Top 100 Greatest Heroes and Villains

Updated March 20, 2023 | Infoplease Staff
Source: Getty Images

From cheering on the underdog boxer Rocky Balboa to being terrorized by Dr. Hannibal Lecter, heroes and villains have always been a part of the movie experience. Most of the iconic film characters that have been created over the past century fit into one of these two categories. Here’s a look at 50 of the very best movie heroes and villains based on a survey carried out by the American Film Institute.

Greatest Heroes and Villains

It’s easy to name some of the classic movie heroes and villains but it is much harder to identify exactly what makes these characters so effective. What are the qualities that make a great screen hero or villain? Why do we root for some characters and love to hate others?

What Makes a Great Movie Hero?

What makes a great hero is the same across any form of storytelling. It’s often referred to as the ‘hero’s journey’ and can be seen in everything from ancient literature to modern-day movies. It’s a story in which the hero is a character who goes on a perilous journey that tests their character and strength.

This could be telling the real-life story of a campaigner like Erin Brokovich or the fictional dangers and challenges faced by an explorer such as Indiana Jones. Along with a story to set the scene, a great movie character also depends on an actor to bring the character to life and make an audience root for them.

What Makes a Great Movie Villain?

The classic role of a villain in filmmaking is to act as a barrier that stands in the way of the hero’s goal. The villain acts as the antagonist, the ‘bad guy’ who is trying to stop the heroic protagonist, the ‘good guy’, from achieving their purpose.

The typical traits of a great movie villain are that they are powerful, cunning, and confident characters. Star Wars’ Darth Vader embodies all of these traits with a towering and intimidating presence that makes him such an effective adversary for Luke Skywalker.

50 Best Movie Heroes

Masked hero
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From lovable British schoolteachers to ruthless cyborg killing machines, here’s a look at 50 of the greatest movie heroes.

1. Atticus Finch - "To Kill a Mockingbird", 1962

Director: Robert Mulligan                       Actor: Gregory Peck

Finch is a fictional character based on Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of 1960. His heroic qualities come from his integrity and unwavering commitment to justice, despite the personal cost.

2. Indiana Jones - "Raiders of the Lost Ark", 1981

Director: Steven Spielberg                       Actor: Harrison Ford

Indiana Jones is an adventurer and archaeologist who goes on a quest to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis, displaying physical bravery, intelligence, and resourcefulness.

3. James Bond - "Dr. No", 1962

Director: Terence Young                       Actor: Sean Connery

This fictional British Secret Service agent was created by Ian Fleming in the 1950s. Played by many actors, this first move sets the template for Bond’s brand of espionage heroics.

4. Rick Blaine - "Casablanca", 1942

Director: Michael Curtiz                       Actor: Humphrey Bogart

Blaine is an American expatriate who is the owner of the eponymous nightclub in Casablanca and displays selfless acts of sacrifice for the greater good.

5. Will Kane - "High Noon", 1952

Director: Fred Zinnemann                       Actor: Gary Cooper

A brave man of principle, Will Kane is the sheriff of a small western town. When he learns that a killer he helped put in prison is due to arrive on the noon train, he commits to facing him alone in the High Noon. 

6. Clarice Starling, "The Silence of the Lambs", 1991

Director: Jonathan Demme                      Actor: Jodie Foster

Starling is an FBI agent assigned to help track down a serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill”. She shows intelligence, courage, and determination to solve the case with the help of imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

7. Rocky Balboa, "Rocky", 1976

Director: John G. Avildsen                    Actor: Sylvester Stallone

The first in the Rocky series with a struggling boxer getting a shot at the heavyweight championship. Balboa's determination, hard work, and never-say-die attitude make him a heroic figure.

8. Ellen Ripley, "Aliens", 1986

Director: James Cameron                    Actor: Sigourney Weaver

Returning to the planet where her crew first encountered the Alien, Ellen Ripley returns to bravely and selflessly wage war against the ferocious creatures. This first of the Alien sequels, Aliens is set 57 years after the events in the original.

9. George Bailey, "It's a Wonderful Life", 1946

Director: Frank Capra                     Actor: James Stewart

George Bailey is a man who has given up on his dreams in order to help others and becomes a hero through his acts of kindness and compassion towards his community.

10. T. E. Lawrence, "Lawrence of Arabia", 1962

Director: David Lean                    Actor: Peter O'Toole

O’Toole portrays a British officer in the First World War and the protagonist who leads Arab tribes in a guerilla war against the Ottoman Empire.

11. Jefferson Smith - "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", 1939

Director: Frank Capra                    Actor: James Stewart

A young and idealistic senator fights against a corrupt political machine in Washington D.C. His heroic qualities are his honesty, unshakable belief in democracy and relentless pursuit of justice.

12. Tom Joad - "The Grapes of Wrath", 1940

Director: John Ford                    Actor: Henry Fonda

Tom Joad embodies a spirit of resilience and hope in the face of adversity as he strives to help his family and community during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

13. Oskar Schindler - "Schindler's List", 1993

Director: Steven Spielberg                    Actor: Liam Neeson

Based on a real story, Neeson plays a businessman who uses his position to save the lives of over a thousand Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, by employing them in his factory.

14. Han Solo - "Star Wars", 1977

Director: George Lucas                    Actor: Harrison Ford

Han Solo is a classic anti-hero figure. He’s a cynical loner and small-time smuggler who reluctantly agrees to join the Rebel Alliance in their fight against the Galactic Empire.

15. Norma Rae Webster - "Norma Rae", 1979

Director: Martin Ritt                          Actor: Sally Field

Sally Field portrays a factory worker who becomes an advocate for workers' rights and unionization. Through her courage and determination, she inspires co-workers to stand up for their rights and improve their working conditions.

16. Shane - "Shane", 1953

Director: George Stevens                          Actor: Alan Ladd

A former gunslinger becomes a hero as he defends a small town from a powerful and ruthless cattle baron and his henchmen.

17. Harry Callahan - "Dirty Harry", 1971

Director: Don Siegel                          Actor: Clint Eastwood

A tough, no-nonsense police inspector who often acts more like a vigilante than a law enforcer. He uses unorthodox methods in his relentless pursuit of justice to hunt down a sadistic serial killer.

18. Robin Hood - "The Adventures of Robin Hood", 1938

Director: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley       Actor: Errol Flynn

One of the first major movie heroes, Flynn plays the part of an English archer and swordsman who fights injustice and takes from the rich to give to the poor.

19. Virgil Tibbs - "In the Heat of the Night", 1967

Director: Norman Jewison                          Actor: Sidney Poitier

Tibbs is a detective from Philadelphia who faces racial prejudice as he investigates a murder in a small Southern town.

20. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", 1969

Director: George Roy Hill. Actor: Paul Newman and Robert Redford

A pair of outlaws who become legendary anti-heroes in the American Old West, known for their daring exploits and generally good-natured criminality.

21. Mahatma Gandhi - "Gandhi", 1982

Director: Richard Attenborough                    Actor: Ben Kingsley

A fictional portrayal of the real-life political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement. His non-violent resistance movement wins the fight for freedom from British colonial rule.

22. Spartacus - "Spartacus", 1960

Director: Stanley Kubrick                              Actor: Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas plays the historical role of a gladiator who leads a slave rebellion against the Roman Republic. Spartacus shows courage and self-sacrifice as he leads an uprising against the might of the Roman Empire.

23. Terry Malloy - "On the Waterfront", 1954

Director: Elia Kazan                            Actor: Marlon Brando

A longshoreman and former boxer who risks all by testifying against the corrupt union boss who controls the docks.

24. Thelma Dickinson and Louise Sawyer - "Thelma & Louise", 1991

Director: Ridley Scott                          Actor: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis

Two friends go on a weekend trip that turns into a crime spree after Thelma is sexually assaulted. The duo becomes unlikely heroes as they stand up for each other against injustice and societal expectations.

25. Lou Gehrig - "The Pride of the Yankees", 1942

Director: Sam Wood                          Actor: Gary Cooper

Lou Gehrig is a baseball player who continues to play despite being diagnosed with a debilitating disease.

26. Superman - "Superman", 1978

Director: Richard Donner                          Actor: Christopher Reeve

The iconic superhero who dedicates his extraordinary powers to fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. Along the way, he saves lives, protects the innocent and stands up against evil.

27. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein - "All the President's Men", 1976

Director: Alan J. Pakula                 Actor: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman

A fictional telling of the real-life story of the two reporters whose relentless investigations helped to uncover the Watergate scandal.

28. Juror #8 - "12 Angry Men", 1957

Director: Sidney Lumet                                Actor: Henry Fonda

Known only by his court number, this is a jury member in a murder trial who shows an unwavering commitment to justice by resisting pressure from fellow jury members to change his ‘not guilty’ verdict.

29. General George Patton - "Patton", 1970

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner                  Actor: George C. Scott

The story of a highly decorated and controversial American general who was known for his aggressive and unorthodox tactics during World War II.

30. Luke Jackson - "Cool Hand Luke", 1967

Director: Stuart Rosenberg                      Actor: Paul Newman

Paul Newman plays the role of Luke Jackson, a prisoner who refuses to conform to the rigid regime of a Florida jail. The character’s defiance made the movie particularly popular among those in opposition to the Vietnam War.

31. Erin Brockovich - "Erin Brockovich", 2000

Director: Steven Soderbergh                    Actor: Julia Roberts

The true-life story of a legal assistant who uncovers the truth about a corrupt corporation that has polluted the water supply of a small California town.

32. Philip Marlowe - "The Big Sleep", 1946

Director: Howard Hawks                        Actor: Humphrey Bogart

Risking his own safety to help bring others to justice, Philip Marlowe is a private detective who uses his skills to unravel a complex and dangerous web of crime and corruption.

33. Marge Gunderson - "Fargo", 1996

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen         Actor: Frances McDormand

The intelligence and good-natured persistence of small-town police chief, Marge Gunderson, helps her to solve a series of brutal murders.

34. Tarzan - "Tarzan the Ape Man", 1932

Director: W.S. Van Dyke                    Actor: Johnny Weissmuller

One of the first silver screen heroes, Tarzan is a jungle dweller who is raised by apes and uses his strength to protect the animals and the people he cares about.

35. Alvin York - "Sergeant York", 1941

Director: Howard Hawks                             Actor: Gary Cooper

Based on a real-life figure, Alvin York is a skilled marksman and a conscientious objector who becomes one of the most decorated soldiers of World War for his bravery and heroism.

36. Rooster Cogburn - "True Grit", 1969

Director: Henry Hathaway                            Actor: John Wayne

A classic tough guy character, Roger Cogburn is a US Marshall who will go to any lengths to catch the bad guys. John Wayne’s performance secured him the Best Actor Award at the Oscars.

37. Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Star Wars", 1977

Director: George Lucas                              Actor: Alec Guinness

Obi-Wan Kenobi is a Jedi master who sacrifices himself to allow others to escape the Death Star. The character in the prequels is played by Ewan McGregor.

38. The Tramp, "City Lights", 1931

Director: Charles Chaplin                         Actor: Charles Chaplin

A role that cemented Chaplin’s status, the titular tramp in this silent movie befriends and helps a blind flower girl despite his own problems.

39. Lassie, "Lassie Come Home", 1943

Director: Fred M. Wilcox                              Actor: Lassie (Pal)

A border collie dog embarks on a treacherous journey to return to her home and human family. This was the first of seven movies starring the iconic ‘Lassie’ character.

40. Frank Serpico, "Serpico", 1973

Director: Sidney Lumet                                Actor: Al Pacino

A character based on a real-life police officer who battled against corruption within the New York Police Department (NYPD) during the early 1970s.

41. Arthur Chipping, "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", 1939

Director: Sam Wood                                   Actor: Robert Donat

The heartwarming tale of an ageing schoolmaster at a British boys' school who becomes a father figure to his students.

42. Father Edward, "Boys Town", 1938

Director: Norman Taurog                            Actor: Spencer Tracy

A selfless priest who creates and runs a home for delinquent boys, Father Edward fights for the well-being of the young boys in his care.

43. Moses, "The Ten Commandments", 1956

Director: Cecil B. DeMille                         Actor: Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston takes on the role of Moses as he leads the Israelites out of Egypt in this epic religious drama that was nominated for seven Academy Awards.

44. Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, "The French Connection", 1971

Director: William Friedkin                          Actor: Gene Hackman

“Popeye” Doyle is a tough and streetwise New York detective in the New York City Police Department whose determination brings down a French heroin ring.

45. Zorro, "The Mark of Zorro", 1940

Director: Rouben Mamoulian                       Actor: Tyrone Power

A masked hero adopts the guise of ‘El Zorro’ (The Fox) to fight for the rights of the oppressed in this swashbuckling Western.

46. Batman, "Batman", 1989

Director: Tim Burton                                  Actor: Michael Keaton

The classic DC Comics superhero is portrayed by Michael Keaton in a movie that became the fifth highest-grossing film in history.

47. Karen Silkwood, "Silkwood", 1983

A biographical drama based on the story of a whistleblower who exposes wrongdoing at the Oklahoma plutonium plant where she worked.

48. Terminator, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day", 1991

Director: James Cameron           Actor: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger plays the titular cyborg who is tasked with protecting the life of John Connor, the leader of the human resistance against malevolent Skynet AI.

49. Andrew Beckett, "Philadelphia", 1993

Director: Jonathan Demme                              Actor: Tom Hanks

An Academy Award-winning performance by Tom Hanks and he plays Andrew Becket, a gay man who fights for justice after he is fired from his job at a law firm after they discover he has AIDS.

50. General Maximums Decimus Meridus, "Gladiator", 2000

Director: Ridley Scott                                  Actor: Russell Crowe

A former Roman General seeks vengeance against a corrupt emperor who murdered his family and banishes him to slavery.

50 Best Villains of All Time

Mafia member
Source: Getty Images

From a wicked animated witch to the terrors of Ridley Scott’s "Alien", here are 50 of the best movie villains of all time.

1. Dr. Hannibal Lecter, "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991)

Director: Jonathan Demme                     Actor: Anthony Hopkins

A terrifying villain whose intelligence and cultured demeanor mask a ruthless cannibalistic killer. The movie won Academy Awards in all five of the major categories.

2. Norman Bates, "Psycho" (1960)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock                        Actor: Anthony Perkins

Norman Bates is a seemingly shy man who runs a small-town hotel and harbors dark secrets about his mother and her alternate personality.

3. Darth Vader, "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)

Director: Irvin Kershner                           Actor: David Prowse

Darth Vader is a Sith Lord and enforcer of the Galactic Empire in this sci-fi epic. With his black uniform, towering size and menacing deep voice, he has become one of the most recognizable villains in popular culture.

4. The Wicked Witch of the West, "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)

Director: Victor Fleming                  Actor: Margaret Hamilton

A powerful witch who rules the Winkie Country and schemes to take the magical ruby slippers from Dorothy. Known for her cackling laugh, green skin and black pointy hat, she's an iconic villain.

5. Nurse Ratched, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975)

Director: Milos Forman                           Actor: Louise Fletcher

A tyrannical nurse who runs a mental institution with an iron fist, manipulating and mistreating the patients under her care. The movie is based on the 1962 novel by Ken Kesey.

6. Mr. Potter, "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)

Director: Frank Capra                             Actor: Lionel Barrymore

A greedy businessman who wants to shut down the Building and Loan company that many people rely on in the fictional town of Bedford Falls.

7. Alex Forrest, "Fatal Attraction" (1987)

Director: Adrian Lyne                                     Actor: Glenn Close

Glenn Close plays a successful book editor who develops a dangerous obsession with a married man, played by Michael Douglas, who she has an affair with.

8. Phyllis Dietrichson, "Double Indemnity" (1944)

Director: Billy Wilder                             Actor: Barbara Stanwyck

A femme fatale who uses her allure to convince an insurance salesman to help her to murder her husband for his life insurance in this film noir classic.

9. Regan MacNeil, "The Exorcist" (1973)

Director: William Friedkin                        Actor: Linda Blair

A 12-year-old girl is possessed by a demon who terrorizes her parents and the priests who try to exorcise the demon.

10. The Evil Queen, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937)

Director: David Hand (supervising) Actor: Lucille La Verne (voice)

The Evil Queen is the stepmother of Snow White who ploys to have her killed in the first-ever feature-length animated feature film.

11. Michael Corleone, "The Godfather: Part II" (1974)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola                         Actor: Al Pacino

The eldest son of the Corleone crime family become a ruthless and calculating leader who stops at nothing in the pursuit of power.

12. Alex De Large, "A Clockwork Orange" (1971)

Director: Stanley Kubrick                     Actor: Malcolm McDowell

A violent young delinquent leads a gang of thugs in committing heinous crimes in this dystopian movie based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel.

13. HAL 9000, "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)

Director: Stanley Kubrick                 Actor: Douglas Rain (voice)

An advanced artificial intelligence system aboard a spaceship which malfunctions to become a threat to the crew. HAL stands for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer.

14. The Alien, "Alien" (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott                                   Actor: Bolaji Badejo

A deadly extraterrestrial creature kills the crew of a spaceship one by one. The alien was designed by Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger.

15. Amon Goeth, "Schindler's List" (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg                          Actor: Ralph Fiennes

A brutal SS officer in charge of a concentration camp during the Holocaust who highlights how humans can become desensitized to the horrors of war.

16. Noah Cross, "Chinatown", 1974

Director: Roman Polanski                             Actor: John Huston

John Huston plays a greedy and ruthless businessman who terrorizes his own family and Los Angeles during a dispute over water rights.

17. Annie Wilkes, "Misery", 1990

Director: Rob Reiner                                      Actor: Kathy Bates

Annie Wilkes is a nurse and obsessive fan of a famous author who she rescues after he gets in a car accident. Obsession turns to madness as she holds him captive and tortures him.

18. The Shark, "Jaws", 1975

Director: Steven Spielberg                       Actor: Bruce the Shark

A great white shark terrorizes a New England beach community. Three full-size pneumatically powered sharks were used for filming and nicknamed ‘Bruce’ after Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer.

19. Captain Bligh, "Mutiny on the Bounty", 1962

Director: Lewis Milestone                           Actor: Trevor Howard

Bligh is the tyrannical captain of the HMS Bounty whose cruel treatment of his men drives them to mutiny in 1789.

20. Man, "Bambi", 1942

Director: David Hand                                  Actor: unknown

Man is the faceless and voiceless hunter who kills Bambi's mother in this classic Disney animated movie.

21. Mrs. John Iselin, "The Manchurian Candidate", 1962

Director: John Frankenheimer              Actor: Angela Lansbury

Angela Lansbury plays a ruthless and manipulative mother who brainwashes her son to become a sleeper agent and assassin.

22. Terminator, "The Terminator", 1984

Director: James Cameron           Actor: Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Terminator is a relentless cyborg killing machine sent back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of a future resistance leader against the robots.

23. Eve Harrington, "All About Eve", 1950

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz                   Actor: Anne Baxter

A conniving young actress ingratiates herself into the life of a successful stage star to undermine her in a quest for fame.

24. Gordon Gekko, "Wall Street", 1987

Director: Oliver Stone                             Actor: Michael Douglas

Gordon Gekko is a ruthless and ruthless corporate raider who embodies the excesses of 1980s Wall Street culture. The role won a Best Actor Academy Award for Michael Douglas.

25. Jack Torrance, "The Shining", 1980

Director: Stanley Kubrick                           Actor: Jack Nicholson

A writer and a recovering alcoholic become possessed by an evil spirit after taking a job as a caretaker at an isolated hotel.

26. Cody Jarrett, "White Heat", 1949

Director: Raoul Walsh                               Actor: James Cagney

James Cagney portrays a psychopathic criminal leader who leads a gang in a series of robberies and murders in this classic film noir.

27. Martians, "The War of the Worlds", 1953

Director: Byron Haskin                                      Actor: Unknown

The Martians are extraterrestrial invaders from the planet Mars who land in California and launch an attack on humanity.

28. Max Cady, "Cape Fear", 1962

Director: J. Lee Thompson                   Actor: Robert Mitchum

A convicted psychopath is released from prison and seeks revenge on the lawyer who helped to put him away.

29. Reverend Harry Powell, "The Night of the Hunter", 1955

Director: Charles Laughton                    Actor: Robert Mitchum

Reverend Harry Powell is a charismatic serial killer who marries and kills women to gain access to their money.

30. Travis Bickle, "Taxi Driver", 1976

Director: Martin Scorsese                       Actor: Robert De Niro

A disillusioned Vietnam War veteran who is working as a New York taxi driver turns to a life of crime and violence. in New York City.

31. Mrs. Danvers, "Rebecca", 1940

Director: Alfred Hitchcock                    Actor: Judith Anderson

Mrs. Danvers is an obsessive housekeeper of a stately manor who tries to drive away the new wife of the estate owner.

32. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, "Bonnie and Clyde", 1967

Director: Arthur Penn                         Actor: Warren Beatty

A criminal duo who go on a crime spree in the early 1930s in this Bonnie and Clyde movie. Despite their villainous behavior they are depicted sympathetically.

33. Count Dracula, "Dracula", 1931

Director: Tod Browning                      Actor: Bela Lugosi

The main antagonist of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel is brought to life in this 1931 film adaptation. Other notable actors to have played the role include Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman, and Lon Chaney Jr.

34. Dr. Szell, "Marathon Man", 1976

Director: John Schlesinger               Actor: Laurence Olivier

Dr. Szell is a ruthless former Nazi dentist who is played by Laurence Olivier. The character is known for an infamous tooth-drilling scene.

35. J. J. Hunsecker, "Sweet Smell of Success", 1957

Director: Alexander Mackendrick           Actor: Burt Lancaster

A ruthless newspaper columnist uses his influence to destroy his sister’s relationship with a man he doesn’t like.

36. Frank Booth, "Blue Velvet", 1986

Director: David Lynch                    Actor: Dennis Hopper

Frank Booth is a psychopathic and drug-addicted criminal with a split personality who terrorizes a North Carolina community.

37. Harry Lime, "The Third Man", 1949

Director: Carol Reed                          Actor: Orson Welles

Portrayed by Orson Welles, Harry Lime is a racketeer and murderer who fakes his own death in this classic thriller.

38. Caesar Enrico Bandello, "Little Caesar", 1931

Director: Mervyn LeRoy             Actor: Edward G. Robinson

A ruthless and ambitious mobster rises to power in the Chicago underworld in this early classic of the gangster genre.

39. Cruella De Vil, "One Hundred and One Dalmations", 1961

Director: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman Actor: Betty Lou Gerson

A wealthy and fashion-obsessed woman who wants to create a fur coat from the skins of 99 Dalmatian puppies. Voiced by Betty Lou Gerson, it’s one of Disney’s most memorable villains.

40. Freddy Krueger, "A Nightmare on Elm Street", 1984

Director: Wes Craven                          Actor: Robert Englund

A serial killer haunts the dreams of a group of teenagers and kills them in their sleep.

41. Joan Crawford, "Mommie Dearest", 1981

Director: Frank Perry                           Actor: Faye Dunaway

Faye Dunaway portrays Joan Crawford, a Hollywood star who's known for the cruel treatment of her adopted children. The movie is based on the autobiography of Christina Crawford.

42. Tom Powers, "The Public Enemy", 1931

Director: William A. Wellman               Actor: James Cagney

Tom Powers is a ruthless hoodlum who rises to power in the world of organized crime.

43. Regina Giddens, "The Little Foxes", 1941

Director: William Wyler                          Actor: Bette Davis

A manipulative woman in an Alabama town during the early 20th century who is willing to destroy the lives of those around her to achieve wealth.

44. Baby Jane Hudson, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane", 1962

Director: Robert Aldrich                          Actor: Bette Davis

A former child star holds her paraplegic sister captive and subjects her to physical and emotional abuse.

45. The Joker, "Batman", 1989

Director: Tim Burton                             Actor: Jack Nicholson

A manic and homicidal mastermind portrayed by Jack Nicholson but also played in future movies by Jared Leto, Joaquin Phoenix, and Mark Hamill.

46. Hans Gruber, "Die Hard", 1988

Director: John McTiernan                     Actor: Alan Rickman

This ruthless terrorist is the main antagonist who holds Nakatomi Plaza hostage in Die Hard.

47. Tony Camonte, "Scarface", 1932

Director: Howard Hawks                        Actor: Paul Muni

Tony Camonte is a gangster who violently rises through the ranks to become a mob boss in prohibition-era Chicago.

48. Roger “Verbal” Kint, "The Usual Suspects", 1995

Director: Bryan Singer                          Actor: Kevin Spacey

Inspired by real-life murderer John List, this character is a seemingly small-time con artist who leads another life as a ruthless crime lord.

49. Auric Goldfinger, "Goldfinger", 1964

Director: Guy Hamilton                        Actor: Gert Frobe

The iconic villain in the third of the Bond movies, Auric Goldfinger is a master criminal who plans to manipulate gold prices by setting off a radiated dirty bomb.

50. Alonzo Harris, "Training Day", 2001

Director: Antoine Fuqua                  Actor: Denzel Washington

A corrupt detective uses his position within the Los Angeles Police Department to murder, steal and extort money.

The Good and the Bad on Screen

What’s remarkable about the great heroes and villains featured in this list is just how different they are. Heroes and villains really can take all forms and it is not always clear which category a character should fall under with anti-heroes who blur the lines. And part of what makes great movie characters is their dialogue with so many classic movie quotes being spoken by a hero or villain. Here’s a look at some of the very best: Top 100 Movie Quotes Quiz.

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