Undefended: The Five Most Humane Villains

Undefended is posted every Friday. All FilmFisher writers are given a prompt and respond with a list of five items, none of which are explained or rationalized. This week…

… the five most humane villains?

Summer blockbusters tend to flatten villains out until they are nothing but demons, although realistic dramas are often apt to have genuine villains, as well, though they don’t plot to take over the world. Who are the five most humanely, generously drawn villains in movie history?


Timothy Lawrence

1. Lee J. Cobb as Juror #3 (12 Angry Men)

2. Brad Pitt as Jesse James (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)

3. Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault (Casablanca)

4. James Earl Jones as Darth Vader (Return of the Jedi)

5. Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man 2)


Remy Wilkins

1. Lancaster Dodd (The Master)

2. Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Doubt)

3. Nader (A Separation)

4. Jerry Lundegaard (Fargo)

5. Margot (Margot at the Wedding)


Justin Spencer

1. Ivan Locke in Locke

2. Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List

3. Henry II in Beckett

4. Anton Ego in Ratatouille

5. Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins


Joseph Gross

1. Ramesses (The Prince of Egypt)

2. Jerry Lundegaard (Fargo)

3. Luke (Children of Men)

4. General Miura (Ip Man)

5. The Operative (Serenity)


Joshua Gibbs

1. Edwin Epps, 12 Years A Slave

2. Ingrid Magnussen, White Oleander

3. Tom Ripley, The Talented Mr Ripley

4. Leonard Shelby, Memento

5. Mr Glass, Unbreakable


Kanaan Trotter

1. Bane, The Dark Knight Rises

2. Alonzo Harris, Training Day

3. Mr. Glass, Unbreakable

4. Vincent, Collateral

5. Tom, Jom & Jerry


Christian Leithart

1. The French captain, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

2. Gollum, The Lord of the Rings

3. Colonel Von Luger, The Great Escape

4. Chef Skinner, Ratatouille

5. Severus Snape, The Harry Potter series

Joshua Gibbs

Joshua Gibbs teaches great books, collects records and jogs to work. He and his wife have two children, both of whom have seven names. He tweets at @joshgibbs and blogs for the CiRCE Institute.

3 Responses to Undefended: The Five Most Humane Villains

  1. 1. Omar Little (The Wire)

    2. Michael Corleone (The Godfather)

    3. Severus Snape (Harry Potter)

    4. Edward Rooney (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

    5. The Terminator (he he he)

    • You’re good at this game, Jeff. But Edward Rooney? My list of most evil badguys from my youth would be:

      1. Darth Vader
      2. All of the Nazis
      3. Edward Rooney
      4. Wicked Witch of the West
      5. Decepticons

  2. Kanaan’s pick of Tom was inspired. Severus Snape is a fair pick, justified entirely in the closing moments of the series.

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