The Top 20 Masked Movie Villains of All Time
The Dark Knight rises is dominating the box office, but where does its main villain rank among Hollywood’s all time list of masked baddies?
The live action version of Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) wasn't an absolute train wreck of a villain - the Fagin-like quality they gave the character had a certain charm. If you were a troubled, directionless youth you too might be attracted to a gangland-style brand of ninjutsu taught by a psychopathic yet charismatic Japanese warlord.
#19. THE GREEN GOBLIN
William Dafoe's Green Goblin in Spider-Man (2002) was a bit of a departure from the source material but his mask and plated armor worked in a way CGI or makeup probably wouldn't have. Amazingly, the back-forth conversation with his reflection/alter ego was a full six months before Peter Jackson used a similar technique with Gollum in The Two Towers (2002).
#18. DR. DOOM
The Victor Von Doom we saw in the Fantastic Four movies is a far cry from the haughty monarch who backs up his arrogance by putting his steel boot up your ass that we are so familiar with in the comics, but actor Julian McMahon does bring the requisite level of smugness to the role. And even though liberties were taken with the character at least they got the mask right.
What could be more ominous than a strange figure dressed as some twisted, time-traveling, humanoid rabbit that plants evil suggestions in your head and tells you the world is going to end? What could a creature like that possibly be after? Such is the dilemma facing the protagonist when he encounters Frank in the dark and quirky Donnie Darko (2001).
Christopher Nolan's version of Dr. Crane from Batman Begins (2005) was clearly just a pawn in Ra's al Ghul's much grander plan, but his fear-inducing toxin and experiments on the mentally ill make him one grade-A baddie. Ultimately Nolan utilizes Crane as a bit of a running gag in his Dark Knight trilogy, with his cameos in the two sequels representing Gotham's broken, revolving door-like system of prisons and asylums.
John Boorman's criminally underrated Excalibur (1981), retelling the King Arthur saga set in Dark Age Britain, contains a mother-son duo of villains that would make Freud blush. The son, Mordred, is the bastard child of King Arthur who wears golden armor no sword forged by man can pierce. After a childhood spent helping his sorceress mother kill unsuspecting men in the dark woods he eventually grows a pair big enough to threaten Camelot itself.
#14. THE PREDATOR
I am sure it would come as a surprise to Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in Predator (1987) that the alien wore his mask for combat and not to hide his face, even though the Predator was, as Arnie so eloquently put it, "one ugly mother[frick]er." All and all a wicked-cool creature, even if the heat signature effect they gave his vision was lifted directly from the movie Wolfen (1981).
#13. RED CLOAK
The red-cloaked cult leader from Eyes Wide Shut (1999), credited only as “Red Cloak,” doesn’t have very many lines, but the few he utters are absolutely terrifying. When Tom Cruise’s character inidicates he forgot the password, he is met with a bone-chilling voice from behind a mask that is both effete and sinister, “That's ... unfortunate ... because here, it makes no difference ... whether you have forgotten it ... or if you never knew it ... Kindly remove your mask." Oops.
The Scream series of films, particularly the first few, are great self-referential parodies of the slasher genre and the mask the killer wears in the film meets the requirements that it to be both scary and iconic. Scream also solved the puzzle of how to bring the killer back to life in the "real world" where the villain can actually die: just swap out the people wearing the mask.
Ming the Merciless' number two guy in Flash Gordon (1980) is a cross between Darth Vader and Dr. Doom and was clearly part of a broader effort on behalf of the filmmakers to cash in on the Star Wars phenomenon, but there is no denying he is a great henchman. He gets to torture his boss's daughter for whom he secretly pines and is into brainwashing, execution, and planetary domination. Would more could you ask for in a villain?
If this list was the top 20 scariest masks of all time surely his, made of human flesh. would be number one on the list. Inspired by real life cannibal, murderer and necrophiliac Ed Gein, Leatherface was the quintessential derainged psychopath, with a bloodied butcher's apron and chainsaw to prove it. He's lumberjack meets Jack the Ripper - lumberjack the ripper.
#9. BOBA FETT
It was not until nearly 20 years after his original appearance that we finally learned the origin of everybody's favorite, intergalactic bounty hunter. But the moment The Empire Strikes Back (1980) was released Boba Fett became an instant cult favorite. So let me get this straight Mr. Lucas, you can make it so Han doesn't fire first but you can't fix Boba Fett going out like a bitch in the middle of the desert? Gotcha.
#8. LORD HUMONGOUS
Lord Humungous is the muscle-bound leader of the marauding barbarian horde terrorizing a small community guarding an oil refinery in The Road Warrior (1981), a movie set in a post-apocalyptic world where gasoline is worth its weight in gold. But it is clear from his persuasive speeches throughout the movie that he didn't become top dog solely because of his brawn. He is Lord Humongous! Warrior of the Wasteland. The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!
Opinions about The Dark Knight Rises (2012) have been polarizing, and opinions about its main villain Bane are no different. For some holding a negative view of Christopher Nolan’s version of the character he was simply too dissimilar from the comics. Others felt the filmmakers didn't quite get his voice right. One critic thought he sounded like “Vincent Price talking through a ceiling fan.” Either way he is one mean hombre who gives Batman a pretty serious beat-down.
#6. KARL KROENEN
In Hellboy (2004), Rasputin’s main henchman Karl Kroenen is described as having an addiction to surgery that resulted in the removal of his own lips, eyelids and fingernails. In the film he is presented as a kind of steam-punk, occultist ninja, with retractable swords attached to his forearms, a wind-up mechanical heart and sand in his veins in place of blood. Now that’s what I’m talking about.
#5. ERIK "THE PHANTOM"
The phantom in “Phantom of the Opera” (1925) was played by Mr. Lon Chaney, Sr., who set the record for movie monster appearances and established the framework for makeup effects for the next generation and beyond. Like so many of the villains on our list he wore a mask to hide a horrible disfigurement. Lon Chaney’s makeup under the mask was so convincing that a number of theater attendees fainted when the character’s face was finally revealed.
#4. JASON VOORHEES
There is perhaps no more iconic slasher movie killer than Jason Voorhees, though he actually didn't don his trademark hockey mask until Friday the 13th Part III (1982). When he put on his mask he was a kind of modern day Frankenstein, lumbering through the words terrorizing anybody in his path. But lest you think he was a mindless psychopath, note some of the ingenious ways he finished off his victims, including everything from repeatedly smacking somebody in a slumber bag against a tree to dipping his victim in liquid nitrogen and smashing her into a million tiny pieces.
#3. HANNIBAL LECTER
People may remember that The Silence of the Lambs (1991) won best picture but they often forget that Sir Anthony Hopkins also won best actor for his portrayal of everybody’s favorite cannibal with a 200 I.Q. If you spend too much time with him he will talk you into committing suicide. If you get too close to him he will bite your face off. All of this is true despite the fact that he seems like he would make such delightful dinner conversation – assuming, of course, that you are not on the menu.
#2. MICHAEL MYERS
Even though The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973) was a good five years before Halloween (1978), Michael Meyers was the original slasher and established the template for all the Jasons and Freddys and Chuckys to come. Expressionless, methodical, raised in a mental institution, impervious to pain; he had everything you could want in a serial mass murderer, even if the mask itself was simply a William Shatner mask folded inside out and spray-painted white.
#1. DARTH VADER
Seriously, who else could hold the #1 spot? I mean seriously? No ... seriously? The fact that he redeems himself at the end of Return of the Jedi (1983) did make me question his bad-assery for a moment but I quickly returned to my senses. Choking people with his mind, destroying planets and freezing people into permanent hibernation are just a few of his many hobbies. After 35 years and countless imitators there can really only be one biggest, meanest, masked baddie of them all – the incomparable Darth Vader.
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