Greatest Villains in Series: What would our heroes be without opponents? As viewers, we often learn most about characters when they are confronted with almost insurmountable challenges. At the same time, a good villain is by no means limited to being a mere cue for the protagonist – at best he (or she) gives conflicts additional tension and depth through comprehensible motifs or their own characteristics. Sometimes, on the other hand, they are simply so abysmally hateful that one can hardly wait for their demise!
An obligatory warning in advance: We explain in some drastic details how those represented here have earned their place on the list – sometimes pretty tough stuff and tangible spoilers for the respective series are to be expected.
1. John Ross “JR” Ewing
- From “Dallas,” played by Larry Hagman
One of the most famous cliffhangers in TV history dealt in the early eighties with the probing question of who fired the potentially fatal pistol shots at JR Ewing in the finale of the third “Dallas” season. Not that there was a lack of eligible candidates: the manipulative oil magnate has never cared much for compassion and accordingly steadfastly focused on increasing his wealth as much as possible; if necessary to the blatant disadvantage of other people and with the help of extremely dubious methods. For this reason, more than 80 million TV viewers in the USA alone wanted to know who could pull the trigger!
2. Ramsay Bolton
- From “Game of Thrones”, played by Iwan Rheon
where should we start? House Bolton’s coat of arms features a skinned man hanging upside down on the cross. And Ramsay makes every effort to live up to this old family tradition! Nevertheless, he stabs his father to death when he sees his possibility of succeeding the throne in danger.
After feeding the annoying stepmother to the dogs, he provokes Jon Snow to the battle of the bastards and shoots both Rickon Stark and Wun Wun in front of his eyes. At least Jon’s foster sister Sansa, who has been abused and raped by the young Lord Bolton, gets an opportunity to revenge a little later – also in the spirit of Theon Greyjoy, whom Ramsay elaborately tortured, emasculated and dehumanized long before.
3. Wilson Fisk
- From “Daredevil”, played by Vincent D’Onofrio
Wilson Fisk is a key figure feared in the underworld, who at the same time genuinely cares for the well-being of Hell’s Kitchen – at least in his own way. His imposing stature gives him almost superhuman physical strength, which is of no help in the fight against inner insecurities: Few actors know how to portray the threatening seething inside a person as credibly as Vincent D’Onofrio; whether on the big screen or the no longer so small screen at home. In addition to masterful action scenes and a strong title character, it was mainly thanks to his nuanced performance that “Daredevil” went through the roof at the time!
4. Charles Montgomery Burns
- From “The Simpsons”, originally spoken by Harry Shearer
First of all, the obvious: Montgomery Burns is the owner of the Springfield nuclear power plant and an empathic picture-book capitalist who uses his submissive assistant Smithers (also voiced by Harry Shearer) as a doormat. In addition, it is sometimes forgotten that Mr. Burns wanted young Homer’s dog to be euthanized and was both a member of the SS and a war supplier to the Nazis. Or she converted Lisa’s recycling initiative to extinguish marine life, operated a biological weapons laboratory and darkened the sun. Or, or, or … the billion dollar curmudgeon is definitely more than “just” a terrible boss!
- From “The Walking Dead,” played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan
There is no second chance for a first impression – and hardly any villain has internalized this principle as much as Negan. We benevolently ignore the fact that his debut was unhappily split up by a cliffhanger in the season finale and focus on the essentials: the brutal murder of two popular main characters, accompanied by the amused comment of an uncomfortably charismatic sadist. Negan’s power is based on consistent intimidation and draconian punishment – sometimes with the iron, sometimes with the baseball bat named after his deceased wife, Lucille. But almost always with an (un) appropriate saying on the lips!
- From “Jessica Jones,” played by David Tennant
Sometimes relationships between exes are difficult. If supernatural abilities are added, anger is practically programmed: Born as Kevin Thompson, the Briton suffered from a rare disease as a child, the healing of which was accompanied by the power of mind control under questionable circumstances. Under the much more threatening pseudonym Kilgrave, Kevin prefers to use this power to let other people commit shocking murders – Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) included. The hideous figure illuminates abuse in a comic adaptation suitable for the masses and is embodied in top form by a David “Doctor Who” Tennant. Once you’ve heard his “Jessicaaaaaa!” You won’t forget it again!
7. Lorne Malvo
- From “Fargo,” played by Billy Bob Thornton
For Lorne Malvo, deep down, the human being is still a gorilla who shouldn’t care about the rules of civilization that have been imposed on him. The charismatic killer unabashedly lives out his moreless mantra, but can just as easily adapt to the usual customs of society if necessary – a potent combination that elevates him to the unpredictable agent of chaos. Since Lorne’s job is by nature associated with outrage, we should instead emphasize his fabulously bad influence on Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), who is simply not made for unfiltered freedom in the Malvo manner. A well deserved Golden Globe for Billy Bob Thornton!
8. Gustavo Fring
- From “Breaking Bad”, played by Giancarlo Esposito
From the first to the last episode, “Breaking Bad” is an outstanding series, but its high phase is closely linked to Gustavo Fring. With his polite demeanor, he makes himself popular not only with the guests of his Los Pollos Hermanos branch, but also with the local authorities. Behind the carefully constructed facade, however, he is a methodically calculating meth baron who unemotionally removes all conceivable stumbling blocks for his company! A perfidious cat-and-mouse game breaks out between Gus and his business partner Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who is in turn very cunning, and Heisenberg wins. But even in the (half) face of death, Gus does not allow himself to be deprived of his ghostly calmness …
9. Hannibal Lecter
- From “Hannibal”, played by Mads Mikkelsen
Dr. Lecter is educated, cultured, eloquent, stylish and (thanks to Mads Mikkelsen) endowed with a mysterious attractiveness. Nobody would therefore suspect that the recognized psychiatrist is a cannibalistic serial killer who easily leads the FBI on the wrong track! Hannibal manipulates, kills and dines with frightening peace of mind. As a spectator, you are therefore less excited for your own sake – rather, your indifferent game of chess with the fates of other people turns out to be so ingenious that a perverse form of admiration is inevitable.
10. Cersei Baratheon
- From “Game of Thrones”, played by Lena Headey
The young Cersei Lannister is prophesied that they will have three children – and will bear them to their grave. Fortune teller Maggy keeps some details to herself: Cersei’s complete failure in bringing up Joffrey (more on this later) paves the way for the purple wedding, while she motivates Ellaria Sand to murder her daughter Myrcella and her youngest son Tommen by blowing up the red one Bergfried drives suicide. And so far we’ve only covered part of the calamity she alone brings on her own family! In addition to her unbearably smug grin, it should be emphasized that she provides the basis for the war of the Five Kings through the incestuous relationship with her brother