Michael Fassbender, left, plays a conflicted but evil plantation owner in “12 Years a Slave,” with Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Francois DuhameL , Fox Searchlight

Most memorable movie villains of 2013

  • Article by: Barry Koltnow
  • Orange County Register
  • December 29, 2013 - 2:10 PM

Is there a Hans Gruber in the house?

Can Hannibal Lecter come out and play?

Darth Vader, please report to the principal’s office.

You know where I’m heading with this — it’s our annual list of the most memorable movie villains of the year.

Heroes are only as good as their villains are bad. A worthy adversary is necessary in measuring the worth of our heroes.

But not all villains are created equal.

Some are dastardly but delightful, like the aforementioned Hans Gruber, played so well by British actor Alan Rickman in “Die Hard.” Likewise, Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader are villains we love to hate.

Then there are the characters we don’t like so much but love to watch on the big screen. Amon Goethe, the sadistic Nazi camp commandant of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” played with chilling efficiency by Ralph Fiennes, and Nurse Ratched of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (Louise Fletcher) come to mind.

Here are our nominees for the most memorable movie villains of 2013. Do you think any of them could be a classic villain like Auric Goldfinger? Or perhaps they will be dismissed like Mel Gibson’s Luthor Voz in “Machete Kills”?


edwin epps

Played by Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave,” he is the sinister slave owner who is so much more complicated than the classic Silent Era villain who would twirl his mustache as he tied the damsel to the railroad tracks. The best villains are complex, and Epps is conflicted as he inflicts beatings on the same young female slave that he also covets. It is a performance that not only will be remembered, but might bring Oscar nominations to both Fassbender and his victim, a young actress fresh out of the Yale School of Drama — Lupita Nyong’o.



The terrorist leader opposite Tom Hanks in the thriller “Captain Phillips” was played by newcomer Barkhad Abdirahman, of Minneapolis. The filmmakers conducted their search for actors to play Somali pirates within the city’s substantial Somali community.



Benedict Cumberbatch plays Captain James T. Kirk’s formidable foe in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” and almost makes us forget Ricardo Montalban, who first breathed life into the Khan character in the 1982 film “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan,” which remains to many the best “Star Trek” ever. And one of the reasons is the film’s awesome villain.


general zod

Like Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon of “Boardwalk Empire” fame had to deal with the ghost of the villain’s originator (Terrence Stamp in the 1978 film “Superman”) when he pulled rank on the “Man of Steel.”



Let’s see, sibling rivalry leads one brother to try to kill the other brother. Where have we heard that story before? Tom Hiddleston played Thor’s villainous brother in “Thor” and “The Avengers,” and then reprised the character in the 2013 film “Thor: The Dark World.”



It may have seemed as if James Franco was in every movie in 2013, but that’s not exactly true. He appeared in only half of them, and one of them was “Spring Breakers.” Former teen princesses Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez got all the media attention for trying to change their squeaky-clean images, but it was Franco who stood out as a drug and arms dealer who bails the young women out of jail and then mentors them in a life of crime.


butch cavendish

Not much can be said about “The Lone Ranger,” but William Fichtner’s villain was truly villainous. The bird on Johnny Depp’s head was a close second.


the mandarin

Ben Kingsley’s terrorist leader in “Iron Man 3” is not what he seems. That’s all we can say under penalty of death.


harlan degroat

Woody Harrelson in “Out of the Furnace” is not channeling Woody Boyd of “Cheers.”


president snow

Donald Sutherland is a politician that everybody can hate in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” regardless of which side of the aisle you sit.


ed pegram

Stacy Keach has rarely been more menacing than in his current role in “Nebraska.” He is not a super-villain with dreams of world domination, but he becomes a dominating force in Bruce Dern’s world when he tries to extort money from someone he believes has just won a fortune. It’s a quiet menacing, and it’s done in black and white, so there is danger in the air.


Owen Shaw

If you thought Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) was tough in “Fast & Furious 6,” imagine how tough villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) is when he tells Dom: “I can reach out and break you anytime I want.”


Violet Weston

Meryl Streep could play a can of peas and win an Oscar, so imagine how delightfully sinister she is in “August: Osage County,” based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play. As a villain, she doesn’t technically kill anyone, but what she does to her three daughters is pretty close to character assassination.



The dragon in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is no Puff the Magic Dragon. This is a nasty, trash-talking monster who likes to play with his food before he eats it.


The zombies

Remember when I told you that a hero is only as good as his villain? Well, what villain could match Brad Pitt’s pretty face better than millions of zombies in “World War Z”?


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