Just because someone is a villain doesn’t meant they don’t have a sense of humor. We might like our leading men and ladies to be sardonic wit-machines, but this can often spread to the antagonists. Because you can only milk so much comedy out of the hilarious hero spouting hysterical dialogue at a stone-faced evildoer. Or an actual robot.
Whether we’re laughing with them or laughing at them, these are the villains who, despite their despicable deeds, somehow succeed in being as funny as the ones we’re supposed to be rooting for.
Side note: while we’re trying to stay away from the easy pickings of villains from actual, on-purpose comedy, a few have snuck in anyway. Here are The Funniest Villains Of All Time.
Having a starring role in only a single episode of The Simpsons way back in the eighth season, Hank Scorpio is every person’s dream boss rolled into one affable package. He understands work/life balance, gives his employees generous perks, fosters a positive and creative working environment and is just generally an all-round swell guy.
It’s kind of a shame that he’s also a psychopathic supervillain with a taste for lasers and roasting his enemies alive with flamethrowers. Part of what made Hank Scorpio so great was how Homer just kept missing the hints that his boss was essentially a Bond villain, complete with his own (less competent) secret agent nemesis. In fact, the entire Simpson family was completely oblivious to how their luxury was being given to them by a man who commanded satellite cannons and harbored insane plans for world domination. It begs the question of which Scorpio is the real version, or whether he’s just a typical evil genius who also happens to really care for his employees. The leader of an organisation is only as good as the people underneath him, after all, and thus Hank Scorpio is just being practical by providing his underlings with free dental care and charity fun runs. As keeping your employees loyal goes, it’s a pretty great plan.
The Master (John Simm)
Given the long-running nature of Doctor Who, any character who sticks around for any length of time generally goes through a few faces, mostly Time Lords with their ability to regenerate. The Master, the Doctor’s Time Lord nemesis, has had his share of mugs, most recently that of a woman (‘Missy’). While Missy herself could be a hoot, the bizarre-crazy award had already been claimed at that point by John Simm’s Master.
Unlike the dastardly, mustache-stroking previous personas, this version was completely nuts from the get-go despite his evil genius. He hid it well underneath his political persona of Harold Saxon, but once he had control of the Earth (and a few times before), the Master showed himself to be a childish nut-job. Case in point: once he becomes Prime Minister of Britain, Saxon proceeds to give everyone in his cabinet a visual demonstration of his ‘happy’ and ‘angry’ faces (they weren’t really getting his humor) then cheerfully gasses the lot of them while giving an ecstatic thumbs up.
It only gets worse from there, as the Master manages to subjugate the whole Earth and makes tormenting his subjects with overly-cheery tunes part of the morning routine. That, and the slaughter of a tenth of the human population is accompanied by the Rogue Traders’ ‘Voodoo Child’. A megalomaniac he may be, but he has a pretty decent taste in music, at least.
Yzma and Kronk
The Emperor’s New Groove was some new territory for Disney, since it was a major animated movie with a focus on comedy and very little music. There were no princesses, the only magic was more like pseudo-science and even the fourth-wall breaking was rampant. The result was an off-kilter classic with a whole lot to enjoy both as a child and an adult.
Providing a good deal of the humor was the straight (wo)man/dumb guy duo of Yzma and Kronk. Yzma herself comes across as genuinely sinister, complete with secret lab, alligator pit, a questionably large collection of dark potions and a face that could curdle milk. Meanwhile, Kronk is her devoted henchman, kept around seemingly for his muscle and definitely not his brains.
Kuzco may be the main character, but Yzma and Kronk are easily the most memorable parts of the movie (hence Kronk getting his own terrible spinoff). Whether it’s Yzma’s villainy being dragged down by the general silliness of the piece – being turned into an adorable kitty didn’t help – or… literally anything that Kronk does, the two are a perfect example of villains who manage to usurp the hero in his own story. Not to mention that Kronk could barely be described as a villain.
Good Cop/Bad Cop
Lord Business might be the main antagonist of The Lego Movie, and he certainly has his moments (“The Polish Remover of Nai-eel!”). However, bizarre choice of headgear aside, he’s fairly sinister as a villain. Then we have his chief henchman, Bad Cop/Good Cop, whose villainy goes so far over the top that it just turns ridiculous. Also, great.
Voiced by Liam Neeson, Bad Cop/Good Cop has a definite split personality, made obvious by his swivelling head; one side with a cheery expression and round spectacles, and the other infinitely more grouchy wearing dark glasses. This makes him a pretty good interrogator, able to perform both roles back-to-back, though it seems to be Bad Cop that we see most of during the movie, flying into a comical rage at the incompetence of his underlings and making impeccable lob shots whenever they try to run away. He’s clearly been driven slightly mad by his split-personality, making wild gestures and performing random gymnastic moves when worked up, even during serious interrogations.
His crowning moment comes after having his Good Cop face erased by nail polish remover. Bad Cop realizes that even then, he still has some good left, and draws himself a squiggly happy face. A really bad squiggly face, but still, it’s a powerful gesture.
Portrayed by James Woods using what he called a ‘used car salesman voice’, Hades is the main antagonist of Disney’s Hercules, though his charisma had a fair few people rooting for him over the main hero. Sure, he’s the malevolent god of the dead who wants to rule Olympus… but he doesn’t seem like a bad guy. He makes jokes (that nobody laughs at – rude), he has a witty one-liner for every situation and even his hair-trigger temper makes his fits of rage hilarious. Not only is Hades an incredibly enjoyable villain whenever he’s on-screen, you can’t even help feeling just a little bit sorry for the guy. Every other god (except perhaps Zeus) hates him for no adequately explored reason, he has to rely on totally incompetent henchmen, the Fates seem to enjoy trolling him with vague prophecies and he’s stuck in the dreary underworld for eternity. Considering that last one, it’s remarkable that Hades is as chipper as he is, and you can see why he’d want to flip the tables and have some time in the limelight.
The Princess Bride is the quintessential example of the cult classic, bursting with quotable lines and memorable characters. Thus it’s pretty impressive that people so fondly remember Vizzini, since he doesn’t even make it to the middle of the movie without getting himself offed by sheer hubris.
Played by the nasal tones of Wallace Shawn and acting as the brains of the bandit trio, Vizzini is known for his indignant cry of “INCONCEIVABLE” whenever pretty much anything happens that he finds surprising. Leaving the issue aside of whether the word means what he thinks it means, Vizzini is one heck of a large ham, stealing every one of his scenes and thoroughly showing his love for the dramatic. His final scene has him face-to-face with Westley, utterly convinced that he’ll be victorious in a battle of wits and completely missing the point until he chokes in the middle of a fit of evil laughter and falls down dead.
To be fair, this one can mostly be chalked up to Wallace Shawn’s performance, making Vizzini far larger than life and turning his cry of “INCONCEIVABLE!” into a pop cultural relic. Vizzini may have been a villain, but he’s also the perfect example of why you shouldn’t get carried away with your own ego.
No list of villains would be complete without Doctor Evil. It’s kind of there in the name.
Acting as the caricature of every cat-stroking Bond villain ever, Doctor Evil is once again a fountain of quotes and pop culture references. His interests include sharks with frickin’ laser beams, fluffy cats, spinning chairs and overly-elaborate evil plots that mostly include taking over the world, with a few of the more logical steps missing.
Also missing is Doctor Evil’s knowledge of pop culture and economics, hence why he keeps giving his evil schemes incredibly derivative names and not seeing the issue. Practically an expert in comically missing the point, Doctor Evil doesn’t quite manage to live up to his name, often being laughed at due to his ridiculous ransom demands (not quite grasping inflation) and complete lack of any evidence that he can actually carry out his schemes. When he’s not using movie footage to illustrate something evil he wants to do in the future, the good doctor is planning completely pointless evil deeds such as destroying the ozone layer and ruining celebrity weddings.
While still fairly sinister, with a cabal of villainous henchmen who vary in quality (and an equally evil mini-clone of himself), Doctor Evil seems mostly preoccupied with making a statement rather than actually being evil. You get the impression that he could be a real threat, if he bothered to do some basic research.
Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)
Tom Hardy’s Bane, like every other villain in the Begins trilogy, was mean to be a completely serious force of destruction. He nails the destruction part, both in regards to Gotham City and Batman’s spine, but taken seriously? Not with that voice.
Stories abound of entire theaters collapsing into laughter at Hardy’s idiosyncratic choice of tone, made worse by his muffling mask eclipsing half the meaning of everything he says. While impressions of Heath Ledger’s Joker are a decent enough party trick when done right, Bane’s isn’t quite so tough; all you need to do is warble into a tin can. Complicating things even further are Bane’s fauxlosophical rants, a staple for Nolan villains but not sounding quite so profound when leaking out of Bane’s grill-face.
Sure, it was nice not to have the big, muscly villain not use a gravelly tone for once in cinematic history, and Bane can certainly use his physicality to make up for everything else. It was something we weren’t expecting, which definitely lands him brownie points. Still, the baffling voice mixed with an ill-conceived death scene that lasts all of ‘one second’ cause Bane to pale in comparison to the Joker, or even some of his own henchmen. Then again, anyone going up against Heath Ledger’s Joker in terms of performance is bound to be a tough sell.
He has to be here – it’s in the name – but he also proves that ‘funny’ is in the eye of the beholder.
The weird thing about the Joker is that most other people don’t find him funny. His main method of getting a laugh is to gas people with Joker Venom and watch them guffaw themselves to death. The punchlines to his jokes are very often corpses. He might bear the face of a clown, but the Clown Prince of Crime is mostly concerned with wanton murder and destruction rather than getting a genuine laugh for his actions.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t funny at all, though. If he was a real life villain, the Joker would be a straight-up psychopath who’d be exclusively laughing at himself while the rest of the world would be locking up their children. In a comic? He actually comes across as pretty amusing when he isn’t committing mass murder. It’s a weird sort of meta-humor, but humor nonetheless. The Joker is flat-out insane, and like most Batman villains sticks to his wacky gimmicks, such as pistols that shoot tiny ‘BANG’ flags and trick handshake buzzers. There’s just something about how joyful he is at any given moment, how persistent his is in his efforts to make the Batman laugh, that you can start to see why he’s one of the most popular villains of all time.
As a caricature and parody of every evil genius ever, it’s pretty clear that we’re not supposed to see Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) as a legitimate threat. Trapped in an eternal cycle of kidnapping the beautiful damsel (who’s long stopped caring), engaging his heroic nemesis in a nonsensical war of metaphors (“It’s revenge, and it’s best served cold!” “But it can be easily reheated in the microwave of evil!” “Well, I think your warranty is about to expire!” “Maybe I got an extended warranty!” “Warranties are invalid if you don’t use the product for its intended purpose!”) and just generally never succeeding at anything due to the power of the status quo, Megamind is every hammy supervillain mashed into one blue-skinned package, complete with goatee. Goatee of evil.
Throughout the film, we steadily come to realize that all his ridiculously overblown schemes and intense rivalry with Metro-Man are simply a cover for his own loneliness and need to belong. Before we get there, however, we’re treated to this evil genius being totally undermined by his constant and extremely public failures, as well as nailing every evil villain trope in the book. It really says something when supposed damsel Roxanne apparently has a Frequent Kidnapping Card. He also hangs out with a minion with a robot body and a fish head, so there’s that.
Apparently Will Ferrell has himself typecast as a comedic villain, because here he is again with Jacobim Mugatu. The main antagonist of Zoolander isn’t exactly going to strike fear into the hearts of anyone. The guy is practically the dictionary definition of ‘flamboyant’ brought to life, overly proud of his invention of the ‘piano key necktie’ and prone to screeching whenever things don’t go his way.
If you’re not laughing at the hair or the fact that he literally wears his name, give some consideration to Mugatu’s evil plan: using a relaxation hypnosis video that features Mugatu dressed up as a lolly-licking 18th century child (it really has to be seen to be believed), he plans to brainwash Derek Zoolander to kill the Malaysian prime minister. With ninja karate.
It only gets worse in the sequel, when his obscene plots escalate into blowing up all of his enemies with a volcano; presumably, profit would follow. There’s not a great deal to be taken seriously in Zoolander, what with the entire thing based around insane fashion design. No one really acts like a normal human being. Still, Mugatu takes things to a completely new level of flat-out nuts, with his outfits a perfect match for whatever’s going on in his head.
Imagine Darth Vader, but considerably shorter and 1000% more on-the-nose.
That seemed to be the guiding principle for Dark Helmet from Spaceballs, a very obvious parody portrayed by Rick Moranis (who else?) in a costume that can’t seem to decide whether it’s trying to be intimidating or ridiculous. Possibly, it’s a blend of both.
Despite his plan being fairly sinister in broad strokes, Dark Helmet’s level of villainy isn’t quite up to scratch, despite claiming that “evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.” Originating as ‘Panakin Crybaby’, his helmet is purely to cover up a bump on his head, as well as an attempt to look ominous. When not ordering his henchmen to comb the desert (with giant combs – it doesn’t work), Dark Helmet can be found playing with action figures, getting tossed around his own spaceship like a ragdoll when it comes to a sudden stop and being given a concussion by the camera when it dramatically zooms in too close.
He also has some severe trouble breathing inside his helmet, forcing him to flip it up at regular intervals and sort of ruin the intimidation factor. He’s also (SPOILER ALERT) Captain Lone Starr’s father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate, a shocking twist that surely shocked cinema-goers worldwide.
Joss Whedon’s signature wit and levity set the gold standard for the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since The Avengers was released back in 2012. While not every villain has received this treatment (anyone remember Malekith? …no?), Ultron and Loki stand out as memorable due to how they ended up quipping just as much as the heroes.
Loki was lovable enough anyway, but as the god of trickery and deception he’s not above shape-shifting into Captain America for a few moments of pure satire, or having a grand old time tricking his enemies with illusions while he giggles from the sidelines. Even when on the losing side, Loki continues to have some great moments. The scene of him being smacked around by the Hulk is one of the most memorable moments witnessed in a comic book movie ever, complete with Loki just sort of lying there and whimpering as he realizes his terrible decision-making skills. An honorable mention goes to him being stuck in place by having Mjolnir placed on his chest.
Meanwhile, Ultron has a unique sense of quirk and charm that portray him as almost irked that the heroes are trying stop him from destroying the world. For a murder-bot, he’s strangely child-like in his actions, still discovering the world, singing Disney songs to himself and getting petulantly outraged whenever something doesn’t go his way. Let’s also not forget him being mid-sentence when punched a mile into the air by the Hulk. Again.
Getting back to some unintentional humor, here’s Nicolas Cage as… apparently, himself.
Castor Troy is the main antagonist of Face/Off, a movie that already seems like the plot was written by letting a bucket of squirrels loose in a sandpit, taking them out and trying to interpret the patterns as a film script. FBI agent John Travolta (Sean Archer) is obsessed with catching psychopathic terrorist Nicolas Cage (Castor Troy). No, the brackets there are pretty much in the right place.
We know Nicolas Cage is a psychopath, because he makes a variety of faces not unlike the one above and is obsessed with his younger brother, Pollux (symbolism!). He also chews the scenery like no one’s business, using not just one body, but two.
In case you didn’t know the main premise of Face/Off, it involves John Travolta’s character getting Nicolas Cage’s character’s face transplanted with his, effectively turning him into Nicolas Cage and allowing him to infiltrate the criminal underground. Meanwhile, the former (and faceless) Nicolas Cage gets John Travolta’s face sewn onto his own, because apparently it was just lying around, transforming him into John Travolta.
If that sounds confusing, it’s still pretty easy to pick out which of them is Castor, because the lunatic overacting jumps from one actor to the other like a plague. Castor is the insane one making the crazy Nicolas Cage expressions, even when they’re not on Nicolas Cage’s face. The result is a villain who’s genuinely dangerous, but… yeah, kind of hard to take seriously, at all.
Every Single Joel Schumacher Batman Villain
‘Comedy gold’ might not be the appropriate phrase here, but whatever all of Joel Schumacher’s Batman villains are attempting here comes pretty close. Continuing the then-early trend of shoving multiple villains into the same movie, Batman Forever gives us the duo of Jim Carey and Tommy Lee Jones as the Riddler and Two-Face. Their combined thespian might ends up spawning a sea of ham, exacerbated by Carey’s neon-green leotard and Jones’…everything. Just everything about Two-Face in that movie is scenery-devouring madness, and seeing the two of them together is like some kind of overacting masterclass.
Batman and Robin replicates the formula of getting two well-known actors and encouraging the cheesiest performances possible (now with 80% more puns!). Also, one of them is wearing a green leotard…again. Uma Thurman portrays Poison Ivy, whose seductive slithering is more hilarious than enticing (probably what she was going for, to be honest) and Arnold Schwarzenegger gives his famous performance as Ultra-Glitzy-Ice-Pun-King-Mr Freeze, who parades around with so much bling that taking him seriously is practically impossible. If you’re not laughing at the puns- and you won’t be- it’s simply a sheer joy to see these two bouncing off each other like a couple of overgrown children who don‘t quite grasp how comic book villains are supposed to act.
Let’s not kid ourselves, though; Joel Schumacher is the one who allowed all this to happen in the first place.
Think this list seems too short for all the funny villains out there? You’re probably right. Let us know your ideas in the comments!