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Everybody loves a bad guy. They usually get the best lines, a great entrance, and a hell of a death scene. But our love affair with the dark side is no secret, and as much as we might love the bad boys, we all enjoy a good 'comeuppance', which is usually where our heroes come in. Hell, probably one of the biggest reasons most of us love the world of make-believe is that at least there, the good guys can win. Occasionally, though, you find a villain with qualities that go a little beyond being the 'man/woman you love to hate', and before you know it, that monster has managed to win you over before the credits have rolled -- which isn't always good news for our heroes.
Now this doesn't mean that I think these villains are model citizens, because well, I'm not that psycho. But when these guys are on screen, suddenly the 'hero' of the piece starts to fade away, and when your audience is bummed when the bad guy goes down, you know that you've created a villain who is just too damn charismatic for their own good. These characters can pop up in anything from a comic book flick to a period drama, but the one thing they have in common is their ability to make you think, "Hey, he's nuts, but he might have a point". So that's why for today's installment of our monthly tribute to villains, I've put together a list of my top 5 movie villains with charm to spare.
After the jump; my top five movie villains that will win you over in the end...
1. The Joker -- The Dark Knight
No one is going to argue that Heath Ledger's Joker won't go down in movie history as one of the best villains to ever grace the screen -- but that's already well traveled ground. Instead, let's focus on the real danger that the Joker posed in Nolan's Dark Knight: he almost stole the show from the Caped Crusader. The Joker may not win you over with a conventional sort of charm, but in Nolan's Gotham, you can't take your eyes off of him – and I for one was awfully glad that the Joker lived to see another day.
2. Dracula (in just about every Dracula movie ever made)
Is there anyone who ever roots for Van Helsing in a Dracula movie? Think about it; you're Mina (or Lucy) and there you are sucking blood and getting sexually liberated when a weird old Dutchman shows up and throws a monkey wrench in all the fun -- talk about a killjoy. Of course, this probably explains why in most movie incarnations of the classic bloodsucking tale they usually wink at the audience and suggest the Count will rise again. Even when Hollywood tried to turn Van Helsing into an action hero, it doesn't work out as planned. I guess it's true: nobody likes a party-pooper.
3. Harry Lime -- The Third Man
It isn't easy making a guy who sells diluted antibiotics likable, but that's exactly what happens in Carol Reed's post-war thriller, The Third Man. Joseph Cotton was no match for Orson Welles when it came to on-screen presence, and a great example is Lime's cuckoo clock speech. Granted, it's hardly a warm and fuzzy sentiment, but damn if Lime isn't awfully persuasive in his arguments, and between that jazzy little zither song and the cynical grin it's a downright shame when Harry walks out of the frame.
4. Bill the Butcher -- Gangs of New York
In Martin Scorsese's crime epic, Daniel Day Lewis created a larger than life villain with Bill the Butcher. Unfortunately for young Amsterdam Vallon (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), audiences were way more into Bill's particular brand of psycho while shaping early New York than watch the plucky Amsterdam avenge his father's death.
5. Magneto -- X-Men/X2/X3
By the time we had reached Ratner's X3, I have to tell you, if I were a mutant I probably would have cheerfully signed up to stand shoulder to shoulder with Magneto -- I mean, at that point Professor X and the gang just weren't doing it for me. Ian McKellen might not have been the first person you would have thought could bring the comic book villain to life, but in the accompanying scene you can see McKellen channel his own natural charm into Magneto, and it becomes awfully clear how Magneto manages to recruit mutants to his cause...he's like Tony Robbins, except nowhere near as scary.
So those are my picks for villains that can charm the pants off audiences, but now it's your turn to leave your suggestions in the comments below...