The science fiction genre is fertile ground for big ideas and big speculative stories about what our world might look like in the future. Whether this vision of the future is bright or dark depends on the storytellers. However, one thing that is common to many of these stories is the presence of an intimidating villain figure.
Sci-fi movies love to include a good villain. Whether it’s a cruel dictator, an ambitious warlord, or a terrifying monster born of our own mistakes, sci-fi movies are well known for their iconic and unforgettable villains. Some are oddly charismatic, while others are likely to haunt viewers’ dreams.
ten Emperor Palpatine is a cackling, sadistic old Sith lord (Star Wars)
While some other Sith Lords stole the show for the star wars saga, it is worth remembering who was in fact responsible for the Galactic Empire. Emperor Sheev Palpatine is an icon in his own right. Although he hasn’t made an in-person appearance before Return of the JediPalpatine certainly made his presence felt in the climactic throne room scene.
Although he appears to be a shriveled old man at the time of Episode VI, he still commands the stage with his croaking voice, stabbing condescension, and, of course, plenty of Force Lightning. Palpatine’s over-the-top badness is very enjoyable, and Palpatine actor Ian McDiarmid gets extra points for being the best part of it. Revenge of the Sith.
9 Doctor Zaius is a study in how evil can be calm and collected (Planet of the Apes)
Doctor Zaius is the main antagonist of the original Planet of the Apes in 1968 and one of the main villains of its sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Played by Maurice Evans, Dr. Zaius is a leading figure in the Assembly of Apes and considers himself an inquisitive, law-abiding scientist. He’s a traditionalist, but he wants to help pave the way for ape society.
Despite the heavy makeup and restrictive masks, Maurice Evans does a good job of making Zaius a memorable villain. The phrase “banality of evil” has almost become a cliché at this point, but Zaius is a good reminder of how seemingly calm and collected evil can be.
8 Immortan Joe is a wasteland warlord and master propagandist (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Immortan Joe exists on the opposite end of the spectrum from Zaius. Joe is the self-proclaimed warlord of the Citadel and a religious figurehead of the irradiated fighters, the War Boys. He claims to be the protector of the people who live around the Citadel, but he always lies to them and hordes the water (or “aqua-cola”).
During Mad Max: Fury Road, Immortan Joe becomes increasingly unraveled as he tries to get his wives back from Furiosa and Max. It becomes clear that he cares deeply for his women, even though he treats them abominably, holds them as prisoners, and uses them as breeding grounds. Also, the late Immortan Joe actor Hugh Keays-Byrne played the original’s unforgettable villain. madmaxTocutter.
7 The predator was a hunter who showed mankind how primitive they still are (predator)
The Predator, as portrayed by Kevin Peter Hall, is an alien hunter who chooses prey across the galaxy to hunt and kill. While the Predator lore has been expanded in the sequels, there’s something so perfect about the Predator in the original 1987 film. Dutch, Dillon and the others don’t know what the Predator is, where from he comes or why he hunts them. They only know that he wants to kill them.
The Predator possesses technology far more advanced than anything Dutch ever dreamed of, and the eagerness and ruthlessness with which it kills is horrifying even to battle-hardened Dutch and Dillon.
6 The thing can take any form and imitate any person (the thing)
John Carpenter’s interpretation of The thing is an iconic sci-fi horror film with spectacular special effects that shock and stun audiences to this day. Although the titular Thing doesn’t have a singular actor, he still maintains a spooky presence throughout the film. It can take the form of anyone, and the isolated Antarctic Research Base has no hope of help in dealing with the monster.
The Thing instills fear of a killer among us who may look and behave perfectly normal until the moment he strikes. He also displays grotesque body horror as he twists and twists the shapes he steals.
5 The Xenomorph is a perfect killer that humanity was not ready to face (alien)
Ridley Scott’s Two Extraterrestrial and James Cameron aliens have made the Xenomorph a great sci-fi/horror antagonist of all time, even though the movies take different approaches to why the Xenomorph is scary. In Extraterrestrial, there is a single Xenomorph that emerges from the shadows. Its origins and intentions are unknown. All that is known is that he is a perfect and almost unstoppable killer.
Appropriately, aliens has countless xenomorphs. Here they are like an unstoppable force. There are countless xenomorphs infecting Hadley’s Hope. There are so many that Ripley and the Colonial Marines have no hope of exterminating them one by one. That’s to say nothing of the massive queen that Ripley fights at the end of the film.
4 The T-800 was an unstoppable and unshakeable fighter (The Terminator)
As Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 Terminator becomes a friend and ally in Terminator 2: Judgment Dayhis performance as T-800 in the original terminator is what made the killer machine an icon. He is seemingly indestructible, largely silent, and has only one target – Sarah Connor.
The image of the hulking, heavily armed T-800 stalking the streets and chasing Sarah Connor is chilling, and it represents the idea that technology and artificial intelligence are becoming an unstoppable force beyond human control.
3 Godzilla has shown that the atom bomb is an unholy force of destruction (Godzilla)
Before Godzilla fought other monsters such as Gigan, King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, and Destroyah, Godzilla was the monster that needed to be killed. In Ishiro Honda’s original Godzilla, King of the Monsters! audiences are exposed to a different kind of Godzilla than there is in later films. Here, Godzilla is an unstoppable force spawned by nuclear testing and determined to destroy everything around him.
Godzilla is the atomic bomb that never stopped exploding, and he would consume the world in a nuclear fire if he wasn’t stopped. The only thing that killed Godzilla in the original movie was an even more gruesome weapon, the Oxygen Destroyer. The horror of this weapon ultimately calls out for its creator, Doctor Serizawa.
2 Khan Noonien Singh is a worthy opera frenemy of Captain Kirk (Star Trek)
While Khan originally appeared in the star trek television series, he really became a well-known villain in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. Khan Noonien Singh, played by Ricardo Montalban, is a verbose villain prone to operatic demeanor and grand gestures of violence.
He develops an acute hatred of Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise. Given that it’s over the top and idiosyncratic, it proves to be a perfect foil for Captain Kirk. Ricardo Montalban’s performance in this film is legendary and makes Khan an unforgettable villain even 40 years later.
1 Darth Vader is one of the most iconic fictional characters of all time (Star Wars)
Of course, no sci-fi villain is as iconic as Darth Vader. From a design that draws inspiration from feudal Japan’s samurai armor and Nazi regime uniforms to a bellowing vocal performance by James Earl Jones, everything about Darth Vader is picture-perfect and iconic. He’s a hulking villain (thanks to David Prowse’s physical performance), and the viciousness with which he treats his allies and foes alike makes him all the more menacing.
While the Darth Vader mystique was taken a bit of a beating by Anakin Skywalker’s introduction in the prequel trilogy, the Darth Vader who is shown in the original star wars trilogy and A thug is a terribly brutal force of pure evil.
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