20 Best Movie Franchises, As Ranked By Their Villains

A great antagonist in a film can make the effort of the protagonist seem more important. The hero’s plight becomes elevated to have meaning beyond just simple entertainment. It is those struggles that define some of the best movies ever made, and give the audience something to really cheer about.

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It’s challenging enough to make one good antagonist, but what happens when you need to make a sequel? What happens if your antagonist has died but your protagonist needs more adventures to keep them busy or complete their story? Maintaining quality villains in a movie franchise is not easy to do. Some movie franchises have had better success at maintaining great antagonists, to the point of often being more widely-recognized for their villain rather than their protagonist. This is a list of those film franchises where the antagonists have left the largest legacy.


20. The Wizard of Oz

3 wicked witch of the west

# of Movies: 3 (The Wizard of Oz, Return to Oz, Oz the Great and Powerful)
Memorable Primary Villains: Theodora/The Wicked Witch of the West, Evanora/The Wicked Witch of the East, The Nome King
Memorable Lesser Villains: Princess Mombi
Memorable Minions: Flying Monkeys, Winkie Guards, The Nomes
Most Memorable Moment: The maniacal laugh of the Wicked Witch of the West. 

All good fantasy films need a memorable villain, and a certain cackling green witch with a dislike for H20 is something everyone old and new remembers. The first film later became so well loved that it spawned a sequel, a prequel, and countless spinoffs.


19. Mad Max

immortan joe

# of Movies: 4
Memorable Primary Villains: Toecutter, Immortan Joe, Lord Humungus, Aunty Entity
Memorable Lesser Villains: Wez, Master Blaster, Nightrider 
Memorable Minions: The Motorcycle Gang, The War Boys
Most Memorable Moment: That time Wez got shot with an arrow through his arm, belts out a war-cry, and then pulls it out.

While Fury Road may have ignited new interest in this Australian franchise, the previous films always had a rich collection of baddies. They were so over-the-top that they were hard to forget.


18. Spider Man

doc ock

# of Movies: 5
Memorable Primary Villains: Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Venom, Lizard, Electro
Memorable Lesser Villains: New Goblin, Sandman, Rhino
Memorable Minions: None
Most Memorable Moment: Spider Man vs. Doc Ock train fight scene from Spider Man 2.

Unlike many of the other Marvel superheroes, the Spider Man films typically show the creation of a villain with each film. These villains, coincidentally typically have almost as much screentime as Spidey himself and that makes them feel more realistic and also memorable. 


17. Jason

Jason

# of Movies: 11 (Does not include remake)
Memorable Primary Villains: Jason Voorhees, Pamela Voorhees
Memorable Lesser Villains: None
Memorable Minions: None
Most Memorable Line: “You see, Jason was my son, and today is his birthday…”

The least-popular of the “Big-Slasher Three”, Jason is nonetheless frightening. The large number of films under his belt is why Jason deserves a spot on this list.


16. Count Dracula

dracula

# of Movies: 15 (only counting the original series based on the original film with character portrayed by Bela Lugosi, and the Hammer films series starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. There are countless remakes, spin-offs, and other franchises which feature Dracula)
Memorable Primary Villains: Count Dracula
Memorable Lesser Villains: The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, Son of Dracula, Dracula’s Daughter
Memorable Minions: Various vampires
Most Memorable Line: “Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.”

Dracula has been a pop culture icon of film for almost a century. He has been featured in so many different films in so many different iterations that it is difficult to keep track of, but he still remains one of the most recognizable and well-respected villains of all time.


15. MCU

ultron

# of Movies:  11  (…so far. Starting with Iron Man, not including Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Blade, or Punisher films)
Memorable Primary Villains: Thanos, Ultron, Loki, Red Skull
Memorable Lesser Villains: Whiplash, Malekith, Obadiah Stane, Ronan the Accuser, The Abomination, Dr. Zola, Alexander Pierce, The Winter Soldier, Aldrich Killian
Memorable Minions: Army of Ultron, Hydra, The Dark Elves
Most Memorable Moment/Line: “Hail Hydra!”

Compared to other superhero films, Marvels’ cinematic universe is somewhat lacking in legendary villains. What makes this franchise unique though is how many of its characters flip sides, which adds more depth to the antagonists than is typically afforded of them.


14. A Nightmare on Elm Street

freddy

# of Movies: 8 (Does not include the remake)
Memorable Primary Villains: Freddy Krueger
Memorable Lesser Villains: None
Memorable Minions: None
Most Memorable Moment/Line: Song about Freddy: “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. / Three, four, better lock your door. / Five, six, grab your crucifix. / Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. / Nine, ten, never sleep again.”

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of those franchises where it’s villain is more well known than its revolving door of protagonists. These films helped to establish the slasher film subgenre, and at 8 films, the franchise has shown the ability to keep Freddy frightening and entertaining.  


13. Die Hard

hans gruber

# of Movies: 5
Memorable Primary Villains: Hans Gruber, “Simon”
Memorable Lesser Villains: Colonel Stuart, Thomas Gabriel, Karl
Memorable Minions: Hans’ henchmen, the mercenary terrorists, Gabriel’s henchmen
Most Memorable Moment/Line: Hans Gruber: “…you have me at a loss. You know my name but who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne? Rambo? Marshal Dillon?”

Die Hard started the one protagonist vs. a bunch of bad guys trend of modern action movies, and even if the villains in the later films aren’t as memorable, the group of terrorists in the first film are icons in the genre. 


12. Superman

lex luther

# of Movies: 6
Memorable Primary Villains: Lex Luthor, General Zod
Memorable Lesser Villains: Non, Ursa, Ross Webster, Nuclear Man, Faora-Ul
Memorable Minions: The various people that help Lex Luthor bust out of jail.
Most Memorable Moment/Line: Lex Luthor: “It’s kryptonite, Superman. Little souvenir from the old home town. I spared no expense to make you feel right at home.”

Superman’s villains tend to be very over-the-top, which makes them very memorable. Lex Luther alone is one of the more persistent ones too, so there’s an element of familiarity throughout the series.


11. The Matrix

agent smith

# of Movies: 3
Memorable Primary Villains: Agent Smith (all of them), The Machines
Memorable Lesser Villains: Cypher, The Twins, The Merovingian
Memorable Minions: Sentinels, the other agents
Most Memorable Moment/Line: Agent Smith: “You hear that Mr. Anderson?… That is the sound of inevitability… It is the sound of your death… Goodbye, Mr. Anderson…”

The villains in The Matrix films are so memorable because they are so powerful. The protagonists are consistently outmatched and out-numbered which makes them easy to root for.


10. X-Men

magneto

# of Movies: 7
Memorable Primary Villains: Magneto, William Stryker
Memorable Lesser Villains: Sabretooth, Sebastian Shaw, Lady Deathstrike, Toad, Mystique, Emma Frost, Phoenix, Deadpool, Silver Samurai
Memorable Minions: Sentinels
Most Memorable Line: Magneto: “You are a god among insects. Never let anyone tell you different.”

The X-Men films are another franchise like the Spider Man films where the story spends a lot of time flushing out the villains. Also, like the MCU, you have characters who change sides, which makes them more interesting and potentially more dangerous foes.


9. Terminator

terminator

# of Movies: 5
Memorable Primary Villains: Skynet, T1000, T800, TX
Memorable Lesser Villains: None
Memorable Minions: “The Machines” (Series 1, Series 600/700,etc.)
Most Memorable Moment/Line: T800: “I’ll be back.”

Killer robots from the future make for very formidable and frightening villains. The fact that each film is able to add creative new wrinkles to the antagonist formula introduced in the first film makes this franchise one of the best at maintaining quality adversaries for its protagonists.


8.  Alien/Predator

xenomorph

# of Movies: 10 (Includes Prometheus)
Memorable Primary Villains: Xenomorphs, Queen Xenomorph, Predators
Memorable Lesser Villains: The Newborn, Ash, Dog Alien, Pred-Alien, Weyland/Yutani, The Engineers
Memorable Minions: Xenomorphs, Facehuggers, Hell Hounds
Most Memorable Moment: The first chestburster scene.

Ten films later and the Xenomorphs and Predators are still two of the most frightening creatures to even be featured in a film. Pitting them off against each other in two films speaks even more about how effective they each have been as antagonists.


7. Halloween

michael meyers

# of Movies: 8 (Does not include reboot)
Memorable Primary Villains: Michael Meyers
Memorable Lesser Villains: Conal Cochran
Memorable Minions: Cult of Thorn
Most Memorable Moment: The ending scene when Michael is shot by his psychiatrist…or was he?

The most well-loved and fondly remembered slasher-film series, the Halloween franchise had its ups and downs, but Michael Meyers remains as one of the most formidable and feared adversaries in the horror film genre.  


6. Hannibal

hannibal

# of Movies: 5
Memorable Primary Villains: Dr. Hannibal Lecter
Memorable Lesser Villains: “Buffalo Bill”, “The Tooth Fairy”, Mason Verger
Memorable Minions: None
Most Memorable Moment/Line: Dr. Hannibal Lecter: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Hannibal Lecter is one of the most frightening and unnerving characters to ever be featured in film. He is the most iconic example of a franchise where the main antagonist is more memorable than the protagonist(s).


5. Lord of the Rings

Sauron

# of Movies: 6
Memorable Primary Villains: Sauron, Gollum, Smaug
Memorable Lesser Villains: Saruman, Witch-King, Shelob, Bolg
Memorable Minions: Orcs, Ringwraiths, Goblins, Uruk-Hai, Trolls, Great Spiders
Most Memorable Moment/Line: Gollum: “My precious!”

The conflict between the main antagonists and the protagonists is enough to drive the plot forward and create lots of excitement, but the reason we really appreciate the villains in Lord of the Rings is because they are so diverse and varied.


4. Harry Potter

voldemort

# of Movies: 10
Memorable Primary Villains: Voldemort, Severus Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange
Memorable Lesser Villains: Dolores Umbridge, The Malfoys, Peter Pettigrew
Memorable Minions: The Dementors, Death Eaters, The Basilisk, The Troll
Most Memorable Moment/Line: Voldemort: “There is no good and evil. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”

It’s a classic battle of good vs. evil that takes place over ten films, building up to the battle between the main protagonist and the main antagonist. Along the way, we get new antagonists each film that are related to the final climactic battle which makes each of them important even if their time in the limelight is somewhat short lived.


3. James Bond

jaws

# of Movies: 23 (Does not include Never Say Never Again)
Memorable Primary Villains: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Goldfinger, Francisco Scaramanga, Karl Stromberg, Hugo Drax, Raoul Silva, Dr. No
Memorable Lesser Villains: La Chiffre, Mr. Big, Emilio Largo, Rosa Clebb, Mr. White
Memorable Minions: Jaws, Oddjob, Nick Nack, SPECTRE Agents, Xenia Onatopp
Most Memorable Line: Goldfinger: “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

The James Bond franchise has been around for a very long time, so it’s not really that surprising that they’ve figured out what it takes to make a hero great: defeating powerful bad guys. James Bond may be everyone’s favorite super spy, but his foes are some of the most iconic in all of cinema.


2. Star Wars

darth vader

# of Movies: 6
Memorable Primary Villains: Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Darth Maul, Count Dooku, General Grievous
Memorable Lesser Villains: Grand Moff Tarkin, Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett, Nute Gunray
Memorable Minions: Stormtroopers, Droid Army
Most Memorable Line: Darth Vader: “Luke, I am your father.”

The most epic space saga would not have been very interesting if it didn’t feature some of the most intimidating and scene-stealing villains in all of cinema. Darth Vader is perhaps the best villain of all time simply because he features all of the best qualities of a good villain rolled into one.                                                                                                                                                                                            


1. Batman

joker

# of Movies: 7 (Includes Nolan Trilogy, does not include 1966 movie)
Memorable Primary Villains: The Joker, Bane, Two Face, Ra’s al Ghoul, The Riddler, The Penguin, Mr. Freeze
Memorable Lesser Villains: Catwoman, Scarecrow, Max Schreck, Poison Ivy
Memorable Minions: League of Shadows, Joker’s Goons, Red Triangle Circus Gang
Most Memorable Line: Heath Ledger’s Joker: “Why so serious?”

The Batman films are just as memorable, if not more memorable for their villains as they are for the efforts of the caped crusader himself. The best Batman films don’t treat their main antagonists as just another bad-guy. There’s always more to them than meets the eye, and the fact that those stories are told via incredible and memorable acting performances makes this franchise the one with the best villains.