Badguys. If your comic book adaptation doesn’t have a good villain, then I can guarantee you it will not stand the test of time over the ones that do. Here are my top 10 comic book movie & TV villains of all time, featuring films like Black Panther, X-Men, The Walking Dead and more.
#10. Killmonger – Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan’s sympathetic villain in 2018’s Black Panther, stole the entire film for me. Jordan’s performance was one of those rare moments in Marvel Studios’ history where the badguy outshines the hero. I can’t think of any other villain that has managed to pull that off lately from the MCU aside from the obvious choice (but more on Loki later). Killmonger proves that if you have a solid script, a great actor and a SYMPATHETIC villain, that your film will automatically be elevated to that next level status. Black Panther would not have been a great film without him.
#9. Shredder – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)
Kevin Michael Richardson’s voice of Shredder in the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series is in my opinion, the voice I will forever think of when I see this character in other mediums, including the comics. Richardson’s iconic gravely tone is on the same level as Kevin Conroy’s Batman or Mark Hamill’s Joker. There is an episode earlier in the series where we see his origin as a warrior in Japan, where we for the first time see the Shredder as more than just your typical big bad (they gave him a tremendous amount of depth for the first time outside the comic books) and that’s just one of hundreds of reasons why the 2012 series is the definitive version of the Ninja Turtles.
#8. The Saint of Killers – Preacher
Graham Mctavish is Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven if that character was also sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor. The Saint of Killers is an unstoppable killing machine in Garth Ennis’ classic Vertigo comics series and fans have been waiting for ages to see him adapted into another medium. AMC’s Preacher series may take some liberties with the source material, but Mctavish plays the Saint just like his comic counterpart – a stone-cold killing machine who doesn’t say much, but will stop at NOTHING to see his family just one more time. Mctavish is an awesome performer and he steals every single scene he ominously walks into before he begins blasting away EVERYBODY in a hail of bullets straight outta Hell.
#7. The Shadow King – Legion
Legion is the strangest and potentially strongest Marvel TV series on air (with maybe The Punisher and Daredevil coming close). The reason why Legion is such a strong TV series, is not only because of the incredible writing and gleefully bizarre mindwar that the show delivers, but the Shadow King… The Shadow King is a mutant that has infected our lead character (played by Dan Stevens) and it takes many forms, including a grotesque yellow-eyed grease demon and even Aubrey Plaza, who absolutely steals the show when she begins to really go off the rails. The scene where she mentally bends and causes someone to explode by getting inside their head (picture above) is one of the best scenes of any medium in 2017. I can’t wait to see what Navid Negahban does with the character in season 2 (he was an incredible ‘villain’ on his two-season run in Homeland).
#6. The Penguin – Batman Returns
Danny Devito’s Penguin in the 1992 Batman Returns is my favourite villain of the Tim Burton era and I will never forget that scene where he bites a dude’s nose off during a press junket where he was running for mayor of Gotham. The Penguin was never taken all that seriously until Devito’s bigscreen performance. Face it – he was a silly badguy. Why does Batman need to fight weaponized penguins? It’s asinine. But then Burton placed Devito in that role and he made it believable for the first time ever. If I had to rank ALL of the bigscreen Batman baddies, The Penguin easily comes in at number two (because we all know who is king in the end).
#5. Negan – The Walking Dead
Robert Kirkman’s Negan revitalised The Walking Dead comic series. His introduction involved the brutal and horrifying murder of a long-time fan favourite character. Everyone wanted him dead but nobody wanted him to leave either. The character was so funny, so blunt and psychotic with a swagger unlike any other villain in comics that fans were clamouring to see who would be playing him on the TV series for YEARS. When Jeffrey Dean Morgan was cast, history was made once more and Negan wound up stealing the entire TV show right out from under the other castmembers. He owns every scene and although he’s a bad dude, he’s easily the most entertaining character in the franchise and the show probably won’t survive long without him…
#4. The Joker – Batman: The Animated Series
Mark Hamill’s Joker voice is what I hear in my head every time I read a Batman comic book. His performance in the 90’s Batman: The Animated series is hands down the reigning champion of what fans all consider the “classic” Joker. That maniacal cackle of laughter is perfection and although Hamill may be best remembered as Luke Skywalker, it’s his work as The Joker that has completely taken over one of history’s most famous villains and defined the character forever. Hamill brought the Joker to life with an iconic voice performance that redefined him and completely changed the way we read those classic AND new stories featuring him.
#3. Loki – The Marvel Cinematic Universe
Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has become the sneaky glue that binds the Marvel Cinematic Universe together. He was the first to take on ALL of the Avengers. He’s a sneaky bastard but we all love him anyway and he’s sort of become this anti-hero as of late, teaming up with his brother, sorta, kinda. You never know what Loki is thinking, because he’s constantly betraying everyone close to him, but he’s still so damn lovable. I didn’t give a shit about Loki in the comics. Ever. He was ridiculous – that horned helmet – who cares. The fact that Marvel Studios has turned Loki into a household name is crazy to me.
#2. Magneto – The X-Men Franchise
Ian McKellen’s Magneto is the second strongest character in the X-Men franchise (the first being Logan – but you knew that). He’s a holocaust survivor and his gripes with humanity are hard to argue with considering the pain he’s suffered at the hands of homo sapiens his entire life. McKellen’s performance was pitch perfect and he was in many ways the bigscreen heel that helped spawn the modern-day comic book cinema takeover in 2000. When Michael Fassbender signed on to play a younger Magneto years later, he brought forth another fascinating angle to this historic villain and furthered the fans’ love for the mutant who can bend metal and kill Nazis all day long.
#1. The Joker – The Dark Knight
He won an Academy Award, posthumously, for his legendary performance as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger’s career-defining performance is the reason why that movie is in my opinion, the best superhero film ever made. I’ve always said that you can’t have a truly great superhero film without the perfect scene-stealing villain and this is the defining example of that. Ledger’s transformation into the Joker was shocking and although he was unlike any other version of the classic Batman villain before, he defined the new era of big-screen villains forever. I will never, ever get that voice out of my head for as long as I live and it makes me sad knowing that there will probably never be another performance this extraordinary in a comic book movie adaptation during my life-time. Sorry Tommy Wiseau – that audition tape was badass but I just don’t think you can pull this one off… Yet.