothing to scoff at, but Andy Serkis and the computer magicians at Weta Digital were also able to make him funny at times, as well. If you can't have a nice chuckle during the scene where his split personalities argue with one another, then you're not having enough fun at the movies.  

  • Frank Costello is most likely going to go down as the last illustrious role in Jack Nicholson's unbelievable Hollywood career. Unless you're somehow a fan of schmaltzy drama The Bucket List or rom-com disaster How Do You Know, and Nicholson's performance in either, then 2006's The Departed is probably the final time we got to see the famous actor really go for it. The three-time Academy Award winner hasn't been in a project since appearing in a 2016 episode of The Fight Game with Jim Lampley and his last actual film appearance was back in 2010.

    If Costello really is Nicholson's final go-for-broke, scene-chewing performance, at least he went out with a bang. It's a total trip watching Nicholson gnaw like a rat between threats to Leonardo DiCaprio in an Oscar-bait drama. Much as he does with the Joker and Jack Torrence, Nicholson portrays Costello as if he were playing to the cheap seats in a theatre. It's hard to believe anyone would actually feel threatened by the nearly 70-year-old Nicholson, but he sure does say “f**k” a lot… so there's that.