Most Memorable Antagonists

No great hero would reach acclaim without the challenges set by a menacing, fear-inducing villain. Whether it’s Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men or Meryl Streep’s character Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, the great antagonists of the movies create the arc in the story, obstruct our protagonists at every turn, and stop at nothing to leave a trail of havoc in their wake.

In fact, many of the greatest characters in cinematic history are villains: complex, twisted, and utterly captivating. A convincing antagonist must be a multi-faceted character that challenges the audience to question what can drive one to such dark places.

The release of Sicario 2: Soldado on digital download 22nd October and on 4k UHD, Steelbook, Blu-Ray™ & DVD from 29th October 2018, allows us to witness the intriguing complexity of a great antagonist at work. CIA agent Matt Graver, played by Josh Brolin, is authorised by the US government to apply extreme measures – including deception, kidnapping, and murder– to combat a Mexican drug cartel that is suspected of smuggling terrorists across the US border. As Graver and his team push the limits of morality and go so far as to kidnap the young daughter of the cartel’s kingpin, audiences are left asking: who is really the villain?

To celebrate this film’s release, we are rounding up the top movies with the most memorable antagonists that have us squirming in our seats.

Bellatrix Lestrange

Arguably one of the most calculating and evil villains in the Harry Potter franchise is Bellatrix Lestrange, sister of Narcissa Malfoy and cousin of Sirius Black. Bellatrix can make the hairs stand on the back of necks with just a laugh. Bellatrix is infamous for her intensely sadistic approach to killing and torture. She takes huge pleasure in taunting and antagonising her victims, such as Neville Longbottom when she reminds him how she murdered his parents, and her callous killing of her very own cousin, Sirius Black. Actress Helena Bonham Carter delivers a harrowing performance with her gaunt and wild appearance and the crazed look in her eyes.

Hannibal Lecter

Even the name ‘Hannibal Lecter’ would not fail to send chills through the spine of any viewer. Sir Anthony Hopkins’ antagonist in Silence of the Lambs is a creepy and disturbing character that the American Film Institute named the ‘greatest villain in American cinema’ in 2003. Lecter is a cannibalistic serial killer who, whilst incarcerated, is summoned to assist FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling in catching a serial killer known as ‘Buffalo Bill’. He is a complex character, whose sophistication and refined tastes juxtapose his barbaric violence. Hopkins created the ultimate villain who continues to terrify audiences today.

The Joker

Although it is a character that has been portrayed many times in cinema, no portrayal is more memorable than the Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. The Joker’s storyline follows his attempts to undermine the efforts of Christian Bale’s Batman and the manic, deranged characterisation from Ledger is chilling, earning him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. As a character devoted to pure anarchy, his appearance, physicality and mannerisms reflect this. Ledger’s Jokers is revered as one of the greatest villains of all time and will not soon be forgotten.

Darth Vader

When we think of the archetypal ‘baddie’, we look no further than one of the originals, Darth Vader in Star Wars. The reveal of Darth Vader as Luke Skywalker’s father is revered as the greatest movie twist of all time. As we find out in the prequels, Darth Vader’s villainy wasn’t always so present. Originally called Anakin Skywalker, he was an innocent young jedi who was being mentored by Obi Wan Kenobi. However, in the search for justice, he was converted to the dark side, a decision that was triggered by the death of his Naboo senator Padmé Amida, with whom he was having a secret relationship. A central theme of Star Wars is the conflict of good versus evil, and this conflict is no more apparent than within the character of Darth Vader.

Matt Graver

Josh Brolin’s character in the Sicario franchise is known for his willingness to do whatever is necessary to eliminate enemies of the states — with little regard for morality. Director Denis Villeneuve creates an intense web of good and evil by exploring the hypocrisy of US government and the immoral tactics used by the CIA to combat Mexican cartels. However, in Sicario 2: Soldado, Josh Brolin’s character Matt Graver displays a torn moral conscious and shows the audience that he may not be callous through and through. The inner tension within a seemingly objectionable character is what makes for a memorable antagonist. Brolin’s Graver is arrogant, unyielding and brutal in his methods yet we see in Sicario 2: Soldado that there may be more to him than meets the eye.