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NewsThe 10 Most Clichéd Movie Villains, Ranked

The 10 Most Clichéd Movie Villains, Ranked


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Clichés are an inevitable aspect of creativity, whether in novels, video games, or movies. Clichés may occur in plot development or in characters such as heroes and villains. Character archetypes are a key part of storytelling; they enable audiences to identify character roles and follow the story.

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While archetypes are needed, they often blur the line and become stereotypes and clichés. While clichés don’t inherently mean the movie or story is bad, they certainly make audiences squint and wonder whether there could have been a way to avoid such over-used and well-known tropes. There is a large number of movie villains who wander into cliché territory.

10 Hannibal Lecter Is The Genius Serial Killer (The Silence Of The Lambs)

The genius serial killer is a clichéd character who has been seen in various crime thrillers. The greatest example is Hannibal Lecter, a respected forensic psychiatrist turned cannibalistic serial killer created by novelist Thomas Harris. Played by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon, Lecter is terrifyingly intelligent and cunning.

Lecter chooses his words carefully and uses his genius to command conversation and plan his crimes. He is cliché precisely for this reason, though it is possible to suggest he is one of the characters who created the cliché. In crime thrillers and dramas it is common for the killer to be highly intelligent and charismatic.

9 Hans Gruber Is The Stereotypical German Bad Guy (Die Hard)

Hans Gruber, unfortunately, falls under the cliché category of “foreign” villains. Particularly in North American cinema, villains in all genres were more often than not from anywhere but the USA, though often either Russian, German, Chinese, or Japanese. It’s plausible that this choice to have foreign villains is a result of the time in which certain movies were made, for example during the Cold War, and so villains must be whoever the enemy of the USA is at the time.

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Regardless, even today Europeans and Eastern Asians tend to be presented as the villain, with the American saving the day. In the case of Die Hard, Hans Gruber is a German thief and terrorist who holds the Nakatomi Plaza hostage to steal $640 million in negotiable bearer bonds. In this regard, Gruber also falls under the “genius” villain cliché.

8 Nurse Ratched Is The Bully Who Enjoys Watching Suffering (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest)

Nurse Ratched, the main antagonist of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is what is known as “the Battleaxe Nurse” cliché. Many audiences have suggested that Ratched is actually the character who began this trope. She is incredibly sadistic and cruel, and while she isn’t particularly old in the movie, the Battleaxe Nurse tends to be old and unattractive as opposed to angelic.

The Battleaxe Nurse cliché is always female, enjoys beating patients to assert her dominance over them, and fits comfortably into the bully villain archetype. She represents the oppressive mechanization, dehumanization, and emasculation of modern society.

7 Two-Face Is Maniacal & Fueled By Hatred (The Dark Knight)

Two-Face is a stereotype seen most often in horror or comic movies, being the cliché of a good man corrupted by evil and darkness. Previously known as Harvey Dent, Two-Face is driven by hatred and has few other motives. He gives in to his obsessive behavior and allows his compulsions — and a two-faced coin — to decide his actions.

In The Dark Knight, Dent is a man who has everything taken away from him and so loses his mind. Two-Face is also a cliché in regard to his appearance — his physical scarring being used as a trope and sign of his villainy, despite the fact that scarring has nothing to do with behavior or personality.

6 Ursula Is The Schemer Offering An Easy Way Out (The Little Mermaid)

Ursula, the villain from The Little Mermaid, is a scheming cecaelia who manipulates Ariel in order to fulfill her plot to take revenge on King Triton and become Queen of Atlantica. When Ariel goes to Ursula for help, like many merfolk had done before her, Ursula pretends to help her and tells her what to do.

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Ariel must receive the “kiss of true love” from Eric, a human prince, within three days. If Ariel succeeds, her transformation into a human will be permanent, but if she fails, she will turn back into a mermaid and be bound to Ursula for eternity. Ursula is the cliché of a manipulative villain, one who pretends to be an ally until the last moment when they suddenly turn and reveal their true colors.

5 Tai Lung Is The Angry Martial Artist Hungry For Power (Kung Fu Panda)

Tai Lung is the stylish antagonist of Kung Fu Panda. A snow leopard trained by Master Shifu, Tai Lung is the cliché of a power-hungry villain motivated by revenge and jealousy. When denied the power of the Dragon Scroll, Tai Lung returns to Shifu’s temple in order to not only take the scroll by force, but also beat Shifu in combat to prove that he is the greater fighter.

When fighting Shifu, Tai Lung appears to be winning — that is, until Po arrives and steps in to beat him. The manner in which Tai Lung was beaten is also cliché, as he is so confident in his own power that he underestimates Po, lets his guard down, and is beaten by his own hubris.

4 Commodus Is The Patricidal Boy Emperor (Gladiator)

In a similar vein to Tai Lung, Commodus from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator is driven by a desire for power and will stop at nothing to achieve it. More specifically, Commodus fits into the jealous prince cliché, as he is — in theory — heir to his father’s throne. However, Commodus can’t wait to inherit his role.

The fact that Commodus’ father, Marcus Aurelius, plans to give the rule of Rome to Maximus demonstrates that Commodus is not fit to rule. Commodus cannot understand why, as he believes he is perfect and has done everything to prove himself to his father. Commodus is unable to accept his own flaws. He is vain, immature, power-hungry, and desperate for control.

3 Ultron Is The Human Hating Machine (Avengers: Age Of Ultron)

Ultron, who appears in Avengers: Age of Ultron, is an AI designed to be part of a Peacekeeping Program created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Once he had been activated, Ultron’s original programming directive, which was to protect Earth from all domestic and extraterrestrial threats, was corrupted.

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Ultron is a handful of clichés wrapped up into one package: AI being corrupted and wanting to end the world, a super-intelligent machine learning the true nature of humanity, and an all-powerful being only wants more power. Ultron is a complex yet simultaneously simple character.

2 The Wicked Witch Of The West Is Evil Incarnate (The Wizard Of Oz)

The Wicked Witch of the West is a well-known villain who appears in The Wizard of Oz. Throughout the movie, she attempts to foil Dorothy’s journey home in order to take her enchanted red slippers from her. She is the ultimate ‘evil incarnate’ cliché, whose ultimate goal is to eradicate all good in Oz and rule over her evil domain.

The Wicked Witch of the West is similar villains to Queen Grimhilde from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Ursula from The Little Mermaid. The Witch has little character development and backstory because the entire point of her character is just to appear as the villain for Dorothy to defeat.

1 Scar Is The Jealous Brother & Wannabe King (The Lion King)

Scar from Disney’s The Lion King embodies one of the oldest clichés; he is based on the villain from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Scar, like Commodus, is a power-hungry heir to the throne who, after realizing that the throne will never be his, takes drastic measures to secure his reign. Scar is murderous and cunning, charismatic and oddly likable, being one of the most intelligent lions in the kingdom.

Scar is jealous and betrays his family. He aligns with the hyenas, kills his brother, and exiles his nephew in order to achieve his goal. He is a glorious cliché and many other villains have been inspired by his characterization since.

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