17 Villains Who Turn Evil Into A Work Of Art

List Rules
Vote up the villains who have an artistic method to their madness.

When it comes to movie and TV villains, there are all sorts of reasons why people do bad things. Some have the best of intentions and go about it all wrong, some are megalomaniacs who want to rule the world, some are cruel jerks who just like hurting people, and some are merely greedy.

Then there are these villains, who have grander ambitions - or think they do. These villains are artists, or want to be. They believe the world is their canvas, and they're just looking to make their mark. Sometimes that's literal, crafting a masterpiece out of... shall we say, unorthodox materials, while other times their heinous deeds are merely stepping stones on their path to artistic excellence. Whatever the case may be, these are all villains who turn being bad into an art form. Vote up the ones you think produce the greatest masterpieces of the macabre...

  • Hannibal Lecter - 'Hannibal'
    Photo: NBC

    Originally created by Thomas Harris in his series of novels that began with Red Dragon in 1981 and continued, most famously, with The Silence of the Lambs, which was made into a movie in 1991, the brilliant psychiatrist, serial killer, and cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter quickly became one of the most famous villains of modern literature or cinema. He has been portrayed on film by Brian Cox, Gaspard Ulliel, and, most famously, Anthony Hopkins. Beginning in 2013, showrunner Bryan Fuller adapted some of Harris's plots and characters into a series named for the dangerous doctor, in which he was played unforgettably by Mads Mikkelsen.

    In every variation, Lecter is a gourmand. Though he may make his meals using unorthodox ingredients (such as human flesh), he is an artist in the kitchen. Indeed, the meals prepared in the TV series Hannibal are so memorable that they inspired their own cookbook. The TV version of Dr. Lecter doesn't limit his artistic flourishes to the dinner table, either. The tableaus that he creates when he takes a life are often as elaborately staged as any work of art, and sometimes planned out years in advance.

    15 votes
  • The producer and showrunner of the eponymous series in The Truman Show, Christof (Ed Harris) is the one in charge of basically everything that happens in the life of Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), an unwanted child who was adopted by a corporation and, unbeknownst to him, made into the star of a reality TV show that is recorded in secret 24 hours a day.

    While the town where he lives is a set and everyone around him is a paid actor, Truman lives in blissful ignorance - until he begins to get some inkling that something is wrong. Unfortunately for Truman, Christof is extremely committed to his bit, and will do just about anything in order to keep the Truman Show on the air...

    6 votes
  • When you have a character whose name is basically "cruel devil," you know she's gonna be bad. Plus, her theme song tells you, "If she doesn't scare you, no evil thing will." That's... pretty bad.

    And Cruella's plan is certainly less than warm and fuzzy. She means to slay the eponymous 101 dalmatians in order to make a fur coat. Fashion is her fixation, you see, a fact that is picked up on in the various live-action sequels, prequels, and remakes that have followed on the heels of this Disney classic, originally from 1961.

    9 votes
  • "Swan... he has no other name. His past is a mystery, but his work is already a legend. He wrote and produced his first gold record at 14; in the years since then, he has won so many others that he once tried to deposit them in Fort Knox."

    So begins the opening narration (done by none other than Rod Serling) of Brian De Palma's rock-'n'-roll take on The Phantom of the Opera (by way of The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust). It's introducing the film's villain, played by real-life singer/songwriter Paul Williams, who also wrote and performed much of the movie's music. While in a typical Phantom of the Opera story, the Phantom is the villain, here it's the evil record producer Swan, who not only steals the Phantom's music, but also gets him to sign away his soul, all in the service of creating his own gaudy masterpiece.

    6 votes
  • 5
    11 VOTES

    The Joker - 'Batman'

    "I now do what other people only dream," Jack Nicholson as the Joker says in Tim Burton's 1989 version of Batman. "I make art until someone dies. See? I am the world's first fully functioning homicidal artist."

    Together with his minions, the Joker also invades an art museum, smashing, defacing, and otherwise destroying works of art until they come to a Francis Bacon painting (Figure with Meat), which the Joker spares, saying, "I kinda like this one."

    11 votes
  • Played by Kevin Spacey in David Fincher's rainy 1995 neo-noir, the serial killer known only as John Doe may not consider his own work specifically artistic, but there's no denying that he's trying to make a statement. While his crimes may be aimed at punishing his victims for their perceived "sins," the shocking tableaus that he leaves behind are meant as much for the police and the public - warnings about just why the "seven deadly sins" are called that.

    These gruesome dioramas of human suffering are every bit as much an artistic expression as they are a sermon against sin, and John Doe is their architect, carefully arranging everything for maximum impact.

    5 votes