2018's 10 best movie villains

Josh Brolin as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War
Josh Brolin as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity WarPHOTOS: SHAW ORGANISATION, UIP, WALT DISNEY PICTURES, WASHINGTON POST
Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther PHOTOS: SHAW ORGANISATION, UIP, WALT DISNEY PICTURES, WASHINGTON POST
Steven Yeun as Ben in Burning
Steven Yeun as Ben in Burning PHOTOS: SHAW ORGANISATION, UIP, WALT DISNEY PICTURES, WASHINGTON POST
Henry Cavill as August Walker in Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Henry Cavill as August Walker in Mission: Impossible - FalloutPHOTOS: SHAW ORGANISATION, UIP, WALT DISNEY PICTURES, WASHINGTON POST
Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan in Paddington 2
Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan in Paddington 2PHOTOS: SHAW ORGANISATION, UIP, WALT DISNEY PICTURES, WASHINGTON POST
Tom Hardy as Venom in Venom
Tom Hardy as Venom in VenomPHOTOS: SHAW ORGANISATION, UIP, WALT DISNEY PICTURES, WASHINGTON POST

Warning: Some of the blurbs below contain spoilers

Josh Brolin as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War

The jury is still out as to whether Thanos is a certified daddy, but all one can be sure of is how terrifying this purple warlord is.

He excels at accumulating shiny stones that contain ridiculous amounts of power. With a single snap of his fingers, he can obliterate half the universe's population.

Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther 

King T'Challa chooses to uphold Wakanda's isolationist policies to keep his people safe, but his American cousin Killmonger, who aims to liberate black people worldwide, sees this as selfishness on the part of such an advanced nation.

Some argued that Killmonger's ideals - if not his extreme hunger for power - were actually admirable and, as the Atlantic's Adam Serwer pointed out, the fact that a comic book movie villain could inspire such a debate "is a testament to how profound and complex the character is".

Steven Yeun as Ben in Burning

Burning is certainly well-written, but Yeun's acting is what landed Ben - a mysterious rich man who serves as romantic rival to the film's protagonist, Jongsu - on this list.

The role gave Yeun an opportunity to showcase a side of himself that viewers had not quite seen before. Ben's every action is effortlessly sinister, even when he is not talking about his habit of burning down abandoned greenhouses.

Henry Cavill as August Walker in Mission: Impossible - Fallout

The big and actually surprising reveal of Fallout is that CIA agent Walker is actually John Lark, a man who aims to kill a large portion of the world's population.

"There cannot be peace without, first, a great suffering," Lark states in a manifesto that could easily have been written by Thanos.

Cavill's excellent deadpan turn makes his villainy all the more unsettling, proof that it does the actor well to step away from playing a caped superhero every so often.

Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan in Paddington 2

Some of the best villains are those who surprise moviegoers and Paddington 2 features Grant, of all people, skulking around in a nun's costume while plotting against an innocent Peruvian bear.

He also leads a song-and-dance number that takes place in a pastel-coloured prison. Need one say more?

Tom Hardy as Venom in Venom

Venom is among the most ridiculous movies of 2018, emphasised by the dialogue between journalist Eddie Brock (Hardy) and the alien parasite that merges with his body. But that is also what makes it so great.

Between the parasite telling Eddie that he, too, was a "loser" on his home planet and his actual voice in Eddie's head nearing the intensity of Christian Bale's Batman voice, Venom carries what might be one of the most enjoyable bad movies of recent film history.

Nicholas Hoult as Robert Harley in The Favourite

There is not really a villain in The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos' humorous drama about two cousins fighting to be Queen Anne's favourite in 18th-century England, so calculating politician and leader of the opposition Robert Harley might be the closest thing viewers get to one.

That said, he does all the things traditional bad guys do - and well: He manipulates the lead characters by exploiting their weaknesses, ticks them off with snippy digs and does it all in fabulously elaborate costumes. Hoult, whose penchant for sarcasm has been evident since TV series Skins (2007 to 2013), is perfect in this role.

Ann Dowd as Joan in Hereditary

For how kind Dowd seems in real life, she sure does a good job of terrifying audiences.

The veteran actress, who won an Emmy in 2017 for playing the wicked Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid's Tale, went from being sweet and grandmotherly to being believably possessed by a devilish spirit over the course of Hereditary. While Joan was not technically the horror flick's main villain, moviegoers certainly would not drink tea at her home anytime soon.

Armie Hammer as Steve Lift in Sorry To Bother You

Sorry To Bother You, about a black telemarketer who speaks in his "white voice" to achieve professional success, is very ambitious in the number of social issues it attempts to tackle, and the evils of capitalism rank high.

Hammer plays Lift, the psychopathic CEO of a morally bankrupt company - essentially, the most 2018 villain of all.

Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme Manning in Widows 

If you saw Widows in theatres, there is a good chance Kaluuya's character haunted your dreams that night.

Manning is ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to keep Chicago mobsters loyal to his crime boss brother, Jamal, who is running for city council.

As viewers learnt with Get Out (2017), Kaluuya has perfected the art of conveying emotion - or a lack thereof, in Jatemme's case - through his eyes, rather than just his words. 

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2019, with the headline '2018's 10 best movie villains'. Print Edition | Subscribe