Throughout the never-ending battle between good and evil, we have seen many stereotypes recurring over the years. The villain with the moustache, the villain who is bald, the villain with a lot of henchmen, the villain who reveals all of his secret plans just before (almost) killing the main protagonist… There’s many clichés to cover, but let’s take a look at 5 of the biggest movie villain stereotypes!
The Villain Who’s Disfigured
Ranging from third nipples to burn marks, the craziest, most deranged villains often boast some weird, physical characteristics that make them stand out (and tell you from the beginning that they cannot be trusted). Some of the common reasons behind their disfigurement: they’ve had acid thrown in their face (Two-Face from Batman), they’ve been involved in a scientific experiment that went wrong (Frankenstein) or they were molested as a child (which is one of the stories The Joker likes to tell people).
Examples: Aileen Wuornos in Monster (Charlize Theron), Captain Vidal in Pan’s Labyrinth (Sergi López i Ayats), Freddie Krueger in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series (Robert Englund), Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars (Ian McDiarmid), Scar in The Lion King (voiced by Jeremy Irons), several James Bond villains (Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, Alec Trevelyan in Golden Eye etc.)
The Villain Who Has a Different Nationality or Foreign Accent
Unfortunately, Hollywood films are still often full of racial stereotypes. Movie villains often have a different nationality, a dark colour of skin or a foreign accent. Favourite villains to include are Germans (just after WWII), Chinese and Russians (with a spike during the Cold War), and yes, even the Brits (because of our creepily posh accents). Especially your average 80s action movie is very good at perpetuating these national or racial stereotypes, proving that racial inequality is still very much alive in Hollywood.
Examples: Dr. Julius No in Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), Sheriff George of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (Alan Rickman), Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (Anthony Hopkins), Ivan Drago in Rocky IV (Dolph Lundgren), Hans Gruber in Die Hard (Alan Rickman)
The Femme Fatale
Villains in films are predominantly male. If they are ever female, it’s unfortunate we don’t often find evil masterminds planning on world domination or dangerous, deranged killing machines à la Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates. They often come in the form of the femme fatale; sexy, seductive and treacherously deathly. Don’t come too close or she will manipulate you, seduce you and kill you. Although it’d be nice to see more female villains who don’t have to rely on their looks to be empowered, the femme fatale is aware of her sexuality and uses it to her own advantage in order to lure the avid hero into her web of danger. And that’s still pretty cool!
Examples: Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct I & II (Sharon Stone), Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class (January Jones), Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill: Volume I (Chiaki Kuriyama), Catwoman in Batman Returns (Michelle Pfeiffer) and The Dark Knight Rises (Anne Hathaway), T-X in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Kristanna Loken)
The Effeminate Villain
For some strange reason, there seems to be a tendency in film history to portray the bad guy as having effeminate traits, also known as the slightly offensive film stereotype the ‘Sissy Villain’. You might recognise him from his flamboyant mannerisms, his eloquent speech and a great, androgynous sense of style. He might be gay, he might not be. The cliché is used in films to make the hero look more macho and superior, obviously defeating the effeminate bad guy in the end.
Examples: Him in The Powerpuff Girls (voiced by Tom Kane), Raoul Silva in Skyfall (Javier Bardem), Jafar in Aladdin (voiced by Jonathan Freeman), Heinrich Strasser in Casablanca (Conrad Veidt), Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood (Claude Rains)
The Villain Who Represents The Ultimate Evil
For the greatest movie villains in film history, there’s no explanation behind their evilness. Their wish to dominate the world, destroy humanity or kill hundreds of puppies for their fur doesn’t derive from any childhood traumas, broken hearts or feelings of revenge. No, they’re just evil because, well, why not? Darth Vader? Pure evil. Sauron? Just born evil. Like The Joker said, the super villain has got no ambition, no big, underlying intentions; he is just an “agent of chaos”, trying to upset the established order.
Examples: Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four (Toby Kebbell), Darth Vader in Star Wars (David Prowse), The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (voiced by Lucille La Verne), Sauron in The Lord of the Rings (voiced by Alan Howard), The Joker in The Dark Knight (Heath Ledger), Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians (voiced by Betty Lou Gerson)
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