THE DARK KNIGHT brings a long-awaited, classic villain back to the film screen: the Joker. You’ll have to wait until July to see the latest Batman flick and Heath Ledger’s posthumous performance in a role that made the American Film Institute’s top-50 villains list. Until then, in the honour of the greatest villain of all time—according to Wizard magazine, anyway—here is a list of villains that are the polar opposite. Whether it’s a lovable gunslinger or a big, dumb android with a heart of ice, these movies all have villains without skill or scariness. These villains are more likely to kill you with boredom than sharks with laser beams attached to their heads.
8. Ben Wade – 3:10 to Yuma
He’s handsome, sensitive, and he draws pictures of birds in a little sketchbook. Russell Crowe plays Ben Wade as the cuddly wuddliest roughneck in the Old West. Crowe was more badass in that stupid movie about wine and sweaters, A Good Year. In Yuma he sashays pathetically through the desert, delegating every evil act to his psychotic subordinate and generally wussing up the place. He would have lasted five seconds being deep and thoughtful in the real Dodge City.
7. Conal Cochrane – Halloween III
Halloween III is bad in a really bizarre way. Without Jamie Lee Curtis or Michael Myers it has nothing connecting it to the previous movies in the series. The plot deals with Conal Cochrane, an evil CEO, selling Halloween masks with imbedded computer chips that draw on the power of Stonehenge. When someone wearing one of these masks views a certain television commercial, their head will turn to mush (or occasionally make snakes and bugs). It’s up to some plucky kids to save the day. That’s a stupid plan, a stupid plot, a stupid villain, and a stupid movie.
6. Bennett – Commando
In order to fight Arnold Schwarzenegger and have it look believable, you need to be either a seven-foot-tall alien killing machine or a viscous-but-deadly robot from the future. If you’re a badly dressed weakling like Bennett in Commando, don’t even try. Commando was made in the mid 80s, when Arnold was still in his Mr. Olympia form and his biceps had biceps. In comparison, Bennett (played by Vernon Wells) looks like he’s been hitting the Twinkies harder than the gym. Their climactic fist fight is embarrassingly one-sided, with a shirtless, war-painted Arnold slapping Bennett around like he’s a fifth-grader.
5. Mr. Freeze – Batman & Robin
Arnold Schwarzenegger got a break from fighting lame villains in Batman & Robin and instead got to be one. Mr. Freeze’s evil plan is to steal a diamond that can cure his wife of a deadly disease—which is really not evil at all. One hulking body suit and a few terrible puns later, and we have the worst Batman villain in history. Schwarzenegger’s puns were so bad they put the Batman franchise into a deep freeze for the next eight years. At least the character wasn’t played by the other choice of director Joel Schumacher: Hulk Hogan.
4. Lex Luthor – The Superman Series
Lex Luthor is by far the lamest villain in any superhero film. The cornerstone of a good super villain is a good evil plan, and Lex’s are invariably stupid. In the original Superman, his plan is to break off a piece of California so that he can sell it to someone, or something—it’s never really clear. In the latest film in the series, Superman Returns, Lex makes a giant, self-replicating island out of kryptonite, an infinitely jagged rock that he somehow believes he can market as prime real estate. Forget him and bring back Bizarro, Superman’s mirror image, and then maybe Superman films won’t suck.
3. Bullseye – Daredevil
In my opinion, Colin Farrell isn’t a very good actor. For unequivocal evidence, rent the awful Daredevil. The film has many problems—chief among them is a plot entirely lacking in consistency or depth—but Farrell’s performance as Bullseye is particularly awful. His only superpower is that he’s really accurate, and even with this preternatural accuracy, Daredevil continually makes him miss. Farrell has no idea how to play the character so he runs the gamut of interpretations: from insane, to misunderstood, to melancholic, often over the course of one scene. If only they had written the part specifically for Farrell, because Drunken Irish Fighting Man sounds like a much more interesting villain.
2. Evil athletes – The Running Man
Arnold Schwarzenegger, more than any other actor, has been paired up with horrible enemies. The Running Man starts out well enough, but it takes a turn for the stupid once Arnie’s character is forced to fight for his life (on national TV) against a select group of mercenaries. These mercenaries include a hockey-playing samurai, an opera singer who shoots electricity, two useless guys with a chainsaw and flame-thrower, and the former host of Family Feud, Richard Dawson. They’re also all fat except for Dawson, who, ironically, is pretty villainous.
1. The Architect – The Matrix: Reloaded
The second Matrix film is a giant “fuck you” to anyone who was a fan of the first one. Its muddled plot, terrible special effects, and non-sensical philosophical ramblings make it one of the worst sequels ever. The original film had an excellent villain in Agent Smith, an unstoppable killing machine who could be anyone, anywhere, at any time. The second movie had a fat old Colonel Sanders look-alike who does nothing but spout a redundant, opaque monologue that sounds like it was written by a stoned grade-schooler after his first introduction to Neitszche. Ergo, the Architect is the lamest villain ever.
Tip o’ the hat to Peter Henderson for the scoop.