Who Was The Signature Movie Villain The Year You Were Born?

What was the best movie villain the year you were born? These cinematic bad guys reflect how movies and tastes have changed over the decades, as audiences have responded to different depictions of evil. Some of the villains are straight out of horror movies, while others come from thrillers, sci-fi adventures, or dramas. Most are fictional, but two of them are based on real-life individuals who committed actual atrocities. There are even gender differences. In six years between 1960 and 2005, the villain who made the biggest onscreen impact was a woman. 

You'll also notice a difference in how these antagonists are presented. Was the most popular villain the year you were born a figure that could only come from someone's imagination, like Darth Vader, or was it a character who could theoretically exist in real life, such as Hannibal Lecter? Whatever the case, this list of the signature movie villains by year will tell you who audiences were rooting against when you came into the world.

Photo: 20th Century Fox / Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.

  • It's a testament to how evil Norman Bates is that he remains a household name 60 years after Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho was released. So many cinematic villains have followed since then, yet he remains a hall-of-famer. Anthony Perkins plays the motel proprietor with a shocking secret.

    Norman commits one of the most notorious acts of evil in movie history when he takes a knife to Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in the shower. Even more disturbing is the eventual revelation that he dons his deceased mother's clothing and assumes her identity when in slasher mode. Everything about this character gives us the chills.

  • Cruella de Vil's name tells you everything you need to know about her. "Cruel" is right there in her first name. Mash the two parts of her last name together and you get "devil." Cruel devil. Those geniuses at Disney knew what they were doing when they created a tongue-in-cheek villainess audiences could laugh at even while actively despising her.

    She is, of course, the baddie in One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Her nefarious goal is to swipe some innocent puppies to create a coat out of their fur. Although the whole movie is good, Cruella is far and away the most memorable character. Due in large part to her delightful wickedness, the movie has become a Disney classic, adored by generations of families.

  • Lee Marvin was one of the great screen tough guys, so whenever he played a villain, it was a real treat. In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, he plays the guy on the receiving end of the bullet, a no-good louse who holds the Western town of Shinbone in his grip. James Stewart is the new lawyer in town. Years before, he was mugged and whipped by Valance. Sparks fly upon their reunion.

    Marvin pulls no punches playing this antagonist. He takes Valance as low as possible, making him an utterly detestable creep with little or no trace of decency anywhere inside his soul. We know that Stewart tended to play good guys who won at the end of the day. Marvin is so mean, though, it's enough for viewers to doubt whether that will be the case this time around - even with the spoiler in the title.

  • Dr. No was the first James Bond film. Twenty-five have followed - and counting. We can reasonably assume the franchise would not have thrived the way it has without a strong villain in the first movie, one who could go toe-to-toe with 007 himself. Joseph Wiseman pulled that off as the title character, a member of SPECTRE, the noted underworld organization that would become prominent in the series.

    Wiseman and Sean Connery have some awesome scenes together, especially when Bond causes Dr. No to sink into a nuclear reactor pool. The magic that comes when a strong hero and a strong nemesis square off is palpable. With his metal hands and sinister demeanor, Dr. Julius No is an imposing figure - and set the tone for Bond villains to come.

  • Bond villains are notably colorful, and Auric Goldfinger exemplifies that in the film that shares his last name. The character, played by Gert Frobe, is obsessed with gold. Actually, "obsessed" might be too mild a word. He even factors it into his crimes. When he's not tying Bond to a gold table and aiming a laser at him, he's covering a woman head-to-toe in lethal gold paint.

    Goldfinger is one of the most popular Bond antagonists and it's easy to see why. His gold-related schemes are both clever and thrilling, and one of his particularly sinister lines - "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" - is arguably the most well-known catchphrase to come from a 007 villain.

  • 1965: Clang - 'Help!'

    The Beatles are the biggest band of all time, responsible for dozens of classic songs. Who could possibly hate them? Clang, for one. The character, played by Leo McKern in the movie Help!, is the high priest of a cult. When Ringo Starr ends up with an important sacrificial ring, Clang leads his flock in an effort to get it back. Soon, all the band members are in danger.

    Help! is not as good a film as A Hard Day's Night, but that scarcely matters to Beatles fans, who happily keep its popularity going. More than 50 years after its initial release, the picture remains a favorite among the Fab Four's many, many devotees.