Science fiction films are responsible for some of the most memorable movie villains of all time. But for every Darth Vader and Predator, there are other villains who do not get the recognition they deserve. These are memorable characters that are often left in the shadow of more prominent baddies. Whether a memorable side kick or the villain in a sequel, many science fiction villains are criminally underrated. And we feel that needs to change. So here then are 10 underrated sci-fi movie villains that deserve some recognition.
10. Gozer – Ghostbusters (1984)
When people think of the classic 1984 movie Ghostbusters, they tend to remember the performances of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. And when they think of a villain in the movie, people’s minds tend to wander back to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And all of that is fine, but let’s not forget the real villain in the movie—Gozer. The evil spirit that takes over the body of actress Sigourney Weaver and threatens to take control of the world. While Gozer was not as funny as the other characters in the movie, the villain provided some narrative heft to the movie and a sense of menace that the film sorely needed. And who can forget the voice of Gozer? Probably the most underrated sci-fi villain in a horror/comedy/action movie ever.
9. Roy Batty – Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner is mostly remembered for its great special effects and atmosphere. But the movie would not have worked at all unless it had a central villain, and that credit goes to actor Rutger Hauer, who plays the evil leader of the Replicant androids that actor Harrison Ford is tracking down and terminating. And Rutger Hauer does his best work in this movie, playing a morally conflicted character who is desperate to extend his own existence and will do anything to circumvent his own built-in expiration date. Dressed in a long black leather jacket with a shock of white hair, Rutger Hauer is legitimately scary as Roy Batty. Yet the speech he gives at the end of the movie is heartbreaking and thoughtful. It is Roy Batty that gives the movie its emotional center and elevates it beyond a straightforward chase movie.
8. Alex – A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The early scenes in the 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange remain shocking to this day as the lead character Alex, played by actor Malcolm McDowell, and his band of Droogs carry out a string of ultraviolent crimes that include assault, rape and murder. And Malcolm McDowell brings the main character and antagonist Alex to life with a brutal force, showing him to be a callous, amoral and violent predator—who also happens to love listening to Beethoven. Much of the credit for A Clockwork Orange has gone to director Stanley Kubrick. But the movie would not work at all unless audiences appreciate and are repelled by the main villain Alex and his behavior. Indeed, the image of Alex in his white coveralls, combat boots and bowler hat endure to this day, and dressing up like the character remains popular with people at Halloween.
7. The T-1000 – Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
The T-800 Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original 1984 movie, gets all the love and attention, but what about the T-1000 Terminator that appeared in the 1991 sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day? Played by actor Robert Patrick with quiet determination, the T-1000 was a considerable upgrade over the older model T-800. After all, it was made of liquid metal, could assume the identity of anyone it came into contact with, and produced some pretty cool stabbing objects. What other villain could keep Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton on the run for an entire movie? This villain gave the main characters all they could handle in T2. And yet, the T-1000 only appeared in one Terminator film while the T-800 keeps showing up again and again—looking older and older in the process.
6. The Borg Queen – Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
For pure creepiness, you can’t do much better than the Borg Queen featured in the 1996 sequel Star Trek: First Contact. Arguably the best movie starring the Next Generation cast, Star Trek: First Contact features plenty of the fan favorite Borg. But it is the Borg Queen as the leader of the assimilated cyborgs that really stands out and makes the movie work. Cunning, ruthless and pretty damn evil, the Borg Queen is super creepy. So creepy she can send shivers down spines—just ask poor Data. And yet, the Borg Queen often gets overlooked when people consider this movie—lost in the crush of Borg cyborgs. However, the film depends on the Borg Queen to describe the Borg’s motivations and plans to the Star Trek cast. She also provides a genuine threat that needs to be neutralized. Resistance is futile!
5. Agent Smith – The Matrix Trilogy
The two Matrix sequels were not well-received by critics or audiences, and this may help to explain why Agent Smith does not have his face immortalized on the sci-fi villain Mount Rushmore along with Darth Vader, The Terminator and Khan from Star Trek II. But for pure evil fun, you can’t find a better sci-fi movie villain than Agent Smith. Presented as the ultimate corporate stooge, Agent Smith is the computer virus used to dispatch Neo and the band of rebels that fight against the Matrix. And as played by veteran Australian actor Hugo Weaving, Agent Smith is both dastardly and amusing. His dry speech and long, drawn out sentences through gritted teeth are perfect for the character, and his fights with Neo, played by actor Keanu Reeves, are amazing—especially in the Matrix Reloaded where he replicates himself 100 times in one epic battle.
4. The Facehugger – Alien Franchise
The Alien Queen from 1986’s Aliens gets all the attention, but let’s not forget the importance of the facehugger in the Alien universe. The whole Alien franchise started with actor John Hurt getting a facehugger stuck on his head, and without a facehugger, the Alien embryo wouldn’t get implanted and none of the chest bursting, acid spewing carnage that follows would ensue. Plus, the facehugger was absolutely terrifying in the Aliens sequel when it attacked poor Ripley and Newt in the medical lab. And who can forget how terrifying it was when the facehugger wrapped its tail around Ripley’s neck. For pure terror, the facehugger takes the cake. In fact, the original 1979 Alien film was marketed around an Alien egg opening to reveal the facehugger. Without the facehugger there would be no Aliens, no film franchise and no terrifying nightmares.
3. The Humungus – Mad Max: The Road Warrior (1982)
When people think of a terrifying villain wearing a hockey goalie mask, they naturally think of Jason from the Friday The 13th movies. But the truth is that it was the villain known as The Humungus in Mad Max: The Road Warrior who first made wearing a goalie mask scary, and actually inspired the producers of the Friday the 13th series to give Jason the goalie mask in Friday the 13th Part III. Before that, Jason ran around with a cloth sack on his head. And yet, most people forget The Humungus in all his post-apocalyptic wasteland glory. As the leader of the rogue bikers and freaks in The Road Warrior, The Humungus is legitimately terrifying and a worthy adversary to protagonist Mad Max Rockatansky. Played by Australian actor Kjell Nilsson, The Humungus is a shirtless mass of rippling muscles and bad intentions. He rules his gang with an iron fist and takes whatever he wants—in this case gasoline from a group of outpost survivors. He’s the very best villain to emerge from the wastelands of the Mad Max universe.
2. Clarence Boddicker – RoboCop (1987)
He doesn’t look tough, Clarence Boddicker. He’s a slight man who is balding and wears eye glasses. He looks pretty nerdy, to be honest. But his appearance conceals a personality that is pure evil. The main villain in 1987’s original RoboCop film is pretty disarming at first sight. But make no mistake, Clarence Boddicker, played by actor Kurtwood Smith, is mean, cruel, vicious and violent. In the corrupt city of Old Detroit, which is overrun by gangs, Clarence Boddicker rules with a loaded gun. He shoots cops for fun and never hesitates to pull the trigger. Yet the character has never fully gotten his due—largely because of his appearance and the fact that he does not have any special powers or unique traits. But he goes toe-to-toe with Robocop, and that’s saying something. And he’s as mean as they come in Old Detroit.
1. The Emperor – Star Wars Saga
In the Star Wars universe, it’s all about Darth Vader. Always has been. After all, Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader, is both the protagonist and antagonist of the Star Wars films. However, there is one villain in the Star Wars realm who is more evil, more powerful and, frankly, more awesome than Darth Vader. And that is Darth Vader’s boss, The Emperor. Let’s not forget that Darth Vader is essentially The Emperor’s henchman. He’s a Senior Vice-President at best. But the CEO of the Dark Side is The Emperor. And who can forget seeing The Emperor for the first time up close in Return of the Jedi? The pale face. The craggy voice. The electricity coming from his fingertips. This guy is totally badass and the personification of evil. And yet, it is The Emperor who always plays second banana to Darth Vader and his family hang-ups. Enough already. It’s time that people recognize The Emperor for what he is—the evilest evildoer in all the universe. Mr. Dark Side himself. The Grand Poohbah of Nastiness. And Darth Vader’s ultimate undoing.