They say a movie is only as good as its villain, and the past decade brought us some great villains. So, I'm here to honor them. In no particular order, here we go.
"Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It's fair."
I did not want to use villains who have existed in source material predating this decade, but this take on the Joker is so unique, and yet so iconic, it would be a tragedy if I didn't include him. Arguably the scariest movie villain since Hannibal Lecter. He was cunning, intelligent, and chaos personified. And of course, Ledger's personal flourishes must be mentioned as well.
William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting
"My father gave his life, making this country what it is. Murdered by the British with all of his men on the twenty fifth of July, anno domini, 1814. Do you think I'm going to help you befoul his legacy, by giving this country over to them, what's had no hand in the fighting for it? Why, because they come off a boat crawling with lice and begging you for soup."
Daniel Day-Lewis is one of my all time favorite actors. I've been told I have a man-crush on him. I'm willing to admit to that, and he brought us a great antagonist in Bill the Butcher, a gangster and political leader... talk about a dangerous combination. A racist and a xenophobe who wraps himself in the flag representing an evil undercurrent of this country which has never gone away. The dark side of patriotism personified.
"What's the most you've ever lost on a coin toss?"
A cold, calculating killer, Anton Chigurh represents how we take our life into our hands every time we leave our homes. When he asks a poor shopkeeper what's the most he's ever lost on a coin toss, that shopkeeper has no idea how close to death he was. And neither do we. Who knows when that bus will hit us, or we'll be standing on a sidewalk next to a psychopath? That, and it takes talent to be this scary with that haircut.
"I'm a killer. I'm a murdering bastard, you know that. And there are consequences to breaking the heart of a murdering bastard."
The titular character of "Kill Bill," was the deadliest assassin in the world. Brilliantly written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, with a quiet understated performance by the late David Carradine. While he speaks more often than he takes action, it's this character's mind that makes him dangerous. Very few people can bring so much subtle menace to making their four year old daughter a sandwich, but Bill did.
Colonel Hans Landa
"The feature that makes me such an effective hunter of the Jews is, as opposed to most German soldiers, I can think like a Jew, where they can only think like a German … more precisely, German soldier. Now, if one were to determine what attribute the German people share with a beast, it would be the cunning and the predatory instinct of a hawk. But if one were to determine what attributes the Jews share with a beast, it would be that of the rat. The Führer and Goebbels's propaganda have said pretty much the same thing, but where our conclusions differ is I don't consider the comparison an insult."
Nazis are easy to include on a list like this, but Christoph Waltz's performance as Hans Landa won him a much deserved Oscar. The French called him the Jew Hunter, and he was very good at his job. Whether he is subtly intimidating a farmer to betray the Jews he is hiding. And the most ironic part of this, he never considered himself a Nazi, or even hated Jews. From his point of view, he just understood how the world worked. When the time came to betray Nazi Germany, he did it in a heartbeat, and not out of any humanity, but because he always acted in his own self interest.
Captain Hector Barbossa
"For too long I've been parched of thirst and unable to quench it! Too long I've been starvin' to death and haven't died! I feel nothing! Not the wind on my face, nor the spray of the sea... nor the warmth of a woman's flesh. Ye'd best start believin' in ghost stories, Miss Turner. Yer in one!"
Let's face facts, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise has likely outstayed its welcome. We had a terrific first movie, and two mediocre to terrible sequels. But the brightest spot in all three of these movies was Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa. He may have been the most cliched pirate of the series, but I'll be damned if Rush didn't sell it. Every single frame of this film, Rush chewed the scenery, and had a good time. I'd wager an even better time than his co-stars. Whether he was acting against the protagonists or allied with them, Barbossa was always true to himself and himself only. I rooted for him in all three... and let's face it, is Jack Sparrow a leader of men? No. Barbossa is... and Barbossa earned that ship.
"Sleep tight, children."
"Der Untergang" was a film about Hitler's final days in his bunker, and is probably better known for inspiring an internet meme. While I was tempted to put Hitler himself on this list, I decided not to for two reasons. First off, it's Hitler. The moment you allow depictions of HITLER on best villains lists, he'll never leave. Now the performance may well be worthy of the listing independent of Hitler's reputation, but it's a slippery slope. Playing Hitler would be to best villains list as playing a retard is to Best Actor nominations.
Second of all, because Magda Goebbels was even creepier than Hitler. A woman who was such a fanatical Nazi that she poisoned her own children rather than allow them to grow up in a world where Hitler was dead, and National Socialism was overthrown. That's really all there is to say about her, but it's so chilling, she's more than earned her spot on this list.
"You know, in certain older civilized cultures, when men failed as entirely as you have, they would throw themselves on their swords."
Every government has them. Monsters who abandon their humanity and commit atrocities on behalf their country. And they know they're committing atrocities, but they do it anyway, and then have a good night's sleep every single night. That's the nameless Operative to a tee. He didn't ask questions, he just slaughtered people when his superiors told him to. His methodology was cruel, and it was a delight to see Malcolm Reynolds pierce his cold exterior. While the movie didn't tell us so, you can't help but think that once it was all over, he threw himself on his sword.
"Each Autobot under my command owes me ONE HUNDRED Decepticon faces! And I want my faces."
Optimus Prime was once the icon of heroism. He stood next to Superman on that pedestal of goodness, representing truth, justice, and the American way. But, director Michael Bay has re-imagined Optimus Prime for a whole new generation. What we have now is a psychotic war criminal who brutally executes unarmed prisoners, tears his enemies apart with extreme prejudice, and has a psychotic fixation with cutting and tearing off the faces of his enemies. A brutal monster who does this with the slogan of "freedom is the right of all sentient beings." He's Dick Cheney's wet dream of the American hero on steroids. All he sees is death, blood, and flames.
"Is there an indelible line between sanity and insanity? Or do they change, from one into the other, without the slightest provocation? We'll find out that the world itself is insane."
Finally, we come to Vincent. Crazy people seem to be popping up quite a bit on this list. But what happens when that crazy person has a weapon of mass destruction that he can use to end all life as we know it. A man who is walking in a living purgatory with no memory of his former life. A cold monster who should have died years ago, and now he wants to go to Heaven. Oh, and he can physically kick just about anyone's ass. I loved this character, and I loved Daran Norris's performance.