For as long as there have been stories, there’s always been a hero and a villain. A counterpart to the hero that will challenge him or her at whatever they do. Most of the time, movies will give its audience who are bad just for the sake of being bad without any rhyme or reason. Personally, I love a villain that either has rhyme or reason, you can empathize with, smart, and has justifiable motives. These include Magneto from the X-Men movies, Raoul Silva from Skyfall, Kingpin from Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, and Killmonger in Black Panther. However, there are three villains that stick out the most to me when I think of my favorites. Those are Colonel Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds, Syndrome from The Incredibles, and Terence Fletcher from Whiplash. All three of these baddies have at least one of the aspects I like in a villain. Above all, the actors portraying them do a solid job doing so.
First up, Colonel Hans Landa of Inglourious Basterds is portrayed by Austrian actor Christoph Waltz. He is known as “the Jew Hunter” as his job is to locate hiding Jews throughout Nazi-occupied France. One quality that makes Landa a great villain is his way of owning control of the room and getting what he wants. He establishes this right away in the opening scene of the movie. He shows up to a French milk farm where he is inspecting if there are any Jews hiding in the farmer’s house. Landa comes off as friendly to the farmer and his family. As they begin to talk business, Landa and the farmer stare at each other, and Landa automatically knows the farmer is hiding Jews in his house despite him saying that they’ve already been checked by other Nazis. When he asks, Waltz makes Landa go from a friendly-yet-intimidating detective doing his job to a mad man without going on a rage. He forces information out of the farmer without using force and aggression, but only with a look on his face. Of course, the scene ends with Landa’s men killing all but one of the family members.
Landa further proves he’s a worthy villain by trying to justify his motives by giving a “conditional surrender” to the US. He tries to make a deal with Basterds leader Aldo Raine that would allow Landa to let their mission, a full pardon of his duties, and benefits after the war ended. In other words, Landa pretty much got things his way. However, Aldo wanted to give him something before they part ways. As they enter Allied territory, Aldo does what he does to Nazi soldiers throughout the movie: carve a swastika into their foreheads. All in all, Landa is one of my favorite villains because of the way he commands the room and get what he wants out of people. This was Waltz’s breakout role, and he won an Oscar for it.
Next, there is Syndrome from The Incredibles. He makes for an interesting case because he’s a villain in an animated movie. For that reason, I think he doesn’t get enough recognition that he rightfully deserves. What makes Syndrome a stellar villain is that the audience can have sympathy towards him and has justifiable motives. At the beginning of the movie, we meet Syndrome as Buddy/Incrediboy, a super fan of Mr. Incredible. All he wants to do his help the hero, but Mr. Incredible tells him “fly home Buddy, I work alone.” In spite of this, he becomes Syndrome, sets up shop on a remote island, builds droids and weapons to allow anyone who has them to be “super.” You can empathize with him as he was turned down by his childhood hero and only wanted to be seen as a hero in the public eye. Furthermore, Jason Lee provides the voice for Syndrome and fits it perfectly as he makes Syndrome come off as devious and hungry for revenge.
Finally, Terence Fletcher from Whiplash is a jazz band director with bizarre teaching methods. When the audience first sees him practicing with his band, he yells in a player’s face for being out of tune and hurls a chair at the main character-Andrew-for not being on his time as he’s playing the drums. At another rehearsal, Fletcher makes Andrew play the drums so fast and hard that his hands start bleeding. He challenges Andrew to the point where Andrew loses his sanity and becomes obsessed with wanting to become the drummer he desires to be. Later on in the film, he explains the reasoning behind his madness is that he was hoping to find the next great jazz musician. “I push people beyond what’s expected of them, I believe that is an absolute necessity,” he explains to Andrew before adding “[T]here are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job.” He had justifiable motives as he is only trying to make the next jazz great, even if it takes them to the edge of their sanity.
J.K. Simmons plays Fletcher and executes the role in an extraordinary fashion. He makes Fletcher scary, predatory, and above all hard. He knows how to get under the audience’s skin and scare them half to death. As Fletcher, Simmons makes the audience guess what the character will do if something isn’t going the way he wants it to. He taunts his musicians, yells at them over the slightest mistakes, and makes inappropriate sex-related insults at them as a way for them to not make the same mistake again. On top of all of it, Simmons was highly praised for his performance here that he took the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2015.