GDB Essentials: 100 Years, 66 Villains
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 20, 2008
Here we go again
So, some of you more observant IITS readers may have noticed that I have long since aborted my 100 Years, 100 Songs project that I started back in February of 2007, getting as far as #78 (Blondie’s “Rapture”) before giving it up. The reasons for this were several, but the most important one was that all in all, it was a boring list. I thought I could write about relatively unwritten-about songs, or at least write about old hat songs in a new way, but ultimately, everyone knows why GnR’s “Welcome to the Jungle” is awesome, and there were too many songs I would’ve had to write about that were like that for me to see the list out to the finish. You just can’t write about a topic that broad and have it remain interesting to both read and write about.
With that in mind, I’ve set about on a new list, one slightly less ambitious (66 instead of 100, and I’ll be doing them in clumps of six) and one that I hope’ll be slightly more interesting. Now, I can hear your skepticism through the computer–indeed, the Best Movie Villain list is far from a new concept, as even that definitive Boring List fixture the American Film Institute has cranked out a top 50 already. But don’t navigate away just yet, because this isn’t your Uncle Jose’s Best Villain list. This is a list mostly devoid of your typical slashers, terrorists and psychopaths–this is more of a list saluting those greatest in emotional villainy. I’ll explain further, mostly by explaining the rules that disqualified many of the Usual Villainous Suspects from this list:
- The most important qualification: To qualify for this list of villains, you couldn’t have killed anyone. Your actions could have resulted in others dying, and you could even have ordered the deaths of others, as long as it was abundantly clear that you yourself could not have carried out the kill yourself. Even if you never killed anyone on screen, if it was made clear, or even probable, that you had before killed someone in your life, you’re out. Basically, this rule was made to disqualify all bad-asses from this list–characters like Darth Vader, The Wicked Witch of the West or HAL 9000, because even though they’re technically villainous, they’re too cool to be truly despicable. So if you saw a bad guy in a movie and thought “man, that guy/chick/robot’s a huge asshole, but I’m sort of rooting for them anyway, because he’s so much cooler than the good guy” chances are he or she is not on this list.
- You can’t be the protagonist of your movie–or, since some people on this list are technically their movies’ main characters, I should say that you can’t have the movie be shown from your perspective. If a movie’s from your perspective, then generally you’re already too sympathetic to be considered truly villainous.
- You can’t turn out to actually be OK at the end of the movie. You’ve got to remain villainous, or at the least, morally ambiguous, until the very end of the movie. (You can’t turn out to be mostly a good guy in a later installment, either, so forget about Apollo Creed).
- You have to be at least slightly effective in your villainy. So even though Farva from Super Troopers might technically be a more evil person than some of the people on this list, he’ll not be pictured here, because he’s too bumbling and incompetent to be considered a legitimate villainous threat.
- Your movie has to have at least one likeable, sympathetic person for contrast’s sake for you to qualify. So while he may have created at least a dozen characters worth of mentioning here, the films of Todd Solondz will make nary an appearance on this list.
- You definitely, definitely can’t have appeared on AFI’s Top 50. (Dammit, I had Mr. Potter in my top ten too!)
Basically what I’m going for here is a list of villains that really make you feel their villainy. They’re bad guys that you really don’t want to see do well in the end, because these guys aren’t gangsters or assassins or meglomaniacs, they’re the kind of bad guys you may have actually encountered in real life. So this list is instead rife with manipulative girlfriends, cruel boyfriends, abusive bullies, insensitive parents, despicable bosses, coaches and co-workers, and all the other sort of people that actually end up creating the largest percentage of the world’s misery.
I’ll be posting clumps of six intermittently, starting tomorrow. So start gritting your teeth, I suppose.