Monday, November 29, 2010

10 FAVORITES (12) - Villain Actors

First of all, let me apologize to all those who read my blog regularly (if there are any!) and were hoping last week for a new 10 FAVORITES list. Thanksgiving week was a bit of a distraction and things slipped away from me. As a gift to the disappointed readers, I will do two lists of 10 FAVORITES this week (one today and one tomorrow). And next week, I will begin another month-long Holiday edition of 10 FAVORITES (all related to Christmas and New Year's, of course!).

The first of this week's two 10 FAVORITES lists is about actors, but not just any actors. There are many actors who can play all sorts of roles. But there are a limited amount of actors who can play the villains (and play the villains well, I might add!). Yes, there are several specific characters who are villains that we know and love (some people freakishly so!), but it is the actors who make characters like these so good. And some of these actors make their careers out of playing nasties, baddies and thieves (OH MY!). Today, I devote this list to:


Mark Strong
This actor has only fairly recently been snapping up all the good villain roles, fighting Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes and Russell Crowe in Robin Hood all within the last year alone. He first came to my attention in the 2007 so-so fantasy film Stardust, in which his vicious Septimus (below) was a secondary villain to that of Michelle Pfeiffer (someone who also plays villains quite well, see my view of Batman Returns).

David Warner
The great character actor David Warner has almost always played a baddie. In one of his first films, 1963's Tom Jones, he played Albert Finney's nasty and cruel cousin, Bliful. Since then, he has played villains in BOTH film and television including the 1978 miniseries Holocaust (as Michael Moriarty's wicked Nazi commander) and the 1982 cult classic TRON (as the mean corporate raider, his game counterpart Stark and the voice of the evil computer itself). Below is his appearance as a Cardassian interrogator torturing Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) on a 1992 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Miranda Richardson
Ladies, don't hate me, but Ms. Richardson is the ONLY woman to make this list. Maybe someday I will do the "Best Villain Actresses" to make up for it. And sure, women can be just as mean and villainous as the boys because Miranda Richardson is ample proof of that. Her performance in the great NBC miniseries Merlin as the wicked Queen Mab (below) is absolutely delicious. She followed that with a role in the miniseries Alice In Wonderland as, who else, the Queen of Hearts. Whether it is playing the aggravating Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter (not really a villain, just annoying to Harry) or the arrogant mother of Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria (with Mark Strong!) or a murderer in Sleepy Hollow (SPOILER!), she is just one of the best Villain Actresses and worthy to be on a list with the guys.

Christopher Lee
Ah, the great Christopher Lee has had such a career (and a resurgence in the last decade!). He has played evil wizards (in The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and evil Jedis (in the Star Wars prequels). He also had a legendary career in the Hammer Horror films of the 1960's and 1970's as Count Dracula (below). He was the first to tackle the role after Bela Lugosi had made the character so iconic. And, if nothing else, it is his deep tenor speaking voice that makes him so well known and so fitting for a villainous role (see The Last Unicorn where he voices the embittered old king).

Robert Mitchum
My mother was never a fan of the late Robert Mitchum and, based on some of his film roles, there was good reason! He played the evil Max Cady in the original Cape Fear and terrorized Gregory Peck (who was always Atticus Finch to me!) and his family. He also played the corrupt and wicked Reverend in Charles Loughton's The Night of the Hunter (below), which is considered his best and most famous role by many critics.

Christopher Walken
This is probably everybody's favorite crazy bad guy. The timber of his New York-style voice can sometimes make the ickiest of characters feel nervous. Even in one of his earliest stage roles, the Broadway production of the play The Lion In Winter, Walken played the nasty French dauphin. There truly is no one like him and there never will be. Take a look at him as a vicious (Sicilian) mobster brutalizing the late Dennis Hopper in Quentin Tarantino's violent and crazy True Romance.

Gary Oldman
I've said this before and I will say it again: Gary Oldman is one of the most underrated actors. Recently, he has been playing more good guys rather than the bad guys we love him as (see him in Christopher Nolan's Batman films as Jim Gordon or as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films). But his roles as nasty and wicked bad guys made audiences realize how good an actor he is. See him as Punk's bad boy Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy or as the vicious Senator politically attacking Joan Allen in The Contender (and those aren't the worst of the baddies he's played). Of course, who could forget him as the title character in Francis Ford Coppola's retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula. And then there is his dastardly role as a terrorist on Air Force One in, well, Air Force One (below), which is one of the finest performances of his career.

Tim Curry
If anyone has made a career out of playing character parts that are mean, dastardly, shady or even flat-out villains, it's Tim Curry. There really isn't much more to say about him. Just take a look at his long list of credits on IMDB. Or, better yet, just look below at his tour-de-force performance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His version of the classic "Sweet Transvestite" has never ever EVER been matched. He is forever linked to this role, whether he likes it or not!

Vincent Price
Probably the ultimate master of horror, Vincent Price just dripped with elegance and villainy in any role he played. His credits are too many to list, so like Tim Curry above, go to IMDB and take a look at the long list (literally, almost all horror films and villains!). His iconic laugh is so chilling, it even begins the trailer for one of his most famous films, House on Haunted Hill, the classic horror flick in which Price invites several people to his macabre mansion where things "go bump in the night" and beyond (below).

Ralph Fiennes
One of the best actors around today, Ralph Fiennes has a powerful presence and clear voice to match. Though he is great as a romantic leading man (Wuthering Heights and The English Patient), it is evil and nasty villains that we really love him for. Just remember him as a mob boss after Colin Farrell in In Bruges or the voice of the Pharoah Rameses in the highly underrated animated musical The Prince of Egypt (he even sang!). But it is two villainous roles that Fiennes will forever be noted for. The first he did way back in 1993 for Steven Spielberg in the masterpiece film Schindler's List. His Nazi commander Amon Goethe is one of the most bone-chilling and psychologically masterful performances ever captured on film. However, it is his role as Harry Potter's wizard nemesis Lord Voldemort that Ralph Fiennes will be remembered. As Voldemort, Fiennes brings the same chills and cunning he brought to Schindler's List (just look below at the trailer for the last movie, sorry no clips as Warner Brothers is very protective of the Potter franchise).

Alan Rickman
Hard to believe that Professor Snape would be higher than Lord Voldemort, eh? But Alan Rickman has been frightening (and delighting) audiences as villains ever since playing the evil Hans Gruber in Die Hard in 1988. Since then, he has amassed fans from films like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (below, where he is the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham) and Sweeney Todd (as the cruel judge Johnny Depp's Sweeney is after with a vengeance). And, of course, as Professor Snape in ALL of the Harry Potter films, well let's just say he makes being mean look so good.

So, there you have it: THE 10 BEST VILLAIN ACTORS. It should not be a surprise that almost all of them (save Christopher Walken and the late Robert Mitchum) are British. Maybe "the Brits" just do bad better than "the Yanks." Tomorrow, I will give you all another of my 10 FAVORITES, but it will be a much happier subject: Sesame Street!

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