The 10 best movie villains of 2018
By SONIA RAO | The Washington Post | Published: December 31, 2018
Just when you thought you’d seen the last of these year-end pop culture lists, we throw another one at you. Sorry! We can’t help it. We were influenced by the villainy of these big bad wolves.
Some of the characters below made us scream. Some of them made us laugh. All of them made us wonder whether it’s actually more fun for actors to play the bad guys. So before we meet next year’s Hot Jafar or evil Jake Gyllenhaal, let us take a moment to revisit the 10 best movie villains of 2018, ordered alphabetically by movie title.
Warning: Some of the blurbs below contain spoilers. The aforementioned villainy hits again.
Josh Brolin as Thanos in "Avengers: Infinity War"
The jury is still out as to whether Thanos is a certified daddy, but we can all be sure of how terrifying this purple warlord is. He excels at accumulating shiny stones that contain ridiculous amounts of power. With a single snap of his fingers, he can obliterate half the universe’s population. He poses a threat to the Avengers, for crying out loud. If Captain America and his powerful beard (RIP) cannot stop you, we’re not sure anyone can.
Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger in "Black Panther"
King T’Challa chooses to uphold Wakanda’s isolationist policies to keep its citizens safe, but his American cousin Erik Killmonger, who aims to liberate black people worldwide, sees this as selfish on the part of such an advanced nation. Some argued that Killmonger’s ideals -- if not his extreme hunger for power -- were actually admirable and, as the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer pointed out, the fact that a comic book movie villain could inspire such a debate "is a testament to how profound and complex the character is."
Steven Yeun as Ben in "Burning"
"Burning" is certainly well-written, but Steven Yeun’s acting is what landed Ben -- a mysterious rich man who serves as romantic rival to the film’s protagonist, Jongsu -- on this list. The role gave Yeun an opportunity to showcase a side of himself that we hadn’t quite seen before. Ben’s every action is effortlessly sinister, even when he isn’t talking about his habit of burning down abandoned greenhouses.
Nicholas Hoult as Robert Harley in "The Favourite"
There isn’t really a villain in "The Favourite," Yorgos Lanthimos’ humorous drama about two cousins fighting to be Queen Anne’s favorite in 18th-century England, so calculating politician and leader of the opposition Robert Harley might be the closest thing we get to one. That said, he does all the things traditional bad guys do -- and well: He manipulates the lead characters by exploiting their weaknesses, ticks them off with snippy digs, and does it all in fabulously elaborate costumes. Nicholas Hoult, whose penchant for sarcasm has been evident since "Skins," is perfect in this role.
Ann Dowd as Joan in "Hereditary"
For how kind Ann Dowd seems in real life, she sure does a good job of terrifying audiences. The veteran actress, who won an Emmy last year for playing the wicked Aunt Lydia in "The Handmaid’s Tale," went from being sweet and grandmotherly to being believably possessed by a devilish spirit over the course of "Hereditary." While Joan wasn’t technically the horror flick’s main villain, we certainly wouldn’t drink tea at her home anytime soon.
Henry Cavill as August Walker in "Mission: Impossible - Fallout"
The big and actually surprising reveal of "Fallout" is that CIA agent August Walker is actually John Lark, a man who aims to kill off a large portion of the world’s population. "There cannot be peace without, first, a great suffering," Lark states in a manifesto that could easily have been written by Thanos. Cavill’s excellent deadpan makes his villainy all the more unsettling, proof that it does the actor well to step away from playing a caped superhero every so often.
Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan in "Paddington 2"
Some of the best villains are those who surprise you, and "Paddington 2" features Hugh Grant, of all people, skulking around in a nun’s costume while plotting against an innocent Peruvian bear. He also leads a song-and-dance number that takes place in a pastel-colored prison. Need we say more?
Armie Hammer as Steve Lift in "Sorry to Bother You"
"Sorry to Bother You," about a black telemarketer who speaks in his "white voice" to achieve professional success, is very ambitious in the number of social issues it attempts to tackle, and the evils of capitalism rank high. Armie Hammer plays Steve Lift, the psychopathic CEO of a morally bankrupt company -- essentially, the most 2018 villain of all. He also hosts coke-fueled orgies while dressed in a sarong, a complete 180 for audiences who recently witnessed him cap the year by playing Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s perfect husband, Marty, in "On the Basis of Sex."
Tom Hardy as Venom in "Venom"
"Venom" is among the most ridiculous movies of 2018, emphasized by the dialogue between journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and the alien parasite that merges with his body. But that’s also what makes it so great. Between the parasite telling Eddie that he, too, was a "loser" on his home planet -- we love an underdog! -- and his actual voice in Eddie’s head nearing the intensity of Christian Bale’s Batman voice, Venom carries what might be one of the most enjoyable bad movies of recent film history.
Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme Manning in "Widows"
If you saw "Widows" in theaters, there’s a good chance Daniel Kaluuya’s character haunted your dreams that night. Jatemme is ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to keep Chicago mobsters loyal to his crime boss brother, Jamal, who is running for city council. As we learned with "Get Out," Kaluuya has perfected the art of conveying emotion -- or a lack thereof, in Jatemme’s case -- through his eyes, rather than just his words.
Honorable mentions: the skeleton bear in "Annihilation"; the soundtrack to "Beautiful Boy"; overwhelming marketing for "Deadpool 2"; puberty in "Eighth Grade"; space in "First Man"; mankind’s apathy in "First Reformed"; Meryl Streep’s schedule in "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again"; and the nail that pierces Emily Blunt’s foot in "A Quiet Place."