12 Movie Antagonists Who Were Not-So-Secretly Named After Real People

List Rules
Vote up the villains who don't exactly give real people a great name.

What we have for your ranking pleasure today, dear friends, is a votable collection of cinematic villains whose character names are derived from real people. This compendium also includes characters who, at the very least, are not fully flattering references to their namesakes, if not necessarily outright villains.

To be clear, this list is not a collection of movie villains whose personalities are based on real people. We already gave you that list. It also isn't television antagonists who are based on real people, as we also supplied that list, too.

  • Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) is a cyberpunk hacker who betrays the resistance movement in The Matrix (1999). Cypher agrees to sell out his friends to Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), an enforcer program policing the Matrix at the behest of the machines that run it. Cypher is turning traitor in exchange for having his memory of reality (that the Matrix has constructed, and in reality, humans are being grown as food for machines and kept complacent by living in a virtual reality simulation) erased and his bank account padded by his accrued wealth as "someone important, like an actor."

    During a 2008 Buzz Magazine interview, versatile character actor Pantoliano reflected on perhaps his most famous role. In the scene, Agent Smith refers to Cypher by his given last name, calling him "Mr. Reagan." A popular fan interpretation is that this moniker is a reference to actor-turned-president Ronald Reagan, a rich and powerful man with a memory that would eventually be ravaged by Alzheimer's disease.

    "[T]he truth is that he’s got such a seductive choice," Pantoliano observed. "He says that he doesn’t want to remember anything. 'I don’t want to remember anything,' he says. 'I want to come back as somebody famous… like an actor.' An actor is the most benign thing - it is the biggest joke in the world."

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    49 VOTES

    Mayor Ebert From ‘Godzilla’ Was Named After Film Critic Roger Ebert, And Even Has An Assistant Named ‘Gene’

    The Roland Emmerich edition of Godzilla (1998) may not be particularly venerated now, but upon its theatrical release... it was similarly unloved, actually.

    One of the movie's more charming elements arrives in the form of its elected officials. We'll let Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert take it from here. "Oh, and then there are New York's Mayor Ebert (gamely played by Michael Lerner) and his adviser, Gene (Lorry Goldman)," Ebert wrote in his relatively unfavorable review of the film upon its release in 1998. "The mayor, of course, makes every possible wrong decision (he is against evacuating Manhattan, etc.), and the adviser eventually gives thumbs-down to his reelection campaign. These characters are a reaction by Emmerich and Devlin to negative Siskel and Ebert reviews of their earlier movies (StargateIndependence Day), but they let us off lightly; I fully expected to be squished like a bug by Godzilla."

  • When it came time to name the unforgettable serial killer at the heart of Halloween (1978), writer John Carpenter (also its director and composer) cooked up a spooky moniker that would haunt generations: Michael Myers. Carpenter named the homicidal maniac after the European distributor of his prior movie, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). 

    There is no indication the actual Myers, unlike his fictional counterpart, ever went on any holiday-set sprees. That we know of, anyway. 

  • Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), the sinister lupine cultist hell-bent on adding new members, was named after the producer and director of the seminal 1941 werewolf classic The Wolf Man. Director Joe Dante and screenwriter John Sayles took pains to sneak several clever werewolf movie-maker references among their character monikers. The Wolf Man set the table for many of the rules of late-20th century werewolf-ery and was such an instrumental resource for The Howling's own mythos that it was even shown at one point in the film as a frame of reference (although, as a savvy used bookstore manager notes in The Howling, The Wolf Man doesn't get everything about "real" werewolves right). 

    The classic Universal monster movie gets a fitting tribute here in the form of the Dr. Waggner character, the seemingly innocuous therapist of our heroine Karen White (Dee Wallace), who turns out to be the leader of what is essentially a remote werewolf recruitment retreat.

  • One of the best "we're not so different, you and I" baddies in the history of James Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), was the sinister star spy at the heart of one of the best 007 films ever, GoldenEye (1995). As the story opens, Trevelyan is an undercover Soviet mole (unbeknownst to us) who has infiltrated British intelligence network MI6, advancing to such a level that he is operating as a long-time colleague and friend to Bond (Pierce Brosnan) out in the field, the 006 to his 007. After faking his demise, Trevelyan finally realizes his final form, becoming the maniacal terrorist Janus, bent on vengeance and world domination.

    Per the James Bond Fandom page, production company EON was inspired to name their new villain Alec Trevelyan after John Trevelyan, the head of what was then called the British Board of Film Censors, doling out restrictive ratings to several Sean Connery-era Bond movies that would limit their availability to kid fans.

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    36 VOTES

    Steven Spielberg Named The Shark In 'Jaws' Bruce After His Lawyer

    Though the sea-based owner of the titular Jaws (1975) was never named on-screen, the 25-foot great white shark did earn a moniker behind the scenes. Director Steven Spielberg named the vicious people-eating critter after his attorney Bruce Ramer, as Ramer himself recounted in a Super Lawyers interview. This tidbit apparently was an element of the initial publicity surrounding the film's release.

    On the dubious honor of being named after a cruel killer, Ramer tried to stay open-minded. "I think sharks serve their purpose," he told Super Lawyers. "But it still has a slightly pejorative ring to it, don't you think?"

    Presumably, Ramer, considered to be one of the most powerful attorneys in the state of California once upon a time, struck not-insignificant fear in all who opposed him in the courtroom, at least?