Many actors like to play the villain. It’s certainly more exciting than say, the boy or girl next door; with a nefarious role, you can dig into your inner demons and unleash them on your victims, spewing one-liners and glaring deeply into their eyes. Oftentimes the cinematic villain is unforgettable, leaving more of an impact than the hero, and they are certainly more quotable (looking at you, Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence Of The Lambs”).
Even with the perpetual release of superhero films from Marvel and DC, it’s the bad guy who reigns and lingers in your memory. Legendary film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert agreed, and they devoted an episode of their television program to just that.
In these clips, Siskel and Ebert file through the films of the past and their present (1990s, folks; villains have come a long way since then), those that were critical to film successes and making a cultural difference in the aforementioned decades. Among the more expected choices: the late, superb Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber in “Die Hard;” Dennis Hopper’s tantalizing control freak Howard Payne in “Speed;” and the smarmy, hysterical M. Emmet Walsh as the cruel Private Detective Loren Visser in the Coen Brothers’ “Blood Simple.”
The duo find themselves on the topic of women villains during the program and, in what could be viewed as a bout of foreshadowing, discuss their belief that Hollywood mistreats women, particularly in their casting choices. Mention of Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” and the inimitable Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct” marks the emergence of slightly stronger females at the time, but for the most part, female villains then were more bombshell and less eccentric genius. It’s a very appropriate topic that is unfortunately still relevant.
The critics pick their favorite villains, which you’ll have to tune in to find out, but here’s a hint: Ebert’s villain loves riding Ferris wheels and being chased in the sewer, and Siskel’s isn’t quite human at all.
Watch the video below, and let us know your favorite villain in the comments.