This was the year of the bad guy. The depth of villainous character was on display on either the silver or small screen. We came to know the arch-nemeses of our favorite TV shows and movies in ways rarely seen before.
While these malevolent beings tortured our heroes, we ended up empathizing for them in the process. Why? Because of good writing, great acting, and an unbelievable story. Think of everything you saw this year. Did your bad guy make the list?
8. Bushmaster (Luke Cage 2)
Without taking time to discuss how inept, absent-minded, and ess-for-brains Netflix and Marvel was for cancelling certain TV series, the superb work Mustafa Shakir put into his role as John “Bushmaster” McIver is proof point number one as to why there should be a Luke Cage: Season 3.
With family ties–whether they bind or strangle–as the epicenter of the theme, Bushmaster was perfect tying it altogether. And like that one relative always being the eye of the storm, Shakir was that perfectly as well.
7. Jatemme Manning (Widows)
With this ensemble cast, Widows was destined to succeed. Only, it didn’t. It may have suffered from blockbuster season and high-powered marketing budgets. The measly $12 million opening weekend take validates that theory, and that would be a shame because many people missed on one of the most intense and brooding roles of the year.
Get Out’s super nova Daniel Kaluuya plays a gang enforcer, and he is so believable. He’s a blank slate of emotion when he’s stabbing or shooting. How that guy became that guy is among the wonders of method acting. Fantastic and fiendish all at once.
6. Nolan Sorrento (Ready Player One)
Not for nothing, but I think Ben Mendelsohn is becoming the villain du jour. If this list went past eight villains, he may have been on here twice with his portrayal of Orson Krennic on Rogue One. As Sorrento, the man who would be king wants it so badly, he’s willing to do anything to anyone in the Oasis to get what he wants. And that is it. There’s nothing multifaceted about him. The guy is awful and needs to get his at the end of the film. That simplicity makes Mendelsohn’s portrayal so genius.
Oh, one other thing…
Not for nothing, but if anyone in Hollywood is reading this, PUH-lease make a biopic about the surreptitious Church of Scientology because we have a CEO David Miscavige doppleganger in the flesh! Just look at that picture!
5. August Walker (Mission Impossible: Fallout)
Who knew Supes had it in him? Maybe it was because didn’t “really” wear that black suit, so he had to go all bad guy in another movie. (What? Too soon, Snyder cuts folks?) In what had to be the most entertaining Mission Impossible, Henry Cavill flexed his acting chops by going full turncoat against Tom Cruise.
As Ethan Hunt and the IMF team get working almost immediately, thanks to an excellent script and direction by Christopher McQuarrie, we learn this is the first direct sequel in MI history. And it couldn’t have happened without August Walker who owns every action scene he’s in. And please, what UFC combatant is not going to “load his fists” for that special effect?
4. Kingpin (Daredevil)
Before we go on, moment of deserved silence for easily the best villain going on TV.
(Pouring some brown liquor out on the curb for good measures)
If it wasn’t for horror nostalgia, a breakthrough role, and the most successful film of the decade, this is your frontrunner. Vincent D’Onofrio is impeccably evil and superbly sinister. A troubled soul with a twisted mind convinced he is doing Hell’s Kitchen some good, Wilson Fisk is the benchmark of what a criminal mastermind should be on television moving forward. (You know, if only he was still on TV, you greedy @#$&*!)
Despite his panache for bone armored suits, there is no shade of gray in Fisk’s life — it’s all black and white. If you’re not for me, you’re against me. Want to know how great D’Onofrio was? Imagine anyone else in that role. Now! You can’t. RIP Kingpin. Netflix and Marvel can suck it on this one.
3. Michael Myers (Halloween)
As we take that tumble down amnesia lane in the annals of horror, we see Captain James T. Kirk. Eh, sorry… Michael Myers. He’s not only the best horror villain ever, but also his return to the screen was reason for celebration. That is, unless you are Jamie Lee Curtis. When cinephiles and horror hawks everywhere heard this sequel was coming back to theaters, the party favors were blowing wind gusts.
Be mindful this movie is 40 years later from the haunting original, and it still didn’t miss a beat. Laurie Strode (Curtis) was a woman possessed. We all knew this film would be scary but evocative? Who would have thunk that?! Even when he’s standing there sans Shatner mask, there’s a small part of us all feeling a little sorry for him. Then, he finds a knife and we remember this guy is that guy. So great to catch up.
2. Killmonger (Black Panther)
Probably the most appealing and memorable aspect of Erik Killmonger in Black Panther is the depth of his angst and bitterness knew no bounds. The closer he got to fulfilling his perceived destiny, the more filled with rage he became. Killmonger was motivated by revenge his entire life. Typically, villains are bad because of something random like falling on their head or hating everyone.
Killmonger was the villain because he felt he had no choice but to take back that which was stolen from him. And that included lives. But what was probably the lasting impression of this particular villain is that he could be anyone we know. Sure, he had a secret but who doesn’t? His was that he was bastardized royalty, but it was his force. That made him real and visceral. He was so good that, at times, you forgot he was Adonis Creed or Johnny Storm. That’s a landmark impression in itself.
1. Thanos (Avengers: Infinity War)
With everything we knew the Mad Titan would be, the last thing we thought would be so pronounced is his frailty. The way Josh Brolin was able to bring to life the depth of emotion and guilt Thanos carried with him as we forged ahead to rid the universe of 50 percent of its people was undeniable and unforgettable. It seemed as if Thanos knew what he was going to do was awful, it was still necessary.
That determination made his walk through the universe to capture the stones regardless of what happened to him or those he loved even more perplexing and menacing. There’s a reason this movie made more than $2 billion worldwide and the big purple people eater is a grand portion of it all. There’s a reason he is a ruler of the universe because he ruled Marvel’s cinematic one from beginning to end.