Welcome to the Dork Side: the 5 Geekiestyet Badass Villains of All Time

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There are those guys whose quirky/gimpy/nerdy ways mask a powerful rage and feral cunning which most often has accumulated largelydue to persecution for their quirky/gimpy/nerdy ways. The movies are filled with such individuals. Though many of our most fearsome villains have adopted unassuming exteriors to fool their enemies and would-be captors (Kevin Spacey’s Keyser Soze/Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, Edward Norton’s Aaron Stampler/Roy in Primal Fear) only to eventually shed their temporary dweebskin, this article is dedicated to the baddies whose awkward or innocuous qualities are a true and inseparable part of their evil personage. The five nastiest geek-boy adversaries are:

5 Elijah Wood as Kevin, Sin City (2005)

We can start with the fact that he’s played by Elijah Wood, a man who can best be described as the polar opposite of everything generally associated with the word “intimidating” Then there’s his get-up/appearance: the Charlie Brown sweater with collared shirt underneath and the innocent visage accented by the conservatively framed spectacles. But woe be unto he who attempts to stuff Kevin in a locker or take his lunch money. This character (who like almost every other character in Robert Rodriguez’ adaptation of Frank Miller’s comics, is a spot on translation from page to screen,) is a silent, cannibalistic killing machine, who, when stirred from his usual perch of sitting in a rocking chair and reading The Bible on the porch of his family’s farmhouse uses his razor sharp nails and acrobatic kung fu skills to go toe-to-toe with mountainous thug Marv. Even as he is literally fed to wolves alive, Kevin never makes a sound or loses that trademark blank grin on his face.

4 Heath Ledger as The Joker, The Dark Knight (2008)

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God knows what’s lurking in this man’s past. It’s not the abusive, drunken father or sketchy, gambling wife, because that was all obviously B.S., but you do know whatever it is, it’s abnormal and fraught with pain, because this man could most definitely never have been quite normal. Speaking in that often-shrill whine, laughing maniacally at inappropriate moments and walking in that jerky gait was obviously some kind of act, but more an act from deep within that eventually became the man. And indeed, were he not Batman’s greatest nemesis and the author of so many heinous, perfectly orchestrated acts of terror unfolding before our eyes, we might be inclined to ask, “Jesus, who is that tool?” And thus is the brilliance of Heath Ledger’s Joker; he is the ultimate glue-eater in the back of the class (see his reaction when the other mobsters call him “freak”), yet effortlessly commands your fear and respect and makes you think about a few things in the process.

3 Jason Lee as Syndrome, The Incredibles (2004)

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Like Unbreakable’s Mr. Glass, Syndrome grows up idolizing superheroes. Unlike Glass however, Syndrome grows up in a world where superheroes actually famously exist in legion, making his innate inability to be one all the more frustrating for the overeager ginger lad. But that doesn’t keep him from trying, until he is completely shut down by his idol, Mr. Incredible, whose sidekick he longed to be. Years later the thoroughly embittered (and still freckled) boy adopts the guise of Syndrome, a techno savvy villain bent on ensnaring Mr. Incredible and all the other “Supers” in a web of revenge. Jason Lee’s naturally nasally vocals lend just the right personality to this petulant reject and his ultimate plan to become praised as a superhero, retire, then sell technology that will allow everyone to be super, smacks of the ultimate vengeful outsider. Or as he puts it, “When everyone is super, then no one will be!”

2 Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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You just know SS Colonel Hans Landa of Inglorious Basterds was that kid in front of the class nearly passing out from the strain of holding his hand up as high in the air as he could every time the teacher asked a question. The gleefully evil, pencil-necked “Jew Hunter” is fluent and articulate in just about every language, observant and deductive beyond the pale of human ability, and oh so smug with his many medals, pig-in-shit smirk and neatly parted hair. A man who uses these considerable talents as a cog in the worst atrocity committed in the modern world is a villain to beat, surely. But wait, as we learn from Hans himself, Nazi ideology and rule really aren’t so much his priorities. Mainly, he just wants everyone to know how much smarter he is than them. “That’s A Bingo!”

1 Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, aka Mr. Glass, Unbreakable (2000)

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It just does not get geekier than a comic book obsessee with a rare bone disorder topped off by that trademark Civil War-era parted Afro. In M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero-centric follow up to his breakout smash The Sixth Sense, Jackson plays a man stricken with a disease that causes his bones to break as easily as popsicle sticks, which leads to two things: The other kids calling him “Mr. Glass” in jest and his discovery of comics during his shut-in childhood. Elijah becomes so consumed by the iconology and mythology of superhero comics that he forms a posh gallery dedicated to comic art in adulthood, and also begins a hearty campaign of purposeful mass murder, causing numerous disasters (train wrecks and the like) in a bid to locate his antithesis, the invulnerable hero that must exist out there somewhere (and also live in the Philly metro area, logically…). With his long purple supervillainish coats, a cane made of glass (like his name), and thoroughly geeky motivations, Elijah tops the list of dangerous nerds.

Honorable Mention

Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

A memorable, quirky villain in both guises, all bowties, prickly attitude and smoky specs initially then revealing himself as the spazziest, nuttiest “Toon” of all at the film’s climax.

That’s the official list of dangerous dweebs and dorks. Feel like we left anyone out, let us know!

Craig Johnson II was born in Los Angeles and is a resident of Brooklyn, NY. In addition to writing for Top 5, the lifelong film and comic book nerd is a freelance illustrator and graphic novelist whose work can be seen at http://craigj2.blogspot.com.

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