There are few movie characters that stay with you, long after a movie has ended. It could be because the actor playing the role was exceptionally brilliant. It could also be because the writer wrote such a character – sometimes complex, sometimes idealistic and sometimes horrific, but always memorable. And it is the last category that makes our list today.
These characters were truly evil, in every sense of the word. Characters who performed dastardly deeds simply because they could, these are evil characters whose actions just can’t be justified.
Which is also why our list below does not include all iconic villains, just the truly horrendous ones.
1. Amy Dunne – Gone Girl
Rosamund Pike brilliantly brought to life one of the most messed up characters ever written – Amy Dunne. Her actions leave you horrified and you’re confused whether to admire or abhor her ruthless determination to achieve her goals (she hits herself with a hammer!). Evil has a new name and it’s Amy Dunne!
2. Esther – Orphan
We have had kids possessed by evil, we have had problematic children and then we had Esther/Leena Kramer (played by Isabelle Fuhrman), who was not really a child. But the extent that this 33-year old ‘child’ goes to, and the emotional and physical trauma that she causes the family, is hard to digest.
3. Joker – The Dark Knight
No doubt that Heath Ledger immortalized the role with his epic performance as The Joker. But Joker, the character, is one of the finest antagonist that DC comics has gifted pop culture. I could write a whole essay on his unique brand of evilness, but Batman’s multipurpose Butler, Alfred Pennyworth says it better, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
4. Hannibal Lecter – Red Dragon
Hannibal Lecter (portrayed expertly by Anthony Hopkins) is the cannibal serial killer who helps profile other serial killers. Because he is no ordinary killer, he is one of the most intelligent, well versed killers who loves the finer things in life. And dare you mess an orchestra performance – he’ll kill you literally, for the missed tune!
5. Raman – Raman Raghav 2.0
It is definitely hard to pick which character is evil in this neo noir drama, but I tend to stray towards Raman (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Because one can argue that if not for his egging, Raghav (Vicky Kaushal) would not have spiraled out of control in the end (though it’s a feeble defense). But the cruelty in Raman’s actions, even towards his own sister, leaves you thoroughly disturbed!
6. Rahul Mehra – Darr: A Violent Love Story
The character that saw Shah Rukh Khan turn into a stalker (long before he became Bollywood’s in-house romantic). Rahul Mehra took stalking to a whole new level, and his obsessive love for K-K-K-Kiran left many a girls weary of college crushes, and rightfully so. Did anyone say maniac?
7. Amon Goeth – Schindler’s List
Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) is a character that shows how Nazis actually managed to execute the concept of concentration camps. His evil is given a push because of the powerful position he is in, but the sheer joy he exacts from his role and the antipathy with which he treats the Jews make you question his humanity with every passing scene.
8. Warden Samuel Norton – Shawshank Redemption
Another evil character who abused his position of power, and with happiness. The worst thing about Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) is the fact that despite Andy’s continuous help, he refuses to even give him a chance for a better life – all for his selfish gain. He is manipulative, has a superiority complex and treats his prisoners like his slaves. Classic evil!
9. Lajja Shankar Pandey – Sangharsh
One of those rare movies that was brilliantly adapted from its Hollywood counterpart (Silence of The Lambs), and Bill Buffalo was evil, but Ashutosh Rana as Lajja Shankar Pandey is terrifyingly evil. His victims are innocent children, his belief is illogical superstition, his execution is the stuff nightmares are made of.
10. Gokul Pandit – Dushman
The brutal rape scene that shows the extent of Gokul Pandit’s (one of Ashutosh Rana’s finest performances) bestiality still sends shivers down your spine. Gokul Pandit as a character, and Ashutosh Rana’s portrayal, redefined what a cold-blooded killer could look like. It is hard to watch the movie more than once.
11. Mick Taylor – Wolf Creek
Ruthless, sadistic, and extremely gory – that’s Mick Taylor’s (John Jarrat) style of killing and it is horrific enough to put you off traveling. He was a psychopath – plain and simple.
12. John Doe – Se7en
It is hard to pick if it was Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of the character, or the character in itself that made John Doe so horrible. What is not debatable is that John Doe’s definition of exercising the seven sins is decidedly depraved.
13. Bhairav – Udaan
It’s a special kind of horror to have parents turn into predators. Because they are supposed to be our first protectors. Cruel in nature and a physical abuser, Bhairav (played wonderfully by the under-appreciated Ronit Roy) is a father no child would want.
14. Alex Forrest – Fatal Attraction
Hollywood definitely tops the place for giving us crazy stalkers – literally. Alex Forrest (Glen Close) leaves no stone unturned to get her man. Problem is, he is not her man, he is not interested and his kid does not deserve to be emotionally traumatized. If this movie does not keep you away from infidelity, then God knows what will!
15. Bellatrix Lestrange – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)
Bellatrix Lestrange tortures Neville’s parents to the point of insanity, viciously hurts Hermione, laughs when her own cousin dies (Sirius!!!!) and hordes an unhealthy obsession for Voldemort. She is evil all right, no other word for it!
16. Catherine Tramell – Basic Instinct
If you’ve ever wondered what a femme fatale is like, look no further than Catherine Tramell (take a bow Sharon Stone). Authors research for their novel, her research methods are a little too deadly – for everyone involved but her. Intelligent and ruthless, she is the sexy kind of evil – one you get attracted to when you most definitely shouldn’t.
17. Alex DeLarge – A Clockwork Orange
This movie is old, and a classic when it comes to epic evil characters. Because Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is not your off-the-mill psychotic. He is the kind who has been forced to reform, only to turn more vicious. As he thinks in the end, “I was cured, all right!”
18. Nurse Ratched – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
She is not the nurse you want to be stuck with ever! Nurse Ratched is wretched, who instead of sympathizing with her mentally ill patients, looks to them as playthings to control. Lobotomy – that is the extent she goes to, just to gain uninterrupted control of her ‘patients’.
19. Colonel Hans Landa – Inglourious Basterds
Wars can make even normal people turn to violence. But when you are Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), war is just an excuse to let your inner beast roam free. Soldiers have to kill during war, it is only the beasts who feel no remorse in killing even defenseless people.
20. Susanna – 7 Khoon Maaf
Many of you’d argue that Susanna (Priyanka Chopra in one of the finest performance ever) was a person unlucky in love. She was also the person whose response to any misdemeanor by her husband(s) (jealousy, infidelity, abuse, absolutely anything) was murder. Maybe it was a good thing she decided to go with an invisible husband in the end.
21. Anna Seth – Parinda
Nana Patekar gave a whole new outlook to the evil genius of Anna Seth. Bollywood has had many gangsters, but Anna Seth stands out. His terror is not like Gabbar’s (no less classic a character) recital of “Kab Hai Holi?”, it is the revenge fueled anger in which he kills a couple on their wedding night.
22. Norman Bates – Psycho
Mysterious killers definitely spike our interest, but Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) was a mystery we wish was never revealed. Disturbing to believe in, and appalling to watch, this is one killer who you run far, far away from – remember that smile in the end! *chilling*
23. Drew Barrymore – Poison Ivy
Drew Barrymore as Ivy proved it that evil has no age. And evil teenagers have no morals, or limits. Ivy is the queen of extreme ambition, who uses her brain just as fluidly as she uses her body. You condemn her actions, but morbid curiosity keeps you bound to see how the story will pan out. She is one evil bitch!
24. Isha Diwan – Gupt: The Hidden Truth
In the list of Bollywood crime drama, there are perhaps few movies where the suspense over the killer has been as profound as it was in Gupt. Isha Diwan (Kajol) was proof that sometimes, women can go crazy in love. The movie was more iconic than the character, but Isha Diwan is one of the rare times when Bollywood gifted us evil and female in the same package.
This list is restricted to movie characters, but Ramsay Bolton from the TV series, The Game of Thrones deserves a special mention, because let’s face it – he is evil personified!
Clearly, the movie industry that has been churning out such brilliant evil characters, has many other gems in its kitty. So if you feel there is any truly, horribly evil villain from any movie we’ve missed on, let us know in the comments section below.