5 Underdogs Of On-Screen Villainy

They may not make the best-of bad guy countdowns alongside Gruber and Krueger, but here's five overlooked villains of our movie screens.
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We all love a good villain. They're far more interesting than their staid, do-good counterparts. Just look at the movies - heroes are interchangeable, but it's always the bad guys that we remember. There's a reason why Channel 5 never made a 'Hundred Best Kind-Hearted Liberals' countdown show, and it's not because Fearne Cotton and Fizz off Coronation Street were busy. Remember back in 1989 when Tim Burton cast his big-screen adaptation of Batman? Jack Nicholson, a man who can chew scenery like Vanessa Feltz in an Outback steakhouse, landed the plum role of The Joker. Meanwhile, the caped crusader had to settle for the one-time Mr. Mom.

Check out any 'best bad guys' list, and you'll always see the same familiar faces - Hans Gruber, Freddy Krueger, Harry Powell. But there's a bunch of villains who get overlooked every time a bunch of TV interns are tasked with compiling another clip show. So here's a shout-out to five underdogs of screen villainy. Even without a cape and a twirly moustache, they deserve to be remembered.

Auric Goldfinger

Fair-weather Bond fans tend to cite Blofeld as 007's definitive nemesis. The bald head, white cat and hollowed out volcano make him the iconic arch villain of the series. But really, it's portly bullion-enthusiast Goldfinger who established the template for Bondian bad guys. He was witty, cordial and played a mean round of golf, even if he did have a tendency to cheat when the game wasn't going his way. Despite having almost every word of dialogue dubbed by Michael Collins, Gert Fröbe makes for a charming villain, managing to be subtly intimidating even whilst wearing a pair of trousers borrowed from Rupert the Bear.

Clarence Boddicker

Paul Verhoeven's 1987 classic Robocop boasts a broad spectrum of bad guys, from Miguel Ferrer's avaricious junior executive to Ronny Cox's corrupt patrician. But when it comes to muscle, Kurtwood Smith's Clarence Boddicker is your guy. He's a drug-trafficking, cop-shooting, bank-robbing all-purpose shit, who thinks nothing of spitting blood on a police ledger book before barking "Just gimme my fucking phone call". He can also clear out a coke and hookers party with just two words: "Bitches, leave."


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Peyton Flanders

The early 1990s saw cinemas beseiged with a glut of 'bitch from hell' movies, inspired by the success of Glenn Close's knife-wielding harridan in Fatal Attraction. We were treated to an endless parade of slutty authors, flatmates and secretaries, all happy to confirm that the female of the species was indeed deadlier than the male. But none were more treachorous than the former Mrs Mott - the widow of a gynaecologist with a nasty habit of slipping off the rubber glove before doing an pelvic exam. Reinventing herself with the preposterous monicker of Peyton Flanders, the vengeful villain in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle sets out to punish the woman she blames for her husband's suicide. Dressed in an endless parade of chenille sweaters and pleated skirts, the kindly nanny manages to fool everyone around her, as she drops earrings into a baby's crib, threatens to break another child's arm and warns the handyman "Don't fuck with me, retard." When she's not cutting Julianne Moore to ribbons with an elaborate greenhouse deathtrap that would make Jigsaw jealous, she's breast-feeding her target's baby. And if you're still in any doubt, check out the scene where she goes apeshit with a plunger in a toilet cubicle. It's the most shocking outburst of bathroom violence since Cheryl Cole tried helping herself to the free smellies.

Biff Tannen

The archetypal school bully (so much so, he manifests himself in several generations of Hill Valley history), Biff makes up in brawn, for what he lacks in brains. A running joke through the Back To The Future trilogy has Biff repeatedly screwing up his verbal putdowns, leaving him to speak with his ham-sized fists instead. Committed to tormenting the McFly boys for all eternity, this giant lunk never really gets the upper hand. Instead, he's destined to spend the rest of his days smashing into a manure truck, cursing his luck through a mouthful of animal waste. If only he'd make like a tree and get out of here.

Grand Moff Tarkin

With a tight budget and a disbelieving studio threatening to undermine his grand vision, George Lucas knew that casting a legendary actor would give his space saga some much-needed credibility. Whilst most of the attention was focused on Alec Guinness (who gritted his teeth and thought of the percentage points), it was Hammer legend Peter Cushing who really brought a touch of class to the original Star Wars. Although the Emperor gets a name check in the first film, villain duties are handled deftly by Cushing's sunken cheeks and clipped old-school delivery. Not only does he give the orders to blast Alderaan to smithereens, he's the one who (according to Princess Leia) is "holding Vader's leash." The guy in the bucket helmet might have captured the imagination of a generation, but it was Tarkin who made them shiver in their seats.

So who would you add to Hollywood's Most Wanted list?