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Through three films, we’ve seen Keanu Reeves’ John Wick kill a whole lot of people, regularly demonstrating himself as an unstoppable force that no sane person would dare cross. In a way, it makes him a tricky character as a protagonist, as there are moments where it seems like he just can’t be beat – but that’s where the big principal villains step in. While there are some baddies that John can take out with a single well-aimed shot, there are also some who require a bit more focus and effort… and it’s those individuals who we are here to celebrate today.
8. Viggo Tarasov (John Wick)
We’re going to take a minute to play devil’s advocate here and have some sympathy for Michael Nyqvist’s Viggo Tarasov. Sure, the guy is a monster in the sense that he makes money entirely based on the suffering of others, but he basically got dragged kicking and screaming into the plot of the first John Wick thanks to his idiot son. Viggo would have been more than happy to see John stay retired forever, but his stupid progeny decided to fuck with the metaphorically sleeping boogeyman. He knew from the start that he would really have no chance against the titular assassin, raising the price on his head at every opportunity, but he does give it the old college try in the movie’s final fight sequence.
Viggo doesn’t need to be much of a fighter, as he hires people to take care of violence for him, but to his credit John Wick doesn’t just instantly kill him when they have their rain-soaked showdown. In fact, John winds up basically needing to stab himself in order to get the upper-hand, so points go to him in that regard. Still, his physical capabilities are really nothing compared to the other characters noted on this list, which is why he gets last place.
7. Ernest (John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum)
When you look at Ernest in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, it's immediately clear what his particular advantage is. Played by 7'4" Serbian NBA star Boban Marjanovic, the man is absolutely massive, and has one hell of a reach. He's able to just stick out an arm and incapacitate John, which is how he winds up doing a nice deal of damage to the character in the movie's first fight sequence, set in a New York Public Library.
The problem is that Ernest seems to depend on his size to get him far in fights – and that doesn't work out when facing off against a guy as quick as John Wick. His brute force is awesome, but he doesn't have much in the way of martial arts skills, which is why his ranking is pretty low on this list... and also why he winds up getting his neck broken on a hardcover.
6. Ms. Perkins (John Wick)
As portrayed by Adrianne Palicki in John Wick, Ms. Perkins definitely has some killer moves. She’s not much of a rule-follower, as the place she decides to attack our hero is the one place she’s definitely not allowed to do so, but she also recognizes the value of a dollar, and knows an opportunity for a sneak attack when she sees one. There are a few moments when she and John are battling in the room at the Continental where she dominates, and she deserves credit for that.
Where Ms. Perkins loses points, though, is in her inability to be mindful of her surroundings. For starters, she definitely should have known that inciting a fight on hotel grounds would lead to her death, but more importantly A) she didn’t pick up on Willem Dafoe’s Marcus being across the street with a sniper rifle, and B) she let the scuffle move into the hallway, where John was immediately able to find backup from Clarke Peters' Harry.
5. Cassian (John Wick: Chapter 2)
Cassian is another John Wick opponent who we at least give an “A” for effort. While he’s clearly not the best person in the world at being a bodyguard, as he lets the franchise protagonist slip by him when he is on his way to kill Claudia Gerini's Gianna D'Antonio, but once it happens you have to admire Cassian’s commitment to getting revenge… even if things don’t exactly work out well for him at the end.
Before all is said and done, however, the Common-played character in John Wick: Chapter 2 does successfully do quite a number on John Wick. Their battle through the streets of Rome is excellent, including a crazy-long stair tumble, and it’s notable that it only ends because they accidentally crash into the Continental lobby. He also earns marks for his ability to shoot a pistol in a crowded subway and have nobody notice. He definitely has skills – but they aren’t quite as sharp as those possessed by those we’ll discuss as we make our way down to #1.
4. Ares (John Wick: Chapter 2)
The “Reflections On The Soul” sequence in John Wick: Chapter 2 is not just one of the best in the series because of its aesthetic style and use of mirrors, but also because Ruby Rose’s Ares puts up one hell of a fight. Her weapon of choice is a push dagger, the blade sticking out of her closed fist, and it’s an intense thing to watch her swing it around. It’s fortunate that John Wick has the skills to dodge her attack, because otherwise he would have wound up looking like Laurence Fishburne’s The Bowery King at the end of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.
Given that Riccardo Scamarcio's Santino D'Antonio doesn’t exactly put up too much of a fight when John Wick enters the dining room of The Continental and puts a bullet in his brain, the protagonists’ fight against Ares is essentially the final boss battle of the movie, and earns it with some swift moves. Add in her coordination of the albeit-unsuccessful assault targeting John following the assassination of Gianna D'Antonio, and she gets a solid ranking on this list.
3. Kirill (John Wick)
Right now you may be thinking to yourself, “Wait, who the hell is Kirill?” but the good news is that I’m happy to remind you! Played by Swiss martial artist Daniel Bernhardt, he’s the guy who winds up being exceptionally close to taking out John Wick in the first movie. The two characters first collide as John is making his way through the Red Circle Club in pursuit of Alfie Allen's Iosef Tarasov. While the hero is able to cut through most of Tarasov’s protection detail like a saw through silk, Kirill proves to be a brick wall. He not only gives John a nice beating, but also throws him over a balcony for good measure.
Kirill also gets credit for being the only guy to actually knock John Wick out in the first film, ramming him with a car during an attack on Viggo Tarasov. We’d actually give him a higher position in this ranking if he managed to finish the job there, but the movie’s plot steals his glory. As such, instead of being The Man Who Killed Baba Yaga, he’s instead The Man Who Got Strangled By A Pair Of Handcuffs.
2. Shinobi #1 & Shinobi #2 (John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum)
If any of you were confused as to why the headline of this article highlights nine John Wick opponents while the numbering starts at eight, this is the section where we explain it. Because their primary assaults come as a pair, we are counting Cecep Arif Rahman's Shinobi #1 and Yayan Ruhian's Shinobi #2 together in this ranking – and we’re giving them the number two spot because the skills they demonstrate are impressive (though one shouldn’t expect anything less from two graduates of The Raid movies).
There was an initial impulse to rank them a bit lower on the list given that there is a serious advantage that comes with a two-on-one matchup, but we thought against it. Not only does their demonstrated respect for John Wick throughout the fight winds up evening the odds a bit, as they give him opportunity to freely get out of prone positions, but they are just total badasses with remarkable skills, which is the most important qualification in these rankings. They also get bonus points for being two of the few characters who walk away from a battle with John still alive.
1. Zero (John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum)
Played by Mark Dacascos, Zero regularly demonstrates himself as one seriously cocky sonofabitch throughout John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, but he isn’t a villain who is just all talk (that’s the role for Iosef Tarasov or Dean Winters’ Avi to fill). Instead, when he has a sword in his hand there is reason for any character to tremble, as he is both gifted with a blade, and ruthless when it comes to executing orders given to him by the High Council.
He works smart as a general, able to orchestrate brutal attacks on both The Bowery King and The Director’s hideouts, but it’s really in the final fight where he has the opportunity to really shine. And while he does ultimately get killed by John Wick, like so many others on this list, there is no denying his demonstrated skill. One could argue that being a little too confident is what winds up being his downfall, right up to his final words about “catching up” with John, but it all adds to his mystique.
This is how we see the ranking of opponents that John Wick has faced thus far in his series of films, but you surely have your own take on the matter. Hit the comments section with your own rankings of the characters, along with your explanations, and stay tuned for more pieces from CinemaBlend both looking back on the trilogy of John Wick movies we’ve seen so far, and look ahead at the titles that are in development.