Okay, so my first top ten villain list was all nice and well in getting us to feel sorry for the bad guy and to appreciate his feelings and recognize his pain and maybe sigh over how tragic and romantic and attractive he was, but enough of that already. It’s time to discuss the REALLY bad guys, the villains who don’t mess around with feelings—they just kill you, probably without thinking twice, blinking an eyelash, or breaking a sweat. Moral dilemmas? Please. These villains will not hesitate to do away with you and your entire family to get what they want, so keep as far away from them as you possibly can and watch your back and front at all times if you want to stay alive.
Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs: After seeing the movie, I am actually scared of Anthony Hopkins in real life. I know he’s probably just a really good actor, but better safe than sorry and avoid him, right? Both the book and movie are well worth checking out, not just for the remarkable character of Dr. Lecter, who is (spoiler) a forensic psychiatrist, a cannibal, a murderer, and a genius, but for the intriguing plot in which FBI trainee Clarice Starling makes the acquaintance of Dr. Lecter to get his help to catch a serial killer.
Judge Holden from Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy: Probably the creepiest, oddest, most terrifying and fascinating Cormac McCarthy character ever. He’s dangerous with a weapon or without one, and his speeches on death, war, science, and human nature are some of the most eloquent and disturbing things I’ve read. Whatever his agenda is, he’s definitely someone you don’t want to meet ever.
Reverend Harry Powell from The Night of the Hunter: This guy. Ooooh. Just thinking about him makes me mad-slash-scared for my life, because a villain this smooth and charming on the outside while being utterly callous and cold on the inside (cold enough to target innocent children) is pretty darn petrifying. It’s an absolutely amazing and riveting performance by the very talented Robert Mitchum though, so I highly recommend watching the film.
Serena from Serena by Ron Rash: There really is no other possible title you could name this book. The beautiful, manipulative, plotting Serena dominates the story as soon as she appears. She is just so intense and passionate–you can feel her presence and power on the page as she ruthlessly pursues what she wants, even at great personal cost. It seems that she really isn’t afraid of anything, and that’s not someone you want to be on a first-name basis with.
Other Mother from Coraline: What’s scarier than an evil twin version of your mother who wants to devour your soul and replace your eyes with buttons? I’m not coming up with anything and even writing this just reminded me that I need to bring an extra pair of pants with me the next time I see this film.
The White Witch from The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis: If it’s been a while since you’ve read the Chronicles of Narnia, go back and get reacquainted with Jadis, because she is worth getting to know and be terrified of. She has no qualms about murdering children, obviously, but she doesn’t stop there–she’ll take down her sister, her own world, and your world too if she needs to.
HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey: I blame HAL for all my irrational fears concerning technology. The idea of a computer having absolute control over my life gives me a tiny panic attack, not to mention a computer with a cold, calm, rational-sounding voice and ever-present, watchful, creepy red light. He is so menacing and smart, but so subtle and restrained at the same time. Anyway, if you ever see a small red light in your house, you should probably buy a gun and move.
Chigurh from No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy: I know, I know. ANOTHER McCarthy character? Well, yes, because this guy is a heckuva creep and an unfeeling sociopath to boot. He’ll politely ask you to step out of your car one minute, and skewer you like a pincushion the next without batting an eyelash. It’s probably too late to do anything if you get on his bad side for some reason (or, you know, for no reason at all), but if you happen to see him, run.
The Joker from The Dark Knight: Everything about this character is freakily frightening to me–the makeup is scary, the smile is creepy, his humor and delight in murder are disturbing, and even his name, the “Joker,” is confusing because you can never really tell if he’s joking or not. Two things are certain: 1) he’s dangerous and crazy, and 2) Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight is insanely awesome and everyone should watch it and be amazed/horrified.
Kevin from We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver: Holy crap, this book gave me the heebie-jeebies and gave me a huge fear of children that still hasn’t entirely worn off. That’s how scary the character of Kevin is. He’s straight up evil from birth, basically, and his depressed, insecure mother’s account of his life is filled with all kinds of frightening stories that would probably have made even Mother Teresa pack up, change her name, and abandon her life sooner than deal with this psycho insane teenager.
Previously in this series: