Watching superheroes on the big-screen is fun. Like, very fun. However, it’s also fun to watch the men who play those heroes take a bit of a villainous turn. Actors are actors and the best of the best can play different kinds of characters. While it’s fun to see actors play superheroes, it can be just as fun watching them play the bad guys. After catching up on some particular non-superhero movies, I’ve evaluated what I believe are the best villain performances by superhero actors. If you don’t want to see your favorite superhero go bad, this list might not be for you.
If you’re willing to see a bad Captain America or Superman (spoiler alert), get ready for the top ten villain performances by superhero actors.
10. Jeremy Renner – Brian Gamble – S.W.A.T.
Hawkeye can certainly use more than a bow and some trick arrows. Before he was the heroic family man superhero, Renner played a rogue S.W.A.T. officer named Brian Gamble. Imagine him as the anti-Hawkeye: he’s a deadly marksman with almost every firearm and is more than willing to turn against his friends. Colin Farrell literally took his head off in the end, but Renner really killed it as the villain. What really stood out in his performance is that he actually made Gamble relatable. He was the best friend gone bad, the scheming opportunist, or just the bad cop. It’s always sad when you lose your buddy.
9. Henry Cavill – Augustus Walker – Mission Impossible: Fallout
Okay, who can seriously forget Henry Cavill pumping his fists? Thanks to the last Mission Impossible movie, Cavill has really motivated us to hit the heavy bag some more. Ironically, he was doing this to help Tom Cruise in one of the most epic action scenes ever. However, it was later revealed that he orchestrated this to conceal his alter-ego as terrorist, John Lark. In a way, he was the opposite side of the same coin Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is on. He’s a rogue agent, but like Ethan Hunt, but he also matches his spy skills. He’s cunning, deceptive, and always one step ahead of his enemies. What was really fun about their dynamic is how they fought. Hunt was the more agile fighter who relied on skill, while Walker was a brawler-type who preferred brute force. It seems that Hunt finally met his match in an evil Superman.
8. Chris Evans – Hugh Ransom Drysdale – Knives Out
Just when you thought Captain America could do no wrong. Chris Evans’ Ransom from Knives Out is the typical spoiled playboy. He loves his lavish lifestyle and will do anything to keep it that way. That’s why he arranged his grandfather’s death and even made it look like an accident. For real, he had his dear grandaddy killed. He took it even further by manipulating Marta into confessing to an accidental murder she never committed. Ransom is a deceptive pretty boy who will turn against his own family to get what he wants. If it weren’t for James Bond, or… Detective Benoit Blanc, he surely would’ve gotten away with it. Never trust the handsome ones.
6. Chris Pine – Rex Hanson – Horrible Bosses 2
Chris Pine can be funny, he can be serious, but Horrible Bosses 2 proves that he can also be a charismatic and even humorous dirtbag. Firstly, he’s the spoiled douchebag that has too much money. Granted, he has a terrible father, but that’s probably why he shot him in the back. Yeah, his dad was a jerk, but shooting him from behind was just nuts. That’s why his performance as Rex Hanson is so memorable. Not only is he so far from what Chris Pine usually does, he just makes Rex the kind of villain that’s simply fun to watch. He’ll deliberately hurt himself to make it look like he’s been assaulted, or just brilliantly act like he’s heartbroken about his dad’s death. He’s a master of deception and just plain crazy.
5. Jason Momoa – Khal Drogo- Game of Thrones
I’m still so frustrated that Khal Drogo didn’t stick around longer in Game of Thrones. I’ll be honest, that’s the first time I think I’ve seen Jason Momoa in action. Boy, oh boy, did he deliver on the action. It’s almost weird seeing him now as the facetious and wisecracking Aquaman. His Drogo didn’t even speak much English, but when he did speak, we all listened. Aside from successfully making Stockholm Syndrome work on Daenerys Targaryen, he was the kind of nomadic warlord you wouldn’t want to mess with. Honestly, he’s the character who got me into Game of Thrones. After one of his men challenged him, he took him down in a brutally spectacular fashion. He easily dodged all of his attacks, purposely disarmed himself, and ripped out his man’s throat. Now that’s how you do a villain.
Aside from his very anti-climatic death, Drogo is basically the Attila the Hun of Game of Thrones. You know it and I know it, but he should’ve lasted longer. Like, much longer. Season 8 wasn’t the only mistake.
4. Ben Affleck – Fred O’Bannion – Dazed and Confused
Before Ben Affleck killed it as Batman, he had a talent for playing the school bullies. The most popular among them is undoubtedly Fred O’Bannion from Dazed and Confused. As far as bullies go, Fred is as bad as they come. He’s the guy who was in his prime in high school and because of that, he refuses to go any further. He spends pretty much all his time tormenting freshmen and beating them with paddles. That’s probably why when he finally got his comeuppance, it felt very, very satisfying. This movie is one of Affleck’s oldest, but it contains one of his best performances.
3. Benedict Cumberbatch – Khan Noonien Singh – Star Trek: Into Darkness
The first time I ever saw Benedict Cumberbatch, he was using his manly voice of conviction to play a Star Trek villain. When he spoke as Khan, he came off as sinister, vindictive, but also tragic. Cumberbatch’s Khan is without a doubt the best villain of the new Star Trek trilogy. Not only is he a menacing threat, but he has understandable motives, which is basically his willingness to kill to get his crew back. After watching Into Darkness, I was a bit concerned on how he would use his voice to play a heroic Doctor Strange. Thank goodness Cumberbatch exceeded my expectations.
2. Robert Pattinson – Reverend Preston Teagardin – The Devil All The Time
Robert Pattinson’s Batman hasn’t been shown yet, but after seeing him in the trailer, I consider him to be a part of the game. Pattinson has certainly grown as an actor and can finally put the Twilight days behind him. But before we’ll see him as Batman, you should probably check him out as a villain. I was considering adding his performance as The Dauphin from The King, mostly because he was a rather creepy villain with a killer French accent. However, he managed to top that performance by playing an even more despicable character.
Pattinson played a very sleazy and perverted reverend in The Devil All the Time. Instead of the French accent, he just had a heavy southern accent and used that and his talk of God to seduce young girls. The scary thing about this villain is that he’s one that can very much exist in real life. He’s the deceptive type who uses his position to manipulate others to do their bidding.
1. Christian Bale – Patrick Bateman – American Psycho
Now here’s a Batman that we have seen. Christian Bale can play a villain as well as he plays the hero. When he played Patrick Bateman, he played him as a man who is very psychotic, but in a way, very relatable. The man was stressed out from work, was in an unhappy relationship, and was obsessed with getting ahead. Did he actually kill the people, including Jared Leto? I think he did, but the guy was too messed up in the head to actually get a confirmation. That’s fine by me, because that makes the character all the more memorable. Patrick Bateman is a psychopathic villain, but he’s got charisma like no other.
Seriously, that hip to be square scene is just gold. How many villains can get your attention through song and subsequently kill a guy? I can’t certainly think of another villain who competes for better business cards. The guy is just insane in the most interesting way.
So much for heroes, right? Well, these actors have really flexed their talent by showing how they can play both heroes and villains.