Top 10 Most Unexpected Villains in Movies

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Top 10 Most Unexpected Villains in Movies

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
We didn't peg these characters for bad guys! For this list, we'll be looking at film antagonists whose status as the villain was a surprise, or at least, not what we expected. Our countdown includes Ozymandias, Elijah Price, Roger “Verbal” Kint, and more!
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Top 10 Most Unexpected Villains in Movies


We didn’t peg these characters for bad guys! Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Unexpected Villains in Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at film antagonists whose status as the villain was a surprise, or at least, not what we expected. We’ll be excluding animated villains from our list, however. Also, consider yourself warned — there will be spoilers ahead.

#10: Ozymandias

“Watchmen” (2009)
The world of “Watchmen” is one on the brink; the threat of nuclear war looms large, a blue god walks the earth, and there’s a possible killer bumping off old superheroes. So when the protagonists turn to the smartest man alive, Adrian Veidt a.k.a. Ozymandias, everyone assumes the retired hero will help, especially considering he too was attacked. However, it’s eventually revealed that Veidt has framed Dr. Manhattan for attacking cities worldwide, uniting the global community against a common enemy. This ending is a notable departure from the source material, but Veidt’s villainous turn is in keeping with the comics, making it predictable to those who'd read the original. For the uninitiated however, it’s quite the shocking reveal.

#9: Rose Armitage

“Get Out” (2017)
For much of Chris Washington’s stay at his girlfriend Rose Armitage’s parents’ house, Rose seems like his rock. She supports him through all the overt and inadvertent racism he encounters there, and when things start turning creepy, she seems ready and willing to leave with him. However, Rose ultimately proves to be arguably the worst of them; she actually lured Chris there as a honey trap, and is involved in her family’s disturbing cult, centered around using the bodies of Black people to extend their own lifespans. And he’s not the first boyfriend to have been duped in this way! Her cold demeanor, coupled with the trophies of her past victims, makes for a frightening contrast with the Rose we first met.

#8: Aaron Stampler

“Primal Fear” (1996)
The centerpiece of this legal thriller is the trial of Aaron Stampler, a stuttering altar boy accused of having murdered a bishop. Stampler’s lawyer, Martin Vail, soon discovers that Stampler has another personality, one calling himself “Roy,” who claims to have perpetrated the murder after experiencing sexual abuse at the bishop’s hands. Roy making an appearance at the trial leads to Aaron being found not guilty by reason of insanity. However, Vail learns afterwards that Aaron’s initial, fearful persona was just an act that he used to get away with murder. The villain was in front of us the whole time; Roy’s the real deal and Aaron is the act.

#7: Jason "Buddy" van Horn

“Baby Driver” (2017)
Getaway driver Baby has complex and tense relationships with most of his criminal coworkers. Buddy, played by Jon Hamm, however feels like the one exception. They're not friends, per se, but they certainly have a friendly dynamic. Unfortunately, after Baby’s actions indirectly lead to the death of Buddy’s girlfriend Darling, Buddy surprises everyone by relentlessly pursuing Baby in the name of revenge. Buddy makes such a great antagonist, because next to the more overtly threatening Doc and Bats, you never see him coming. Furthermore, for all their differences, Buddy does seem to have the most in common with Baby; he and Darling almost work a dark mirror reflecting what Baby and Debora could become.

#6: Henri Ducard

“Batman Begins” (2005)
While training in the League of Shadows, Bruce Wayne studies directly under his mentor, Henri Ducard. He comes across as tough, but generally fair, but Ducard ultimately answers to Ra’s al Ghul, who asks more than Bruce can give when they plan to target Gotham. Bruce rebels against his new masters, which nearly results in Ducard’s death. Despite Bruce saving him, Ducard nonetheless uses his new lease on life to bring terror to Gotham, where he makes a shocking reveal: he’s the real Ra’s al Ghul. His daughter, Talia al Ghul, pulls off a similarly unexpected reveal in “The Dark Knight Rises,” but given that it's something of a retread, we opted to give the spot on our list to her father.

#5: Amy Dunne

“Gone Girl” (2014)
It’s pretty easy to empathize with Amy Dunne at the start of this film; she’s an apparently devoted wife, whose husband, Nick, is not only having an affair but may very well have murdered her. In actuality, however, Amy is a sociopath who faked her death and is in the process of framing him for her death, having apparently manipulated several of her earlier love interests as well. It gets even worse when Amy murders an old flame and frames him for her kidnapping, before essentially blackmailing Nick into continuing their relationship. While those who’d already read the book weren’t surprised, anyone who came into the movie with no prior knowledge of the story will be downright floored.

#4: Elijah Price

“Unbreakable” (2000)
Elijah Price is a comic book art dealer, whose brittle bones have made him obsessed with the concept of superheroes. So when everyman David Dunn survives a devastating train wreck, Price reaches out to him. Although David is skeptical, Price gradually helps him come to terms with the fact that he’s stronger and more durable than most people, as well as his ability to sense wrongdoing in others. By the film’s end, we learn, along with David, that Price is not actually the mentor archetype to his superhero, but rather the villain. Price caused the accident, as well as many other disasters, in a deranged attempt to find superhuman people. This Mr. Glass villain reveal has held up remarkably well, and still gives us shivers.

#3: Ash

“Alien” (1979)
The science officer aboard the Nostromo, Ash initially comes across as persnickety and generally unpleasant, but by no means villainous. He even overrides ranking officer Ellen Ripley’s objections when a crewmate comes into contact with an alien by letting him aboard, ostensibly to save the man’s life. However, Ripley eventually learns that Ash was instructed by their company to secure the alien creature at the cost of the rest of the crew. Given that he’s an android, he has little compunction about following through with this directive. While the “Alien” franchise has featured similarly unscrupulous characters since, Ash was the first. Plus, with the movie called “Alien,” you figure the only villain’s going to be the alien, right?

#2: The Body

“Saw” (2004)
Two men awaken to discover they’re chained in a bathroom alongside a dead body. Bad start right? But things get much worse when they’re instructed, by the infamous Jigsaw killer, to escape and/or kill the other before a time limit. Meanwhile, detectives pursue the suspected killer, Zep Hindle, who has taken one of the men’s wife and daughter hostage. “Saw” remains suspenseful throughout, but it’s only in the movie’s final minutes that we discover that Hindle is just another victim, ordered to do everything he’s done to get the antidote to a lethal poison. At the film’s conclusion, the supposedly dead body stands up, revealing himself to be the real Jigsaw Killer. It's a villainous reveal that’s rightfully gone down in horror movie history.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Charlie Meadows
“Barton Fink” (1991)

Jack Daniels [aka Agent Whiskey]
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (2017)

Neighborhood Watch Alliance
“Hot Fuzz” (2007)

Benny
“Total Recall” (1990)

John Musgrave
“Mission: Impossible III” (2006)

#1: Roger “Verbal” Kint

“The Usual Suspects” (1995)
This is a list of unexpected villains, but we’re willing to bet that some of you saw this one coming! The majority of “The Usual Suspects” is told, via flashback, by a crook named Verbal Kint, who recounts how he and his gang were hired by a mysterious criminal mastermind, Keyser Söze. Yet, it’s only at the movie’s conclusion that we, and the detective hearing Verbal’s account, realize that he’s been lying and changing the details of his story. Not only that, but Verbal is Keyser Söze, having orchestrated the formation of the crew, as well as their massacre. The movie, and Verbal, may be legends now, but hardly anyone sees through him the first time they watch the film.
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