A recap of the list so far:
25. The Penguin – Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham)
24. The Joker – Cesar Romero (Batman – TV Series)
23. Deacon Frost – Stephen Dorff (Blade)
22. Saint of Killers – Graham McTavish (Preacher)
21. Doctor Octopus – Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2)
20. Vulture – Michael Keaton (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
19. Deathstroke – Manu Bennett (Arrow)
18. Green Goblin – Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man)
17. The Governor – David Morrissey (The Walking Dead)
16. Catwoman – Julie Newmar (Batman – TV Series)
And now, onward and upward!
15. Hela – Cate Blanchett (Thor: Ragnarok)
It’s a tough task trying to be a menacing villain in a comedy-heavy film like Thor: Ragnarok, but Cate Blanchett pulls it off wonderfully. Hela is powerful and incredibly deadly, while still managing to throw in a couple dabs of humor as well without making her seem like any less of a threat. It’s a testament to her ability as an actress to strike that perfect balance. My only disappointment with Hela, and it’s nothing to do with anything Cate Blanchett did, is that Hela was not used as the stand-in for Death in The Avengers: Infinity War.
14. Captain Cold – Wentworth Miller (The Flash)
While Wentworth Miller’s take on The Flash’s nemesis, Leonard Snart, might rank at #14 on this list of best portrayals, it might be among my absolute favorites personally. As I’m not a huge fan of the character in the comics, I never expected to love it so much in a live-action setting…but man do I. Incredibly charismatic, with a line delivery that borders almost on the absurd, but regardless draws you in, Captain Cold is highlight of The Flash, and the first season of Legends of Tomorrow, as he attempts to gain some redemption for his past transgressions, but still manages to keep his twisted sense of morality.
13. The Joker – Jack Nicholson (Batman)
The first truly homicidal psychopath Joker to grace the screen. Even though Jack Nicholson did a great job bringing the Clown Prince of Crime to life, much like Alfred Molina’s Dr. Octopus, I was not a fan of linking the villain to the hero in a personal fashion unnecessarily. In the comics, the Joker is not the man that murdered Batman’s parents (that distinction goes to petty criminal Joe Chill), and changing that fact served no purpose in the film other than being able to deliver the “You made me!/You made me first.” line. But even still, his actual performance hits the high notes of the zany, ultra violent insanity we’ve come to expect from the Joker.
12. Helmut Zemo – Daniel Brühl (Captain America: Civil War)
He may not have been any sort of physical threat to Captain America, Helmut Zemo was one the most dangerous villains in the MCU. His methodical approach to exacting revenge on the Avengers for the deaths of his family in Sokovia by forcing them to turn on each other, was absolutely brilliant. I loved the subtlety in his performance. When you have a film with so many big hero personalities, trying to squeeze another big villain personality could have made the film feel over full. So choosing to tone Zemo back and have him operate mostly in the shadows was fantastically done. He’s also distinct among movie villains, in that he actually achieved his goal. While Cap and Iron Man didn’t kill each other, their bond was broken and most of the Avengers were left as fugitives. I only wish he would have donned some form of his mask from the comics at some point.
11. Magneto – Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Magneto has long been among my favorite villains in the comics. He is the perfect example of how a person’s life experiences shape their world view, and Ian McKellen…and to a lesser extent Michael Fassbender…have done an amazing job bringing that to the big screen. McKellen’s portrayal is layered, powerful, and multi-faceted. His hatred and rage, even when more subdued and subtle, are always very tangible and delivered in a way that is believable and understable. He’s also rare in that while most villains end up dead in comic book movies, he has managed to survive through multiple films.
Come back tomorrow where we’ll crack the top 10 among the best live-action performances of comic book villains. See you then.