I started this list a year ago, but then a tree fell through my house and I ended up a little sidetracked. You know, shit happens, life goes on. So here is my much, much belated series about villains.
Now, first of all, I’m going to tell you the criteria by which I’ve chosen these dastardly, bastardly souls. Each of these baddies has made an indelible imprint on my mind when it came to writing, crafting, and creating villains. So there will be a lot of personal bias here. While nearly every villainy list I’ve ever encountered has Hannibal Lecter at or near the top, I’m not including him here because while objectively he is a great villain, he hasn’t made an imprint on me. So no Sauroman, no Alex de Large, and no Gordon Gekko. You may disagree, and your mileage may vary, of course, and that is okay.
I’m also only including movie villains for this first go-around. No doubt I’ll do a book-baddie list in the future, but for now I’m sticking to the movies and TV because I love them and they are a huge part of my life.
I’m also only including the fictional character and not the actor unless it’s that particular actor’s version of the character that made an impact, such is the case with Number 10. I’ll also give a breakdown of why I chose that version.
So, with that said, on with the list! I’ll be starting at 10 and working down to 1, with a new villain updated hopefully each week, for the three people who keep up with this blog, lol.
10. Dracula – portrayed by Christopher Lee
Come on, you knew he was going to be on this list. Dracula has had more movie portrayals than any other character in literary history, with maybe the exception of Sherlock Holmes, and it’s not hard to see why. The Count, as written by Bram Stoker, hit a particularly sensitive nerve with his Victorian audience, who feared disease, foreigners, and overt sexuality in equal measures. The vampire as a myth has been around in some form or another as long as there have been people walking the earth. The vampire is nothing if not adaptable. It preys on human fears and weaknesses with each new generation adapting it to their own neuroses. Sexually-liberated women who overturn acceptable gender roles? We have a vampire for that. Pestilence-ridden drones bent on the destruction of mankind with no care or regard for ideologies and national borders? We have a vampire for that. Aloof, effeminate teenage boys perving on your innocent teenage daughters? You bet your ass we have a vampire for that.
There is a vampire movie for literally every type of vampire and vampire lover in existence. From the feral, nightmarish monsters of 30 Days of Night to the sexy, sensual lover of Frank Langella’s Dracula (ignore the seventies hair and wingspan shirt collars, if you can), vampires run the spectrum of demon and angel and everything between.
So what makes Christopher Lee’s version of the Count my personal favorite? I won’t lie. Bela Lugosi’s portrayal was iconic. Nearly a hundred years later, and his face is the one that comes to mind whenever you think of vampires. That widow’s peak, those hypnotic eyes, and that classic vampire tuxedo. The man knew how to make an icon. He was menacing and disdainful of his human prey, and the movies managed to show that without resorting to a single drop of blood. But given the time period and what could be achieved with special effects and the Hayes Code, Lugosi’s Dracula is a rather tame version of the Count. All drawling menace and smoldering looks, but never being able to show just how dangerous a vampire can be. They never even showed Lugosi with fangs.
Lee’s Dracula, on the other hand, was a carnivore brimming with vicious appetite. God help anything that got in his way or took his fancy. He was no romantic lover, no sweet seducer of innocents. He was a wolf wrapped in finery that was as easy for him to shed as his iconic cape. Lee, at an impressive 6’5″ and with a voice that should be commanding a legion of demons in Hell, had the physicality and gravitas to pull off such a menacing character. He portrayed the Count as both a haughty nobleman and a savage creature, giving his version of Dracula a chilling presence that no one else has ever quite been able to manage.
I have always preferred the more animalistic vampires. I’ll watch or read about the tragic heroes and antihero vampires who loathe what they have become, and sometimes even enjoy that, but I prefer vampires that show humanity stripped down to its barest appetites. Lee’s Dracula was a harbinger of death and destruction, and he carried that mantle proudly. He’s the human id stripped of all its trappings, humanity pared down to its most brutal core, and it’s a horrifying look at what we could become once all the niceties and social mores get tossed out the window.
That’s why I prefer Christopher Lee’s Dracula. He makes no apologies for his actions and he owns every evil thing he does. It makes for a compelling, frightening villain.