For Your Consideration - Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor (The Dark Knight)

For Your Consideration - Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor (The Dark Knight)

Preparing this list I never had any doubt who would come out on top. My question was, given the way I was ranking the characters, by how much of a margin would he come out on top? The answer was: a healthy one.

The interesting thing about this list is that even though Marvel has been considered the more “in” company for a long time, the more adult, and has had considerable success on film this decade (and it’s fair share of colossal failures), it’s DC who has done a better job with the villains. As Marvel cements its brand on-screen in the next couple of years with Iron Man and Hulk sequals and Captain America, Thor and Avengers films, it will be nice if they can get the villains right.

Anyway, to create this list, I used a 1-10 scale in five categories: Interesting, Evil, Intelligence, Fidelity to the Comic Book and Performance. So the point totals are out of 50.

Worst Villain Ever: Nuclear Man (Superman IV) – Mark Pillow – 1 point

In 1987 it was an important stand to make – the argue against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. And Christopher Reeve was a good person and fun to watch on screen, but this was a terrible idea for a villain. He was boring, stupid and badly portrayed. I really thought Dr. Doom or Mr. Freeze (I considered giving Arnie negative points for his performance) would end up last but when I started to go through the films, I suddenly remembered about Nuclear Man. How sad.

10. Dr. Octopus (Spider-Man II) – Alfred Molina – 35 points

Marvel’s on-screen villains actually lose points on the evil scale (except for Dr. Doom) because one of the things Marvel does best is make its characters morally gray.

9. Two-Face (The Dark Knight) – Aaron Eckhart – 39 points

Two-Face also loses points for not being truly evil, but Eckhart was brilliant and that was lost in the shadow of Ledger’s performance. And they did a great job of making the character true to the way he had been written in Long Halloween.

8. Ra’s Al Guhl (Batman Begins) – Liam Neeson – 40 points

I’m assuming that if you’re reading this list, you’ve seen Batman Begins (which until this summer contended with Spider-Man 2 for the title of Best Comic Book Film), and you already know that Neeson is Ra’s. Batman has always had the best rogues gallery and 6 of them made the list.

6t. The Scarecrow (Batman Begins) – Cilian Murphy – 41 points

Back in the 80’s, I wanted either Tom Hanks or Robin Williams as the Scarecrow. Now I can see they both lacked the requisite intensity and sheer insanity.

6t. Mr. Glass (Unbreakable) – Samuel L. Jackson – 41 points

I arbitrarily assigned him a 9 for Fidelity, because there’s no comic book source, but it is so true to comic book mythology and is such an underrated film. It was badly marketed as a Sixth Sense type film, when it is so much more than just a suspense film.

5. Magneto (X-Men) – Ian McKellen – 42 points

He loses a few points because he’s a magnificent shade of gray – not particularly evil, just devoted to his world view and to keep his people (mutants) from being wiped off the face of the planet the way his other people (Jews) almost were.

the best Catwoman

the best Catwoman

3t. Catwoman (Batman Returns) – Michelle Pfeiffer – 43 points

Sexy, dangerous, Oscar worthy performance.  It was great to see her return to prominence with two great villainous performances last year (Hairspray and Stardust).  She remains the one and only Catwoman for me.

3t. Lex Luthor (Superman) – Gene Hackman – 43 points

He actually got a full 10 points for Evil (he was willing to kill 20 million people just to get some good prices on land), and his performance is so perfect.  He wasn’t nearly as great in the sequels, but he’s still the best criminal mind of our time.

2. The Joker (Batman) – Jack Nicholson – 44 points

Of course, it was always going to be hard to beat Jack.  His maniacal turn as the Joker made everyone forget what a brilliant understated performance Michael Keaton gave as Batman.  And he was the best for a long time.

1. The Joker (The Dark Knight) – Heath Ledger – 49 points

But the torch has been passed.  It wasn’t even close.  10 for Evil, Interesting, Fidelity (the different stories he tells about his scars bear out the different origin stories attributed to the Joker over the years) and Performance (he deserves the Oscar – but of course, he deserved it three years ago too).  He gets a 9 on Intelligence, but that’s because it’s hard to compare to Luthor and Magneto.  But he is the ultimate Comic Book villain with the ultimate performance.

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