15. Sandman (Spider-Man 3, 2007.)
Played by: Thomas Haden Church
Hey, did you know that its okay to commit crimes if your daughter is sick? Well, that’s the motivation given to the Sandman in Spider-Man 3. It was necessary to create a new origin and motive for him, since the comics Sandman was a pretty one-dimensional character who was basically a thug who escaped prison and got magic sand powers. And he turns back and forth from hero to villain in the comics, so making him sympathetic villain works, too. In the green striped shirt and khakis, Church looks like the comics Marko to an uncanny degree. Sandman was a great choice visually, they really were original and creative with what his powers can do, and the CGI on him looks phenominal – especially the “birth of the Sandman” scene where he tries to compose himself after going in the reactor, which I thought was the best scene in the movie. Makes for some great fight scenes, and Church does a serviceable job. Despite that, turning him into a giant inarticulate sand monster at the end was kind of lame, making him related to Uncle Ben’s murder was a bad choice, and his resolution was idiotic. (Spider-Man forgives him, and he just….floats away? What?) Still, turning this mostly lame comic villain into a visual treat was the best part of an otherwise pretty crappy movie.
14. Pyro (X2, X-Men 3)
Played by: Aaron Stanford
I wasn’t sure whether to include him in the list since he was such a minor character in the comics, and has a minor role in the films. But I thought I had to give credit to this character, who is the only character on this list who actually substantially improves upon the comic book character. The Pyro of the comics was a dumb thug with a lame Australian accent that made it so you couldn’t take him seriously. Bryan Singer basically created a new character with the same name and powers, a much more compelling one at that. His turn to the dark side was only told in a few scenes in X2, but it was much better than Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the dark side in the last two Star Wars prequels. Plus, they really had fun with his powers and explored the limit of them, (blowing up cars as projectiles, etc.) even in the mediocre X3. Still, his status as minor character in an ensemble show means he can only be so high on the list.
13/12 (tie). Iron Monger and the Abomination (Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, 2008.)
Played by: Jeff Bridges, Tim Roth
Both of these villains pretty much have the same role, in movies released a month apart: Play second fiddle to the hero, set yourself up, and then appear in the climax as a bigger, evil version of the protagonist. The heroes are the real stars of these two films, and Bridges and Roth are told to stand out of the way until the end climax. Stane is a mentor and partner to Stark instead of a rival business owner, and Blonsky is British on loan to the US instead of KGB, but other than that both roles are quite accurate to the comics characters (which wasn’t necessary, since both characters are pretty minor, but nice.) Bridges establishes himself well before becoming evil, and Blonsky becoming a mini-Captain America with the use of the Super Soldier serum was lots of fun to watch. Both actors are good, both characters are good portrayals and serve their purpose, and there’s nothing wrong with them, but both are kind of forgettable and outshined by the hero. (which is fine for the film’s purposes, but brings them down in the villain rankings)
11. Lex Luthor (Superman I, II, IV, and Returns)
Played by: Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey
Boy, this one is tough, and going to get me some trouble especially since some of the next few are pretty good but aren’t really the most amazing portrayals in the world. (I put Kevin Spacey’s “Returns” Luthor in here as well because he’s clearly supposed to be the same character in the same universe – but don’t worry, he doesn’t bring down the ranking, its based on Hackman, since Spacey is just imitating Hackman’s performance the whole time. I also won’t penalize him for Superman 4, which I’m sure he sucked in, but I didn’t see) Hackman is probably the best actor on this entire list – and this is right up there in terms of overall acting performances. He does a phenomenal job of what he is told to do. But…what he’s told to do is the problem. Luthor is the most famous supervillain in all of comics, and many would say he’s the biggest one. He’s the most important villain in the DC universe. The movie’s origin is fine, since comics Luthor has so many different ones. His evil plots are fine. But the problem is….he’s the comic relief. The most ruthless and important villain in the DC universe, the greatest supervillain of all time, Superman’s arch-nemesis….is relegated to the comic relief. More specifically, he spends most of the time playing straight man to his henchman Otis. I’ve always had a problem with this, and I had to keep him out of the top 10 because of it, even though the next few characters aren’t that fantastic. The only scene where he’s remotely threatening is when Luthor throws Superman into the pool with the kryptonite necklace on it – I wish there were more scenes like that, where he was a genuinely threatening villain instead of just participating in various wacky hijinks. That said, Hackman does a damn great job as the comic relief, and there are some fantastic comedic scenes.
10. The Kingpin (Daredevil, 2003)
Played by: Michael Clark Duncan
I know it seems blasphemous to put a character who appeared in such a crappy movie in the top 10 and not Hackman’s classic portrayal, but Duncan’s Kingpin hits every note right. Daredevil kind of sucked because all the romance scenes were lame, the action scenes were too dark, and the editing and pacing were horrible. Duncan’s Kingpin, however, was an absolutely perfect adaptation of the comic character. There was a big controversy over the race changing thing, but who else could have played Wilson Fisk? Duncan was absolutely perfect casting. How many other actors out there are gigantic and intimidating, but not in a body builder way? And how many can actually act? Not to mention the voice is perfect. Other than the color, he WAS Wilson Fisk onscreen – the cigars, the origin, the intimidation factor. The only thing that sucked was, well, his lines were pretty stupid because the rest of the movie as a whole was pretty stupid. Also, the horrible editing gave him a lame sendoff – Daredevil finishes off Bullseye in the church, and then all the sudden he’s at Fisk Tower ready for the final showdown? And then Kingpin calls off all of his security for some stupid reason so he can have a final showdown with Daredevil? What? Lame. Great portrayal of a great character, but he’s in a crappy movie.
9. Scarecrow (Batman Begins, 2005, and The Dark Knight, 2008)
Played by: Cillian Murphy
Scarecrow is a classic member of Batman’s rogues gallery who can easily hold his own movie. (and there were several plans throughout the late 90’s and early 2000’s to give him a Batman movie, as the standalone or main villain) Unfortunately, he was given the misfortune of appearing in the only Batman movie that was truly about Batman. Despite a small role, he fits into the plot perfectly, and his fear toxin is the catalyst for the big climax even if Ra’s Al Ghul is the one using it. Murphy is perfectly creepy, and the mask is a great way to update the character. He even gets to one-up Batman in their first encounter by fear gassing him and setting him on fire. Incorporating him into Batman’s origin story was perfect (even though people make fun of the movie for every other word being “fear”) since Batman’s image was created in order to strike fear into the hearts of criminals. Everything about this Scarecrow is perfect, except for the lack of screen time…oh, and the crappy way he’s dismissed. Having the love interest mace him is pretty bad, but at least that only momentarily deters him and he’s the first Batman villain to truly be on the loose at the end of the movie. His appearance in the Dark Knight makes him the first actor to appear as the same villain in multiple Batman films…but, the way he is quickly dismissed is pretty lame. But Jonathan Crane was never really a fighter to begin with.
8. Mystique (X-Men I-III)
Played by: Rebecca Romijn Stamos
Now here’s a performance that really put a comic character on the map. The name Mystique might not be a household name, but everyone and their mom now know that there’s an evil blue shape shifter woman in X-Men. Despite the fact that she became a henchwoman for Magneto (when the two had never really interacted much in the comics) Mystique kept her dignity because it was clear that Magneto was close to viewing her as an equal…or at least, he would think twice before crossing her. She was sexy (even with blue scales,) mysterious, and formidable, and the movies explored the limits and most possible scenarios of her shape shifting abilities and made her the number 2 villain of the series. She was somewhat true to the comics, except she was naked instead of wearing a white gown, and without all the confusing maternal plot stuff. Of course, her sendoff in X-3 was horrible, (with the whole turning human, being abandoned by Magneto and then betraying him) and completely undermined everything about the relationship set forth in the first two movies…freaking Rattner.