Top 10 Best Movie Villains of the Decade
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
They're undeniably bad… but they sure are good at it!. For this list, we'll be looking at the very best villains to have appeared in films released between 2010 and 2019. We'll be including both human villains and monsters, but please note that animated villains will not be included, as they warrant a list of their very own. Our countdown will include villains from films such as “The Joker” (2019), “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” (2011) & “Get Out” (2017). Who do YOU think is the best movie villain of the decade? Let us know in the comments!
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Script written by Michael Wynands
Top 10 Movie Villains of The Decade
They’re undeniably bad… but they sure are good at it! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movie Villains of The Decade.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the very best villains to have appeared in films released between 2010 and 2019. We’ll be including both human villains and monsters, but please note that animated villains will not be included, as they warrant a list of their very own.
#10: Joker / Arthur Fleck
The Joker is one of the most iconic villains of any medium. With this film, he proved that he doesn’t need Batman to maintain that status. Though 2019’s “Joker” had its detractors, few critics could find fault with Joaquin Phoenix’s brilliant performance. Now, mental illness is a tough subject to tackle, especially when the character in question is supposed to be a villain; there’s always a fear of demonizing mental illness. But Phoenix and director Todd Phillips did a solid job of making this character at once sympathetic and someone who lives up to his villainous legacy. When Arthur Fleck gives into his worst inclinations and embraces his Joker persona, he becomes an agent of chaos and evil - and an unforgettable one at that.
#9: Calvin Candie
“Django Unchained” (2012)
Like Joaquin Phoenix, Leonardo DiCaprio is considered among the most talented actors of his generation. Who else could take a role like Jordan Belfort and simultaneously make him both reprehensible and so magnetically charming? As DiCaprio had already proven a year earlier, however, he’s every bit as capable of turning off that charm. Playing against type as 19th century slave owner Calvin Candie, DiCaprio wholly commits to the sadistic, hate-filled, and thoroughly repulsive villain. His bigotry and racism know no bounds, but as detestable as Candie is, the manner, swagger, and quirks with which DiCaprio imbues the character makes him the sort of villain we LOVE to hate. The fact that Leo didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this scene-stealing performance is baffling.
#8: Lord Voldemort
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” (2011)
Before he was brought to the big screen, Voldemort had already been established as one of the greatest villains in modern literature. As such, the risk of the live-action interpretation of the character falling short of fan expectations was incredibly high. But Ralph Fiennes pulls it off magnificently! For many fans, it was as if the Dark Lord had stepped right off the page and onto the screen. In the final installment of this epic series, Fiennes holds nothing back, fully inhabiting the role. His Voldemort is cruel and imposing - there’s danger behind every word he delivers, an inherent volatility that’s terrifying to behold. And yet, he’s also charismatic in a way that makes you understand how he seduced so many to his side.
#7: Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens
“Black Panther” (2018)
It’s not the first time we’ve said it, but the MCU, for all its strengths, has really struggled to bring compelling villains to the big screen. With Killmonger, however, they absolutely hit it out of the park. “Black Panther” was the first comic book superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and while there were many contributing factors, Killmonger felt like a key part of the equation. Played expertly by Michael B. Jordan, Killmonger is a fully-fleshed out villain who, despite his lethal methods, has relatable and sympathetic motivations. He’s a character with real emotional depth and a powerful backstory. And when you add to that his physicality, you’ve got a villain worthy of our hero in every regard.
#6: Terence Fletcher
Most of the villains we’ve discussed up until this point have been notably larger-than-life-characters. But Terrence Fletcher is just a music teacher and conductor. He doesn’t weave any diabolical plots or have ambitions of world domination. And that’s part of what makes him such a standout villain - he’s the sort of antagonist that any one of us could encounter in our own academic or professional careers. As Fletcher. J.K. Simmons plays a master emotional manipulator, preying on the vulnerability and ambitions of his students on his quest for musical perfection. He’s cruel and violent and yet… he’s fundamentally human and not without sentiment or honor. Like so many real-world villains, he doesn’t see himself as one.
#5: Amy Elliott Dunne
“Gone Girl” (2014)
There are so many ways in which this film could have gone wrong. The manipulative, “crazy” woman is a tired trope and often serves as a lazy stand-in for actual character development. Amy checks a lot of the boxes traditionally associated with this archetype, but she is anything but two-dimensional. Despite all the mystery initially surrounding Amy’s disappearance, this film takes us deep inside her mind, inviting us to understand what makes this character tick. The fact that she’s an unreliable narrator only adds to her appeal. Conniving, unflinching, and brilliant, Amy is a villain worthy of a greater hero than she ever faces, and so in the end… she wins! This is undeniably Rosamund Pike’s career-defining role.
#4: The Armitage Family
“Get Out” (2017)
Picture this: you meet the girl of your dreams and everything seems to be going great. After a few months, she asks you to meet her parents, and you go along with it. The next thing you know… they’re trying to sell your body to the highest bidder! The Armitage family is deeply racist, take the term “manipulative” to sickening new heights, and can only be described “evil through and through.” Theaters saw no shortage of memorable villains over the last decade, but what really makes the Armitages stand out is that, for all intents and purposes, they’re just your average family next door. They pose as open-minded and progressive, but behind closed doors, they indulge in humanity’s darkest, cruelest, and most selfish of impulses.
#3: It / Pennywise the Dancing Clown
“It” (2017) & “It Chapter Two” (2019)
“It” is a terrifying cosmic being who most commonly takes the form of a sinister clown. Need we say more? Okay, It is a shapeshifter and reality manipulator, who knows how to appeal to the good-natured sympathies of children so that he can eat them - but only after seasoning their meat with fear. We never dreamed that someone could hold a candle to Tim Curry’s take on the titular terror, but Bill Skarsgård has turned in the performance of a lifetime to make a whole new generation of cinemagoers terrified of this monstrous villain. The horror genre isn’t short on horrific creatures, but with his unique quirks and the clear joy he takes in his work, Pennywise is a cut from a different cloth.
#2: Kylo Ren
“Star Wars” sequel trilogy (2015-19)
No one will ever top Darth Vader in terms of iconic “Star Wars” villains, but since he only made a brief (albeit badass) cameo in “Rogue One,” it would feel like cheating to include him on this list. In Kylo Ren, however, Vader has a worthy heir and successor. Ben Solo feels like Vader’s internal struggle between the dark and light sides of the Force personified. He’s a slave to his emotions (both positive and negative); in many ways he feels like the sort of complex, tortured character that George Lucas was trying to craft with Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. A powerful force user, played with nuance by Adam Driver, Kylo Ren does the franchise proud without feeling like a retread of old ground.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)
“Toy Story 3” (2010)
“Green Room” (2015)
“Paddington 2” (2017)
“Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) & “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)
Before the Mad Titan took center stage, Loki was the reigning villain of the MCU, and so he deserves a nod. Now… onto Thanos. Like many of history’s greatest villains, he firmly believes that his devastating methods are entirely justifiable from a utilitarian standpoint; he is the hero of his own story. Thanos is a formidable physical threat, but his greatest strength is his unflinching resolve. A complex, and charismatic villain, Thanos raised the bar in multiple ways. The MCU is the most ambitious worldbuilding ever seen in film and after looming over it for years, Thanos shook this universe to its core. He’s a villain without precedent, whose status is further elevated by the magnitude of the cinematic event in which he appeared.