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25 UNDERRATED CINEMA VILLAINS: ACTORS

1) PAUL FREEMAN IN RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
With so much going for RAIDERS, and with antagonists ranging from snakes, tarantulas, poison arrows, a gaggle of Nazis and a giant rock, the first and best Indiana Jones film leaves the main villain in the shadows, but the adventure wouldn’t be the same without Belloq, Indy’s wry French archeologist adversary who even, in the picture above, eats a fly…
2) HARRY NORTHUP IN OVER THE EDGE
Arguably the greatest teenage rebellion film ever made, at least in the “modern” era, Harry’s scowling Sgt. Doberman made sure the town of New Grenada remained as in control as he wanted the kids to be – but they weren’t giving up without a fight, and Doberman wasn’t giving in either…
3) TIM O'KELLY IN TARGETS
As a twisted young man based on an infamous real life sniper, Tim’s character in Peter Bogdanovich’s first film provides both villainy and pathos as we follow his murderous daily routine that winds up a human shooting gallery at a drive-in theater…
4) KEN HUTCHISON IN STRAW DOGS
In a group of really bad dudes, all putting Dustin Hoffman’s meek American scientist through a seething nightmare in a rural English village, Ken’s evil Norm Scutt is by far the meanest pup of the litter…
5) WILLIAM SMITH IN BLACK SAMSON
Before playing Falconetti, the bad guy to end all bad guys in RICH MAN POOR MAN, William portrayed racist mobster Johnny Nappa, who steals scenes, either beating his woman or threatening an urban adversary, in this neglected Blaxploitation gem…
6) HARVEY KEITEL IN ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE
Although he's only in a handful of scenes in this terrific Martin Scorsese film that spawned a long-running comedy series, those moments really count… Harvey plays Ben, the first guy widowed Alice (Ellen Burstyn) trusts… and she winds up victim of one of the scariest rants ever…
7) JAMES REMAR IN 48 HRS
After playing the fan-favorite Ajax in Water Hill’s classic THE WARRIORS, James played Albert Ganz, one of the most notorious villains this side of crime cinema… He treats cops, hookers, and his old gang the same way: with aggressive, spontaneous bursts of formidable violence…
8) MATT DILLON IN MY BODYGUARD
The bully of bullies, Matt Dillon’s Moody is the type of guy who wants everything, as long as everyone else pays for it… When he hires a really mean bodyguard to beat up the good bodyguard, you’ll hate his guts... and then some…
9) JOE DON BAKER IN CHARLEY VARRICK
Alas, poor Joe Don’s known as the title character in one of the worst cop movies, and best Mystery Science Theater episodes, ever… but as a pipe-smoking hit man out to kill bank robbers Walter Matthau and Andy Robinson, he rules the screen…
10) DING SANTOS IN THE DEER HUNTER
You'll never be the same after witnessing, or rather, surviving the first Russian Roulette sequence where Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage play the game in a Vietnamese river prison where Ding’s "Mau" screeching ringleader runs the show with an iron fist…
11) BARRY FOSTER IN FRENZY
Bob’s your Uncle… He’s also a psychotic fruit vendor who puts Jon Finch through the wrongfully accused ringer in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1970’s suspense masterpiece…
12) PETER CUSHING IN STAR WARS
You’re probably wondering how could anything in STAR WARS, one of the most popular blockbusters ever made, be underrated? But with a villain as cool and menacing as Darth Vader, the true leader of the Empire, Governor Grand Moff Tarkin, who orders planets destroyed and a princess tortured, gets lost in the constellations…
13) JOHN DIEHL IN ANGEL
Many actors have played serial killers, but Diehl’s character in ANGEL is that much better, being his name is simply The Killer as he mixes lethal insanity with a paranoid, childlike tension… Plus he gets to wrestle a cross-dressing Dick Shawn...
14) JOHN P. RYAN IN RUNAWAY TRAIN
Ryan’s sadistic prison warden Ranken, who tries insuring the death of escaped cons Jon Voight and Eric Roberts, is one mean bastard… While it’s their movie on the thundering choo-choo, it’s Ranken’s ride everywhere else…
15) TIMOTHY CAREY IN THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE
You can say he’s more of a passive antagonist, one of several mobsters making sure Ben Gazzara pays up in the John Cassavetes cult classic, but when it comes to muscle, Carey’s sinister Flo lands a helluva nasty punch to our hero’s gut… Here we learn what Ben Gazzara has to ultimately fear…
16) MARCEL BOZZUFFI IN THE FRENCH CONNECTION
While it's Fernando Rey’s strutting, pompous drug lord that Gene Hackman and Roy Schieder wanna bust, Marcel provides the opening blast that gets the ball rolling… Plus he’s the guy on the poster who, after hijacking a subway car, almost made it up the staircase…
17) RYAN O'NEAL IS BARRY LYNDON
This may be a spoiler in itself, but if you think Stanley Kubrick’s time period drama about the title character’s struggle through war and romance centers on a friendly fella, just hang in there till you’re rooting against greedy upstart Barry, and praying that his put-upon son-in-law (Leon Vitali) wins the day…
18) TOM BERENGER IN PLATOON
Willem Defoe won the Oscar (and gets all the credit) as the “Christ symbol” antiwar Sarge in the Oliver Stone Oscar winning Vietnam drama, but it’s Tom Berenger’s devil on Charlie Sheen’s other shoulder that really steals the show, and Sgt. Barnes deserves his own award, dammit...
19) PETER MARK RICHMAN IN FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 8
Yeah, yeah, so Jason Vorhees, IN JASON TAKES MANHATTAN, that hockey mask-wearing wraith from the previous seven FRIDAY films, is the real villain… But Peter Mark Richman, playing the surviving girl’s step dad, a grouchy chaperone to a boatload of Manhattan-bound teenagers, is the true antagonist since he doesn’t have to lurk in the shadows…
20) VIC MORROW IN THE BAD NEWS BEARS
This is a comedy film, but no one told Vic Morrow… He plays the rival team’s bully coach with surly heated venom, and treats his son so badly you’ll cringe out loud...
21) RAY YOUNG IN BLUE SUNSHINE
His every scene in the suspenseful indie film, where people who took a particular LSD in the sixties become raving maniacs, is classic… And Ray’s ex jock Wayne Mulligan makes the most sinister of loonies, especially when trying to kill the lovely Deborah Winters in a discothèque…
22) TED LEVINE IN BETRAYED
You could say Buffalo Bill was underrated in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS since Anthony Hopkins, as Hannibal Lector, got all the credit… But Ted gets a nod for his performance in this Tom Berenger vehicle… As the most cunning member of a Middle American underground Arian clan, Levine’s narrow-eyed Wes is also the smartest, being the only one who realizes, from the onset, that Debra Winger (a CIA agent posing as a tractor driver) is not what she claims...
23) GARY KENT IN THE THRILL KILLERS
Gary is not only a friend, and a subject of several interviews on this site, but his primitive mannerisms – think Frankenstein’s monster mixed with a Neanderthal on speed – provide this quirky exploitation some real tension…
24) JOHN GLOVER IN 52 PICK-UP
If anything else, John deserves mention for going so wonderfully overboard as criminal Alan Raimy in John Frankenheimer’s Elmore Leonard adaptation, that you won’t pay attention to anything, or anyone, else…
25) HARRISON FORD IN AMERICAN GRAFFITI
Okay so he’s not a villain in the sense of wanting to kill the hero, rape the starlet or maim the family dog, but Bob Falfa’s desire to strip John Milner (Paul LeMat) of his “Fastest Car on the Road” title makes for a character we wanna see get beaten real bad… "Ain't he neat?"
UNDERRATED VILLAINS LIST BY JAMES M. TATE
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