Friday, September 27, 2013

Villains Pecking Order

If you watch enough movies, especially those of the action genre, you will eventually begin to notice that there seems to be a natural pecking order for groups of movie villains. For whatever reason, certain classes of villains just seem to work better than others. So being of a curious nature, I decided to keep a close eye on the various movies I watch to decide if I could correctly sort out the various groups of villains and establish once and for a definitive pecking order.

1. Nazis

As seen in Raiders, Last Crusade, Schindler's List, Inglorious Basterds, Captain America (for all practical purposes). There is one indisputable fact. The world can’t agree on anything but this – we all hate Nazis. Even Nazis hate their fellow Nazis deep down. 

The undisputable king of movie villains

2. Eastern Europeans

As seen in Die Hard, Die Hard 3, Air Force One, and often played by Sean Bean. These guys fare shockingly well. They are often bland, but overall, thanks to highlight reel performances from the likes of Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman, they ultimately are very effective as villains, and Hollywood doesn't mind using them.

3. Dictators of Made-Up Countries (and Their Henchmen) 

As seen in Die Hard 2, Commando, The Expendables, various Bond films
They are generally supremely confident, happy to boast of their plans, and even happier to cackled after boasting of those plans. They prefer to employ the biggest idiots possible as henchman, along with ex-American mercs who usually have an axe to grind with our hero. Generally, nobody is offended by them because of the fictional nature of their nations.

4. White Americans 

As seen in Dances with Wolves, Avatar, Malcolm X, Glory, Pocahontas.
Could we be any more evil? If it wasn't for the cliche of the one single good white person willing to stand up to his evil brethren, then we would be tough to beat. Luckily, that one guy will often find a love interest who kindly teaches him how evil he is so that he changes his ways.  

5. The British

As seen in Braveheart and the Patriot, Harry Potter, honorary British villains in Star Wars. Historically inaccurate? You bet’cha. But still very solid villains. Their accent is unique in that it can waver between heroic characters and the worst of villains – Star Wars made good use of such accents with Peter Cushing, among others, and David Prowse, the body of Darth Vader, was British as well.

6. Middle-Easterns

As seen in True Lies, Zero Dark Thirty, etc.
In a less PC time, these could’ve been very solid villains. As it is now, Hollywood is too enlightened to use them very often – witness the aftermath of True Lies – so they mostly remain on the shelf.

7. Commies/Russians

As seen in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Rocky IV, etc. 
The biggest upset on the list. Where did it all go wrong? These should’ve been right behind the Nazis when it comes to go-to movie villains, with the added bonus that they were around for a lot longer. But they just don’t seem to quite take. For example, even at the height of the USSR, James Bond primarily focused on using baddies from fictional terrorist organizations like SPECTRE. And despite seeming like a perfect fit, the Commies weren’t able to adequately carry the mantle from the Nazis in the Indiana Jones series. Even their quality villain work in Rocky IV isn't enough to move them up the chart.

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