Film baddies we’re all secretly rooting for

Have you ever watched a movie and been so mind-numbingly disgusted by the derring-do and decency of the heroes that you actually wanted their evil-doing nemeses to win out instead? I was the kind of kid that wanted Wile E. Coyote to tuck into a fine Road Runner Sunday roast, or to see Bugs Bunny finally get mounted on Elmer Fudd’s wall. But then again I am a psychopath who keeps people locked up in my basement, so I’ll admit to a certain bias in that area.

Think about all the good things our big screen baddies have done. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs) only had rude people over for dinner. Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer, Blade Runner) was the great philosopher of the future speaking about tears in rain and all that guff. The Penguin (Danny DeVito, Batman Returns) was a freak who just wanted to be loved by people. Dracula (Crazy Gary Oldman) only ever wanted to make Keanu Reeves suffer for all eternity, and let’s face it, who really had a problem with that? And Darth Vader was doing pretty damn well for a severely disabled guy as the No.2 in the biggest evil empire in the galaxy. Really, what is so bad about these guys? I think they’re simply misunderstood. Let’s look closer…

Take Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) in James Cameron’s Titanic. He was painted from the word go as a stiff-upper-lipped Brit trying to drag Kate Winslet’s defiant Rose into a marriage she didn’t want; a wealthy, controlling, ignorant ass and an altogether selfish human being who liked to damage fine china for the sake of having a hissy-fit about being proper. He even at one point pulls out a gun and chases after Rose and her new squeeze Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), shooting wildly and missing them with every shot. But by this point in the film I started to feel sorry for the chap. I mean look at it from his POV – first you lose your trophy bride-to-be to some homeless guy who does a nude sketch of her wearing your wedding present, then this very same homeless guy shags said fiancee in the back of your own bloody car, then your fiancee does a Flipper and spits in your face, THEN the boat you’re travelling on sinks into the middle of the Atlantic. Cal Hockley was having a pretty bad 24 hours that could rival even one of Jack Bauer’s worst days when you think about it. Poor bastard.

Old Cal is not the only movie villain with woman trouble either. Take Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) from Quentin Tarantino’s arduous Death Proof. Okay, so he’s a psychotic misogynist – I guess he loses the female vote on that one. But he only targeted really annoying chicks that do stupid things with cars, like tape one of their gal-pals to the bonnet and try to break the sound barrier. For me, when Stuntman Mike shows up trying to run them off the road, he’s really doing them a favour and teaching them some much needed road safety lessons about how not to be so universally retarded. Police Camera Action eat your heart out. Move over Alistair Stewart, ’cause Stuntman Mike is going to take it up a few notches!

On the humiliation scale of being a villain in film and getting your ass handed to you, nothing quite beats Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as Harry and Marv in Home Alone. They get totally sucker punched by an eight year old kid played to maximum cutesy effect by Macaulay Culkin. First of all, the McCallister family are disgustingly rich and painfully self-absorbed. If they can leave behind their son when they go on holiday at Christmas they deserve to be robbed. Harry and Marv were like modern day Robin Hoods to me – the biggest disappointment of that film was the fact that the ‘Wet Bandits’ never got the chance to wring little Kevin’s neck and drown him in the flooded basement next door.

Then we have The Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The man wants to cut Kevin Costner’s heart out with a spoon. Do we really need another reason to get behind this guy beyond that? From the first moment he appears on-screen behind a creepy white mask to his final duel with bland boy Costner in his castle, he simply oozes charm, humour and spits out some wicked one-liners. He even finds time to cancel Christmas. It’s a shame that he gets stabbed in the heart after his climatic sword-fight with Robin of the Hood. Maybe he would have had more luck if he had used a spoon as his weapon of choice…

Possibly my favourite villain of all time though has to be Ryan Weaver (Ray Liotta) in one of the worst movies of all time. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of seeing the epic Turbulence, let me start by saying it could challenge Annie Hall and Monty Python’s Life of Brian for best comedy ever. Ryan Weaver is a serial killer being escorted on Christmas Eve by federal marshals on a skeleton crew flight to LA. But when he escapes, all hell breaks loose on board, and oh what a glorious time Weaver has terrorising the cabin crew, primarily Lauren Holly’s flight attendant. You really warm to him by the end – he’s the kind of guy you’d like to go out for a night on the town listening to his great maniacal cackle that will have you rolling around in stitches. He’s pretty handy with a fire axe and sings a fine rendition of Jingle Bells too. The fact that Lauren Holly’s character is so relentlessly stupid makes you choose a side pretty fast… and it definitely ain’t hers.

So, the next time you go to the cinema or spin a DVD in the player, try to have a heart when you watch the big bad villain prance around on screen – chances are they only want attention or affection or to highlight the stupidity of other people. It might not suit the plot, but some good guys deserve to lose, and some bad guys definitely deserve to win.

I have to go now. Basement prisoners don’t feed themselves scraps, you know…

About The Author

I'm from the South coast of the UK; the clubbing and binge drinking capital of the country known as Bournemouth. You could call it a wasted paradise. I'm a writer and film lover who talks a lot, predominantly about those two subjects. If you need a person to give you the release date, running time and cast & crew list of some obscure eighties movie off the top of their head, I'm your man. I also do weddings and children's parties.