Villains. Almost every actor loves to play the bad guy. While actors love to receive top billing, most would agree that it is much more fun to play the antagonist, as villainous roles give an actor a big canvas to work with and lots of leeways when it comes to going over the top.
The action film genre has given cinema some truly classic villains. The ’80s and ’90s were the heydeys of balls-to-the-wall action films and both decades gave film fans many unique and well cast bad guys. Here are the 5 best villains from the 80s and the 90s.
10 The 80s: “Bennet”- Commando (1985)
Wells played “Bennet”, a violent and wise-cracking henchman who took great pleasure in inflicting pain, all the while wearing a big smile. The film and his character were big hits and with all of the popular one-liners it held, the fan-favorite is Bennet’s threat to Schwarzenegger’s character, “John, I’m not gonna shoot you between the eyes. I’m gonna shoot you between the balls!”
9 The 90s: “Xenia Onatop”- Goldeneye (1995)
Pierce Brosnan’s debut as 007 was well received and is considered by fans to be a perfect Bond film. As everyone knows, every great James Bond film needs good villains and Goldeneye was no exception as it introduced “Xenia Onatop”, the vicious Russian assassin played by Famke Jansen.
One of the most unique villains of the later day James Bond films, Onatop uses her sexuality to lure men into “the bedroom” and kill them with her deadly hands while holding them in a helpless death-grip with her powerful thighs. Bond being Bond, he finds himself battling for his life in that very situation.
8 The 80s: “Lord Humongous”- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
While “Wez” was the wildman warrior who went after Mad Max with a violent relentlessness, it was “Lord Humongous” who was the “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!” leader to all the bad guys in George Miller’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.
Sporting a bodybuilder’s physique and wearing a Hockey mask, Humongous led his army of marauders with an iron fist and determination that made him more dangerous than any of his minions and made a lasting impression in 80s Action Film history.
7 The 90s: “Cyrus The Virus”- Con Air (1997)
Con Air was one of the biggest hits of the 90s Action Cinema. With its talented cast of actors and big-budget explosive action sequences, audiences flocked to Simon West’s film about a plane full of villains who plan a violent escape.
The ringleader is “Cyrus the Virus” played by John Malkovich. Already Oscar-nominated for his villainous work in the Clint Eastwood thriller In the Line of Fire, the actor dug in and made Cyrus a beyond-vicious bad guy who enjoyed the violence he used to get things done his way. His character was made all the more vicious by holding his gun to the stuffed bunny that hero Nicolas Cage bought for his little daughter.
6 The 80s: “The Duke Of New York”- Escape From New York (1981)
Issac Hayes? Cool. Issac Hayes playing a villain in the 1980s classic Escape From New York directed by John Carpenter? The coolest. Hayes’ “Duke of New York” ran the prison island of Manhattan in Carpenter’s classic Sci-Fi Action film. His Duke was cool and quiet and menacing.
Dressed in jeans with boots, an open jacket with no shirt, a shaped cowboy hat, and sporting sunglasses at night, his character is set up through whispers of how the inmates fear his rule. Once he appears for the first time riding up in his silver Cadillac with chandeliers on the hood, he is the embodiment of the line spoken by Ernest Borgnine’s “Cabbie”, “No one crosses the Duke. Everyone knows that.”
5 The 90s: “Catwoman”- Batman Returns (1992)
Tim Buton’s comic book sequel, Batman Returns, was a big hit but took a bit of a drubbing from critics and fans who found it too dark and macabre, an ironic statement about a film from Tim Burton!
Michelle Pfieffer received the best reviews as “Catwoman”. Her method-acting take on the classic character was fun and playful. The actress added a dose of sexuality and real menace, making it a critical and fan favorite.
4 The 80s: “The Terminator”- The Terminator (1984)
James Cameron created an original and all-time classic villain with his Terminator. A relentless killing machine that was designed and programmed to do just that, The Terminator was walking death to anyone who came into contact with it.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was the perfect choice to embody this unstoppable killer and helped make The Terminator one of the most beloved action classics of the 1980s.
3 The 90s: “Castor Troy”- Face/Off
Nicolas Cage loves to chew the scenery. Sometimes it works, others not so much. In John Woo’s Action classic Face/Off, Cage got to play a batshit crazy villain who steals the face and identity of John Travolta’s Agent Sean Archer.
Cage has a blast with his unhinged portrayal of a sadistic bad guy and gets to imitate John Travolta to boot! With his two gold-plated pistols and manic persona, “Castor Troy” is a classic of 90s Action Film villainy.
2 The 80s: “Hans Gruber”- Die Hard (1988)
Widely considered to be the pinnacle of 80s movie bad guys, “Hans Grueber” steals the show in the Action classic “Die Hard“.
Alan Rickman gave his first film role all he had making Grueber a well-dressed/spoken, cunning, and dangerous villain. His exchanges with star Bruce Willis are considered to be some of the best dialogue in the 80s Action cinema, with many critics deeming him Oscar-worthy.
1 The 90s: “The T-1000”- Terminator 2: Judgement Day
In the annals of Action cinema, one of the most feared and revered villains was Robert Patrick’s “T-1000” in James Cameron’s “Terminator 2: Judgement Day“
Even more unstoppable and relentless than Schwarzenegger’s original Terminator, the T-1000 is made from liquid metal and can morph into nearly anything and anyone. Bullets can slow him down or even cut him in two but the metal allows him to immediately piece himself back together.
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