A good villain can make or break a film. Indeed, more often than not, it's the villain that stays with you long after.
For the sake of broad appeal, we've collated the best villains from the last fifty years of film and whittled them down to just ten. We want to hear from you, so make sure you vote in our poll and let us know who should have been number one. In the spirit of this list, we'll read your suggestions and then factor them into an evil scheme to RULE THE WORLD. ALL HAIL PLANKTON, ALL HAIL PLANKTON.
10. KHAN from 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan'
Up until Khan, Ricardo Montalaban was known primarily for playing swarthy, swashbuckling adventurers and, of course, Fantasy Island. Playing a villain of the week in the '60s Star Trek series, Khan was repurposed and turned into an iconic villain. Filled with personal hatred for Captain Kirk after he marooned him on Ceti Alpha V, Khan hijacked a ship using terrifying mind-control slugs to control Chekov. The scene in which he implants them is straight out of a David Cronenberg body-horror film and is unmatched in Trek lore.
9. VOLDEMORT from 'Harry Potter'
What made Voldemort so interesting is that, through the books and the films, we see that Voldemort was a product of terrible circumstance. Born into a loveless world, he was warped by what he saw and became what he was. More akin to a white supremacist, Voldemort believed utterly in what he was doing and inspired fear and fanaticism wherever he went. Ralph Fiennes' growling, measured voice and presence made for a truly unsettling villain.
8. Dr. EVIL from 'Austin Powers'
Although Dr. Evil was inspired by SNL producer Lorne Michaels, his real genus comes from Bond villains - specifically Ernst Stavro Blofeld. More than anything, Dr. Evil drew upon the worst stereotypes of villainy. He frequently monologues, he lives in an underground lair, he's facially disfigured, he comes up with ridiculous plans to conquer the world. He might be a parody, sure, but he's still an incredibly well-known and well-loved villain.
7. THE JOKER from 'The Dark Knight'
Heath Ledger's incomparable performance as The Joker rightfully won him a posthumous Best Supporting Oscar. And what a performance it is. The visual tics, the crazed makeup, the cackle that breaks through scenes like a shockwave - everything. Ledger drew on a myriad of influences - Sid Vicious, Alex DeLarge from Clockwork Orange, even the work of artist Francis Bacon influenced the facepaint he wore. Nolan's commitment to infusing Batman with a real world influence is evident. Joker isn't out to win money or rule Gotham. As he explains it himself, he's a dog chasing cars.
6. COL. HANS LANDA from 'Inglorious Basterds'
Quentin Tarantino said that he couldn't find an actor who fit the role of Hans Landa, he would shelve Inglorious Basterds permanently. After all, it's quite a task. A polyglot, an urbane and refined Austrian who's able to carry out reprehensible acts and yet - somehow - still have the audience's attention. Christoph Waltz, then an unknown, exploded onto the scene with his charismatic performance as Landa. His witticisms, charm and ability to imbue something as trivial as asking for a glass of milk with tension.
5. NURSE RATCHED from 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'
Out of all the entries on this list, what makes Nurse Ratched so horrifying is that she's so clearly believable. She isn't trying to take over the world, destroy a superhero or find fortune. She's a senior nurse in a mental hospital. She is controlling, manipulative and quite obviously a sociopath. The irony. Played by Louise Fletcher, Nurse Ratched is synonymous with institutional intransigence and bureaucratic tyranny. She makes the rules, everybody follows. Those that don't end up with a fate worse than death.
4. ANNIE WILKES from 'Misery'
For author Stephen King, Misery was a reaction. It was a reaction to the trapping, gnawing sensation he felt from being a successful horror writer. King wrote a fantasy novel, The Eyes of the Dragon, that was widely rejected by his fans and channeled his frustration into creating one of his memorable works. However, it was Kathy Bates' physical performance that made the character of Annie Wilkes into legend. On the surface, she's an eccentric woman who's obsessed with an author (James Caan), whom she rescued from a car-crash and nurses back to health. In a matter of time, it becomes clear that she is more than just obsessed - she's utterly deranged.
3. HANS GRUBER from 'Die Hard'
Alan Rickman, whether he admits or not, must know that Hans Gruber is an albatross around his neck. His first major US film, Die Hard has since become a modern classic and his performance is referenced, parodied and loved. Trivia time! The finale, in which Gruber is dropped off the top of the building, featured a 70 metre drop for Rickman. John McTiernan used the first take because the look of fear on Rickman's face was genuine. Remember that bit where he pretends to be a hostage? That was written on the set when it was discovered that Rickman could do a convincing American accent.
2. HANNIBAL LECTER from 'Silence Of The Lambs'
Originally played by Brian Cox in Michael Mann's overlooked Manhunter, Anthony Hopkins made Hannibal Lecter into an icon. It's intriguing to note the multitude of actors who were considered before him - Gene Hackman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Derek Jacobi. Hopkins improvised his Southern twang at his first scene with Foster, with her horrified reaction being genuine. Moreover, Foster and Hopkins shared just four scenes together, with Hopkins' screentime totaling 24 minutes and 52 seconds - the second shortest amount to win an Oscar.
1. DARTH VADER from 'The Empire Strikes Back'
One of the chief issues people had with the infamous Star Wars prequels is that it ruined any sense of mystery surrounding Darth Vader. His first dialogue scene in the first film sets him up perfectly - he's literally strangling a man with one hand while questioning him. James Earl Jones' baritone drawl fitted so perfectly with Vader's commanding presence that many didn't realise the character was an amalgamation. Weightlifter David Prowse wore the heavy armour for the most part with champion fencer / legendary fight choreographer Bob Anderson filling in for the fight scenes. The suit itself is just as important. The infamous helmet is one-part Samurai, one-part Nazi helmet, one-part skull. Prowse's six-foot-six height also played a huge role in creating the terrifying visage. Cropping up in everything from The Daily Show with John Stewart to an infamous Quinnsworth ad, Darth Vader is the most recognisable and well-loved villain of this century, without question.