Monday, March 9, 2009

My Favorite Villains

When my fellow bloggers here on PFHT agreed on villains as our March topic, I made that “yuck” face and was glad they couldn’t see me though cyber space. I don’t write suspense, though I love to read it. When I discovered my blog date was a Media Monday, my expression and attitude changed. Villains in books, plays, TV and movies I can do.

So, I’m offering you my favorites. Yes, I know that sounds a bit crazy, but keep reading. I’m hoping you’ll end up sharing yours with me. Together we’ll jog each other’s memories of great villains we’ve known, hated to love or loved to hate.

Villain I couldn’t seem to hate: Sean Penn as Jimmy Markum, "Mystic River" (South Boston gangster). His portrayal left me feeling sad. He knew he’d screwed up and killed an innocent man, yet he’d done it while in a grieving father’s vengeful rage.

Villain that makes me shiver with horror: Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs.”
’nuf said.

Villains I love to hate: Louise Fletcher as Nurse Mildred Ratched, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (sadistic mental ward nurse) Grrrrrr!!! Who didn’t want to give a fist sandwich to this supercilious beyotch?

The wicked stepmother and stepsisters in Cinderella also came in a close second.

Villain I kept hoping could be redeemed: James Gandolfino as Tony Soprano, HBO’s “The Sopranos.” A womanizer and a killer, but there was something about this guy. I kept hoping he’d find some way to go straight and change his ways. What if he’d turned his charisma and power toward doing good?

Humorous/ridiculous villain: Richard Kiel as Jaws the metal mouthed baddie in Moonraker. Am I remembering this character correctly or was it just me that thought his badness was funny?

Hero as Villain: This was perhaps the easiest category for me. There are some heroes written in such a way that they have villainous moments. Jack Bauer of "24" and James Bond are two such characters. Though they have noble motives, both have to do things in their line of work--Yes, even murder--that in real life would make us cringe with horror. If these men were people we knew personally, would we invite them into our home?

Though villains are deliciously bad, such characters are powerful. Without them the story would be incomplete and blah. These baddies keep us coming back time after time to witness their awesome power. Please join me in remembering the villains that linger in your memory.


Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Carol:
I definitely found "Jaws" a funny villain in Moonraker. Isn't that the one where he falls for the tiny girl and their "love" is just hysterical?

Maxine Davis said...

I enjoyed your post! I think sometimes we just have to pull for the villain - if he's not bad through-and-through - I mean, really, Sean Connery has done some villainous things, but I do forgive him!!

Marilyn Baron said...

James Bond a villain? Not in my book. The same goes for Jack Bauer in 24. I don't care what he does. I still like him. But he must be exhausted. He never even takes a bathroom break. He's unpredictable but he does have a set of values.

If you think you know what's coming in the next episode of
24, then you don't know JACK!

I also cut Tony Soprano some slack but I do hate the way he disrespects his wife.

Marilyn Baron

Anonymous said...

Ooooo, Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter? I still shiver whenever I'm an elevator alone because of a scene in that movie :-)

You mentioned "humorous villain" and "hero as villain." Someone I love is actually "villain as hero" (and he was alternately humorous and tragic): Dr. Horrible (as written by Joss Whedon & several of Whedon's family and friends) for an internet musical, of all things. It first debuted online and is now available as a DVD from Amazon. Its mix of quirky and dark may not be for everyone but it's an origin story of how a villain rises to power and since it's mostly from his POV, he's the most sympathetic villain ever (whereas the "superhero" played by Castle's Nathan Fillion is something of a cheesy egomaniac). As a writer, it was interesting to see the reverse (and somewhat twisted) take on the old classic of a hero with a mild mannered alter ego getting his happy ending.


Carol Burnside said...

Debbie: Yes! They seemed so mismatched, but looked all googly-eyed at each other through the whole movie. LOL!

Maxine: Glad you enjoyed it. I do understand about 007. I forgive him too. :)

Marilyn B: I hear you. It's not that I don't still like them, but there are moments when I just go "Whoa, that was SO a villain-type thing to do." Let's just say I understand why Jack's daughter has distanced herself from him.

Tanya: Thanks for dropping by. I love Joss's stuff AND Nathan Fillion, though I'm not hearing good things about Dollhouse and haven't watched it yet. Castle is on my TiVO list.

Anonymous said...

My mother and I have been counting the days until tonight's premiere of Castle :-D

IMO, Dollhouse started slow but has been improving and I particulrly thought last Friday's episode (#4) was fantastic. I've heard Eliza herself say that her favorites are from episode 6 on out to the end of the (half) season. I'll be interested to see whether Fox takes another chance on it next year!

BTW, I recently read a villain in Jennifer Crusie's/Anne Stuart's/Lani Diane Rich's collaborative paranormal novel Dogs and Goddesses who fit the "love to hate" bill but was also quasi-sympathetic. An (evil) ancient goddess rises again to find that she has no worshippers and that today's world is sooooo not what she remembered. Odd book, but entertaining (especially for dog-lovers, as every main character as a pet integral to the plot)!

Cyrano said...

I think a humorous villain is Biff Tannen from the back to the Future trilogy. And so is Dr. Evil and Mini Me.
A villain that makes me cringe in horror is the guy from Red Dragon. When he bit that guys lips off I was truly creeped out.
And I agree with Marilyn, Jack Bauer from 24 is a hero in my book. Sure he uses torture on a regular basis, but the guy is completely honorable and have you ever realized he's insanely polite. He says please and thank you all the time.
Great post.
Have a lovely afternoon,

Carol Burnside said...

Okay, Tanya, you've got me more than curious now. I've got to TiVO Dollhouse and check it out.

Dogs and Goddesses, though? I think that's a little too far out for me.

Carol Burnside said...


OMG, I forgot about Biff. Yes, he's a perfect funny villain. Oddly enough, I've never seen more than snippits of the Austin Powers movies, though I do enjoy Mike Myers work.

Thanks for stopping by!

Dianna Love said...

This has been such an entertaining month with villains.

I have to agree that I hated the nurses on One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (we just saw that again about 2 weeks ago) - great movie to evoke such emotion. As for villains as heroes - the one that comes to mind is Dexter. He's the protagonist, but put in black and white terms he's a serial killer, which makes him a villain. But not in the story role.

And I'm mourning the loss of one villain - the Joker - because I can't imagine anyone else topping Heath Ledger's protrayal.

Marilyn Baron said...


I am also a big DEXTER fan. It does sound crazy to have a serial killer in the starring role but he's so complex and I think, likable, that I can understand what he's all about and why he does what he does. The writing on that show is superb. I guess that proves that anything is believable if it is well written.

Marilyn Baron

Linsey Lanier said...

Great post, Carol. I love your categories. Glad someone mentioned Tony Soprano. My husband rented a whole season or two during my first M&M years ago, when I left him home alone. He couldn't stop talking about it. We've both been fans ever since. We both hated the finale. :)

I'd say T fits into many of your categories, except for the first and last. Probably one reason the series was such a success. I hated the way he treated his wife, too.

Even though I've watched the Sopranos, I am too chicken to watch "Silence of the Lambs." I know I'll have to eventually, since it's such a great portrayal of a quintessential villain, but I know I'll have nightmares...


Ana Aragón said...

The scariest villian in my book? Glenn Close as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction. I mean, cooking up some little girl's rabbit for dinner?

Great post, Carol.


Susan May said...

Okay, go way back--Wicked Witch of the West. First real villain I can remember.

Carol Burnside said...

See? I knew you ladies would come up with some great ones.

Dianna - I haven't seen The Dark Knight yet, but just bought it so will soon. I've heard nothing but rave reviews about Ledger's performance and have enjoyed every performance of his I've seen. Will have to put watching that on my agenda very soon!

Linsey Tony's relationship with his mother really warped him. I didn't like how he treated his wife either, but I kinda understood why he didn't have a lot of respect for women.

As for Silence of the Lambs, don't feel bad. I had to close my eyes several times so I wouldn't have nightmares about what I was sure to see. I'm chicken like that, but it's easier dealing with the teasing from others than enduring the visions in my dreams.

Ana Oh, yes. Alex Forrest was VERY scary. I'll never forget that bathtub scene!

Susan Oh, yes. She gave chills to many, many children through the years. Good one.