Great Villains In Not-So-Great Movies

Over 400 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Great Villains In Not-So-Great Movies
Voting Rules
Vote up the villains who elevate so-so movies.

Even disappointing and mediocre movies have notable qualities, and it is the villain that impresses in these not-so-great films. Despite shortcomings in the movie surrounding them, the bad guy is undeniably great. This may be due to the strong writing or a memorable performance from the cast member making the villain effective - however unmatched by the remaining elements of the movie.

Occasionally, the strength of the screen villain is even enough to elevate the rest of the movie from being a complete waste. The writing may be subpar, the protagonist may be forgettable, and there could even be an assortment of technical shortcomings, but a great villain can still leave a lasting impression on the audience. Some films have bland or underdeveloped bad guys who are little more than a device to move the plot forward, but these film antagonists are completely fleshed out and fully utilized. 

Which villains are great despite the mediocre movie they are in? Vote up your favorites below!

  • There is plenty to criticize about George Lucas’s first Star Wars prequel, but that does not include Darth Maul. The villain was brought to life with the help of two actors, Ray Park as the body and Peter Serafinowicz as the voice, but this is a villain elevated by design elements as much as the performances. The cloaked Sith apprentice has facial tattoos inspired by the Indigenous peoples of Brazil, along with a color scheme and horns to adopt attributes often associated with the devil.

    The character of Darth Maul felt destined to be the film’s most popular action figure, wielding an intimidating double-bladed lightsaber in some of the film’s most exciting action sequences. Even though Darth Maul met a grisly demise in the film’s climax, the villain was popular enough to reappear in the animated shows, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, as well as the prequel spin-off film, Solo: A Star Wars Story.

    322 votes
  • Alan Rickman elevated Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham, a villain who easily falls into the “love to hate” category. As a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a Tony Award-nominated Broadway actor, Rickman brought prestige to the performance as the corrupt and cruel sheriff.

    Capable of drawing the audience’s contempt with a sneer and snide remark, Rickman's depiction of the Sheriff of Nottingham is nearly as memorable as his turn as the head bad guy in Die Hard. Rickman earned a well-deserved BAFTA Award for his supporting performance as the iconic villain from the English folk tale.

    284 votes
  • Tim Curry’s body was entirely encased in makeup and prosthetics to play the Lord of Darkness, a villain who resembles a beefed-up depiction of the devil. The demonic bad guy has an evil plot to cover the world in endless darkness in Ridley Scott’s fantasy film, which never quite lives up to the potential provided by a truly terrifying villain.

    Darkness is the most memorable part of Legend, even with Tom Cruise as the leading protagonist, thanks in large part to the impressive makeup effects and Curry’s committed performance. Although Legend was considered a commercial failure upon release, Curry’s performance as Darkness has had a lasting impact. 

    220 votes
  • Regardless of the quality of The Devil’s Advocate, the casting of Al Pacino as Satan in human form was a stroke of genius. Based on Andrew Neiderman's novel, the film follows talented young lawyer Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) as he begins working for a large New York City firm run by a man named John Milton (Pacino). Aptly named after the author of Paradise Lost, Milton is eventually revealed to be the devil, who plans of bringing the Antichrist into the world.

    The character allowed Pacino to give a scenery-chewing performance that is equally terrifying and amusing, and it is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role. Even if details about the plot are unmemorable, Pacino’s acting in The Devil’s Advocate is unforgettable. 

    214 votes
  • As amusing as Robin Williams is playing an adult version of Peter Pan, the title of Hook establishes the scene-stealing character in the film as the villain, Captain Hook. Brought to life by Dustin Hoffman, Captain Hook is a pirate with ludicrously gaudy clothing and a hook in place of his severed hand.

    Rather than playing the villain as frightening, Hoffman played the character without any self-awareness, often behaving no differently than a petulant child despite his disdain for the younger inhabitants of Neverland. Although Hook is a capable swordsman, what makes him amusing is the comedic approach Hoffman brought to the role rather than any efforts to make him frightening.

    266 votes
  • 6
    157 VOTES

    Herod In 'The Quick and the Dead'

    Although it is interesting to see director Sam Raimi bring a horror filmmaker’s approach to violence in the Western genre, The Quick and the Dead is unremarkable in a lot of ways. One of the few elements that work is the villain, a ruthless outlaw named John Herod (Gene Hackman) who runs a town named Redemption in the isolation of the Old West.

    While he dresses and speaks in a sophisticated manner, Herod is also capable of brutal violence, even toward his own son (Leonardo DiCaprio). The plot of The Quick and the Dead never matches the potential brought by the character of Herod. 

    157 votes