Best and Worst Comic Movie Villains

Comics, Film

Every great hero needs a villain, otherwise we’d have no need for superheroes.  With the current trend in turning comics into movies, inevitably, something gets lost in translation.  Either the script is terrible, the special effects are lacking, or the casting just isn’t right. While it’s bad enough when it happens to the hero, it’s almost worse when it happens to the villain.  If the villain is terrible, than the hero just can’t be good.  So here are some of the best and worst villains from comic movies.

The Good

General Zod

General Zod

The problem with Superman is that he’s too powerful.  Sure, we’d all like to have those powers, but when you’re trying to come up with villains for him, they either have to have kryptonite, or they have to somehow be even stronger than him, which is difficult to pull off when you consider how powerful Superman is.  In Superman II, we get General Zod.  Another Kryptonian, he has the same powers as Superman, but without the same moral hangups as our superhero.

Not only was the character itself perfect as it gave Superman an adversary that could match him on both a physical and an intellectual level, but Terrance Stamp’s portrayal of Zod is iconic.  The phrase “Kneel Before Zod” is stuck in our pop culture minds forever thanks to this film.

Xerxes

Xerxes

Loosely based on actual historical events, the film 300 was a box office success, thanks in no small part to amazing special effects and some spectacular action sequences.  While Leonidas is a king that we can all admire, Xerxes is a villain that you can as well.  Is he arrogant?  You bet, having made himself into a God-King to be worshipped and feared by his people.  But does he realize the value in offering to spare the lives of the Spartans so that they might fight for him as well.  Yep.

Sure, Xerxes wants to conquer the known world, but he’s also willing to do so without violence if possible.  This show of intelligence makes him far more dangerous as he’s clearly not some mindless dictator.  While he certainly has his moments when he lashes out and makes rash decisions, sacrificing soldiers in an effort to defeat the Spartans, he’s willing to let that all go if Leonidas will only kneel to him just once.

Dr. Octopus

Dr. Octopus

Spider-Man 2 was far and away the best of the three movies.  Not only was the story far superiors, but the villain, Dr. Octopus, was the perfect match for Spider-Man.  With his metal arms he was able to go toe to toe with Spider-Man, defeating him in fact on more than one occasion, but his superior intelligence is what really made him dangerous.

Now yes, the arms were sapping him of some of his sanity, and his decision at the end of the film to sacrifice himself to save the city so as not to die a monster was a bit of a cop-out, but when he was in full villain mode, he was one of the best.  Did it help that he was being portrayed by Alfred Molina, a top-level actor?  Sure.  But the character still has to be there, and Dr. Octopus is easily one of the best comic movie villains.

Ozymandias

Ozymandias

He used to be a hero, which makes his turn as a villain all the better.  Matthew Goode’s portrayal of Ozymandias in Watchmen really showed the disdain for the rest of humanity, which is what leads him down the path to being the villain of the story.  His status as the world’s smartest man, and being an accomplished fighter too, make him able to go toe to toe with Dr. Manhattan, as well as Nite Owl and Rorschach.

Ra’s Al Ghul

Ra's al Ghul

First of all, he’s played by Liam Neeson, which is never a poor choice to play any character.  Neeson’s portrayal as the brilliant Ra’s Al Ghul was all the better as we’re lead to believe through most of the movie that he’s not the character at all.  His use of all the skills that Batman possesses, plus his willingness to kill where Batman won’t, makes him uniquely suited to work against the Dark Knight.

Whiplash

Whiplash

Another brilliant mind that took Tony Starks work and twisted it to use against him.  Mickey Rourke was the perfect choice to play the bitter scientist Ivan Vanko, being believable as both the scientist and the villain bent on destroying Iron Man.  His drive and single-minded focus were similar to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, and watching Rourke and Robert Downey Jr on screen together was amazing.

Magneto

Magneto

He’s one of the best comic book villains ever anyways, and when portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen…magic.  McKellen did a great job of showing the humanity of the master of magnestism, while not hiding the fact that he wanted to ensure mutants ruled over baseline humans.  His turn from straight villain to anti-hero in X2 didn’t diminish this, and his turn in X-Men showed that he was committed, but foolish when he transfered his powers to Rogue in the final part of the movie, which is right in line with the character from the comics.

The Joker

The Joker

Ledger won a posthumous award for the role, so it’s clear he did a good job.  Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker as a character without motive, reason, and compassion was perfect as he didn’t let the Joker just slip into being a caricature.  You believed the Joker when he said that Gotham deserved a better class of criminal, and Alfred’s assessment that some men just want to watch the world burn was the perfect description of Ledger’s Joker.



The Bad

Blackheart

Blackheart

Ok, the movie being bad didn’t really help.  It’s hard to say if Blackheart’s appearance on this list is because of bad casting, bad writing, or just because outside of fans of the Ghost Rider comics, most people probably didn’t know who the character was.  Wes Bentley isn’t a terrible actor, but I don’t know that this was the best role for him, or for anybody really.

Sabretooth

Sabretooth

Yes, I know that Sabretooth has more than once gone completely feral in the comics.  That being said, his appearance in X-Men being played by Taylor Mane was beyond feral to the point of unthinking henchman.  Sabretooth has historically not played well with others in the comics, and yet he was a willing follower of Magneto’s.

While he kind of went out without a fight, getting blasted away by Cyclops, my biggest complaint was his portrayal as some big dumb fighter.  Sure he would fly into a rage, but Sabretooth was also a highly sought after assassin for some time, and you don’t get that way by being a mindless killer.  His turn in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a bit better, as Liev Schrieber imbued him with a touch more brains, but it was still disappointing the way they started with him on the big screen.

Galactus

Galactus

I understand that changes had to be made to the character for movies.  I do.  But to take it to such an extreme made the character less of a world-ending menace, and more of a tornado that just got out of hand.  While there were hints to his comic book appearance once the Silver Surfer attacked him, it was a bit of a let down for one of the bigger villains in Marvel comics.

Bane

Bane

In the Batman comics and novels, Bane is both physically and mentally a match for Batman.  Educated, he figures out Batman’s identity and crafts a way to draw the Dark Knight out in a manner that benefits him.  Physically, he’s enhanced with the drug Venom, and eventually breaks Batman’s back in the Knightfall storyline.  This was not the Bane we got in Batman & Robin.

A mindless henchman that couldn’t outsmart a whole in the wall is what we got.  Instead of a match for Batman, we got muscle for Poison Ivy.  A waste of a perfectly good character that I hope Chris Nolan uses in a more respectful manner in a future Batman film with Christian Bale.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Sure, having Uma Thurman in the skin-tight outfit was nice, but her go at Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin was only slightly better than that of Bane.  While her origin was similar to her comic book counterpart, what could have been a devious femme fatale devolved into a catty bitch.  This is another character that could be interesting in a re-imagining of Chris Nolan’s Batman world.

Mr. Freeze

Mr Freeze

While retaining the tragic origin of his comic book counterpart, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin was campy to say the least.  With recurring “cold” puns and a redesigned suit that enhances his strength, this Mr. Freeze is just one more villain in what widely considered the worst comic book movie ever made.

Two-Face

Two-Face

Another character where they managed to keep the origin true to the comics, but then spun off into camp.  With an overdone point of using the “two” gimmick, from his clothing, to girlfriends, to the use of plural pronouns when referring to himself, the character didn’t live up to the depth and multi-faceted nature that had been given to the character in the comics.

I like to believe this was a writing issue as Tommy Lee Jones can act, and while it was nice to see the character get a re-imagined by Chris Nolan in The Dark Knight, I think we’ll all always remember the bad version from Batman Forever.

The Riddler

The Riddler

I think if they were to do this again with Jim Carrey the result would be different, and I hope that the rumors of Chris Nolan using the Riddler for his villain in the next Batman movie are true.  That being said, the Riddler in Batman Forever was a cheap knock-off of the Joker, now the calculating and brilliant villain from the comics.

I think what makes this character so bad is that if you put Carrey in the Joker make-up I don’t think that anybody would know the difference between the characters, and therein lies the problem.  The potential for a character that is brilliant and doesn’t think to go against Batman physically is huge, too bad Batman Forever’s Riddler didn’t live up to it.

Ok, so who did I miss?  Got a good or bad one that you think belongs on this list?

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