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No one on Lost has ever been perfect, with the possible exception of Vincent and maybe Bernard. But ever since the Smoke Monster first came roaring out the woods, there's been a difference between the flawed heroes-- control-freak Jack, murderer Kate-- and the villains who were set up against them. Whether they were later redeemed with flashback episodes of their own or killed off in a blaze of glory, the show's villains have always been the ones giving Lost its thrills. It started as a show about plane crash survivors, but things really got interesting when we realized there were Others there already.
We've seen heroes become villains, villains become heroes, evil monsters become flawed humans and all kinds of other crazy nonsense in six years of Lost, but in the end, I think there's a way to rank Juliet right up there next to the Smoke Monster. Using a highly unscientific method of considering how scary they were when they were villains, how believable their redemption was, and how much we were sick of them by the end, I've ranked all of Lost's villains from top to bottom. It's not about how awful their acts were, exactly, but how much we were scared of them, or how much we believed they might be capable of anything awful. Jump in, read the rankings, and feel free to dispute them or suggest your own-- and after the finale, who knows, we may have to revamp the thing entirely.
Evil deeds: Killing his dad and the Dharma initiative; conning Juliet into frittering away her life on The Island; sending his people to kidnap Claire and Walt; throwing Sawyer, Kate and Jack into the cages; learning everything about everyone so he could manipulate them; trying to kill John Locke (twice!); forcing Sayid to be his hitman; helping SmokeLocke kill Widmore and Zoe... did we forget anything?
Evilest deed: Shooting Locke the first time and throwing him into the dead Dharma pit was bad, but strangling him the second time and dooming him to be taken over by the Man in Black-- that was pretty cold.
Redemptive qualities: His love for Alex, his desire to be accepted by both his real dad (Roger Workman) and surrogate dad (Jacob), his eventual willingness to help the Losties-- but only when it was clear he couldn't have the power he really wanted.
Staying power: Infinite-- even as we speak, Ben is off helping SmokeLocke prepare to destroy The Island. Ben's constant slipperiness means that, even if he walks off into the sunset during the finale, there's no promise he won't work for the bad guys as soon as the camera is turned off.
#2 The Smoke Monster (not the Man in Black)
Evil deeds: Killing Rousseau's team; killing the pilot; terrorizing and frequently chasing all the 815 survivors; killing Mr. Eko; killing Keamy's men; (probably) killing Richard.
Evilest deed: Mr. Eko had so much story left to tell!
Redemptive qualities: We'll get into the actual human manifestations of the monster later, but the Smoke Monster itself is really just pure evil.
Staying power: The Monster got less terrifying the more we learned about it, and now that it's inhabiting John Locke and talking and all that, it's an entirely different beast. But as the lurking, unknowable force in the jungle, with its clanking and hissing noises and brute strength, it was the simplest and most elegant threat Lost ever created-- and in its early days, by far the most terrifying.
#3 The Others
Evil deeds: Orchestrating the mass genocide of the Dharma Initiative; kidnapping Alex, Walt, Claire and a handful of Tailies; locking Kate, Jack and Sawyer in cages; scheming to kill all the pregnant women; sending Mikhail to kill Charlie in the underwater station.
Evilest deed: Charlie's death hurt a whole lot.
Redemptive qualities: By the time the freighter arrived and gave everyone on The Island bigger fish to fry, it was clear that the Others--like their leader, Ben-- had relatively good intentions but terrible ways of executing them.
Staying power: They represented a giant sinkhole plotline when they kidnapped the survivors in Season 3, but The Others made fantastic shadowy, distant villains when they were first discovered in Season 1, and when they clearly initiated a war on the 815ers in season 2. Everything we learned about them-- they were just pretending to be hillbillies, they were doing experiments on pregnant women, Ben was their leader-- made them scarier and more fascinating.
Evil deeds: Kidnapping Claire; attempting to hang Charlie; threatening to kill a survivor every day until Claire came back to the Others; convincing Juliet to join the Others.
Evilest deed: The image of Charlie's body hanging from the tree will not soon be forgotten.
Redemptive qualities: He was pretty nice to Claire when he had her kidnapped, and the baby Ethan we meet during the Dharma era is pretty adorable.
Staying power: Ethan's been on the show more often since he was killed, and every time has been revealed to be not so bad. But he was the first Other that any of the survivors met, and was so perfectly creepy in the role that it's still hard to shake the notion of him as pure evil.
Evil deeds: Attacking The Island with the freighter; indirectly causing Alex's death; making Desmond's and Penny's lives miserable.
Evilest deed: That freighter was clearly the wrong way to go about making it back to The Island.
Redemptive qualities: His motivations are still a little fuzzy, but it seems that in the end he was on the good, anti-Smoke-Monster side after all.
Staying power: Yet another villain rendered less interesting once he was explained, Widmore still made for a great bogeyman when he was tormenting Desmond and sending a freighter full of mercenaries to attack The Island. We were forced to choose sides between Ben and Widmore, and it was honestly hard to figure out which one was worse.
Evil deeds: Frequently threatening Jack, Kate and Sawyer when the Others held them captive; spying on the 815 survivors to help the Others kidnap pregnant women; constantly seeming fishy.
Evilest deed: As a villain she was all threats, no action.
Redemptive qualities: Endless-- when all the lies were over Juliet was revealed as a top-notch heroine.
Staying power: Juliet wasn't quite up to the task of being another Ben-style villain edging toward heroine-- she always seemed pretty much like a good guy-- but just by making us believe she might be up to no good, she made for a pretty great threat, and succeeded in dividing the 815ers when Jack believed in her and no one else did. She's one of the few villains on this list who could also make it on one for heroes, and of them all, was the best at being bad.
Evil deeds: Murdering Alex; arranging the murders of Karl and Rousseau; murdering any number of innocents on board the freighter; triggering the freighter explosion that killed Michael and separating Sun and Jin.
Evilest deed: The execution of Alex is one of Lost's most brutal moments.
Redemptive qualities: None. He's one of very few human Lost characters without a good side.
Staying power: At a time when Ben was inching his way back toward good and Widmore was just a vague threat, Keamy made a great in-person villain, but in the end he mattered little to the overall trajectory of the show. He's also the show's most one-note villain (except maybe the Smoke Monster), which made him far less interesting to contemplate.
#8 Tom a.k.a. Mr. Friendly
Evil deeds: Putting on a fake beard to make himself seem scarier; kidnapping Walt and shooting Sawyer; supervising the prison sentence of Sawyer, Jack and Kate
Evilest deed: Walt's kidnapping marked Tom as the scariest Other well after we knew Ben was the real guy in charge.
Redemptive qualities: He was pretty funny once we got to know him, looked far less threatening without the beard, and holds the distinction of being the show's only gay character.
Staying power: When the true leader of The Others was revealed to be squirmy weasel Ben, we kind of missed Tom's straightforward, mean machismo. Plus he didn't live long enough to be redeemed like many of the other Others, so we still remember him as a somewhat likable hardass.
Evil deeds: Hoarding the valuable materials left over from the plane crash; tormenting his fellow survivors with cruel nicknames; buying his way onto the rescue raft; hoarding all of the guns from the hatch; killing the original Sawyer.
Evilest deed: Most of his stunts were annoying, not evil, and the one truly awful thing he was accused of-- stealing Shannon's inhaler-- he didn't even do.
Redemptive qualities: He was always kind of a lovable pain in the ass, but after his escape from prison with The Others Sawyer morphed into full-fledged hero.
Staying power: Sawyer was the first villain of the show, in the days before The Others and even Ethan, and his selfish ways made his motivations questionable even up until The Island's time-jumping began. We wouldn't like him nearly as much as we do now if we hadn't met him as a bad guy first.
Evil deeds: Motivating most of Ben's brutal acts; bringing all of the 815 survivors to The Island against their will to serve as his replacement.
Evilest deed: Ben's attempt to kill John and throw him in the pit of Dharma bodies can be laid squarely on Jacob.
Redemptive qualities: He's doing it all to make up for the fact that he turned his brother into the Smoke Monster, and it seems his goal of protecting that light at the center of The Island is legit-- if very, very silly.
Staying power: He was best when simply a name brought up by The Others as motivation for their actions, but even now, as embodied by Mark Pellegrino, we don't quite trust him.
#11 The Dharma Initiative
Evil deeds: Doing experiments on those poor polar bears; building a series of increasingly spooky hatches to terrify the 815 survivors; indirectly causing Desmond to be locked in the Swan hatch for years.
Evilest deed: Bringing so many people to The Island that the likes of Charles Widmore got involved, compromising The Island's safety.
Redemptive qualities: Like many Lost villains, when we learned more about Dharma they weren't so bad-- more of a bunch of misguided, disorganized hippies than any threat.
Staying power:They spent far more time as cuddly heroes (in Season 5) than they ever were as real threats (most of Season 2), but the Dharma mystery was so intriguing that we're still left wondering about those damn aerial food drops.
Evil deeds: Shooting Sayid; killing three of his own people rather than letting the 815ers lean more about The Others; setting off the grenade that killed Charlie.
Evilest deed: Poor, poor Charlie.
Redemptive qualities: He could be kind of funny when he felt like it, but Mikhail mostly made for a constantly threatening villain.
Staying power: In the end he mattered a lot less than many of the other Others, which makes him easy to forget sometimes. But we always see an eyepatch with suspicion thanks to this guy.
#13 The Man in Black
Evil deeds: Turning into the Smoke Monster (and everything that came from that); inhabiting John Locke's corpse; attempting to kill Jacob's candidates with a bomb; killing Zoe; threatening the entire balance of the world by trying to escape The Island.
Evilest deed: The entire inhabiting of dead Locke breaks our heart more every time we think about it.
Redemptive qualities: We still feel sorry for the guy given what went down with his mom and his brother ages ago, but at this point, he's just a baddie who must be stopped.
Staying power: There were hints for a while that the Man in Black might be less than pure evil, but at this late hour that idea seems to have vanished, leaving MIB as a basic evil villain who provides a convenient thrust for the show's final hours. If we had met him a little earlier in the show (as something other than the Smoke Monster, that is), or if he'd been given a few more shades of gray, we might care about him a little more.
#14 Ana Lucia
Evil deeds: Tossing an innocent survivor into a pit believing he was an Other; killing Goodwin when she found out he was an Other; being so suspicious she ignored Boone's radio transmission; accidentally killing Shannon.
Evilest deed: Shannon sure was annoying, but she probably didn't deserve to die.
Redemptive qualities: Like every other 815 survivor, Ana Lucia got a flashback intended to make her sympathetic, but her hard edges made her hard to like.
Staying power: Showing up right around the time Sawyer began softening up as a kind of new in-camp villain, Ana Lucia never developed into a particularly complex character, and was overshadowed in potential villainy by the arrival of Ben. Her death was sudden but not unwelcome.
Evil deeds: Killing Libby and Ana Lucia; swapping Kate, Jack and Sawyer for Walt so they could escape the island; being gone for so long we forgot about him and no longer cared about his return.
Evilest deed: A double homicide is pretty impressive, we must say.
Redemptive qualities: Michael had been one of the heroes until his shocking turn as murderer, and even though after that every one of his appearances worked toward redemption, we were pretty much sick of him by then.
Staying power: Michael was one of the primary victims of the listless Season 3, shuffled off because they didn't know what to do with him and brought back too late for it to matter. He was never so much a villain as a guy who was lost and let down by his writers.
For more on Lost and the Lost finale go here.