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

May 12, 2020 67.3k views46 items

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.

  • 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.

  • 1966: The Grinch - 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!'

    Photo: CBS

    Dr. Seuss's most acclaimed character came to the screen in animated form with the 1966 TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas! As everyone knows, the green furry creature possesses "a heart two sizes too small." As a result, he wants to ruin Christmas for the citizens of Whoville simply because their annual festivity annoys him. You don't get much more malevolent than that.

    The Grinch was beautifully voiced by legendary horror actor Boris Karloff, who allowed the character's bitterness to come alive. An immediate hit, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has gone on to become a bona fide holiday classic that families watch every year. 

  • Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance) is the head of SPECTRE, the terrorist organization James Bond is perpetually trying to foil, in You Only Live Twice. In the best 007 tradition, he's a unique, over-the-top figure. Blofeld has a massive scar running down his face, as well as a fondness for stroking his white cat while carrying out his devilish deeds.

    Pleasance's strong work made Blofeld an iconic Bond baddie - someone audiences couldn't forget and enjoyed seeing make repeat appearances. The villain has appeared in multiple Bond adventures, played by multiple actors (most recently Christoph Waltz), but his signature appearance remains his turn in You Only Live Twice. The character is so vivid that he ended up serving as a model for Dr. Evil in Mike Myers's Austin Powers comedies.