Year In Review: The Bestest and Baddest Villains of 2011

As we all sit here at Reject HQ, gathered around an absurdly long, but incredibly imposing, table discussing what to do with the nuclear missiles we just “creatively appropriated” from a breakaway Russian republic, it occurs to us that 2011 was a great year to be bad. For every boring, dopey, goody-good hero that popped up on the silver screen, there was a brilliant, super cool, woefully misunderstood villain doing everything he/she/it could to thwart the zero hero at every turn.

So when Supreme Commander #1, better known to the world (and those pesky Avengers so they’ll stop blasting our lair) as Neil Miller, issued an official order (delivered by a specially-trained, fire-breathing, gun-toting alligator who lives in the moat) to construct a supersonic death ray…that assignment went to Kate “Femme Fatale” Erbland. But then I got asked to do this list of the 20 Best Villains of 2011, a decided promotion from my usual position as sinister cocktail-fetcher and cleaner of the diabolical gutters.

Voldemort (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2)

*SPOILER ALERT* The ultimate lizard-faced, petulant man-child, Tom Riddle, had his final showdown with little Harry Potter this year. That Voldemort just got exponentially more dickish as the franchise drew to a close, as he destroyed a goodly portion of Hogwarts, killed nearly all your favorite ancillary characters, and even took down Hans Gruber. Hans. Gruber!

Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows)

Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty are as inextricable as fried food platters and heartburn. In Guy Ritchie’s mildly-anticipated sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Jared Harris stepped into the shoes of this classic foil and absolutely nailed it. It takes a great deal of skill to put cocksure cocky cock Robert Downey, Jr. in his place.

Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger)

You have to admire Red Skull. On top of plotting his own world domination under the nose of, and then in fearless defiance of, Adolf Hitler’s quest for world domination, he also manages to battle Marvel’s most jingoistic pretty boy and look damn fine in a suit all despite suffering from the worst sunburn anyone has ever known.

Loki (Thor)

There was once a time when the greatest crime Loki, the Norse god of mischief, ever committed was supplying rubber-faced Jim Carrey with a wooden mask and subjecting all of us to one of the worst films of the 90s; no small trespass to be sure. But when Marvel finally produced a big-budget, big-screen version of Thor, Loki proved he could wreak havoc with the best of them. He proved it so well that the good folks at the Society for the Prevention of Diminishing Returns invited him back to be the villain in The Avengers.

Shen (Kung Fu Panda 2)

Gary Oldman is one of those actors who, for many years, was utterly chameleon-like in his complete submersion into his various colorful roles. In fact, there are people to this day who have no idea what Gary Oldman actually looks like. Thankfully, Kung Fu Panda 2 finally cleared up the speculation when they boldly revealed that Gary Oldman is in fact a CG peacock. As the sinister Shen, he helped Kung Fu Panda 2 excel not only as a family film, but as an action movie as well.

Goddamn Aliens (Super 8, Attack the Block, Battle L.A., Transformers 3, The Thing, The Darkest Hour, Cowboys & Aliens)

2011 was a tremendously bad year for intergalactic diplomatic relations. We could not go a month without our planet being besieged, attacked, or otherwise picked on by goddamn aliens. They tried killing us in the 70s (Super 8) and they tried killing us in the old west (Cowboys & Aliens). They tried destroying the London projects (Attack the Block) and they tried to level L.A. They sent giant, obnoxious robots, shape-shifting insidious CG blobs, and even invisible, wattage-sucking absurdities. Seriously, whoever has been flaming The Rest of the Universe on their blog, please apologize.

Sex (Shame)

Not all villains are tangible beings. Michael Fassbender proved that sex addition and the subsequent feelings of, wait for it, shame it fosters are just as crippling as having Magneto punch you in the balls while you’re trying to get your rocks off. Also, Fassbender played Magneto…we’ll get there.

Albert Brooks (Drive)

Ryan Gosling may have been the hipster hero of the year in the, admittedly sensational, Drive, but his skills behind the wheel, his proficiency for choosing super cool jackets, and his mastering of looking hot while chewing on a toothpick were matched beautifully by Albert Brooks’ pesky inclination toward vicious murdering. The final showdown of the two is an epic struggle of bloodletting and wills worthy of Akira Kurosawa. Still not as funny as his dad.

The Accountant (Drive Angry)

Is there anything not to like about Drive Angry? Shut up, internet, I wasn’t asking you. As Nicolas Cage hilariously sleepwalks through another whacked-out script he clearly didn’t read, William Fichtner has the audacity to wholeheartedly commit to an even more ridiculous role. As “The Accountant” he keeps turning up on Cage’s trail spouting staccato quips of brillance and moving like he’s contanstly on the verge of a Saturday Night Fever dance number.

Rose McGowan (Conan the Barbarian)

To be fair, Rose McGowan has never had to travel very far to land smack dab in the middle of Creepytown, but in this year’s remake of Conan the Barbarian, she takes it to a whole new, shower-requiring level. Not only does she boast the fairest complexion since Powder became a fulltime blogger, but her normally charming bloodlust is elevated to a degree completely beyond the pale (as again is her skin), and she has this suggested propensity toward incest. She should change her name to Rose McEWWWan.


Chris Cooper (The Muppets)

How do you hate the Muppets? Mind you, I’m not talking about the movie (hence my conspicuous lack of italics). I mean how evil do you have to be in order to be the guy who is actively seeking to bring harm and financial ruin to a bunch of lovable sock puppets? That’s exactly the question answered by Chris Cooper in, you guessed it, The Muppets. Cooper artfully plays a caricature of villainy elegantly capped off with his hysterically dispassionate, “maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh.”

PigBat Flu (Contagion)

As if we don’t have enough problems blasting us from outer space, now two different species of terrestrial animals are colluding to bring about our downfall? I’m not so much incensed by this rampant virus killing off almost the entirety of Earth’s population, that I understand. But when you can make a handrail on a subway car as terrifying as chainsaw-wielding Hannibal Lecter riding a flaming werewolf, that’s devilishly impressive.

Sergei Katsov (A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas)

*SPOILER ALERT* Sergei Katsov earns his purchase on this list as much on the basis of the actor playing him as for his dastardly deeds. Granted, this Russian mobster did try to set fire to a couple of put-upon stoners as they were lashed together–thankfully Waffle Bot was there to save the day–but that is completely overshadowed by the fact that he is played by Elias Koteas. It’s one thing to be a despicable gangster, but it’s quite another when that gangster used to be a sporting-goods-wielding hero defending New York City alongside the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Oh, Casey Jones, how far you have fallen. Editor’s note: I could not find a picture of Koteas in AVHAKC3D. Can you?

Lake Sharks (Shark Night 3D)

Everyone knows to never, EVER go swimming in the ocean; or as I call it, the deep blue killing field. However, lakes are safely devoid of sharks, right? WRONG WRONG SO VERY VERY WRONG! Shark Night 3D proves that the only thing worse than one shark in a lake is all of the fucking sharks in the world in a lake. Only a one-armed teen with a spear stands a chance against the lake sharks…is possibly the greatest sentence ever.

Kyung-chul (I Saw the Devil)

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: the Koreans are really pissed off. From the Vengeance trilogy to Chaser, nobody does hard-to-watch violence like Korea. In I Saw the Devil, one of the best films of the year in my nowhere-near-humble opinion, a government agent loses his girlfriend to a psychotic killer’s sadistic habits. What makes Kyung-chul, played by Oldboy‘s Min-sik Choi, so evil is his near-apathetic detachment from his heinous deeds. The film is actually a fascinating deconstruction of good and evil as the victimized secret agent proceeds to engage in a game of catch and release torture with the killer.

Magneto (X-Men: First Class)

I know what you’re thinking, “but he’s a good guy for most of X-Men: First Class.” And you’re right, though your incessant mental whining is unbecoming. However, as any one who has ever read a comic book, Greek tragedy, or even the back cover of The Dark Knight can attest, the most interesting villains are often the ones who begin life as the hero. Michael Fassbender gives us a Magneto we not only sympathize with, but also root for even when his means drift into a morally gray area.

The Pissed Off Tire (Rubber)

The world is a pretty messed up place, I think any given reality TV show would serve as evidence of that. But I think we can all agree that things have taken a left turn into totally fucked when inanimate objects become sentient and develop a knack for telekinetic homicide. Rubber is a wild experiment in absurdism and makes a nasty villain of a castoff piece of garbage.

Lipstick-Face Demon (Insidious)

Haunted house movies are a dime a dozen. The setup is usually the same: family moves in, figures out house is haunted near the end, struggles to escape with their lives. James Wan’s Insidious is decidedly different because, as it’s catchy tagline espouses, it’s not the house that’s haunted. The demon most responsible for the supernatural torment this family endures, apart from bearing an unfortunate resemblance to Darth Maul, is one of the freakiest specters in filmdom. One of his earliest appearances in the film, as he stands motionless in a darkened corner, is an image I will never be able to rid from my mind…or my nightmares.

Teenagers (Tucker and Dale vs. Evil)

I think it’s safe to assume we all fear teenagers. They’re rude, they’re hormonal, and they want nothing more than to kill you. Or at least, that is the situation facing Tucker and Dale, a pair of good-natured bumpkins just trying to enjoy a quiet weekend at their vacation home. A group of teens get it in their heads that Tucker and Dale are mass-murdering rednecks and decide to take them out. Luckily, they prove to be far more adept at finding creative ways to accidentally kill themselves in the process.

Shoddy Construction (Final Destination 5)

What’s that you say? You’d argue that death is the villain in the Final Destination franchise? I’d be inclined to agree with you…if you weren’t wrong. While the doomed dupes in the film play up the “death is picking on us” angle, the fact of the matter is that the real villain in this series is shoddy construction. A screw loose here, a split table leg there, and suddenly you’ve set the Rube Goldberg machine of death in motion. It’s too bad for our “heroes” that the entire world was apparently put together by drunk interns on a deadline.

Catch up with the rest of our 2011 Year In Review

Brian Salisbury has been a film critic and internet gadfly for six years. He is the co-host of FSR's Junkfood Cinema podcast and the co-founder of OneOfUs.Net. Brian is a cult film and exploitation buff who loves everything from Charlie Chaplin to Charlie Bronson.

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