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12 Actors Who Played Supervillains the Best

July 2, 2017
10 min read

If I ask you the difference between a villain and a supervillain, you would probably answer me with a shrug and say: “The word super?” And then I would, being condescending and in my hubris, reply with a smile and say: “Everything.” There is a fundamental difference between the two. Playing a supervillain requires an individual to be the most repulsive, and the least likable, he can be. People often purport that making someone laugh is the toughest task in the world. Well, I say the task of making people absolutely loathe you from their guts is unmatchable.

Another advantage that the production houses of ten have when they have a “supervillain”, is the fact that they can make their hero a “superhero”, and give him unbridled powers. The camaraderie and repartee between the two is paramount, and Hollywood has managed to give us exactly that over the years. We at The Cinemaholic decided to list down 12 actors who played supervillains the best. Pay heed to the fact that these aren’t the most powerful supervillains, but the best portrayals of them. Happy reading!

12. Terence Stamp, “General Zod”

The 1978 ‘Superman’ was a ground-breaking film in a lot of aspects. Pioneering use of technology and special effects, coupled with one of the very first portrayals of a superhero, makes the film an influential and significant film. While Brando and Reeve stole the headlines for providing deft touches to their characters, Terence Stamp absolutely rocked in his role of General Zod, the evil leader of the three Kryptonian criminals who swears vengeance against Jor-El when he is sentenced to the Phantom Zone. Right from his appearance, to his harried and authoritative dialogue delivery, everything was equally perfect and spine-chilling. In what was the first rendition of the deleterious comic character, Stamp reveled and set high benchmarks for others who followed in his footsteps.

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11. Jesse Eisenberg/Gene Hackman, “Lex Luthor”

I love the two actors and performances so much, that I apologize for mentioning them both. Another one of DC’s iconic supervillains, Luthor is as intelligent, and perversely twisted as they come. An eccentric young businessman and hereditary CEO of LexCorp, who is obsessed with defeating Superman, Luthor has no boundaries of stopping to achieve his goals. He is a narcissist of the first order but complicated in that way as well in that he is terribly troubled and competitive and vengeful. He looks at Superman not as somebody to destroy but as genuine threat to humanity. The noble intentions, when seen from his perspective, fail to illicit non-supportive stance, and certainly gives us food for thought. But because of the fact that his primary assumption is wrong in the first place, empathy and sympathy are as far from his, as Kanyakumari is from Kashmir, Point Barrow is from Rose Atoll, or Donald Trump is from being capable enough to be called a human, let alone the President.

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10. William Dafoe, “Green Goblin”

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When the first Spiderman movie came out, I was still a kid. And even the sight of the devilish green monster sent ripples down my body, and rendered my inanimate. While a lot of it was due to his abrasive and provocative outfit and “gadgets”, a substantial part was due to Dafoe’s brilliance. Not your conventional looking six-pack Joe, his non-generic face, and the harrowing calm persona in chaotic circumstances was breath-taking. The immoral laughs and a relentless pursuit of lending perfection to the role culminated in us getting an iconic supervillain, and a promising career for a talented actor.

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9. Ed Skrien, “Ajax”

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Simply put, ‘Deadpool’ was all about Ryan Reynolds portrayal of the notorious and sarcastic superhero. And oh, Dopinder. But it was someone else who stood out and earned out respects: Ajax. An artificially-mutated member of the program that creates Deadpool, he feels no pain and has enhanced strength, that gives him super-human powers, and thus the supervillain tag. What was really admirable and venerable in his portrayal was the actor’s dedication to make the experience as authentic as possible. He reportedly performed about 80% of his own stunts, and went under gruesome and tormenting regimes of workouts for well over six months before shooting. His chiseled look and petrifying eyes, surely made the sword-wielding maniac avatar one to remember.

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8. Liam Neeson, “Ra’s al Ghul’

The first installment of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy absolutely pales in comparison to its other celebrated successors. Even though by no means any lesser of the film, the other two benefited from their mercurial director’s meteoric rise to fame. The 2005 film featured some really good performances, one of the clear stand-outs being Neeson’s turn as the legendary character of the mountain folklore. The ignominious leader of the League of Shadows, Ghul is noble in intentions, but pursues them in a draconian manner. His only purpose in life is to heal the world, but the way in which he intends to achieve the same conflicts the way Batman wanted to. Neeson is commonly cast as a mentor, so the revelation that his character was the main villain was intended to shock viewers. And so did his performance.

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7. James Spader, “Ultron”

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One of the most powerful villains in the Marvel cinematic universe, his turn in the latest Avengers installments stunned one and all. All ‘The Office’ fans were sent into a frenzy, when it was announced that Spader, our very own charismatic and enigmatic Robert California, was going to voice the ultra-tech supervillain. And he certainly didn’t disappoint. Spader has a way he talks and processes things. That calmness and confidence exuded into his portrayal of Ultron, a God-like AI, who desires to pacify the Earth by eradicating humanity. Director Joss Whedon stated that Spader was his “first and only choice” for the role, because of his “hypnotic voice that can be eerily calm and compelling” while also being very human and humorous. Even though we are treated only with his voice, Spader was required to act for the character, which later got converted into special effects.

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6. James Earl Jones, “Darth Vader”

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Darth Vader might be the most iconic villain in cinematic history, right up there with the shark from Jaws and Norman Bates from Psycho. With his trademark heavy breathing and intimidating outfit, it’s hard to believe that Darth Vader has actually been played by quite a few actors. James Earl Jones voiced the supervillain in his now legendary baritone, and played him to perfection. The little nuances he added to the character, were from his own cinematic understanding and intellect, something which is obscure from the public. Although never physically appearing as him, Vader’s symbolic status as a ruthless and powerful supervillain continues to remain intact even today due to the painstaking efforts of James Earl Jones. Hail Jones!

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5. Oscar Isaac, “En Sabah Nur”

En sabah Nur, a.k.a Apocalypse, was possibly the most horrifying thing I saw in 2016, right behind his sister from ‘Conjuring 2′. The main antagonist of the latest X-Men movie, born in ancient times, and presumably the world’s first mutant, he has a variety of destructive superhuman abilities, including telekinesis, cyberpathy, teleportation, and the ability to augment other mutants’ abilities. He has been described as the creative/destructive force of the earth. Oscar Isaac came to the attention of the world-wide masses with his portrayal, which was hauntingly poetic and beautiful in it own capacity an accord. The grossly talented actor played the loathsome villain with the precision of a surgeon, and went through cringing endeavors to get the character right, including going through extensive makeup and prosthetics applications, and wearing high-heeled boots to appear taller and a 40-pound suit. A salute to his artistic spirit and dedication!

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4. Michael Fassbender, “Magneto”

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A fan of the beloved franchise would instantly recognize which movie I am talking about. For the ones who aren’t, the movie in question is ‘X-Men: First Class’. I have always been in a quandary regarding the stance that Magneto opts for. He is neither a hero, nor a villain, but for the sake of this article and my appetite, let’s just say he is a villain. Supervillain would be a better word, owing to his limitless and intimating powers. What initially started out as a trsuting ally of Proff. Xavier’s, becomes a tout and vociferous enemy, owing to philosophical differences with him. An then what we saw was a spectacle. A sheer treat for the fans of the comic fans and mundane mud-bloods alike, and possibly the greatest exhibition of one of the most powerful supervillains imaginable.

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3. Tom Hiddlestone, “Loki”

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Such was the dexterity with which Hiddlestone played the inhumane supervillain (literally, he is a demi-god), I started abhorring the actor himself. Now recognized as one of the leading superstars and much loved (females, and some men) personalities, Hiddlestone’s spring-board to stardom was his turn as Loki in the Avengers movie. The absolutely evil eyes, substantiated with a devilish and afflicting smile, hiding behind which are plans to subverse the entire human civilization, were a sumptuous treat and a mountain of a challenge for the Avengers. His insouciant behavior towards others, and his blatant disregard for rules and order, are reflected in his devious intentions for some eight billion homo-sapiens, who just think he’s cute. The riveting portrayal brought back memories of Jack Nicholson’s Joker, somewhat similar in appearance, and vague in ambition. An outstanding effort!

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2. Tom Hardy, “Bane”

Intimidation and strength were redefined with Hardy’s portrayal of Bane in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, the harrowing culmination to Nolan’s insatiable trilogy. A mysterious and physically imposing revolutionary, who was excommunicated from the League of Shadows, portrays himself as a “liberator of pain”, and is desperate to continue Ra’s al Ghul’s legacy by destroying Gotham. Nolan chose the character to test Batman both, on a physical level, and a mental level. The masked voice makes for a petrifying experience, and the sheer physicality that Hardy brought to the role made us jump whenever Bane moved a muscle.

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1. Heath Ledger, “Joker”

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If there was even a whiff of doubt in your minds about who was going to be on top, you don’t deserve to live. Possibly the greatest character assumption of all time, Ledger became the first actor to have won the Oscar posthumously. He left no stone unturned in convincing us of his metamorphosis into the greatest supervillain of all time. He was Joker for the entire duration of filming, and perhaps accented into heaven in the same character. Secluding himself in a hotel room for six months, doing his own make-up and hair, and being the Joker, he left no stone unturned. He improvised many scenes, the most famous being the slow-clapping in the jail, which made the actors around him petrified of him. He asked Bale to punch him with full force in the interrogation scene to get a realistic sense of the Joker’s position. Oh, how the world misses one of the greatest actors of our generation.

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