Throughout the 2000s, audiences were treated to some of the greatest action films ever made. Casino Royale launched Daniel Craig’s gritty reimagining of the James Bond mythos. Quentin Tarantino directed the two-part martial arts epic Kill Bill. Ang Lee’s groundbreaking fight scenes Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon combat combined with a kind of aerial ballet.
The instant classic action films of the 2000s brought many iconic villains to audiences. Collateral saw Tom Cruise put on a rare turn as a villain, while Spiderman 2Doc Ock is considered the greatest on-screen incarnation of a supervillain.
ten The Twins (The Matrix Reloaded)
The consequences of The matrix are nowhere near as good as the original, but they did have some memorable action scenes involving some memorable villains. Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith remained the main villain of the entire trilogy, but The Matrix Reloaded introduced a fascinating pair of side villains known as “The Twins”.
Played by Neil and Adrian Rayment, the twins are one of the sequel’s few saving graces. They are “Exiles”, or renegade programs, who work as henchmen for the Merovingians. The twins have an unforgettable fight with Morpheus during the film’s most exciting setting (the freeway chase).
9 Vincent (Collateral)
Michael Mann’s clever neo-noir Collateral stars Jamie Foxx as a mild-mannered taxi driver and Tom Cruise as a cold-blooded hitman who commandeers his cab for a night of assassinations around Los Angeles.
Apart from Interview with the Vampire and Thunder in the tropicsCruise rarely plays the bad guy, but his sinister and captivating turn Collateral proves he should take on more adversarial roles.
8 Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith)
George Lucas describes Anakin Skywalker – the man who would be Vader – as a tragic Hamlet-esque hero in the first two episodes of star wars prequels. But as his journey to the dark side draws to a close, Anakin becomes a villain in his own right in the trilogy’s final chapter.
Hayden Christensen played this dark trick in spectacular fashion. As Anakin becomes the story’s villain, his heartbroken Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi becomes the hero, leading to an explosive showdown on the volcanic planet of Mustafar.
seven Bill (Kill Bill)
The titular assassination squad leader in Quentin Tarantino Kill Bill is not a classically malicious villain. Played by Kung Fu star David Carradine, Bill is a former lover of the heroic “The Bride.” Bill has a few flowery monologues too many, but he’s redeemed by his subversive and unique characterization.
The climactic showdown is not a full-scale battle sequence; it’s a conversation on a patio before Bill poetically walked out with the “Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.”
6 Jen Yu (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
Ang Lee’s wuxia masterpiece Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is often known for his fight scenes, which have fighters floating through the trees in a lyrical display of combat. But the story is also captivating. Zhang Ziyi’s Jen Yu falls somewhere between a likeable hero and a complex villain.
Along with her mentor Jade Fox, she is one of the film’s main antagonistic forces, but her motivation is relatable: she wants to escape an arranged marriage.
5 Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man 2)
by Sam Raimi Spiderman 2 is still considered one of the greatest comic book movies of all time (even after the genre became saturated beyond belief). Alfred Molina plays the sequel’s villain, Doctor Octopus, often ranked among the best supervillain performances ever put on film.
Doc Ock isn’t a traditional villain – he’s a good man whose mind is corrupted by his state-of-the-art mechanical limbs. Molina’s portrayal of the character’s internal Jekyll-and-Hyde dynamic delivers the perfect combination of villainy and dramatic nuance. The actor recently reprized the role in Spider-Man: No Coming Home and seamlessly re-immersed himself in character.
4 The Cipher (Casino Royale)
A decade after successfully reinvigorating the Bond franchise with a modern sensibility in golden eyeMartin Campbell came back to do it again with Casino Royale. Opposite Daniel Craig in his 007 debut, Mads Mikkelsen provided a chilling on-screen presence as the villain Le Cipher.
Le Cipher was the perfect villain for Casino Royalegritty reimagining of the Bond films. He tortures a naked 007 in one of the most brutal and disturbing sequences of the entire series.
3 Kakihara (Ichi the killer)
Takashi Miike’s cult action-horror hit Ichi the killer is one of the most gloriously ultraviolent films ever made. But as much as it engages in gruesome violence, the film is also a sharp, contemplative deconstruction of media violence.
The titular Ichi is a psychotic killer, but he feels remorse for the pain he inflicts. The real villain of the film is the sadistic yakuza enforcer, Kakihara, who enjoys inflicting pain on people and grows jealous of Ichi for his superhuman killing abilities.
2 Detective Alonzo Harris (training day)
Villains are usually supporting characters, but Denzel Washington’s captivating villain stole the show in training day. He was recognized by the Academy as the film’s lead, winning Best Actor while his co-star Ethan Hawke (who plays the morally upright protagonist) was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
Antoine Fuqua’s crime thriller stars Washington as a corrupt cop who takes a naïve young recruit, played by Hawke, on his first day on the job.
1 The Joker (The Dark Knight)
Heath Ledger won an unprecedented posthumous Oscar for his role as Joker in Christopher Nolan The black Knight. Ledger’s Joker is the definitive portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime: a genuinely psychotic agent of chaos, played as a cross between Alex DeLarge and Sid Vicious.
More importantly, Ledger captures what makes this particular villain the ultimate nemesis of the Bat: the two are polar opposites. The Joker himself sums it up perfectly in the finale: “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets a stationary object.”
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