You know ‘em, the great movie villains, the bad guys that haunt your dreams and waking lives. Admit it, how many times have you gotten in the shower and imagined Mrs. Bates stabbing you through the curtain, or looked at a chainsaw and flashed back to Leatherface dismembering some unsuspecting victim or gone trick-or-treating excepting Michael Myers to pop around the corner? These are some of the seminal movie monsters, achieving that states because they don’t just scare you in the movies, they’d scare you in real life too. But just as there are memorable villains, there are also ludicrous villains, the completely laughable guys that if you saw in real life wouldn’t scare you, even if they paid you. Below are five of the least menacing villains in movie history.
1. Jabba the Hutt, Return of the Jedi
It’s not hard to be a lame villain when you’re in a movie trilogy featuring Darth Vader, maybe the ultimate bad guy, but Jabba has a special place here.
Called a vile gangster in Star War’s (Which I will never call A New Hope) and responsible for placing the price on Han Solo’s head as well as his freezing in carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back, he takes a plum role in helping to put the plot in motion. By the time we actually see the den of vice and debauchery he surrounds himself with in Return of the Jedi he is already legendary and we expect to see the baddest of bad men.
Unfortunately, what you get is a gibberish spewing rotund slug with arms shorter than a T-Rex and practically no ability to move on his own. Worse, he doesn’t even have teeth so even if you somehow got close enough for him to grab hold of you, it’s not like he can bite you. No, the only thing remotely dangerous about him is his tale but he’s so slow-moving and unthreatening with it that when a woman in a metal-bikini begins to choke him with a chain, he’s literally incapable of fighting back, which begs the question, what’s so menacing about that?
2. Mason Verger, Hannibal
Thanks to his appearances in the books of the reclusive Thomas Harris, and his prime role in the five movies adapted from those books, Hannibal Lecter has become something of a cultural icon. Starting off as the most dastardly of villains he is suave, worldly and seductive to a fault, he’s now almost-beloved – in spite of his cannibalism – which would explain how it’s possible in the novel Hannibal, and movie the adaptation that followed, he was not longer treated as a villain, but as the hero.
Unfortunately, while Hannibal Lecter is a grand creation of operatic proportions, the villain of that same book and movie in which Lecter is elevated to hero status – Mason Verger – is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Purportedly Vargar is one of the few Lecter victims to survive and that he’s been holding a serious grudge against the good doctor clearly paints him as the villain. He is without a doubt an unpleasant fellow, a child molester said to have made his sister one of his primary victims, but while he’s the villain of the story that unfolds in Hannibal he’s also been reduced to a hideously disfigured quadriplegic, dependent on a life-support machine and servants to keep him alive.
He is grotesque, to be sure, and if lip-smacking and malevolence were enough to be a truly memorable villain, he would be unforgettable. Unfortunately he is completely helpless, even more so than Jabba the Hutt, that without his minions – which include the aforementioned sister – he would be little more than a lump in a bed.
3. HAL 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey
Smooth voiced, devious, capable of lip reading and bent with a murderous rage when he finds out that somebody wants to disable his circuits, HAL 9000 has the cunning and the wherewithal to be a master-villain. Unfortunately, cunning and wherewithal are seldom enough and since HAL 9000 is a computer and completely inanimate, the only danger he poses is to those who are plugged into him. That he manages to kill Frank Poole when Poole is out attempting to repair the Discovery One is almost beside the point because it could only have succeeded in the vacuum of space.
The true test of a villain is running across them in real life and what would HAL be like in real life? Imagine sitting down in your cubicle and this computer starts talking at you in his cool, calm manner, or even began to rant and rave like a maniac for that matter, would you really be afraid? You might worry that he’d clear out your bank account with a virus or screw up your credit rating or start ordering pay-per-view-porn, but it’s not like he could physically harm you and besides, how afraid can you be of something that can be completely undermined by a strong magnet?
No, if you want a computer to worry about, worry about Joshua, from War Games. Single-minded, determined and with access to the launch codes, that’s a computer that’s a truly memorable computer villain.
4. Henry F. Potter, It’s a Wonderful Life
Old men tend to be scary. They’re all sharp elbows and hook noses and sagging skin and menacing stares and liver spots and are driven by a real hatred of kids being on their lawns. When I was a kid, the man who lived across the street from us was just one of these frightening creatures. It didn’t matter that he walked with a cane and was about 90 and so frail a stiff wind would blow him over. He seemed like the real deal then but now? Not so much. That’s what makes it all the more astounding that Henry F. Potter, a man even more frail than my childhood neighbor, is today regarded as a classic villain.
Don’t get me wrong, Potter has the makings of a true villain. He’s snakish, oily, hateful, vengeful, greedy, prone to theft and dishonesty and everything else – if he were in A Christmas Carol I imagine he’d be more inclined to beat Tiny Tim with a stick instead of buying the family a turkey, even after his run-ins with the ghost of Christmas – but really, how frightening can a man be when the only thing he can do is snarl. So lazy he can barely push his own wheelchair – ‘shove me up, shove me up,’ he demands of an underling at one of his most threatening moments – and completely at the mercy of his minions, it wouldn’t take long to get the best of him. Just take your shot and walk slowly away. He won’t catch you. Not unless one of his evil minions feels like working up a sweat.
Incidentally: These two could be twins. Am I right?
5. The Overlook Hotel, The Shining
You could argue that Jack Nicholson was the true villain of The Shining, with all his cross-eyed lunacy and chopping through the bathroom door with a fire axe and trying to murder his own kid, but really, he wasn’t acting on his own. He was nothing better than a minion, just the tool the hotel used to achieve its ends. What exactly those ends were, I don’t know, but when you’re dealing with an evil genius – if a hotel can be an evil genius – motivations are irrelevant.
Without Nicholson to work out the hotel’s rage, nothing happens. Sure, the hotel is tall and ominous looking and filled with echoing-hallways and has a hedge maze and is maybe built over an Indian burial ground – oh no, not the vengeful Indians! – but it’s not like the hotel could actually hurt you, or even discomfort you if it got a bee in its bonnet. It couldn’t pee on your sheets or steal your clothes or burn your filet of sole. It can’t chase you. It can’t stab you. It can’t do anything. It just sits there. The only way it get’s anything done is by telepathically suggesting its desires to a sufficiently softheaded fool and even then, a stronger person would say ‘no’ and go to a Motel 6.
6. Boba Fett, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi
Loved by legions of Star Wars fans, for some unknown reason, Boba Fett is actually one of the lamest villains ever. Fett, a bounty hunter on the tail of Han Solo, doesn’t show up on the Star Wars scene until late in Empire and then when he does arrive he is so lazy he has Darth Vader do his dirty work for him, freezing Han Solo in carbonite. To make matters worse, he disembarks immediately and doesn’t appear again until the beginning of Return of the Jedi where we find him standing around Jabba’s layer, doing a whole lot of not much while looking like a complete tool.
I suppose getting Vader to do anything for you must account for something in this world, given that Vader wasn’t the kind of guy who just gave out favors. After all, you don’t expect Vader to help you move or let you crash on his couch the next time the wife throws you out. Still, the fact Fett, this great bounty hunter, finally dies after his jet pack flings him into the desert where he will be eaten by the Sarlacc, without once having fired his weapon in anger or showing anything that makes him even the teeniest bit intimidating, makes me wonder why a million lame-fanboys would hold him up to such heights.
Wait, I guess that question answers itself.
7. Snidely Whiplash, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show
Okay, not technically a movie villain (unless you count that abortion that was the Dudley Do-Right film) but this is my list, so I can make the rules, and I can break the rules and if you don’t like it, start your own blog.
Anyway, the gist of Snidely’s plans always boiled down to tying Nell Fenwick to the train tracks. That was the plan. Sure, I suppose abducting a woman, tying her up and laying her on some railroad tracks has got to count for something. After all, he had intent and he had initiative, but to waste in on something as lame as the train tracks, when he easily could have simply strangled her, makes him, without a doubt, one of the lamest movie villains ever.