7 Movie Moments That Will Change How You See Iconic Villains
A compelling villain is a rare and precious thing. Without Darth Vaders and Hannibal Lecters and the Jokers to teach them, how would little kids learn what to fear and hate? That's why we keep returning to them in sequel after sequel: The truly awesome bad guys will stay scary forever. Unless, of course, you find yourself watching a totally different movie, and someone who looks kinda familiar shows up. "Oh hey," you say out loud, "isn't that the guy who played Thorgarr Dickhammer, the Commander of the villainous Forces of Cruelty in Barbarian Dong-Monsters XVII, my favorite movie?" First, you're excited, and a little proud of yourself for making the connection. But then you realize that you're watching a romantic comedy -- and general Dickhammer is the impotent comic relief.
The real-life, mostly dong-free versions of that story are ...
Freddy Krueger Was Slapstick Comic-Relief In An '80s Sci-Fi Show
Even up against competition like the Alien, the Predator, Jason Vorhees, and Steven Seagal, Freddy Kruger manages to stand out as one of the creepiest monsters to come out of the '80s. As the fedora-wearing ghost of a skinny child murderer who haunted the children of the people who burned him to death, Krueger embodied at least five different primal fears. And that was before he turned Johnny Depp into Watermelon Slushee.
And as the extremely talented Jackie Earle Haley found out in 2010, Freddy just isn't Freddy if he isn't being portrayed by the first man to ever play the role, Robert Englund. The gravelly voice, the creepy sarcasm -- Englund is Freddy, and his distinctive features will be irrevocably linked to dream-murder until the heat death of the universe.
This is the least terrifying picture of him I could find.
But He Was Also:
Willie, the hapless comic relief alien in V.
Cue the laugh track transitioning into "Awwww."
Though Freddy is Englund's most famous role, when he took the part, he actually went against his usual type -- which was, well, this fucking guy. For those of you who are too young to remember (or if you just Eternal Sunshined it from your brain after the fuck-awful remake), V was a David Icke wet dream turned into a TV show about "helpful" human-like aliens who land on Earth who are eventually revealed to be evil lizard-men in disguise. Most of the aliens were hot. One of them was Willie. Willie was a good guy. Willie was slapstick. And Willie was so ...
... fucking ...
Englund even uses the same mannerisms for both characters (he was still doing the series when the first Nightmare movie was made), making it impossible not to be reminded of this bumbling doofus whenever the scarred killer comes on screen. And it's kinda hard to be terrified of a dream demon when you're half expecting him to get overexcited about his puppy costume and face plant on the sidewalk.
The Creepy Girl From The Ring Is Also A Beloved Cartoon Character
Samara Morgan, aka the videotape ghost girl from The Ring, is two things: probably responsible for bringing the "creepy ghost girl in white" trope to Western cinema, and definitely obsolete if she hasn't figured out how to haunt Blu-Rays. She was portrayed by Daveigh Chase, who has since gone on to do more conventional pretty actress stuff, like, uh, the sequel to Donnie Darko. Oh well.
But She Was Also:
The voice of Lilo in Lilo & Stitch.
Technically making Stitch the second-most-dangerous monster in this picture.
It's no secret that actors can do voice work in some pretty contradictory roles. The Kurgan from Highlander has been voicing Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob Squarepants for quite a while now. It's just that when you have no idea that the actress even is a proper actress instead of just some model or random extra they stuck in makeup and told to climb in a well, it gets pretty weird when she's suddenly voicing cute Disney characters with utmost gusto. Did you know she did both roles in 2002? I'll never not believe tha she didn't record at least some of her Lilo lines wearing that fucking Samara Morgan outfit. And now none of us can ever unsee that mental image.
Samara has practically no dialogue, which is pretty lucky, actually. I'm pretty sure that no matter how terrifying your lines are, if you deliver them in the same voice that told me that "Ohana" means "family," and family means nobody gets left behind, I'm just gonna want a hug.
Well ... on second thought ...
General Zod From Man Of Steel Was Really Into Wrestling In Groundhog Day
Say what you want about Man Of Steel, but Michael Shannon's General Zod was a pretty decent villain. It remains to be seen what Batman V. Superman does to his defeated corpse, but even if his reanimated form talks and moves like Jar-Jar Binks (would you put it past them?), it should go on the record that Shannon's Zod was a worthy update to Terence Stamp's 1978 version. Hell, even his fucking Caesar haircut and grumpy gas station attendant goatee retroactively make the cheesiness of the old movies better; if Kryptonians thought this was cool, then suddenly all those years of spit-curls and underwear over the pants make a whole lot more sense.
"Fuck you, man. This look is a statement."
But He Was Also:
Fred the Wrestlemania groom in Groundhog Day:
In case you can't watch that video, Fred is the guy whose marriage Bill Murray saves off-screen once he finally gets every aspect of Groundhog Day right. On the plus side of things, his character gets to interact with Bill Murray and comes away with his dearest wish (Wrestlemania tickets) fulfilled by Bill "fucking" Murray, which has to be on par with beating Superman in hand-to-hand combat as far as rushes go. Then again, the guy whose extra-special dream is fucking Wrestlemania probably isn't prime villain material, even if he later proves willing to don weird-looking armor and absurd hair. It's just hard to take him seriously as a threat when you've seen him jump up and down in glee before gently kissing Andy McDowell on the cheek and finally being led off in a huff by someone who looks like they weigh about 90 lbs.
Still, if you want to use this as an excuse to start ranting about the superiority of the old school General Zod ... well, let's just say you don't want to Google Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert.
(But everyone else does. That movie is amazing).
The Wicked Witch Of The West Peddled Coffee In Her Off Time
Few villains are more iconic than the Wicked Witch of the West from the legendary 1939 Wizard Of Oz. Whether it's the green skin, the flying monkey minions, or the deadly H2O allergy, every single movie villain since has copied at least one aspect of the character. It's true! Don't bother Googling it, though.
"KING KONG AIN'T GOT SHIT ON ME." -- The Wicked Witch of the West
The classic character was portrayed by Margaret Hamilton, a talented MGM contract character actress who was basically thrown in the mix when the original actress declined the part. She took the Witch, made the character her own, and gave the world a performance that has remained unrivaled to this day.
But She Was Also:
Cora the Coffee Spokeswoman.
Poor Margaret Hamilton. Her reward for giving us a world-changing performance as the most iconic witch in cinema was her voice and features becoming synonymous with malicious monkey soldiers and dastardly dog thievery. Which is why seeing her drop character and abruptly try to sell us coffee is ... well, strange, to say the least:
She's saying "Percy," not "pussy." Probably.
That's one of Hamilton's many 1970s commercials for Maxwell House coffee, in which she played Cora the Storekeeper, caffeine pitchwoman. Technically, it's nothing out of the ordinary -- just an actress doing a gig, decades after her most famous role. Of course that's what she's doing at that point of her career. It's not like she's been donning the Wicked Witch costume on a daily basis and attending ... witch-cons. But still. That voice. That face! It's like seeing Leonard Nimoy as the Great Paris in the old Mission: Impossible show. He's not bad, but you can't help looking for the ears. Every second Hamilton is onscreen, you're waiting for her to sic the flying monkeys on her hapless customers.
Still, distracting as it may seem, it's just an ad. It's not like she straight-up featured on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood ...
... Hold on, she did that, too?
That's right, you just watched a sweet old Wicked Witch put on a pink sweater explain (and justify!) her motivations and feelings to the sweetest old man in the world. Listen, I'm sorry I did this to you. After watching that video, you'll probably never be afraid of witches again.
Tywin Lannister Was Also A Dancing Drag Politician And A Boner-Cyborg
For the longest time, Tywin Lannister was the closest thing Game Of Thrones had to a proper antagonist. He's a ruthless lord with a fearsome military might and a strategic mind to match. It doesn't hurt that he's played by Charles Dance, a man who has crafted a decades-spanning career playing authority figures with bitterly deliberate inflections, staring down everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Eddie Murphy.
But He Was Also:
In Ali G Indahouse, Charles Dance plays Deputy Prime Minister David Carlton, a very familiar, conniving character who attempts to manipulate the other characters into doing his bidding . As Sacha Baron Cohen inevitably saves the day and the situation defuses into a party, Carlton makes the final, obligatory "humiliating the defeated villain" appearance. If you've been on the GIF-heavy parts of the Internet at all, you might already have seen what comes next:
And if you haven't, you're welcome.
What? That's not enough? You want to see Charles dance? Sure, suit yourself:
Voted second-best magic dance by a British actor.
That's not the only time a Dance villain has broken into absurd comedy territory, either. Here's his cyborg bad guy from the little-known 1996 flick Space Truckers, negotiating shenanigans from the heroine with what the editing does its level best to convince us is the power of freely hanging robo-dong:
The problem is that Dance's facial expression never changes. He has barely-controlled-rage resting face. His look says "Tywin Lannister" through and through. I'm betting that if you marathon all these movies, you could accurately title your dreams The Many Misadventures Of Tywin Lannister, Drag Sex-Borg.
E-mail me if you want to read that completed screenplay.
The Guy Who Played Mola Ram Is Also The Most Wonderfully Cheesy Villain In History
Most Indy bad guys are variations of "smug-looking archaeologist fucker," "evil-looking Nazi fucker," or "obligatory huge fucker who gets blended by an airplane propeller." And that's fine -- nothing wrong with archetypes. However, there's one notorious bad guy who manages to shine in this mass of punchable faces: Mola Ram.
Pay absolutely no attention to the nipple.
The creepy Thuggee cult leader with the power to rip peoples' hearts out like it's nothing remains the only franchise villain to come within inches of personally defeating Indiana Jones on not one, but two separate occasions -- once with the whole Black Sleep of Kali-Ma thing, and once at the collapsed bridge, when he totally would have taken his heart if it wasn't for those pesky sidekicks and their Sankara stones ...
But I digress. Mola Ram was played by actor Amrish Puri, and you did not know that until right now.
But He Was Also:
The thing about "unknown" foreign actors in major productions is that they tend to be unknown only to the English-speaking audience. When he landed his iconic role in Temple Of Doom, Puri was already an established villainous actor in his native India, and after the movie was done, he went on to craft a legacy as juicier and juicier bad guy roles. He was quite successful at this. In fact, only Western audiences tend to think of him first and foremost as Mola Ram.
In India, he's Mogambo.
It's like Dr. Evil joined the cast of the Lion King musical.
The Napoleon cosplay reject you see above is one of Bollywood's most iconic villains, essentially their equivalent to Ernst Stavro Blofeld. With his God-mode combover and his trusty catchphrase of "Mogambo khush hua" ("Mogambo is pleased"), Puri cheesed the shit out of Mr. India, somehow the only movie the character ever featured in. I can only put this down to cultural differences, because look at the fucker go (skip to 2:00):
Ahahahahahaha! That's glorious. He's got a little stick he's waving around like a sword and everything!
The thing is, such a fantastically hammy role also kind of kills Mola Ram. The Indy villain is deliberately built as a mostly silent, terrifying type, and Puri plays him largely with his facial expressions and the occasional chant. Facial expressions, one can't help but notice, that are very similar to those of the goofy-ass comedy villain he's doing here. Tell you what, here's a dare: Take a few hours of your time to watch Mr. India, see what Puri is doing with the role, and then go back to Temple Of Doom. I've done it, and I guaran-goddamn-tee that you'll spend the movie wondering when Mola Ram puts the mop in his head and starts dropping catchphrases on a Mike Myersian level.
Which is the level you have to reach if you want to be on the poster twice.
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See why some good guys are actually villains in 5 Reasons The Greatest Movie Villain Ever is a "Good" Witch, and read about the most embarrassing moment in horror movie history in The 5 Greatest Moments in Freddy Krueger's Music Video.
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