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The Best Movie Villains Of The Last Decade

It's a truth universally acknowledged that if you want your film to have a compelling and fascinating narrative, you need a villain that's just as strong as your protagonist. A great villain needs to be complex, layered, dynamic, and even maybe a little sympathetic, keeping the audience's attention while wreaking complete havoc on the movie's narrative. Crafting a great villain is definitely a tough feat, but luckily, plenty of directors have offered up their unique takes on villains throughout the last decade.

During the 2010s, the decade's best films were populated with some of its most creative villains, from scorned wives and music teachers to Jedi defectors and struggling actors. A hero can't exist without a solid villain, and luckily for the heroes of the 2010s, the villains that debuted during this decade were more than up to the task. Here are just a few of our favorite villains we saw on the big screen from 2010 through the end of 2019. Spoilers for each film to follow!

Loki unleashed all sorts of mischief over the last decade

Though he might not have the raw, brute power of villains like Thanos, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) corners the market on style and panache. As Thor's (Chris Hemsworth)'s adopted brother and the "god of mischief," Loki also hails from Thor's home planet of Asgard, and though he initially exists to be a thorn in Thor's side, he ends up antagonizing plenty of other MCU characters along the way.

Not only has Loki appeared in several MCU films, including the Thor movies and the Avengers installments, he's also earned his own television show on Disney+, which picks up after the character's appearance in Avengers: Endgame, where he steals the Space Stone and begins his own timeline. Despite the fact that he's ostensibly evil, Loki has become one of the most well-loved characters in Marvel's entire cinematic universe, thanks in large part to Hiddleston's rakish, undeniably charming performance and Loki's distinctive look. And it seems as if most fans are willing to overlook some of Loki's worst sins simply because they love Hiddleston's portrayal so much. However, the divisive nature of Loki's character is exactly what makes him a great villain, giving him a sympathetic edge even when he's wreaking havoc for Thor and our other heroes.

Hela brought death to Asgard and fun to the MCU

It's always a smart move to bring in a venerated prestige actor to play a fantastical antagonist, which is exactly what director Taika Waititi did when he cast multiple Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett as the villain in Thor: Ragnarok. After two middle-of-the-pack Thor films, Waititi took over the franchise with 2017's Ragnarok, which radically changed the MCU and breathed new life into the Thor series thanks to a healthy sense of humor and whimsy, combined with a great villain, welcome new characters, and show-stopping action sequences.

Alongside his troublesome brother Loki, his "friend from work" the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and the very drunk Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Thor faces a number of obstacles during Ragnarok — including a brief stint in captivity at the hands of Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster, another delightful villain in his own right — but the biggest one is Hela, the goddess of death and Thor and Loki's long-lost sister who seeks control of Asgard. Hela used to be Odin's (Anthony Hopkins) right-hand woman, subjugating the nine realms to Asgard's will. But when Odin grew a conscience and realized her power was out of control, the allfather imprisoned his daughter to keep the universe safe. But after Odin's death, Hela finally escapes, and now she's out for blood. 

Blanchett is clearly having a blast with the character, vamping as much as possible even as she deals horrible blows to Thor and his brethren. While it's a relief when Hela is defeated, it's still weirdly disappointing to realize that Blanchett won't be back for any future Thor installments.

Ares was a diabolical movie villain hiding in plain sight

Sometimes, a film's villain is hiding in plain sight the whole time. As a result, audiences are treated to a pretty epic bad guy twist, when the villain reveals their true identity ... and that's exactly what happens in 2017's Wonder Woman. Throughout the DC film, audiences are led to believe that Diana (Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) must defeat two high-ranking German officials named General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and Dr. Isabel Maru, known as Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya), both of whom are trying to craft a deadlier form of mustard gas. However, as Diana and Steve fight their way through war in Europe, they end up encountering the film's real villain after they manage to take down the Germans. 

As it turns out, Ares the god of war is responsible for the fighting and turmoil, and as Diana's half-brother, he's been right under her nose the entire time. Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis), who's introduced as a peace speaker, is actually Ares in disguise, and at the film's climax, he sheds his human persona to go up against Diana once and for all. By defeating Ares, Diana realizes that she, not the sword of legend, is the world's real "Godkiller," infusing new life into this determined heroine and giving her a big win in her cinematic debut. Ultimately, Ares' two radically different personas and Thewlis' convincing performance elevate both the villain and the film itself.

Rose Armitage was one of the creepiest bad guys of the last decade

In Jordan Peele's directorial debut, Get Out — which happens to be one of the best movies of the decade — audiences are introduced to Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), as they prepare for a weekend away with her parents. Initially, African-American Chris is nervous about meeting his girlfriend's entirely white family, but Rose isn't worried in the slightest, and despite an unnerving near-miss with a deer on their trip out to the country, the visit seems to go pretty well ... until it all takes a hairpin turn. After a while, Chris is totally unnerved by strange things happening at the Armitage household and asks Rose to leave. She agrees right away, but when they try to leave the house, the story takes another twist with a heart-stopping moment that reveals Rose's true nature (and unwillingness to give up the keys).

Williams was best known for her role as the insufferable Marnie Michaels on HBO's Girls before taking on this incredible role, and audiences were likely shocked by her transition from the girl next door to something much more sinister. Ultimately, Williams' tight and carefully plotted performance helps make Get Out a pretty much flawless movie. In fact, when you sit down to re-watch the film, be sure to keep a close eye on Williams and watch as she lays the tracks for Rose's turn.

Amy Dunne is one of cinema's scariest psychopaths

Adapted by author Gillian Flynn from her novel of the same name, Gone Girl starts out with a familiar narrative. When Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) goes missing on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary, her detached husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), becomes the main suspect in the apparent crime. Directed by David Fincher with Flynn's script, the movie utilizes clever, dream-like flashbacks to detail Nick and Amy's fairytale romance turned sour, and halfway through, it's revealed that Nick is being framed by none other than Amy herself. After she discovers that her husband is cheating on her, Amy goes nuclear, faking her capture and planning an eventual suicide that she can pin on Nick, until she changes her mind and decides to return to hold on to her husband once and for all.

Amy will stop at nothing to achieve her ends, even murdering her loyal yet creepy childhood love, Desi (Neil Patrick Harris), in one of the film's most brutal scenes. And ultimately, she wins the game. Nick is completely trapped by her as the two prepare to have a child together (a truly horrifying outcome). Pike delivers a blistering, searing performance as Amy, the quintessential "cool girl" turned nightmare, illustrating the terrifying idea that sometimes you don't really know the person you've married.

Terence Fletcher is one of the most realistic (and loudest) movie villains of all time

Great villains don't have to wield superpowers or launch large-scale attacks against entire cities. Sometimes, they're just seemingly normal people capable of ruining your life. One perfect example? Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a conductor and teacher at the fictional, prestigious Shaffer Conservatory. A devoted perfectionist and flat-out abusive instructor, Fletcher singles out Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a young drummer in his first year at the academy, and makes his life a living hell. As the two battle it out over Andrew's spot in the band, information about Fletcher comes to light, and after Andrew testifies against his teacher in court, Fletcher intentionally sabotages his young student during a pivotal performance.

Simmons, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role, gives the performance of a lifetime as the chair-hurling, screaming Fletcher, and it's easy to understand why Andrew is terrified yet desperate to prove himself to his despotic teacher. Fletcher isn't a supervillain, but he's definitely a monster, making him one of the scariest characters in recent cinematic memory.

Phoenix Buchanan may be Hugh Grant's greatest performance

Based on the children's book series of the same name, the Paddington films proved to be an unexpected hit, and both movies featured some pretty incredible villains. After Paddington hit theaters in 2014, Nicole Kidman's scheming taxidermist Millicent Clyde seemed impossible to top, but thanks to a tour de force performance from Hugh Grant, the impossible became a reality.

In the film, Grant takes on the role of Phoenix Buchanan, a washed-up British actor who frames Paddington (voice by Ben Whishaw) for stealing a very special pop-up book. Paddington ends up in prison for a theft he didn't commit, but as usual, the cheerful, enterprising bear from darkest Peru makes the best of a bad situation, befriending his fellow inmates and endearing himself to even the most hardened criminals. Eventually, he escapes prison, confronts Buchanan, and gets his book back, while Buchanan ends up in prison (and puts his performative skills to good use). Grant is winningly charming and totally sinister all at the same time, giving us a fantastic character in a phenomenal movie. And if you don't believe us, listen to Grant himself, as the man once said, "I genuinely believe it may be the best film I've ever been in."

Calvin Candie was an absolutely despicable bad guy

During the 2010s, Leonardo DiCaprio paired up with director Quentin Tarantino on two occasions. In 2019, DiCaprio starred as a sympathetic, washed-up movie star in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but he wasn't quite so likable in 2012's Django Unchained. In this gory Western, DiCaprio plays the film's primary villain, Calvin Candie, a brutal plantation owner with a serious taste for violence who gets his kicks from forcing slaves to fight to the death in front of him. To make matters worse, Candie owns Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife of the titular bounty hunter, Django (Jamie Foxx). Candie is quite unwilling to let her go, no matter the price. So in order to rescue Broomhilda, Django and his traveling companion, King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) infiltrate Candie's plantation, but the plan ends up going horribly awry. DiCaprio's performance as Candie is completely unforgettable, and it's all pushed over the edge by a very real, unplanned on-set injury, which ended up taking DiCaprio to even greater heights during a fateful take involving a shocking amount of real blood.

Immortan Joe was far from being mediocre

In a sequel to his original trilogy of Mad Max films, George Miller blessed the world with the franchise's fourth installment, Fury Road, in 2015. Headlined by Tom Hardy, alongside Charlize Theron as the extraordinarily powerful Furiosa, Mad Max: Fury Road captivated critics and fans alike, even earning a whopping ten Academy Award nominations (and ultimately, six wins). Considered one of the best action films ever made, Fury Road perfectly combines heart-stopping action with an enthralling narrative, and thanks to its impressive lead cast, it doesn't really rely on its villain to steal the show.

However, Miller left no stone unturned, crafting a perfect, sinister bad guy for this post-apocalyptic tale. Fury Road finds its villain in Immortan Joe (played by Australian actor Hugh Keays-Byrne), a creepy, barely-alive cult leader whose army captures healthy people to use for blood and breeding, among other purposes. At once frail and decrepit and incredibly intimidating, Joe is a tyrannical dictator and a pretty impressive driver, and as he battles Furiosa and Max in the desert wastelands, his presence is always keenly felt, showing just how powerful he is. 

Kylo Ren brought new life to the Dark Side

It seems impossible that Star Wars could ever craft a villain as iconic as Darth Vader, and while his shadow still looms over the entire franchise, J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson have created an entirely new kind of villain for the series. Audiences were introduced to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in 2015 with The Force Awakens, the first installment in the anticipated sequel trilogy, and it wasn't long before his true identity was revealed. An operative of the sinister First Order, Kylo Ren didn't start out as a bad guy. The only child of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), he once trained as a Jedi under Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), but as so often happens in world of Star Wars, he was tempted by the Dark Side.

Aided by Driver's explosive, thoughtful performance, Kylo Ren is a multi-layered and complex villain. Even when you remember that he killed his own father and ordered the mass murder of as many remaining Jedi as possible, you still hope for his redemption, particularly when he strikes up a bond with Rey (Daisy Ridley) in 2017's The Last Jedi. Beyond all of that, Kylo's scariest and, at the same time, funniest characteristic is his sheer petulance. He might be the powerful leader of the First Order, but he can still succumb to temper tantrums, giving the character some very human, childish impulses.

Killmonger was the MCU's most complicated villain

Black Panther remains one of the best and most important films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to its groundbreaking black superhero, predominantly non-white cast, and riveting story and direction from Ryan Coogler. However, one of its most compelling elements is actually the villain. Shortly after meeting T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the titular "Black Panther" and prince of Wakanda who's recently assumed the throne of his home country, audiences are gifted with an explosive introduction to his estranged cousin, Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, (Michael B. Jordan), as he pulls off a museum heist alongside Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis).

A military veteran who bears scars on his body for each one of his kills, Killmonger is undeniably one of the MCU's most fascinating characters, especially because his mission kind of makes sense. Killmonger is out for revenge after his father's (Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown) murder at the hands of his own brother, T'Chaka, T'Challa's father. Killmonger's goals for Wakanda also have a righteous bent to them, as he wants to use Wakanda's considerable resources to liberate black people all over the world from oppression. But ultimately, he commits too many despicable acts to really earn the audience's true allegiance. With all of that said, Jordan's performance (brought out by his frequent collaborator, Coogler) and Killmonger's sharp, precise characterization cement him as one of the most interesting villains of not only the MCU, but the entire decade.

Thanos was the biggest supervillain of the last decade

It goes without saying that you can't have a list of great villains of the decade without including Thanos. The resident "big bad" throughout multiple phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was played by a few actors in quick post-credits scenes before Josh Brolin officially took on the role for the character's appearance in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. A misguided do-gooder and adoptive father of several captives — including Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) — Thanos eventually decides that he should help out the universe by cutting its population in half by any means necessary, a belief instilled within him after the people of his home planet, Titan, went extinct thanks to overpopulation.

Throughout several MCU films, Thanos spends his time assembling the six Infinity Stones to place them in the legendary Infinity Gauntlet, and in Avengers: Infinity War, he finally achieves his goal and "snaps" half of the world's living beings out of existence. Though he meets a crushing defeat in Avengers: Endgame, Thanos absolutely ranks among the decade's best villains, and it's not hard to understand why. Despite his terrible solution and sadistic tendencies, Thanos' goal — which is to keep the living population of the planet to a minimum to preserve its resources — is oddly noble, giving him a sympathetic edge that set the standard for all future supervillains.