Movie heroes win our hearts with their courage (and their good looks), but movie villains captivate our imaginations with their shameless duplicity and disregard for the rules. We can't revere them, but we also can't help but enjoy them. Here are the best of the worst. [Text by Michael Rowin]
10. Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates, Misery)
In Misery, Bates gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "number-one fan" as the deranged devotee of a romance-novel writer (James Caan). Obsessed with his creation to the point of forcing the injured Caan to rewrite his protagonist's fate, Bates eventually has to "hobble" the person she admires most with a sledgehammer to the legs, so he won't escape. It's her version of "tough love."
9. Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon, The Princess Bride)
While less deadly, frightening, and indomitable than most other villains, Sarandon's obnoxious Prince Humperdinck is arguably the most hateful since he's so insufferably pompous. In a fable, there's nothing worse than forcing a beautiful young maiden to marry against her will.
8. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator)
"I'll be back," intoned Schwarzenegger's hulking, unstoppable cyborg killer from the year 2029. This simple phrase became a portentous pronouncement that had mere mortals -- including Linda Hamilton, as the heroine and future hope of the human race -- running for their lives.
7. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum, The Night of the Hunter)
"LOVE" tattooed on one fist and "HATE" on the other -- this is how Robert Mitchum's southern preacher announces his outward saintliness and inner sinner. After seducing then killing Shelley Winters, he goes after her children and the family treasure. Mitchum played many memorable movie villains. This one's his most diabolical.
6. The Joker (Jack Nicholson, Batman)
Before Heath Ledger, there was Nicholson, the most grotesque Joker yet brought to life from the pages of the Batman comic. In his quest to destroy Gotham City and its Dark Knight, this Joker stages bizarre and deadly public performance-art pieces before devastating his victims. He's the kind of villain who kills with a smile.
5. Keyser Söze (Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects)
The Usual Suspects builds anticipation for an unseen, larger-than-life underworld criminal -- so ruthless, according to legend, that he killed his own family to prove his unshakable toughness. What's even more disturbing is when we realize at the movie's end that we've seen him all along. Spacey's Söze is the devil among us. That's evil!
4. Alex Forrest (Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction)
Thinking of having an affair, guys? Watch Glenn Close's performance in Fatal Attraction and you'll reconsider. Between terrorizing Michael Douglas, boiling a pet rabbit, and refusing to drown in a bathtub, Close is determined to make one cheater pay for his transgressions.
3. The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton, The Wizard of Oz)
After watching her classic performance as the Wicked Witch of the West, it's hard to believe Hamilton was once a schoolteacher. What was she like with children? A cackling, green-skinned, broom-flying ogre out to get Dorothy "and her little dog, too," Hamilton's meanie has frightened generations of youngsters.
2. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, Psycho)
Slightly strange Norman Bates wouldn't hurt a fly...but Mother would. When Perkins's lonely, jittery innkeeper spies a beautiful young woman (Janet Leigh) taking a shower in one of his rooms, that's when Norm gives way to Mother and silent audiences turn into screamers.
1. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs)
While other actors have portrayed him on-screen, Anthony Hopkins's Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter is the definitive version -- and the definitive villain. Beyond being a merciless, psycho craving for human flesh, this former psychiatrist terrifies by virtue of his ability to get into your head.