There has been an awful lot of villainy in 2016, with every week seemingly bringing a new reason to feel a tiny bit depressed. But while that's hard to stomach in the real world, some people are actually paid to act downright atrocious for our enjoyment, and plenty did it splendidly on screen over the last 12 months.
We've seen evil animals; some of the best actors on God's green Earth being given the chance to strut their stuff as scoundrels; and the return of one of the most iconic screen villains in cinematic history. So all in all it has been a pretty good year for the baddies. To celebrate, here are the 10 best movie villains of 2016, ranked.
SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains some major spoilers for a variety of films that were released in 2016. We're not happy about it either, but unfortunately it's kind of built into the nature of the list. If you get to a movie you haven't seen, please just skip to the next one!
10) Darth Vader (Rogue One)
Even if you had a problem with Darth Vader's brief dalliance with comedy in his first scene in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the finale saw him right back to his destructive best. In fact, Darth Vader boarding the Rebel command ship and working his way through a dozen soldiers with poetic precision was right up there with the most heinously swashbuckling antics we've ever seen from him. And it was utterly glorious. Even Darth Vader's first appearance in Rogue One was the perfect reminder that he is in constant agony, and if he'd been in more scenes then he'd almost certainly rank higher on this list.
9) Kichijiro (Silence)
To call Kichijiro a full-on villain might be a little harsh. However, it's undeniable that he gets Andrew Garfield's Sebastiao Rodrigues and Adam Driver's Francisco Garrpe into increasingly perilous predicaments because of his treacherous antics (which also previously led to his entire family being burned to death). Kichijiro repeatedly pops up in Martin Scorsese's meditative period drama, seeking guidance and offering his help, only to immediately prove unreliable. But, despite giving up the two priests to Tokugawa shogunate and repeatedly renouncing his religion, Yosuke Kubozuka is still able to imbue Kichijiiro with a vulnerability that means you can't hate him.... even though you feel like you should.
8) Thora Thacker (Hail, Caesar!)
While Tilda Swinton plays both Thessaly and Thora Thacker, the feuding identical twin sister gossip columnists in Hail, Caesar! it was her work as the latter that was the most villainous. Keen to get a scoop, Thora tells Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) that she's going to publish a story revealing that Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) had sex with Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) in order to get his first big break. Unfortunately for Thora, Eddie has figured out that her source is actually Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), who is a part of the Communist party and defected to Russia. If she uses him then Eddie could instantly tarnish her career, all of which immediately wipes the smug and fiendish smile off Thora's face... which even in just a handful of scenes Tilda Swinton was able to make stupendously annoying.
7) The Shark (The Shallows)
OK, I'll admit that the shark in The Shallows is overly vindictive and develops a borderline fetish for Blake Lively's Nancy Adams . Not only does it leap through the air like Michael Jordan to decimate a surfer, and scare the hell out of her, but you can practically hear its maniacal laugh as it stalks Nancy for most of the film's running time. That's exactly what makes it all the more satisfying when Nancy is able to overcome the shark, though, who impales itself on some particularly sharp metal bars that are sticking out of a buoy's anchor. If it had killed the seagull, then the shark probably would have to be number one on this year's villain list, but we're still giving it a lot of respect with the seven slot.
6) Ruby (The Neon Demon)
You don't really see Ruby (Jena Malone) turning into a villain in The Neon Demon. At first she appears to be the confidante that 16-year-old model Jesse (Elle Fanning) desperately depends on after just moving to Los Angeles. But what you really don't see coming is Ruby murdering Jesse. And what you really, really, really don't foresee is Ruby bathing in a bath full of Jesse's blood and seemingly eating at least a small section of her as part of her occult antics. And that's before we even get to her pleasuring herself with a corpse. It's the sort of stuff that you can never unsee, and while it's thought provoking and captivating it's mostly disturbing.
5) Douche (Sausage Party)
Nick Kroll was perfectly cast as Sausage Party's Douche, whose entire raison d'etre for being is destroyed when his nozzle is bent and he immediately becomes useless. Douche sets out to get revenge on both Frank (Seth Rogen) and Brenda (Kristen Wiig), who he blames for the incident, juicing up to become even bigger, stronger, and more violent. All of this gives Nick Kroll the freedom to go gloriously over the top and act, like, well, a douche. This is especially when it comes to his hoard of puns right at the climax of the film, and the way that he uses Ratatouille as an inspiration to control Darren (Paul Rudd)... just from a very, very different angle.
4) Assistant Mayor Bellwether (Zootopia)
It still breaks my heart that Assistant Mayor Bellwether was the mastermind behind the evil plot in Zootopia - mostly because Jenny Slate is amazing, and Bellwether's diminutive size and adorable voice just make you want to hug and pet the woolly headed creature for eternity. But that's exactly how she was able to get away with her dastardly plan, and what inspired it, too. Being under-appreciated and under-estimated leads Bellwether to frame her boss, Mayor Lionheart (JK Simmons), and convince Zootopia that the 10% of the population that are predators need to ostracized. Despite all that she still has the best movie hair of 2016, though.
3) Shere Khan (The Jungle Book)
Thanks to a combination of stunning visual effects, sound design (especially when it came to that deafening roar), and Idris Elba's imposing voice, The Jungle Book's Shere Khan was immediately menacing and terrifying when he first popped on screen in Jon Favreau's film. In fact, whenever he swaggered and sauntered into view you immediately knew that something bad was about to go down. Just look at what happened to poor Akela. Having overcome Baloo (Bill Murray), Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), and the pack of wolves led by Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o), Shere Khan finally looked set to kill Mowgli in The Jungle Book's finale. But clearly Shere Khan hasn't seen Batman Begins, because he doesn't check that he has sure footing, leading to his well-deserved fiery death.
2) Darcy (Green Room)
The most terrifying thing about the skinhead leader Darcy in Green Room is just how casual and putout he is by the entire incident that goes down in the film. Darcy feigns negotiations with the punk band Ain't Rights, who are trapped in the secluded Green Room that's surrounded by neo-Nazis, but really he has no problem having his goons kill them off one by one. It doesn't affect Darcy in the slightest. Since Darcy is portrayed so effortlessly by Patrick Stewart you know he could ratchet up the intensity and furor if he needed to, but he doesn't. Instead Darcy maintains a calm and calculated menace that you just can't take your eyes off of, and, as a result, you end up even more terrified and unsettled. It's this amazing performance and characterization that ranks him as our second favorite villain of 2016.
1) Howard (10 Cloverfield Lane)
What's more terrifying than a villain who actually thinks he's doing good? It turns out the answer to that question is found trapped in a cellar with John Goodman. In 10 Cloverfield Lane,Howard has purely positive intentions. He even rammed Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) off the road to save her life in the bunker. Allegedly. But it soon becomes clear that Howard isn't quite all he said he was, and after evidence arises that he abducted and murdered a girl years ago, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) and Michelle are caught trying to escape. Emmett's decision to take the blame results in a bullet to the head and him in a tub of perchloric acid. But despite his actions, the fact that Howard is so adamant that he's in the right - to such an extent that he becomes basically the dictator in their post-apocalyptic bunker - means he percolates from gentle giant to volatile beast (both of which Goodman is adept at performing). For a long time in 10 Cloverfield Lane you're not sure if he's a fully blown nut job conspiracy theorist or clairvoyant preparer, and its this mystery that keeps the sci-fi thriller on edge and afloat. It's also why, if there was any justice in the movie world, John Goodman would be a sure-fire Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee for the performance. Especially since it would, somehow, be his first.