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Ranking The 10 Best And 10 Worst Villains In Superhero Movies

Lex Luthor, Mr. Freeze and everyone in between.

The Ten Worst

10. Ryan Reynolds/Scott Adkins as Wade Wilson in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)
A wisecracking, fourth-wall-breaking remnant of the creative disaster zone that was comics in the 1990s, masked mercenary Deadpool nevertheless remains a huge fan favorite, and so there was a good deal of anticipation when it was revealed he’d be featured in stand-alone spin-off “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and played by smart-mouthed rising star Ryan Reynolds. The result, however, serves as one of the very best examples of studios and screenwriters fundamentally failing to understand how to use a character: they essentially killed off Wilson, replacing him a brainwashed, hodgepodge Darth Maul-ish adversary for Logan to battle at the film’s conclusion. Reynolds is sort of fine (if a little annoying) when he’s a hero in the early scenes, but by the end, he’s replaced by martial artist Scott Adkins in all but the most extreme of close-ups, though as it’s essentially an entirely different character, that’s kind of fine. As with most aspects of the film, he makes very little sense as a character (deploying his various powers one at a time, in order for there to be reveals) rather than just offing Logan immediately, and that the character known as the “merc with a mouth” ends up with his lips sewn up (and, after that, decapitated) shows how little the Fox executives knew what they were doing. Plans for a “Deadpool” spin-off to the spin-off continued for a while, but the project finally seems dead, which is probably a sensible move.

9. January Jones as Emma Frost in “X-Men: First Class” (2011)
Aside from the opportunity to see younger versions of their favorite characters brought to life by top-quality acting talent like James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence, one of the reasons fans were excited about Matthew Vaughn’s pre-boot “X-Men First Class” was that it finally saw one of the mutant franchise’s most beloved characters brought to life properly. Emma Frost, also known as the White Queen, a powerful telepath who can also turn her skin into diamonds, has been one of the X-Men’s most popular villains (though, as is often the case with the comics’ continuity, she’s also fought on their side more than once, and has even led the heroes), and after a fleeting cameo in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” finally got a proper part in “First Class,” in the form of “Mad Men” star January Jones. Except you rather wish that they hadn’t bothered. In the comics, Frost is a powerful and independent character, but here, she’s mostly second fiddle to Kevin Bacon’s bland Sebastian Shaw, an agency-free sex-bot and the worst example of the film’s icky, exploitative representation of women. Maybe a better choice of actress could have brought extra shading, but Jones (while she’s done good work on “Mad Men” and in Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada”) is almost impossibly stiff in the part. Despite being freed from custody at the end of the movie, it’s no surprise that she’s not set to be a part of the upcoming follow-up “Days Of Future Past.”

8. Colin Farrell as Bullseye in “Daredevil” (2003)
One of the nicest things you could say about Mark Steven Johnson’s “Daredevil” is that it’s inconsistently cast. Few would pick Ben Affleck as their ideal choice for the blind superhero, but Michael Clarke Duncan was inspired as villain The Kingpin. Jennifer Garner was a bit insipid as Elektra, but people like Joe Pantoliano and Jon Favreau did some solid work in supporting roles. And in theory, then-rising star Colin Farrell, fresh off a good job as an antagonist in “Minority Report,” could have been fun as fan-favorite villain Bullseye, a man so accurate he can kill someone with a peanut. He certainly seems to be having a good time, chewing scenery like it was made of toffee. But the whole thing’s just kind of misjudged. Farrell brings a kind of white-rapper swagger to the part, but a House of Pain kind of swagger, and it comes across as campy and cheesy rather than ‘cool,’ which is what it seems to be going for. The look is also pretty botched: as was the vogue, Farrell doesn’t wear the costume from the comics, which isn’t necessarily a bad decision, except that the bald-head/target score combination conspires to literally make Farrell look like a dick. Dodgy accent aside, it’s not the actor’s fault: everyone in this movie is so adrift that you can’t blame him so much. But it’s still a huge waste of what could have been a very memorable adversary.

7. Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond in “Green Lantern” (2011)
Ok, so there is an element of shooting fish in a barrel when we target anything to do with the widely reviled and inarguably shit “Green Lantern,” but some fish really do deserve two in the head, just to be sure they’re really dead. On paper, Hector Hammond seems a fairly promising adversary, in the odd, ephemeral universe of ‘Green Lantern’ that is — infected by some sort of fear essence which magnifies his latent feelings of resentment and inadequacy toward his father, Hammond becomes telepathic and telekinetic, and perhaps understandably, as a result, insane and psychotic. But a universe in which Will is a source of power and Fear is a Yellow Energy that can be passed on from the Fear Entity Parallax, or something, needs some nifty storytelling chops to sell, and some sympathetic and relatable characterization to ground the frou-frou. None of which we get here as Sarsgaard morphs from a guy with a tragically receding hairline into a tic-laden grotesque with a pulsating, bulbous forehead, who resembles the Elephant Man without the pathos and whose motivations, especially once his hated father is dead, are a complete mystery to us, and who the script pretty much abandons in the final act anyway. And that’s not to mention the bad taste left by a film whose moral is essentially that the buff, popular, jock fighter pilot dude will always win out over the socially inept brainbox.

6. Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face in “Batman Forever” (1995)
Take it from someone who was nine years old at the time: the idea of recent Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones and comedy megastar Jim Carrey playing two of Batman’s most iconic foes, Two-Face and The Riddler, in a new movie was just about the most exciting thing you could ever think of. And at the time, I’m pretty sure I lost my mind over Joel Schumacher’s day-glo nightmare “Batman Forever.” But in retrospect, the film’s a highly painful experience, and that’s in part thanks to the villains. Carrey is as over-the-top as you might imagine as Edward Nygma, but at least feels like he’s at home; he’s positively minimalist next to Jones, clearly and palpably cashing a paycheck and dreading the whole thing. The character has a unique and tragic conceit in his split-personality, but the film ignores it entirely, turning Harvey Dent (played by Billy Dee Williams in the first “Batman” film) into a purple-faced, fur-suited megalomaniac. And as for the performance? Well, it’s fair to say that the actor is someone who’s at his best when he’s underplaying (see “No Country For Old Men,” “The Fugitive” and “In The Valley Of Elah”), not when he’s doing a screeching, wildly misjudged riff on his character from “JFK.” The only remarkable thing about this performance is that Schumacher had worse to unleash with his next time at Bat.

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