Halloween 101: Scariest Movie Villains

pennywise-clown-itIn Utah, Halloween isn’t simply a dress-up day where one freezes his grapes off while trekking the kiddies through the darkened neighborhood wastelands, searching for a fun-sized Snickers or Twix, instead finding cold porches and lonely Jack-O-Lanterns (apparently everyone else is trunk-or-treating – LAME). No, it’s a time where I like to reflect on the scariest elements and goodies our friends in Hollywood have offered me over the years.

Today’s topic? Scariest movie villains.

Sure, it’s easy to think of horror icons – like Pinhead from Hellraiser or Jason from Friday the 13th – especially around Halloween, but are they really the type of characters that keep you from sleeping? I’m not so sure. Those evildoers seem forgettable and almost too extreme to be truly frightening. No, to me a villain scares you on multiple levels and leaves your blood cold. It’s the kind of character that visits you in your nightmares after you’ve turned the TV off, pulled the covers up over your head and shut the closet door, all precautionary measures to make sure the darkness fluttering in your mind doesn’t come to life and snag you in your sleep.

Here are my top ten. Don’t be a stranger, tell me yours in the comments.

Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs

This character is Anthony Hopkins greatest achievement as an actor. I was tempted to put Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb instead of Lecter, but the edge goes to Hannibal the Cannibal. One minute he’s your friend, the next he’s biting part of your cheek off and cooking your liver with some fava beans and nice chianti.

jawsThe Great White Shark, Jaws

For a movie made in 1975, the Great White Shark in Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece still looks incredibly real and scary as hell. Personally, I can’t think of anything scarier: Stranded at sea with all kinds of unknown fish mulling around in the darkness below, including a 25-foot Carcharodon carcharias coming at me like a torpedo, ready to bite me in half. Sure, I have a better chance of getting hit by a meteor than I do being eaten by a shark, but Jaws changed the way I, and everyone else, look at the ocean.

The Alien, Alien

The tagline for Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi classic is “In space no one can hear you scream.” That line personifies what is so frightening about the creature in Alien. Sure you’re on a massive spaceship, but where do you run? Where do you hide? Considering you’re in the far, deep reaches of outer space, whom do you call for help? Worst of all, like the shark in Jaws, the acid-spitting extraterrestrial has no off button. It just keeps on killing without conscience.

anton-chigurhAnton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men

Easily the scariest movie villain since Hannibal Lecter in 1991. Javier Bardem’s crazy-haired, coin-tossing, merciless assassin is the epitome of explosive tension in the Coen brother’s No Country for Old Men. I think I held my breath the entire time Chigurh was chatting with the old gas station attendent, just waiting for him to pounce. I was going to give this space to Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds, but despite his nastiness, Chigurh has the blacker heart.

The Demon, Paranormal Activity

Is there anything scarier than the possibility something unseen is lurking in your house, perhaps in your very bedroom, while you sleep? The demon in Paranormal Activity is never seen, but we see its mischief and can tell right away this dark force is content on torturing the scared couple during the wee hours of the night.

Pennywise, It

One word: Clowns.

Amon Goeth, Schindler’s List

It’s not just that Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) uses Jews as target practice from the comfy perch of his concentration camp mansion, it’s the look in his eyes during the non-violent moments where we understand something in Goeth’s soul has been perverted and corrupted to the point his character has become putrid and without shame or sorrow. This is the kind of villain that keeps me up at night, because this type of bad guy truly exists.

Alex Forrest, Fatal Attraction

“Well, what am I supposed to do? You won’t answer my calls, you change your number. I mean, I’m not gonna be ignored, Dan!” Alex Forrest is one evil lady in this movie. Her nutjobedness goes from sending Dan (Michael Douglas) angry mix tapes, to the final atrocity of boiling the family rabbit. This is a great Christmas present for any man considering an extramarital affair.

wickedwitchThe Wicked Witch of The West, The Wizard of Oz

Margret Hamilton’s green-faced cackler is on this list because she was the first movie villain to scare me out of my OshKosh B’Gosh overalls. I always got particularly unnerved when she landed on the house and set Scarecrow on fire. I also pooped my Underoos when she cruised past Dorothy’s tornado-engulfed home as the evil Elmira Gulch.

Gollum, The Lord of The Rings

Sam and Frodo must have been suffering through some lembas bread-induced hangover, because there is no way I could sleep with this anorexic hobbit lurking around the campfire in his dingy loincloth. Gollum is the Hannibal Lecter of Middle Earth. He seduces you with his pitiful countenance and while you’re busy trusting him, he’s plotting a way to bite off your finger. This is the kind of goblin one expects to find living in the bedroom closet.

The Clown, Poltergeist

Just when you though the house was clean, you realize little Robbie Freeling is about to get whipped by his possessed clown doll. My memory is somewhat hazy when it comes to 1982, but I’m pretty sure I worked extra hard to keep my room clean and keep my toys put away. Nobody wants to wake up in the middle of the night to find their Build-a-Bear looking at them with malice. I literally hate and fear clowns because of Poltergeist.

13 comments On Halloween 101: Scariest Movie Villains

  • You forgot to mention the “It” clown you have pictured…isn’t “It” scary?

  • “It” isn’t a traditional movie in that it never saw theatrical distribution– it was a made-for-TV deal.

  • San Jovi – read down further, that’s Pennywise the clown. HELLO.

    Dan – You are correct, and I knew this, but I allowed it because of the “movie” in “made for TV movie” technical clause in Andy’s Guide of Rules, which resides in my head and changes daily.

    And a BIG thanks to both of you for mentioning some of your favorite movie villains. Please note my sarcasm.

  • My comment was directed at your defense, but alas. Guess it pays to read the whole thing.

    Favorite Movie Villain:

    Any character of any type in any film played by John Travolta.

  • Not necessarily the scariest villain(s), but they hold their own place in the genre-

    Dr. Moreau, played by Charles Laughton in “Island of Lost Souls”(1933)– every evil mad-scientist before or since pales in comparison to this brilliant performance, imo. LOVE this film!!

    Erik the phantom, played by Lon Chaney in “Phantom of the Opera”(1925)– can’t think of a better makeup job than the one done here by the “man of 1000 faces” to make the hideous phantom as evil on the outside as he is on the inside.

    seperate question: what ever happened to

  • sorry got cut off: whatever happened to Michael Flood, the previous film critic for the LHJ??

  • When I replaced Flood back in 2000 my editor told me he had gone back East to work for a newspaper or magazine. That’s the last I heard.

  • Pennywise does it for me, but my daughter would opt for ET – I know he’s not a villain, but he scared the pants off her when she was small and even as an adult, she won’t watch that film.

  • Hate to be the butt kisser here but Andy’s list pretty much sums mine up also. I wouldnt have thought of Amon Goeth but its a good call, the guy was pure evil.

    I’ll add Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery, makes me want to shrink in a corner.
    I’ll also add Shaun Hannidy to the list of people who frighten me in real life..

  • Susan that is hilarous about your daughter because mine is the same way. She is 11 and E.T. still creeps her out.

    Danny, Kathy Bates is a great pick. That ankle-breaking scene makes my bum pucker.

    And Amen to Sean Hannity. I’d add Glen Beck to that list. And Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell and Paris Hilton.

  • @ Danny: Butt kisser.

    @ SKG: Great picks from the Golden Age.

    @ Susan: For most kids under 8 or so, ET was a horror movie. A screaming, long-necked, potbellied alien hiding in the corn– and just when the kids get used to him, he goes all white and ends up dead in a creek while astronauts and G-men break through a kids’ windows and into his house. That’s some traumatic stuff. Your daughter gets a pass and you, Ma’am, get a retired AATM gold star for good perspective.

  • Are SKG’s picks from the Golden Age or Stone Age? Ah, I kid. 95% of the movies I’ve ever seen are melded together in my mind as one craptastic mosaic, so picking ten memorable scary characters is difficult. Not sure if that speaks more to the fact that too much unwatchable crap is greenlit, or I’m getting along in age and can’t remember the details. Very sad.

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