Movie Badasses: 3 memorable super villains of recent times

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By Jairam Mohan

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Movie Supervillains

I have always been a superhero buff right from a young age when my dad bought me my first Superman comic book, and maybe that is why when I started watching movies quite seriously, it was quite natural that the superhero genre of movies fascinated me a lot. Now the fun part about superheroes is the fact that these are usually confrontations between good and evil in the classic sense. That being said, the 2000s have brought with them a new genre of superhero.

Today’s superheroes are no longer just black or white, but they are a whole lot greyer than ever before. All this greyness in their personalities ensure that their intentions, motivations are probably not quite as well defined as they used to be and these characters are becoming more and more complicated as time goes by. I guess this is the result of the uncertain and ambiguous times that we live in nowadays.

However, one thing that has not changed over the years has been the fact that super-villains have pretty much remained mostly black-hearted without too many exceptions. While some of them may have valid reasons for their villainous pursuits, most of them are unabashedly evil and that makes them interesting characters. After all, a superhero does need a super-villain to bring out the best in him, right.

Here goes my list of three of the most memorable super-villains in recent times, in no particular order.

The Joker (The Dark Knight)

Heath Ledger as The Joker, in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight

Any list of recent super villains would be ridiculously incomplete without this name. Whether it was the fact that this was Heath Ledger’s last on screen performance, or whether it was the aura that was built around this role given his tragic death a few months before the movie released, the fact remains that his portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight remains probably one of the best villainous performances in the superhero genre of all time, so much so that this has become the yardstick against which all subsequent villains are being measured.

The Joker joked his way into all our hearts and minds with quotes like “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you … stranger” and “This city deserves a better class of criminal. And I’m gonna give it to them.” And his make up and constant twitching of facial muscles ensured that he remained in our minds long after we finished watching the movie.

This character pretty much redefined the way that Gotham City would ever treat its criminals, and in his own words believed that chaos was the only solution to the city’s ills. He truly believed that the sole reason for his existence was so that The Batman would also exist and they would engage in a game of continuous cat and mouse which he found amusing. 

Now if that isn’t reason enough to him to be part of this list, then what is.

Magneto (X Men series)

Ian McKellen as Magneto, X Men series

Now how cool is a villain who can manipulate metal in any of its forms, so much so that he can even go ahead and manipulate excess iron in your blood cells and use the same as a weapon (the scene where he escapes from the plastic prison in the movie X2). The movie series goes on to show how Magneto and Charles Xavier were friends when they were younger but how Magneto became more and more disillusioned with the fact that normal human beings always treated him and his fellow mutants with disdain. So much so that at various points of time he even tries to destroy the entire population of non mutants in the world. 

As a character, Magneto has all the necessary traits of a super villain, awesome super powers, a giant sized ego, leadership qualities (evidenced by the large size of The Brotherhood of Mutants), a reasonably skewed world view in which non mutants don’t deserve to exist.

The Mandarin (Iron Man 3)

Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin, in Iron Man 3

While the original Mandarin from the comic books was quite a terrible villain who was a genius scientist and a skilled martial artist, the writers of the Iron Man movie series took an awesome turn from that character and made him the ultimate terrorist of our times in Iron Man 3.

Whenever he appears on screen the video footage of South American guerrilla warfare and the videos of various Al Qaeda like terrorist camps fill the screen. Interspersed with these are various Chinese symbols and dragon drawings which give The Mandarin an unbelievable aura in the movie. This was one character which well and truly gave the audience the shivers whenever he appeared on screen for three quarters of the movie.

Accompanying these wonderfully disturbing visuals was the amazing voice over by probably one of the most talented actors that our generation has ever had the pleasure of watching – Ben Kingsley. To quote Kingsley himself on this – “I wanted a voice that would disconcert a Western audience. I wanted a voice that would sound far more homegrown and familiar – a familiarity like a teacher's voice or a preacher's voice. The rhythms and tones of an earnest, almost benign, teacher – trying to educate people for their own good.”

That rounds off my list of three memorable super villains. I am sure all of you readers have your own personal favorites for your own reasons. Do let us know of them in the comments section and let us see if our villainous tendencies match.

About Author - 

Jairam Mohan is someone who pores over excel spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations in his day job, but believes his true calling is in writing posts for his blog,, which is updated quite frequently with topics ranging from fiction, parenting, movie related and other miscellaneous posts. Between him and his wife, they maintain the blog as well as their two year old daughter.

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  1. Some very good choices (I love all three of them)... a thoroughly enjoyable read. I sincerely thank you for your contribution, Jairam. If you ask me about my favorite super-villains of all time, a supercomputer and a half human, half cyborg would top that list: HAL 9000 and Darth Vader, respectively. I, for some inexplicable reason, find Jack Nicholson's Joker to be a greater maniac; and that's precisely why I rate him a wee bit higher!!!


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