Top Ten Best Science Fiction Movie Villains of All Time

Darth Vader

Darth Vader

While I’m busy working behind the scenes on some fun projects that I hope to share with you soon, I thought it would be a great time to resume my obsession with order and ranking. I have taken it upon myself to create a list of the top ten best science fiction movie villains of all time. I am lumping fantasy and superhero movies in this category as well. I’m leaving off horror for now, since all of the great horror films would generate their very own list. I’m also leaving off monster-like creatures that are more monstrous than villainous. The list only includes feature films, not television shows. As with any list there is room for debate regarding all the worthy candidates I left off. I hope you enjoy.

Top Ten Best Science Fiction Movie Villains of All Time

1) Darth Vader (Star Wars: New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back)

In my mind, at least, Darth Vader peaked in the original Star Wars films. He is perhaps one of the most powerful icons of the Star Wars franchise. Vader shows his true evil by using his force choke a co-worker who questioned his beliefs in the original film. In the Empire Strikes Back, Vader takes it a step further by killing off another co-worker as he accepts his apology. Vader helped build the Star Wars empire and may again surface in future Star Wars films. He is a villain amongst villains.

2) Khan (Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek: Into Darkness)

Khan is the type of villain that has it all. Physically powerful, vastly superior intellect, and a complete disregard for anything beyond his desires. Of the original Star Trek movies, his was the best. He proved to be Captain Kirk’s biggest challenge. The recent reboot of the story was well done, offering a few twists. Khan still possessed a wonderful wickedness that can make you wonder what the galaxy would be like if he won.

3) The Joker (Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman: The Movie, Batman)

Cesar Romero as the Joker

Cesar Romero as the Joker

In each of his incarnations, the Joker offered something slightly different. Heath Ledger’s eerie version in the Dark Knight put a hard edge to the notorious supper villain. Jack Nicholson offered his version that, in hindsight, presented a great transition from the 1960s version portrayed by Cesar Romero. Each provided the next step on the gradient scale. I’m not sure it can get much darker than Ledger’s portrayal. Perhaps the next film version will return to the comic book embodiment of Batman’s greatest enemy.

4) HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)

A highly advanced artificial intelligence that held power of life and death over humans traveling in space. HAL 9000 demonstrated the risks of both AI as well as the dangers of space travel. HAL’s personality contrasted from the typical villain’s persona by being calm and soothing whenever he spoke. HAL helped alter our perception of computers and computer programs.

5) The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz)

The Wicked Witch of the West

The Wicked Witch of the West

For me, this one is personal. That green face and evil cackle send chills down my spine. When I was around four years old, I had my own personal run-in with the WWW. Let’s just say that I suffered permanent psychological damage from the encounter. If you ever corner me at a convention, I’d be happy to tell you the whole story. The Wicked Witch of the West is terrible and horrific and in general not a nice person. The magical land of Oz is better to be rid of her.

6) Agent Smith (The Matrix and sequels)

The relentless and immortal Agent Smith was omnipresent. A bit of software that manifested itself in the virtual world, Smith was created to keep humans in line and to make sure the system kept working. Agent Smith pursued the heroes with hatred and malice, attributes quite unbecoming of a program.

7) Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter Series)

How many other villains start off the movie dead? A different twist on the bad guy. Instead of trying to destroy everyone from the start, he’s busy trying to come back to life. Of course once he comes back to life, he gets onto the business of trying to destroy everyone. Voldemort provided an amazing foil to the legendary Harry Potter.

8) Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Dune)

His repulsive appearance reflects the ugly person inside. The Baron lives in a world of debauchery and death. He works with the Emperor against House Atreides to gain control of Dune. The Baron represents all that is evil in a villain.

9) C. A. Rotwang (Metropolis)

metropolis Rotwang

Rotwang and his creation.

The original science fiction movie villain. Rotwang is part mad scientist and part creepy stalker. He creates a robot to exact his revenge upon his rival. Rotwang remains the blueprint for the classic mad scientist.

10) Ming the Merciless (Flash Gordon)

Some might suggest that Ming was misunderstood. He is callous and wicked. How many other villains would put the death sentence on their very own daughter? Now that is coldblooded. I’m still waiting on the question mark at the end of the movie to pay off. I’m ready for the return of Ming.

Honorable Mention:

  • The Terminator (The Terminator)
  • Jabba the Hutt (Star Wars)
  • Bobba Fett (Star Wars)
  • Sauron (Lord of the Rings)
  • Saruman the White (Lord of the Rings)
  • Smaug (The Hobbit)
  • Roy Batty (Bladerunner)
  • Lex Luther (Superman)
  • Megatron (Transformers)
  • Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars)
  • Darth Maul (Star Wars)
  • The Master Control Program (Tron)
  • Magneto (X-Men)
  • The Penguin (Batman)
  • Catwoman (Batman)
  • The Riddler (Batman)
  • So many others.

R.K. Troughton works as an engineer, developing tomorrow’s high-tech gadgets that protect you from the forces of evil as well as assist your doctor in piecing you back together.  His passion for science fiction and fantasy has been fed through decades of consumption.  He is the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy screenplays and short stories, and his debut novel is forthcoming. His articles appear every Wednesday morning on Amazing Stories.

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