Bad Villains In Good Films

Posted by
Joe Ellison

It's good to be bad, or so it goes in the acting world. But rest assured, it's never good to be bad at being bad.

Confused? Okay, well to put it simply, we've picked 10 examples of when movie villains weren't worthy of the films in which they appeared.

Let controversy abound....


Nino – Drive

If looks could kill, Ryan Gosling’s mute wheelman would have doubled his body count in the already ultra-violent Drive. His lack of conversation actually proves perfect foil for a synth-heavy soundtrack and ace cinematography. How we wish it were the same for Ron Perlman’s impetuous gangster, constantly found yapping away to his cutthroat partner Bernie (Albert Brooks) about his inability to be taken seriously by the syndicate. Perhaps it's the quietly titanic performance of Brooks, pulsating with on-screen menace, which amplifies exactly how impotent a character like Nino is.


Ra’s al Ghul - Batman Begins

Granted, it’s easy to look back at The Dark Knight Trilogy’s original antagonist and think him a lesser man when measured up against the likes of Tom Hardy’s Bane and Heath Ledger’s Joker. Those are big names. But aside from lacking the respective brawn or wits of those other bat-botherers, Ghul, with a warped sense of social justice coupled with a constant battle of one-upmanship with Bruce Wayne, feels way too human to be a credible super villain. While we're on the subject: was he subliminally infatuated with Wayne because his facial hair looks a little bit like an upside down Batman symbol? We're saying yes on this one.


Al Capone – The Untouchables

The late Bob Hoskins claimed that Brian De Palma paid him £20,000 not to play Al Capone in The Untouchables, after the director’s first choice (Robert De Niro) finally yielded and signed on. In truth, Hoskins would’ve been the better fit, and we don't just mean physically: forgetting the iconic baseball bat scene, it was a mediocre imprint on what was at that time a near flawless CV, a cartoonish portrayal which would’ve looked tame in Dick Tracy, and just one of two flaws in the classic film. We're looking at you, 'Irish' Sean Connery.


Dr No – Dr No

Between Ken Adam’s avant-garde set design, 007’s razor-sharp tailoring and the improbably named Honey Ryder, there wasn’t much room for improvement with Dr No. Save for one: the titular villain. To say this man was the archetypal Bond baddie (severe disability, weird lair, fondness for keeping Bond alive until he hears all of the plans), by drugging Bond, lurking over his bed and then inviting him for dinner, never dolling out any sort of tangible torture, he was just a bit too passive. We doubt he even had a doctorate.


Cpt. Dudley Smith - L.A. Confidential

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled – wait, we messed that up, that’s from an entirely different Kevin Spacey film, but, like L.A. Confidential, it hangs on a pivotal twist. In the hushed seconds before Spacey’s fatally wounded celebrity detective lets out his last breath comes the realisation that James Cromwell’s police captain is the cause of a flurry of violent activity and drug movement that has the city on edge. For all that initial surprise, mind, it's hard to believe that any senior cop would stoop to that level of criminality, particularly the acidic cruelty he imparts after gunning down his colleague. Plus, what would Babe think?


Aldrich Killian – Iron Man 3

Spoiler alert: Guy Pearce’s regenerative scientist is about as boring as Iron Man 3 gets. Even after it’s revealed he was the master puppeteer who’s been pulling the strings behind Ben Kingsley’s supposed megalomaniac The Mandarin (we told you there’d be a spoiler), he proceeds to interrupt valuable explosions and CGI flying scenes with boring talk of why he wants to murder the US President on TV, blah, blah, blah. Though given how clumsily his character is introduced to Tony Stark in the opening scene’s flashback to a party where Stark dismisses him some years earlier, Killian's inclusion in the villainy won't have been met with too many gasps.


Kurt Hendricks - Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Not to accuse Paramount of false advertising, but four films in and we’re pretty sure these missions are firmly in the realms of possibility. Besides, at fitting it all into 120 minutes or less, they're just showing off. But so long as the action keeps getting better, peaking with that now iconic scene of Tom Cruise inadvertently cleaning the windows of Dubai’s Burj Kalif at a nose bleeding altitude in Ghost Protocol, we’d be fools to complain. The latest script was only slightly blotted by Hendricks, the forgettable villain who attempts to cause all-out nuclear war between the US and Russia (original much?) by blowing up The Kremlin, and later willingly falling to his death so he can prevent Ethan Hunt from stopping a nuclear launch in a final act of ultimate douchery. See, you’ve forgotten already haven’t you?


Albert Ganz – 48hrs

Widely viewed as the first real ‘buddy cop’ film – despite the fact Eddie Murphy’s jive-talking crook and Nick Nolte’s cowboy-styled cop enjoy each other’s company as much as we imagine the Gallagher Brothers enjoy theirs - 48hrs remains a cinematic game changer. It could have been better, too, if it weren’t for an overly hammy villain in the shape of James Remar’s jail-breaking sociopath. Gradually getting wackier and wackier as he's chased across town by the aforementioned odd couple, Ganz's disbelieving reaction to taking a bullet in the final shootout wouldn't look amiss in The Naked Gun.


Ivan Korshunov – Air Force One

The ‘90s called, they want their bad guy back. Okay, so they didn’t call, it was a wrong number, but if they do, they'll be wanting Gary Oldman. For this was Oldman's golden period when it came to terrorising cinematic audiences, most memorably as Dracula and the pill-popping Norman Stansfield from Leon. We can’t say the same for his Soviet-styled terrorist seen grappling Harrison Ford’s President in the otherwise thoroughly enjoyable thriller Air Force One, of course. It’s the unconvincing accent, yes, but it’s also some pathetically patriotic lines (“I would turn my back on God himself for Mother Russia”) which ensure this hijacker barely registers in the pantheon of stand-out Oldman performances.


The Winter Soldier – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Just when you thought you had enough naff Russian villains with a disliking for Starbucks, we have another thawed out Cold War era creep with designs on annoying the US. Sadly, belying the film’s box office receipts and universal approval, his evil super soldier was also a bit of a dud, preferring to stay silent and enigmatic underneath a little mask and leave it to other characters and set pieces to bring proceedings up to scratch. There is a twist with the Winter Soldier, but even that, which we’re not going to reveal, doesn't stop him from being lame.


[Images: AllStar, Rex Features]


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Joe Ellison

Joe is a writer and editor. Specialising in film, food, sport, current affairs, travel writing and adept at pilfering David Brent quotes, Joe describes himself as ‘basically a chilled out entertainer’. Follow Joe on Twitter: @Chevychased 

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