Today we celebrate one of the all-time great film bad guys: Jason Isaacs. Born in Liverpool fifty-six years ago today, Isaacs has used his piercing blue eyes and trademark cold demeanor to build a career where, more often than not, he’s playing the villain. Audiences will undoubtedly be familiar with his performance as the iconic Lucius Malfoy from the “Harry Potter” film franchise, a noted Death Eater antagonist to our intrepid heroes. They may also remember his role in “The Patriot”, where, as a cruel and sadistic British officer, he gave Mel Gibson‘s revolutionary colonist quite a bit of trouble.
This type of sneering, charismatic villain all over cinema. Whether it’s Jeremy Irons providing the voice of Scar in “The Lion King” or Christopher Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa in “Inglourious Basterds.” But while this brand of bad guy is recognizable to film audiences and beloved by many, variety is the spice of life. And in a world where film villains tend to be some of the more popular characters, there are different ways to play evil that will appeal to audiences.
So Many Types of Evil, So Little Time
Maybe your taste runs to an incredibly powerful evil mastermind with plans for world domination, like Thanos in “The Avengers” franchise, Sauron in “Lord of the Rings”, or Palpatine in “Star Wars”? These are not the bad guys you’ll see robbing a bank or taking hostages. Their nefarious schemes operate on such a massive scale that they’re almost abstractly evil.
Morally ambiguous villains have always garnered a certain amount of interest as well. There’s the dynamic Severus Snape in “Harry Potter”, whose intentions may have, on the surface, appeared evil, but turned out to be brave with the additive of nobility. Or Kylo Ren, who wants to be evil but struggles to overcome the better angels of his own nature.
And for the true chaotic evil among us, is there anything scarier and more fascinating than the villain who seems to have no motivation at all other than to wreak havoc? There’s a reason the Joker is a character who seems destined to have endless films dedicated to his exploits. Or, why people have written entire theses on the psychology of Hannibal Lector in “Silence of the Lambs”.
Everyone loves a good villain. After all, in the immortal words of Dark Helmet from “Spaceballs”, “Evil will always triumph, because Good is dumb.”