In conjunction with the release of the supervillain spectacle Suicide Squad, we thought we'd compile a list of the best comic book villains to ever grace the silver screen.
The Joker (Heath Ledger):
Ledger's performance is not only fiendishly fun popcorn fare; it's a hypnotic and haunting work of art. The Dark Knight was released six months after the actor's untimely death, and his performance emerged as one of the most iconic in modern film history. Otherworldly yet achingly raw and human, it's the very definition of movie magic.
Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer):
Equally sinister and sympathetic, Pfeiffer ignites the screen in the criminally underrated Batman Returns. Her transformation from a meek secretary to a menacing night-prowler is nothing short of exhilarating. Pfeiffer makes the character's catharsis our own.
Magneto (Ian McKellen):
In 2000's X-Men, McKellen owns the screen, giving the metal-wielding Magneto a certain swagger and spiky sense of humor. He's so cool. When you watch him, you'll be afraid, but you'll also want to be him. What more could you want out of a villain?
Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe):
Dafoe chews the hell out of the scenery, but he never loses sight of the character's tragic side. The man behind Green Goblin, Norman Osborne, is the father Peter Parker never had, and Dafoe keeps him intact, revealing glimpses of humanity beneath the Goblin's monstrous exterior. It's a multilayered performance — cartoonish and fun but also tender and poignant, much like the film itself.
General Ross (Sam Elliott):
Mostly, I just love Ang Lee's Hulk. It's a bold movie, blending surreal action scenes with piercingly intimate human drama. This film took me back to my childhood with its crisp, exhilarating imagery of Hulk sprinting across the desert, bouncing off mountains and soaring through the air. The action scenes are vivid and vibrant, as if they popped out of the comic book panels and splashed onto the screen. And as Hulk's main enemy, Elliott mirrors the comics; he's tough and stubborn yet surprisingly sympathetic.
The Joker (Jack Nicholson):
Although it's not quite as rich as Ledger's performance, Nicholson's Joker is just as iconic. Disturbing yet devilishly charming, he is a ferocious force of nature.
The Penguin (Danny DeVito):
In Batman Returns, Batman and the Penguin are painted as kindred spirits — tortured orphans on opposite sides of the law. DeVito's poignant performance intensifies the tragedy of the characters.
Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina):
Much like Dafoe did with Green Goblin, Molina portrays Doc Ock as a father figure tragically consumed by his godlike powers.
Ultron (James Spader):
A dangerously self-aware robot, Ultron is the most mesmerizing character in the sequel to The Avengers, mostly because Spader fills Ultron's metal body with sardonic wit, using his velvety voice to seduce viewers into rooting for the bad guy.
Top Dollar (Michael Wincott):
As a crime boss in The Crow, Wincott shows a sense of sadness beneath the character's sinister behavior. He seamlessly inhabits the film's solemn, gothic atmosphere.