Superhero Hype’s Top 10 Villains of 2019
In more ways than one, 2019 was the year of the villain. DC Comics took this idea literally with a massive crossover event of the same name. But in many cases, comic book movies and TV series featured bad guys that were compelling enough to steal the whole show. On the big screen, Marvel continued to solve its so-called “villain problem” by pitting their heroes against enemies that were far more nuanced than before. Meanwhile, other networks and studios opted to dial the violence up to 11. They pushed boundaries with reckless abandon, and we happily devoured the fruits of their labors.
Now it’s time for our rundown of the best villains of 2019.
10. David Haller
We know what you’re thinking: what could David Haller possibly be doing on a list of the year’s best villains? Well, showrunner Noah Hawley did for David on Legion what Vince Gilligan did for Walter White on Breaking Bad. Over the course of multiple seasons, he turned the protagonist into the antagonist.
Legion’s final season turned David into an enigmatic cult leader, more self-serving than his followers could ascertain. His psychological crusade against the Shadow King was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, he killed a lot of innocent people in order to win it. In the end, David got his happy ending, but it’s hard to agree that the bloodshed was warranted.
The Walking Dead has graced us with many frightful foes over the years. The Governor, the cannibals of Terminus, and Negan and his Saviors have all menaced the survivors in different ways. Despite this, Alpha might be the most chilling. The way she and her band of Whisperers speak in hushed tones is enough to unsettle anyone. But putting heads on spikes? That was a level of gore we hadn’t yet glimpsed in the show’s ten seasons.
Alpha’s inner animal was unleashed by the zombie apocalypse, and she’s earned her place on this list.
8. Lex Luthor
Many viewers probably balked at the idea of Jon Cryer playing Lex Luthor. However, Cryer has become a welcome addition to the Arrowverse since he made his debut in Supergirl’s fourth season. Cryer brings an intensity to Lex that’s been missing from big-screen iterations of the character in recent years. He might seem like little more than a nuisance in calmer moments. But make no mistake, he will place existence itself at risk if it means getting rid of his Kryptonian adversaries.
Luthor also played a major role in DC’s comic realm thanks to the Year of the Villain event. After evolving into the human/martian hybrid known as Apex Lex, he set out to augment the powers of every big-bad in the DC Universe. It doesn’t get much more dangerous than that.
Don’t you just hate it when your superpowered idols turn out to be homicidal maniacs? The Boys’ all-American “savior” revealed his true colors at the end of the series’ first episode, when he torched a plane carrying a politician and his young child using his heat vision. In case there was any doubt, superheroics aren’t all they’re cracked up to be in this universe.
Homelander is utterly unpredictable and prone to rages that terrify even his teammates in the Seven. One could place the blame on his childhood spent as a lab rat. Still, it’s tragic to learn that the adulation of millions can’t grant him the peace he craves.
6. The Batman Who Laughs
The Batman Who Laughs represents everything Bruce Wayne fears about himself. He embodies the very darkness that the Caped Crusader often struggles to maintain. If it was ever let loose, his code would become meaningless and lines would be crossed.
Batman’s dark foil first appeared in 2017, but he made a bigger impact this year after escaping the Dark Multiverse. Throughout a multitude of DC titles, he infected other heroes with Joker toxin, led his own version of the Justice League, and is about to face Apex Lex. Whoever emerges victorious in that match-up, it can’t be good for the larger DC Universe.
5. Harley Quinn
Move over, Mistah J, because your main squeeze is striking out on her own. As much as we love Margot Robbie, Kaley Cuoco made the role of Harley Quinn her own this year. Fans might miss the familiar intonations of voice actresses like Arleen Sorkin and Tara Strong. But since DC Universe’s Harley Quinn series is a far cry from previous cartoons, an update was necessary.
Cuoco’s Harley is the same delightfully sadistic chatterbox we all know and love…plus some extra “oomph” this time around. With a little help from Poison Ivy, the new show’s mature rating lets us see what Harley’s really made of. In other words, she can do lots more than play second fiddle to the Joker.
Spider-Man: Far From Home’s marketing campaign portrayed Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio, as a hero. But let’s face it: anyone who’s read the comics knew how this would turn out. For this version of the Master of Illusion, Marvel needed someone who could play good just as well as devious. Luckily, Jake Gyllenhaal passed this test with flying colors.
Gyllenhaal and Tom Holland’s chemistry makes them very believable as allies. More importantly, it deepens the blow dealt by Beck’s betrayal, as evidenced when Peter Parker unloads his feelings on Happy Hogan. Mysterio also succeeded where every other Spider-Man rogue has failed: by saving his best trick for the very end.
The Mad Titan won the day at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. And for the next five years in the MCU, he cast a dark shadow over Earth’s surviving heroes. That was before they formulated a plan to reverse his misdeeds. But since he’s never been one to be questioned, a rematch was inevitable.
Several fans argued that Thanos’ character development was erased due to Avengers: Endgame’s use of time-travel. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that he and the Infinity Stones posed the greatest threat yet to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We don’t envy the bad guy who has to follow Thanos’ footsteps for the next big MCU team up film.
2. The Seventh Kavalry
With racism and white supremacy re-emerging as infectious social plagues, many films and TV shows are examining them from several different vantage points. Surprisingly, HBO’s Watchmen series may have had the most unique take of all.
Watchmen didn’t hesitate to portray the Seventh Kavalry as volatile and misguided. Sure, Rorschach wasn’t a very open-minded person, but his writings were never intended to be a white supremacist manifesto. Donning his inkblot facade, the organization also underscored an astute point. Bigots can be anywhere, even among the ones you love. An enemy you can’t see if one thing. But learning your enemy is someone you’ve come to love and trust? That can rock you to your core.
From the moment it was announced, Todd Phillips’ Joker seemed like it was destined to fail. But thanks to Joaquin Phoenix’s impeccable performance, the film presented an undeniably bold take on the Clown Prince of Crime.
Although it’s impossible to condone his actions, we can’t help but feel sorry for Arthur Fleck. He’s spent his entire life getting kicked to the curb, both literally and figuratively. Villains are meant to be complex characters who play with the audience’s emotions. When we find ourselves rooting for them, we’re caught completely off guard.
Not since Heath Ledger has an actor turned in such a remarkable performance as Batman’s nemesis. It even looks like Phoenix might have a chance at the upcoming Oscars . And if he takes home that golden statue, we’ll be sure to put on a happy face.
Who are your picks for the top 10 villains of 2019? Let us know in the comment section below!
Recommended Reading: DC Comics: A Visual History