Summer is time for popcorn movies and heroes saving the universe on movie screens. But none of this do-gooder stuff would be possible without the evil, scheming villains who devote their lives to serving as worthy screen adversaries.
It’s OK to jeer now.
We’ve already seen a maelstrom of magnificent malefactors this summer and the wickedness is only rising with summer temperatures.
Here are the season’s best villains thus far, ranked by evilness and effectiveness – from the formidable Thanos in “Avengers: Endgame,” Vuk in “Dark Phoenix” and (this weekend’s standout newcomer) Sergei from “Secret Life of Pets 2.”
And check back, we’ll update as wondrous wrong-doers step forward:
9. Shane (‘A Dog’s Journey’)
Dogs can sniff out a villain a mile off. So little wonder that in “A Dog’s Journey,” beagle Molly bites the leg of bad hombre Shane (Jake Manley). Shane mistreats glorious heroine CJ (Kathryn Prescott), who dumps him. But in a road-rage villain moment, Shane forces CJ’s car to overturn, killing Molly. Then Shane just drives off. So cold.
8. Jafar (‘Aladdin’)
High-cheekboned Marwan Kenzari was dubbed “Hot Jafar” when he was cast in the live-action “Aladdin.” But the Disney hit’s baddie isn’t so much a hottie as a hot-headed powerful sorcerer with perpetually angry eyes, wielding his hypnotizing snake staff for anyone in his path. He’s got plans for ruling Agrabah, marrying Jasmine (no!) and a brutal way of dispatching Aladdin. Excellent. In a musical, however, we really need a Jafar villain song ending in a manical laugh. Nothing.
7. Vuk (‘Dark Phoenix’)
Jessica Chastain’s “X-men” villainy starts with shocking power as her white-haired human character is taken over by an alien Vuk and kills her hubby at an opulent dinner party. She goes on to try and kill Dark Phoenix (Sophie Turner) for alien reasons, but there’s some “What the Vuk?” questions with a muddled plot that hampers ultimate evil.
6. John Reid (‘Rocketman’)
Just when we got over uber-rock manager John Reid (played by Aidan Gillen) trying to lure Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) to leave Queen – and get booted from the limo – in last year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Now Reid does another screen heel turn. In “Rocketman” (in theaters Friday), Reid is played by Richard Madden in full frosty aloofness. The manager, Elton John’s first male lover, wreaks serious emotional damage.
5. Sergei (‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’)
Sergei (Nick Kroll) amps up the storied tradition of evil circus ringmasters in “Secret Life of Pets 2” with a broad Russian accent and an electric cattle prod. Add whips and threats and you see Sergei does whatever it takes to make his adorable white tiger take a Dumbo-esque high dive into a pool of water. All the pets hate him. Bonus villain points for his evil monkey sidekick, Little Sergei.
4. Zero (‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’)
Assassin Zero (Mark Dacascos) has a funny way of showing his John Wick fandom by trying to kill Keanu Reeves’ antihero. Zero leaves a trail of dead foes and slices Wick’s pal Bowery King’s (Laurence Fishburne) face seven times. Not pretty. Worst, in the dog-friendly franchise, Zero is an avowed cat lover.
3. Ghidorah (‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’)
Godzilla is fierce in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (in theaters Friday). But he’s only got one gnarly head. Ghidorah, the lightning-spitting main villain, has three, making him perfect for destruction, annihilation and menace. That’s why Ghidorah slaps Godzilla around through much of the movie and satisfyingly lays waste to Boston’s Fenway Park.
2. Sue Ann (‘Ma’)
Welcome Oscar winner Octavia Spencer to the embrace of evil. As Sue Ann in the Jason Blum-produced horror film “Ma,” she has her reasons for a big-time killer grudge against the children of her former classmates. Ma’s place goes from best drinking spot in town for youngsters to crazy death trap faster than you can say “beer me.”
1. Thanos (‘Avengers: Endgame’)
You, too, were stunned when Thanos started off “Avengers: Endgame” as a broken-down shell of villain. Those were dark moments. But Thanos found a way to claw back to be the baddest supervillain in every known universe, worthy enough to claim a Marvel superhero death toll that is still reverberating. All hail Thanos! He still got game.
Carly Mallenbaum contributing
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