Greatest Thriller Villains of All Time, Part I

Let me first state: I LOVE Horror films AND Thrillers AND VILLAINS. They all put me on the edge of my seat and keep me coming back for more. When you’re sit in a dark theatre or darkened room in your house and are drawn into a story that gives you goosebumps, you feel ALIVE! The blood rushing to your head in anticipation of which characters will survive the taunts of a “madman” OR “madwoman.” To discover the story of what lead the tormentor to torment the tormented is fascinating.

Often times many mistake thrillers/suspense thrillers for horror films. So let’s clear up the difference before we get to the list.

A suspense thriller is a genre of literature, video game stories, or TV programs that uses suspense, tension, and excitement as part of its main elements. It entertains because it keeps the audience hooked with…An-tici-PATION!*

Horror is a genre of literature, video game stories, or TV programs whose intent is to scare, or startle their audience into fear and terror. Basically, it’s there to give you the willies, scare the SHITE out of you, and make sleep at night almost impossible. AWESOME huh?

There is nothing more fun to me than sitting down to watch a villain lay out his/her wicked plan. It’s a bit like watching a train wreck or passing by an awful auto accident. We know we should look away, but where is the fun in that? We love them! We love all the awful things that they do and we can’t wait to see what will happen next. Below is a list of nine film villains that we can’t get enough of on the big, or small screen.

In no particular order:

Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” LecterThe Silence of the Lambs (1991) (also: Manhunter (1986), Hannibal (2001), Red Dragon (2002), etc.)

The Many Faces of Hannibal Lecter

Although this list is in no particular order, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is by far the most chilling, diabolical, and dangerous villain on this list. His penchant for order and manners and he need for retaliation and retribution when those things are not achieved are the things of legend..and nightmares.

Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster), a FBI trainee, is pulled out of the academy to assist Agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) on a case. She is tasked with interviewing the most notable serial killer of the modern age, Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. Sir Anthony Hopkins stars as Dr. Lecter, the once a renowned and famous psychiatrist who is imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital after it is discovered that he is an infamous cannibalistic serial killer. She is sent to the prison psychiatric hospital to interview him in hopes that he can provide insight into the inner workers of an active serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill.” Bill was given that name by the authorities because he skins his female victims.

Crawford and the doctor have a complicated past and he knows that he will not work with him but he hopes that he will be intrigued enough by Starling to assist with the case. Hannibal plays a cat and mouse game with her and only agrees to help Starling if she shares personal information about herself. She agrees because she senses/knows that he can provide a lens into that type of killer that cannot be learned. And thus begins the mind… Silence of the Lambs is definitely on the list MUST-WATCH films.

Fredrick Sykes AKA “The One-Armed Man”The Fugitive (1993)

The One-Armed Man

We meet Fredrick “The Man with One Arm” Sykes in a little 1993 film you may have heard of, the Fugitive. Harrison Ford stars ad Dr. Richard Kimble in this film adaptation of the bestselling thriller novel of the same name. Dr. Kimble is a well-respected surgeon, who is falsely accused, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of his wife. From the time of his arrest he has stuck to his story that a one-armed killer is to blame, but no one believes him. Who has ever heard of a one-armed killer and what reason would he have to murder the good doctor’s wife?

During transport to death row the van is hit by a train, the good doctor escapes, and sets out to clear his name and find the one-armed villain who murdered his wife. During his escape is he cornered by the authorities at the edge of storm drain over dam. Kimble jumps into the waters to escape. Tommy Lee Jones also stars in this thriller as Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard, the cop in charge of the manhunt for Dr. Richard Kimble, and he will search “every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, hen-house, outhouse and doghouse in that area,” to find him.

Over the course of the manhunt Gerard is not so convinced that Kimble is the “real” killer. Things just don’t add up, but his job is to get his man and he won’t stop until the job is done.

JawsJaws (1975) and franchise

Jaws Attacks

Duuun dun. Duuun dun. Duuun dun. Everyone knows that sound. Just those few bars of that theme song can send chills down your spine. What dark entity lurks in the deep dark waters? It is a killing machine that runs on pure instinct. It kills without prejudice.

In the original film, directed by Steven Spielberg, a group of teenagers are having a nighttime party on the beach. One of the young ladies decides to go for a midnight swim in the ocean. While she is treading water, and waiting for her male companion to join her, she is pulled under (her date passed out on the bank). The next day her remains are found by a deputy on the beach. The medical examiner determines that the possible cause of death was shark attack. The new police chief, Martin Brody (Roy Schneider), of this small ocean-side community of Amity Island hears about the attack and wants to close the beaches. He runs into problems from the mayor and townspeople because it is the height of the tourist season. In order to save their season the mayor hypothesizes that perhaps she died in a boating accident, which Chief Brody reluctantly accepts.

But the true villain rears its massive head and after another fatal shark attack Brody enlists the help Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), a oceanographer brought in by Brody, to examine the remains of the victims to determine cause of death. He confirms the chief’s fears that the deaths were caused by shark attacks. A local shark hunter, Quint (Robert Shaw), offers up his services to the community for a nominal fee. He will find and kill the man-eater with the help of Chief Brody and Hooper. They set off in their boat in search of the great fish, but this is not ordinary shark. Jaws is out for human blood and won’t stop until he’s had his fill…or is dead. The DEFINITELY “needed a bigger boat.”

Annie WilkesMisery (1990)

Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes

Whoever thought that a sweet middle-aged nurse could be so twisted. At first glance Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) is an unassuming “schoolmarm’ type. She is not particularly pretty, but she’s not unattractive. She’s just nondescript and often overlooked. No one would have think that she is a Nurse Ratched  type of villain lingered right beneath the surface.

Annie is also the Number 1 fan of the famous novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan). Sheldon is the author of very successful series of romance novels that feature the character Misery Chastian. While traveling from Colorado to his home in New York City he is caught in a blizzard and his car goes off the road. Annie finds him and brings him back to her home. When he regains consciousness he finds that he has two broken legs and a dislocated shoulder. Upon waking he also learns that he has been rescued by his “number one” fan and as a reward he lets her read his latest manuscript, that she saved from the wreckage, in the “Misery” series.

While she feeds him he pisses her off and he sees a sliver of crazy, but she apologizes and all seems to be good. Well, things were good until she goes out and buys a copy of latest book, Misery’s Child, and learns that Misery dies at the end of the book. She goes nuts and almost smashes a table over his head. He then finds out that she didn’t call his agent and then NOBODY knows where he is. She CRAY! She burns his latest manuscript and is insists that he write a new book to resurrect the dead Misery Chastian. What follows is a sledge-hammer to the feet and more torture than ANYONE deserves over a book series. That girl CRAY!

What do you think about these crazies?

Khuwailah Beyah
Khuwailah Beyah
Khuwailah "Cookie" Beyah hails from North Carolina. She is a pop culture nut and loves all things Nathan Fillion. Ms. Beyah has a passion for the macabre and the horror genre. She serves on the "Nevermore Film Festival" selection committee in Durham, NC and attends several comic and horror conventions each year. She holds an MA from Duke University, but is a dyed in the wool North Carolina Tar Heel fan! She also enjoys writing and reading creative non-fiction.