#5. The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz)
You're in a tough spot if "Wicked" is right there in your name, but WWW isn't exactly the most image conscious celebrity in Oz, either: She kidnapped Dorothy, threatened to drown her dog and tried to set The Scarecrow on fire, all to get her hands on the girl's ruby slippers. Foot fetish or not, that was some stone-cold villainy.
Nice teeth, though.
Hold on a minute there:
Remember that the Witch wasn't after Dorothy, and she wasn't trying to rule the world. All she ever wanted was those slippers. Say, how did Dorothy acquire those magical shoes in the first place? Why, by taking them off the blood-drenched feet of the Wicked Witch of the East. Who she just murdered. Who also happened to be the Wicked Witch of the West's sister.
These shoes used to be white...
Let's look at the whole "accident" from the West Witch's perspective:
The Witch sisters are hanging around Oz, minding their own business when some random teenager crushes a woman to death with a house, killing her instantly in an act of domiciliary manslaughter. Next, the teenager waltzes out and corpse-loots the victim's shoes (some sort of creepy kill-trophy, no doubt) which under every inheritance law in the universe damn well belong to the deceased's surviving family.
From where we stand, the Wicked Witch of the West had every right in the world to bludgeon Dorothy to death with a sock full of toxic batteries, but what did she do? Absolutely nothing. She just wanted her shoes back, and every action that she took was motivated by that want. Then, of course, Dorothy raises an army in the form of a giant, talking lion, a man made of metal and an unkillable scarecrow, steals the Witch's broomstick and kills the Witch, staging a nice little Witch sister reunion in the afterlife.
#4. Brigadier General Francis X. Hummel (The Rock)
The actions of General Hummel (Ed Harris) in The Rock read almost like a How-To Guide for Villainous Assholes: 1.) Break into Alcatraz, take lots of hostages, 2.) Demand $100 million from the government, threaten to launch a WMD nerve agent over San Francisco if your demands are not met, 3.) Eat a puppy (probably).
"Braised puppy. You can't find good barbeque this far from Texas."
Hold on a minute there:
There certainly is a major villain in The Rock but it's not General Hummel. Ironically, it's the U.S. government, something you wouldn't expect in a movie by Michael "Star Spangled 'Splosion" Bay. Hummel was only doing this in the first place because the government used him and his troops for illegal clandestine missions all over the world. But Uncle Sam wouldn't spare a counterfeit wooden nickel for the families of soldiers who died during those missions. For some reason Hummel had a problem with that.
And he tried getting money and attention the legitimate ways. Hummel exhausted every official channel, trying to get the country to cough up some cash, before finally giving up and moving from strongly worded letters to the next logical thing: chemical warfare terrorism. Besides, he never wanted the 100 mill to be paid from the country's homeless kitten shelter budget or anything. Hummel specifically asks for the money to come from the Red Sea Trading Company... "a slush-fund where the Pentagon keeps proceeds from illegal arms deals."
But it's ours! We earned it fair and square by breaking international laws!
In the end, Hummel never hurt one innocent person and revealed that the nerve agent missiles he had prepared were all a bluff, making his whole operation something of a large scale charity performance, only with guns and WMDs instead of smugness. Elaborate and dangerous, sure, but his punishment, (that Nicolas Cage goes down as the hero of the movie he died in), should count as a war crime.
Look! Two atrocities posing for a picture together.
#3. Captain Skroeder (Short Circuit)
In the theological-nightmare movie "Short Circuit" a military robot is granted a soul after being struck by a lightning bolt. Gaining sentience and running away, he is constantly pursued by the ruthless security-chief of the company that built him, Captain Skroeder-a man who will stop at nothing to destroy the so called "malfunctioning" machine.
Were ascots really ever standard Army issue?
Hold on a minute there:
Here's a riddle for you. What do you call a piece of electronics which stopped working the way it was supposed to? We'll give you a hint: it starts with an "m" and Eminem cuold make it rhyme with "mouth-puncturing." Johnny 5 was not only a malfunctioning piece of machinery for which Skroeder was responsible, he was a dangerous robot designed for killing and armed with one of the most powerful lasers in the world. If Skroeder could stop Johnny 5 and fix the broken, highly dangerous robot from wandering around a world full of life, the value of which he didn't understand, Skroeder would be a god damned hero.
But hey, it's not like laser cannons are dangerous or anything.
It's still unclear to us how, in a movie full of scientists and people not currently in mental institutions, it took Skroeder, a security officer, to disbelieve that souls can travel through lightning strikes. The funny thing is he sort of had a point there, because during the first days of Johnny's so called "sentience", he didn't even understand the concept of life and death. Do you understand the implications of that? A machine that can kill but doesn't know what killing means? We should have been rooting for someone to drop a bomb on this military murder-bot before it "disassembled" a bunch of toddlers.
In comparison, all Skroeder wanted was to quietly run the robot over with his truck. That's not so bad. But instead, Johnny got to go and live his life, and Skroeder loses, disgraced. A note to all of the special Captains of Robotics out there: Do not take any lessons from Short Circuit. If your brand new kill-bot gains sentience and wants to explore the world with its newfound emotions, do not let it.
"Hey Mitch, why did we install that 'kidnapping' protocol again?"
#2. The Machines (The Matrix / Animatrix)
The Matrix bots freaking harvest people for energy, man! And use us as characters in their twisted robot versions of The Sims, where you know they amuse themselves by messing with our minds and reprogramming random people to do really stupid stuff, like make and watch additional Matrix movies.
"Don't forget our nefarious plan to convince people that Keanu Reeves is an actor."
Hold on a minute there:
Let's go back to the start. Some of this backstory is relayed in the films, some of it in The Animatrix, the series of shorts the creators released between films. Either way, this is canon in the Matrix universe.
In the beginning, the Machines were our slaves, used for every job imaginable -- and yes, someone probably was screwing them over -- before they got too smart for their own good and decided that serving us wasn't the most efficient use of their time. So we tried to mass-murder them. As a neat little compromise, the bots created a peaceful robot-utopia in the desert, which quickly became the world's leading economy. Our response was to mass-murder them some more (it was the future's hot new answer to all possible problems, including failing test scores among middle-schoolers).
Why is it wearing pants?
But suddenly, out of NOWHERE, a war broke out between us, and the machines won. They won and the humans lost, so after all of the years of being treated like slaves by the humans, it was time for the robots to get revenge. And what did the robots do to make us humans pay? They gave us a Paradise Virtual Reality. They realized that a world of both humans and robots could not exist peacefully, so they gave us a world where robots didn't exist and said "Live out your lives here, and we'll live out our lives in our world." Humans weren't living in the real world, but no one could tell the difference anyway, so it shouldn't have mattered.
"There's an orgy in our collective unconscious and everyone's invited!"
And to show our appreciation for one of the most even compromises in history, we began a campaign to murder every single last robot. That'll teach them to beat us in war and show mercy.
#1. Sauron (The Lord of the Rings)
Oh, come on. Sauron is like the archetypal evil overlord. He's got massive armies of monsters. He has a flaming eyeball. He has a helmet made of spikes, people, come on. And, he did... you know, he did all of those... things. And...
Sauron, seen here evilly defending his home from an invading army.
Hold on a minute there:
And what exactly? Please tell us, because throughout the entire 2000-hour run of the Jackson trilogy, we couldn't find a single reason why everyone demonized Sauron like he was a debt-collecting pedophile. Yes, he was building an army to advance on Middle Earth. But who was in that army? What were they fighting for?
This was a world where Orcs were used as target practice among elvish communities. The elves loved that shit. Sauron put a stop to that by offering all the underprivileged creatures a place in his non-race-exclusive army (the only nonsegregated force in Middle Earth other than the Fellowship), with promises of their own country in the future. After what he did for the orcs and the goblins, Sauron was just some towering, mace-wielding folk hero.
"Let freedom ring! Also, let's eat some man-flesh."
Of course the humans and elves couldn't have that, because if orcs moved-in next door to them, their houses' property value would go down. After all, these creatures are dark and smelly and have weird voices. They must be murdered on sight.
We hear a lot about freedom, and the free peoples of Middle Earth standing up to Mordor. What do we mean by "free?" They're certainly not fighting for Democracy -- each kingdom is a monarchy where the people have no say over what the leader does as long as that leader possesses the right genes. And overwhelmingly it seems like what those leaders like to do is shit on the Orcs, and the countless other minorities who Sauron was able to recruit onto his side.
What you were seeing in these films was not an unprovoked act of aggression, undertaken just for the hell of it. You were seeing generations of pent-up frustration by oppressed minorities, harnessed by a leader they could get behind. What Sauron did was nothing more than try to cut out a piece of that Middle Earth dream for himself and his followers, and find land that doesn't require them to live under a continuously erupting volcano.
On the plus side, it isn't Oklahoma.
His methods were violent and there were excesses -- as you see in every revolution. But if Middle Earth doesn't take a moment to understand why Sauron was able to draw tens of thousands of disenfranchised individuals to his cause, then they're destined to fight the same war all over again, as soon as the next Sauron shows up.
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For more of your favorite movies you got wrong, check out 6 Movies That Didn't Realize They Let The Villain Win, or Why Back to the Future Is Secretly Horrifying.