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: Paramount Pictures
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.
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
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.
- Photo: United Artists
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.