When it comes to taking the opportunity to talk about how great they are, movie villains can’t help themselves. Whether it’s blabbing about their genius, how futile the hero’s efforts have been, or neglecting to kill the good guy given the opportunity, there’s no shortage of villains that have verbally tied their own noose, ready for the hero to rise up and kick the stool away. Simply put, total victory could be achieved if they’d just shut up.
Roger Ebert called it the “Fallacy of the Talking Killer,” and it’s been a classic movie staple for decades. Now obviously, bad guys have to be beaten and the protagonists must find out the day-saving information from somewhere, but we’re focusing on the egotistical villains that somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory using only their words.
Here are our 16 Villains Who Would Have Won If They Hadn’t Talked So Much
16. Judge Lex – Dredd (2012)
Dredd didn’t exactly set cinema tills ringing when it was released back in 2012. Despite it being a great take on the source material, the movie failed to find a large audience, underperformed and made the prospect of a sequel look increasingly unlikely.
Towards the end of the movie, Dredd finds himself with no backup and dealing with some crooked Judges intent on putting him in the ground. Dredd kills several of them, but ends up facing Judge Lex (Langley Kirkwood) with no ammo left. Judge Lex shoots him with an armor piercing round through a wall and Dredd slumps down, bleeding from the new hole in his gut. Lex rounds on him, points his gun at his head before Dredd manages to blurt out “Wait!” Incredulous that the Judge Dredd appears to be asking for mercy, Lex gloats and jeers about what exactly he should be waiting for, before he’s cut off by rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) appearing from behind and peppering him with a hail of bullets. “Wait for her to shoot you”, snarls Dredd in response. Had Lex pulled the trigger earlier, he’d have killed Dredd and possibly even got the drop on Anderson. A rookie mistake in all senses of the phrase.
15. Vic “Deak” Deakins – Broken Arrow (1996)
Broken Arrow marked the first of John Travolta’s collaborations with director John Woo. It’s a corny but enjoyable ’90s action flick starring Christian Slater in the title role and with Travolta hamming it up as the traitorous Deakins. The two start off as test pilots, flying a stealth fighter with two nuclear warheads on board. Maj.Deakins betrays Capt. Hale (Slater), whom he ejects from the aircraft after failing to shoot him. What Deakins doesn’t count on is Hale’s resourcefulness and his chance meeting with Park Ranger Terry (Samantha Mathis).
Deakins’ ultimate plan is selling the nukes back to the U.S. and putting lives in danger if they refuse. However, his one unexpected move during the execution of the plan is telegraphed in his boxing match with Hale at the start of the movie. Deakins tells him exactly how he beat him and told him of his fondness for Muhammad Ali’s famous “rope a dope” misdirection technique. Due to this, Hale guesses correctly that Deakins and his associates are heading east, not the obvious west, on a speeding train. When Hale finally confronts Deakins next to the device, Deakins launches into a speech about the power he holds in his hand. In fact, Deak is so certain victory is assured, he even shows Hale which button to press on the remote to disarm it. They pair fight and Hale gains the upper hand, leaping out of the carriage and pressing the button in mid-air just in the nick of time. Even if we discount Deakins’ earlier slip-up imparting the rope a dope stuff, it’s his cockiness and arrogance that takes him down in the end. Oh, and also an unarmed but still very heavy missile that’s flung at his face during a train crash and explosion. That probably had something to do with it too.
14. Auric Goldfinger – Goldfinger (1964)
Yeah, you knew the Bond movies was going to come up at some point in a list like this (hint: it won’t be the last time). It’s a hallmark of the franchise and the series has undeniably popularized the trope since the ’60s, with imitators and successors pulling the same trick of a villain toying with their nemesis to the point of distraction.
In Goldfinger, James Bond (Sean Connery) finds himself shackled to a table with a big laser pointing at him overhead. Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) appears and explains the specifics of the predicament 007 is in. He sets off the laser, which slowly works its way up to Bond’s nether regions. This leads to the incredibly famous “Do you expect me to talk?”/”No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” exchange before Goldie wanders off to chat with his workers. Getting increasingly desperate as the laser inches ever higher, Bond mentions the name of Goldfinger’s secret plan “Operation Grandslam”. Goldfinger initially dismisses it, but after Bond convinces him that he’s worth more to him alive because of what he knows, the laser’s shut off and 007’s “legacy” remains intact. Obviously, Goldfinger should’ve let him get diced, or more to the point, just simply shot him if he didn’t even need to interrogate him.
13. Khan Noonien Singh – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
For most Star Trek fans, The Wrath of Khan remains the high watermark for the movies. Whilst many found themselves struggling to deal with Star Trek: The Motion Picture‘s slow pace, Wrath of Khan was a shot of pure energy for the series, delivering action, drama and plenty of dynamic shots of Ricardo Montalban’s bare chest.
At one juncture, Khan’s ship the Reliant ambushes the Enterprise, with Khan using his knowledge of the ship’s layout to cripple the Enterprise, killing and injuring many crew members on the lower decks. Khan hails the Enterprise and demands that Kirk (William Shatner) and co. hand over everything they have on the Genesis device. Kirk stalls for time and keeps Khan talking as Spock (Leonard Nimoy) remotely lowers the Reliant’s shields, leaving it open for an Enterprise counter attack and allowing Kirk’s crew to escape. It’s established that Khan is inexperienced when it comes to starships, so he may not have even known it was possible for his shields to be remotely shut off, but surely he could have seen that Kirk was stalling and perhaps fired another shot to show he wasn’t playing games.
12. Ernst Stavro Blofeld – You Only Live Twice (1967)
After being teased for several films and purposefully not showing his face, our first proper look at Bond’s mysterious nemesis was the highlight of 1967’s You Only Live Twice, despite heavy competition from the spectacle of a six-foot plus Scotsman being waxed and made up to pass as a Japanese fisherman. Blofeld (the excellently creepy Donald Pleasence) intends on creating war between the U.S. and Russia by sabotaging their space programs and letting the superpowers blame each other.
In the big finale of the movie, Bond sneaks in to Blofeld’s secret volcano lair but gets spotted and taken to the control room. Confident that he’s already won, Blofeld tells Bond every detail of his brilliant plan instead of killing him. Later, when an army of ninjas storm the volcano base (not going to lie, that was a really fun handful of words to write), Blofeld sets the self-destruct sequence going before escaping on his personal monorail. He manages to find Bond and has him at gunpoint before taking too long and getting a shuriken in the arm for good measure. Ernst, you blew it buddy. Volcano bases don’t grow on trees, you know.
11. Jafar – Aladdin (1992)
Looking severe with permanently arched eyebrows and a voice so dripping in malice it could wilt flowers at fifty paces, Aladdin‘s big bad Jafar (voiced by Jonathan Freeman) is one of the most memorable villains in the House of Mouse’s back catalogue.
As the film approaches its conclusion, Aladdin (Scott Weinger) and Agrabah are in a bad way. Jafar controls the Genie (Robin Williams) and forces him to do his bidding. Jafar becomes a powerful sorcerer, capable of all sorts of dark magic, including being able to transform into a giant cobra. After simply shrugging off being stabbed with a sword, Jafar has Al right where he wants him, wrapped tight within his coils and squeezing the life out of him. Aladdin has a brainwave and, knowing Jafar’s lust for power, tells him that the Genie is more powerful than he’ll ever be. Jafar realises this and uses his final wish to become a genie, not knowing the imprisonment that comes as part of the deal. Jafar and his raucous parrot Iago (Gilbert Gottfried) are sucked into a lamp and thrown far away into the secret Cave of Wonders. Jafar got incredibly close to winning, only to stumble at the last hurdle thanks to his gleeful gloating and inability to know when to call it a day.
10. Elam – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966)
For the final and arguably best entry in his Dollars trilogy, director Sergio Leone pulled out all the stops and gave us a fantastic gritty Western that would go on to define its genre. Unbelievably, reviews at the time were mixed, with Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin going so far as to call it “The Bad, The Dull and The Interminable”. Luckily, critics like ol’ Chuckie Champers since then have been in the minority and haven’t stopped it from being considered one of the greatest films of all time.
Mexican bandit Tuco (Eli Wallach) finds himself in all sorts of hot water as a one-armed bounty hunter named Elam (Al Mulock) busts in on him having a bath and points a revolver squarely at his head. Tuco’s responsible for Elam’s lack of a right arm and Elam starts monologuing about how he’d tracked him for eight months and how he got good with his left gun hand in preparation for such an occasion. Tuco’s having none of it though and shoots Elam with a gun of his own, hidden by the bath’s bubbles. Tuco shoots him multiple times before delivering some advice that several other villains on this list should have heeded: “When you have to shoot, shoot! Don’t talk!”.
9. The Operative – Serenity (2005)
When the Firefly crew made the leap to the big screen, they faced off against a new kind of enemy, a cold and calculating government operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) with no name or rank. The Operative leaves death and destruction wherever he goes and is a self-admitted monster of a man, willing to slaughter innocents to get his hands on psychic River Tam (Summer Glau).
The Operative is fond of asking people he intends to kill if they know what their sin is, before paralyzing them with a nerve strike and allowing the victim to fall on his blade in a symbolic flourish. In his final fight with Mal (Nathan Fillion), he pulls the same trick. Mal, however, is unaffected by the strike and lets The Operative talk a while longer before surprising him and immobilizing him with a throat-elbowing, bone-crunching move of his own. Had The Operative been less theatrical and more practical, he would have fared much better and avoided watching helplessly (and gasping for air) as Mal gets the truth about the planet Miranda out to the ‘Verse.
8. The Wicked Witch of the West – The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West is one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history and even she fell victim to her own hubris.
The Wicked Witch’s flying monkeys capture Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her “mangy little dog, too” and she imprisons them in her castle. The Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow make their way into the castle dressed as guards. They find and free Dorothy, but all of them are discovered by the Witch and her goon squad. The bad guys round on our heroes and the Witch threatens to kill all three of Dorothy’s friends before killing her last. She intends to torture them a little first and uses her broom to set fire to Scarecrow. The gang panic and Dorothy grabs a water bucket and douses the flames, with some of the water landing on the witch, who starts melting away into nothingness.
The witch and her assembled grunts had them! They could have clapped them all in irons and taken them to the dungeons. As she was unable to take the ruby slippers from Dorothy when she was alive, all the witch needed to do was take care of her first. Had this happened though, the movie wouldn’t be the enduring classic it is today. Having said that, it would have have been more in keeping with its dark and sometimes genuinely disturbing sequel, Return to Oz.
7. Alec Trevelyan – GoldenEye (1995)
In the first of his two rejuvenations for the Bond franchise (the second being Casino Royale in 2006) director Martin Campbell brought Bond screaming into the ’90s after a six year absence with renewed energy and vigor. GoldenEye saw 007 (Pierce Brosnan) take on the back-stabbing 006, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). Being a trained 00 Agent like Bond, Trevelyan spends most of the film two steps ahead of 007, being able to predict his moves and exploit his weaknesses.
The movie culminates in a slugfest between the former friends on a satellite base, suspended high above the jungle floor. After a tough fight, Trevelyan gains the upper hand and has a gun pointed at Bond. Before he shoots, Alec can’t resist pausing and smirking. He smugly says “You know James — I was always better” before Bond kicks a lever on the floor, which drops the ladder he’s holding onto through the floor, causing Alec to miss. The pair duke it out on a tiny platform before Bond bests him and sends him crashing to the floor. It’s Trevelyan’s ego and inferiority complex that proves to be his undoing. Had he just pulled the trigger, his plan would have worked and he’d have both embarrassed the British government and become incredibly rich. Instead, it’s all thrown away for a smug declaration of superiority. Pro tip: if you’re the only one saying you’re better than somebody else, you probably aren’t.
6. Biff Tannen – Back to the Future Part II (1989)
In the first Back to the Future sequel, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) returns from the future to an alternate, bleaker 1985 where Hill Valley is a dangerous, crime-ridden cesspool run by the incredibly rich Donald Trump-a-like Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). Marty eventually confronts Biff and asks him about Gray’s Sports Almanac, a book bought in the future that details fifty years of sports results.
Biff sits him down and tells him the story of how a distant relative of his (actually a future version of himself) gave him the book and told him to bet on the names found within, enabling Biff to become obscenely rich and powerful over the following thirty years. Story time over, Biff then pulls a gun on Marty, who distracts him and escapes as far as the rooftop of the casino. Tannen catches up with him and has McFly between rock and a hard place. Not content with blurting out his life story, Biff takes the opportunity to confess to the murder of Marty’s father, George. After looking down one last time, Marty steps off the edge, ostensibly to his death. Stunned at his good fortune, Tannen approaches the edge only to have Marty reappear standing on the flying DeLorean’s hood, piloted by Doc (Christopher Lloyd). One of the car’s signature gullwing doors swings open into Tannen’s jaw, knocking him out cold. If Biff had resisted the urge to tell Marty the exact date, he and Doc couldn’t have returned to the exact moment to stop the alternate future from ever happening. Even if Biff had given the just the year or month, the potential to miss the crucial event would have been massive. Thankfully, Tannen’s complacency enables our heroes get the info they need to restore order to Hill Valley. Butthead.
5. Ronan the Accuser – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Marvel has been criticised for having largely underwhelming villains, and when you look at the MCU, it’s hard to argue that villains like Thor: The Dark World‘s Malekith had much of an impact on anything. However, with Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), that’s sort of the point. He’s a dangerous Kree radical, furious at his race’s peace treaty with Xandar, and Thanos uses him to get closer to one of the Infinity Stones. As Drax says at the end, Ronan was merely Thanos’ puppet.
When Ronan betrays Thanos and sets the Power Infinity Stone in his hammer, he looks to be unbeatable. All it takes is one strike on Xandar’s surface and the planet is doomed. After a huge space battle, his apparent defeat and spectacular crash, Ronan emerges from the wreckage and walks out onto Xandar’s surface. However, he’s compelled to give a sermon of his own about how the people of Xandar should renounce their “paltry gods” before raising the hammer and getting distracted by Star-Lord’s dance-off challenge, leading to his defeat. If Ronan had skipped the speech-making he could have brought the hammer down as soon as he stepped out and got his ultimate revenge. However, if we’d gone that route, it’d be unlikely that we’d have been treated to Baby Groot dancing to the Jackson 5 during the credits.
4. Simon Gruber – Die Hard with a Vengeance
For the third instalment of the Die Hard series, John McClane trades enclosed spaces for a sprawling city when it’s targeted by a dangerous nutjob who identifies himself as “Simon”. Simon has bombs planted all over New York City and threatens to detonate them if McClane doesn’t do exactly what he says. McClane is sent racing around the city solving riddles and clues to the bomb locations with the help of angry bystander Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) who gets caught up in the mix.
McClane and Zeus speed from one “game” to the next, distracting from the fact that Simon (Jeremy Irons) is using the whole exercise as a smokescreen to hide his true plan to steal a convoy’s worth of gold bullion. Not only does Simon give the police clues to his identity whilst taunting McClane, he doesn’t even use an alias, leading the police to discover that he is actually Simon Peter Gruber, the brother of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), the terrorist dropped off the roof of Nakatomi Plaza by McClane in the first film. Simon has ample opportunity to kill McClane, even getting called out on it by one of his own men at one point, but he continues to toy with him to prove a point. Even if Simon didn’t kill McClane, if he’d kept his egotism in check, he would have likely gotten away with more gold than he’d know what to do with.
3. Emperor Palpatine – Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
The third movie in the original Star Wars trilogy ends with a furious father-son lightsaber battle between Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones), with Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) watching the action with barely-contained amusement. Both Vader and the Emperor try to turn Luke to the Dark Side, but despite seeing red, beating Vader down and cutting off his hand, Luke refuses to finish the job. Skywalker calmly throws his lightsaber to one side, stating once and for all that he is a Jedi.
This angers the Emperor of course, and he shocks Luke with Force Lightning. Palpatine starts on a speech about the power of the Dark Side and how Luke is paying the price for his “lack of vision”, pausing between points to punctuate them with more lightning. Despite wearing a static and emotionless mask, Vader is clearly conflicted and eventually picks up Palpatine and unceremoniously throws him from the Death Star’s bridge to his death. Palpatine’s problem is he took too long and was too in love with the sound of his own voice. If he’d have simply fried Luke, Vader wouldn’t have had time to have his change of heart and return to the Light Side. Sorry Palpy, you brought it on yourself.
2. Calvin Candie – Django Unchained (2012)
In Django Unchained, freed slave turned bounty hunter Django (Jamie Foxx) and his mentor Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) hatch a plan to get Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) back from servitude at “Candyland”, an estate owned by the deeply unpleasant and pretentious Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Django and Schultz pose as potential buyers interested in Candie’s Mandingo fighters. Their ruse works for a while, but soon their true purpose is revealed by suspicious butler Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson). Candie is furious and changes the proposed deal, asking for a huge sum of money in exchange for Broomhilda’s life. Schultz accepts, signs a check and attempts to take his leave. Candie rubs salt into the wound and insists they shake on a deal well done. Schultz declines multiple times before finally accepting and shooting Candie once in the chest with a spring loaded gun hidden up his sleeve. “I’m sorry- I couldn’t resist!” Schultz explains before the scene erupts into one of the most remarkably violent gun battles you could ever hope to see.
Candie’s ego was his downfall here. He’d won. He could have sent the troublemaking trio on their way and earned a tasty payday to boot had he kept his mouth shut, but his arrogance got the best of him and he, his family, and his estate ultimately paid the price.
1. Loki – The Avengers (2012)
Of all the villains on this list, Loki is probably the baddie that encapsulates the trope best. He loves making long speeches about his superiority and making dramatic shows of power. As Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) puts it — he’s a full-tilt diva.
His first mistake is during his interrogation with Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson). He explains he knows exactly how the interrogation is meant to go down and how he’s above it. He underestimates Agent Romanov, and at one point, he even feels like he’s got her on the ropes, having seemingly upset her. It’s then he can’t help but slip in what he thinks is an oh-so subtle reference to his plan of enraging Banner and causing him to Hulk out on the helicarrier.
Having figured out Loki’s plot, Black Widow snaps out of her crocodile tears and leaves the trickster god dumbfounded. Later, he’s confronted by Stark, arriving at Stark Tower in a wrecked Iron Man suit. Stark keeps Loki talking long enough for Jarvis to prepare a new suit, ensuring that Iron Man is part of the final battle and is able to fly an errant nuke through the wormhole above New York City. Had Loki been able to stop himself from blabbing about his Hulk plan or even been a few minutes quicker in defenestrating Stark, his goal of domination could have conceivably worked, making him the undisputed ruler of Earth. At least Hulk has the right idea, cutting off what was sure to be another long-winded speech with some prompt smashing of the puny god.
Do any other motor-mouthed baddies spring to mind that would have come out on top if they hadn’t been such adamant conversationalists? Let us know in the comments.