Comic book fans would probably argue that the original material is always better than its movie adaptation, but no one can deny that movies are capable of developing certain characters even further. That is the case for all the superhero villains featured on this list. Thanks to modern filmmakers and their talented team of writers, audiences now can have a deeper look into a superhero villain’s motives and overall personality.
So without further ado, here are the best super villain adaptations in film history.
5 Notable Superhero Villains in Movies
5. General Zod (Man of Steel, 2013)
Zack Snyder‘s take on Superman has so far been a muddy road. The 2016 film Batman vs. Superman wasn’t exactly well-received by both audiences and critics, and its predecessor Man of Steel did not fare any better. But in all fairness to Snyder, casting Michael Shannon to play the DC villain General Zod was by far the best decision he made so far. It also helped that the writers gave him a touch of sympathy and shed more light on Zod’s hatred toward Superman.
4. Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad, 2016)
Another DC film that had a ton of potential but fell short of expectations was this year’s Suicide Squad. Now not all of these superhero villains were great. For example, Jared Leto‘s take on The Joker was anything but memorable, Cara Delevigne‘s Enchantress had zero character development, while Adam Beach‘s Slipknot barely had any screen time.
But if there’s one thing that the movie got right, it had to be Harley Quinn. Margot Robbie took on the role flawlessly, and she played it naturally like she was born to do it. For once, audiences stopped looking at Harley as second fiddle to The Joker and saw her as the complex—and very entertaining—character that she really was.
3. Col. William Stryker (X2: X-Men United, 2002)
The X-Men series hasn’t always been the same as the original trilogy. X-Men United, for one thing, was considered to be one of the best comic book films ever made, and it happens to feature one of the greatest yet often overlooked superhero villains of all time, William Stryker. The reason Stryker is so fearful is because he doesn’t represent a megalomaniac’s thirst for power, he represents genuine prejudice. His hatred for the mutant race is fearful, and it’s a not-so-subtle nod to racism in the real world. This propaganda was clearly depicted in the film and, in a way, served as a central story line.
2. Green Goblin (Spider-Man, 2002)
Toby Maguire as the web-slinging hero Spider-Man was memorable, but so was Willem Dafoe‘s Green Goblin. In fact, he just might be the best among the superhero villains introduced by Marvel so far (aside from Loki, of course). Audiences really get to see the character’s slow and almost painful descent to madness, and they even have a more in-depth look into Norman Osborn‘s relationship with his son Harry.
1. Two-Face (The Dark Knight)
Of all the superhero villains of the DC Universe, The Joker really gets the most attention. Two-Face (or Harvey Dent), however, often goes overlooked because he doesn’t get as much media exposure as the latter. So for the The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan made it a point that the two would be given equal exposure throughout the film. Though Heath Ledger was exceptional as The Joker, the expanded story line of Two-Face (portrayed by Aaron Erckhart in the film) really shed light on the character.