This song applies to all of the characters on this list.
In this article I am going to look at what I feel to be the most twisted and insane villains across the tv medium.
There are many different kinds of villains. Some of them are misguided, some are tragic, some are cold and ruthless, and some are just flat out lunatics whose plans might not even make the tiniest bit of sense.
Often these villains are the ones who end up becoming the fan favorite’s as they often do present the main character with their biggest threat and the stories they feature in are the darkest too.
Thus I have decided to compile what I feel are the most successful attempts at presenting this type of villain. As always let me know what you think of my choices in the comments below.
10/ Drusilla/ Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Drusilla played by Juliet Landau was one of Buffy’s most memorable and tragic characters. Originally she had been a sweet, kind hearted young girl who had been cursed with prophetic visions. As soon as the Vampire Angelus found out about this he decided to make her fate particularly gruesome as unlike his other victims she already knew what he was gonna do to her.
Angelus proceeds to murder her family, her friends, anyone she even remotely cared about, driving her completely insane. Afterwards rather than simply kill her he decided to make her into a Vampire so that she would suffer eternal torment as she would have to live with her madness as a Vampire forever.
Drusilla would soon go on to be one of the most dangerous Vampires of all time, managing to even murder a slayer Kendra along the way.
Drusilla was a very fleshed out character and Landau gave her an eerie almost childlike quality even when she was doing things like brutally torturing Angel, casually tearing a Demons ears off, threatening to pull a man’s eyes out, or slicing open Kendra’s throat.
Sadly however Drusilla doesn’t rank quite as highly on this list as I feel that she was often somewhat wasted. Throughout the second season of Buffy for instance she often did nothing but babble insane things and moan about her pets having died. She did get a few good moments like torturing Angel, killing Kendra, and her brief run on Angel where she resired Darla and together they slaughtered dozens of people across LA was brilliant.
However still most of the time I think that Drusilla was somewhat overshadowed by villains like Spike, Angel and Darla. It wasn’t even until season 5 before she got to actually fight Buffy herself.
Thus whilst she was an effective villain I wouldn’t rate her quite as highly as some of the others on this list, simply because she was all too often pushed to the background.
9/ The Master (John Simm)/ Doctor Who
The John Simm version of the famous Doctor Who villain was really the first interpretation of the character who was portrayed as a vicious psychopath. His predecessors had been shown to be more cold, calculating and even somewhat restrained villains. However Simm’s version of the character was an unpredictable lunatic who enjoyed killing for the hell of it.
It was also during Simm’s time that we discovered the characters true origins, which in turn retconned the previous Masters into being psychopath’s too. Apparently the Master had been driven mad by a constant drum beat in his head, that he had gained when he was a child after he stared into the untempered schism, a hole in the very fabric of space and time.
Simm’s Master was for me a very effective villain. Simm absolutely relished in the characters sadistic cruelty, whether that was chopping Torchwood operatives to bits, torturing Captain Jack Harkness to death over and over again for a year, breaking Martha’s family, gassing his cabinet or even beating his own wife Lucy Saxon.
At the same time however whilst Simm was great at showing us a whole new twisted side to the iconic villain he also actually fleshed him out more and managed to make The Master a sympathetic character for the first time in his 40 year history.
Simm’s Master had been driven mad by circumstances that were completely out of his control. Had it not been for the drumming in his head who knows what he could have been. In his final appearance we actually see him confront the villain who implanted the drum beat in his head in the first place, Rassilon. The Master actually sacrifices himself to stop Rassilon and save the Doctors life at the same time.
This was one of my all time favorite ever moments in the history of Doctor Who. It was completely unexpected and really helped add a whole new dimension to the Master’s character and his relationship with his arch foe.
The only thing I have against the Simm version of the Master is I feel that Russell T Davies, the writer and producer of the two stories he appeared in often made the Master seem too silly at times. In “The Last of the Time Lords” the Master turns the Doctor into a house elf, whilst in “The End of Time” he turns everyone on earth into exact copies of himself. Both effects of course look utterly ridiculous and sadly make the Master seem more like a comical character than the dangerous sociopath he actually is.
Still despite this Simm’s Master ranks as one of my fave villains. Much as Roger Delgado’s Master was the very definition of elegant, understated evil, then John Simm’s Master is the definition of senseless, unpredictable and chaotic evil.
8/ The Governor/ The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead’s most iconic villain. The version I am referring to here is of course the one from the tv series played by David Morrissey.
Ironically this version was actually a lot tamer than his comic book counterpart. Still he was nevertheless a very vicious and brutal character none the less. We saw him do many deplorable things such as machine gunning his own men down, chopping Hershel’s head clean off, threaten to rape Maggie and torture and kill Andrea. Andrea lets be honest however kind of deserved it a bit for being so stupid as to not realize this guy was as crazy as a shit house rat. Even after she discovered he kept heads in his bedroom!
I think that about sums it up.
The thing about the Governor that made him so effective was that as crazy as he was, he was still often able to lure his victims in through his charm. He did seem genuinely likable and even kind and considerate, but would then just snap and do something completely horrendous.
Unlike the other villains in this list you were genuinely surprised when he lost it.
Even in series 4 after all he had done in the third series the viewers are led to believe that the Governor may have changed. Right up until the moment when he brutally kills Hershel you think maybe there is a chance for him. The moment where he kills Hershel is one of my favorite scenes in the whole series. Morrissey is perfect in that scene as he shows just how insane the Governor is, yet he plays it so calm.
7/ Alistair/ Supernatural
This villain only made a few appearances throughout season 4, but he was still nevertheless a very memorable character. Alistair was the chief torturer down in hell. He was responsible for breaking Dean Winchester to the point where he not only agreed to torture other souls to avoid being tortured anymore by Alistair himself, but he actually enjoyed torturing other souls as well. Alistair unlike all other Demons in the series actually likes living in hell as he feels he isn’t limited there as he can torture them to death and then bring them back again seconds later.
Alistair is a complete psychopath even by Demon standards, and though his run in the series is very brief he still as the one responsible for breaking the first seal binding lucifer to hell has a very important place in the shows canon.
6/ Jim Moriarty/ Sherlock
Now I will admit I do have mixed feelings about this version of Moriarty. On the one hand I felt they made him too like the Joker from Batman, but on the other I have still enjoyed Andrew Scott’s performance as the character tremendously.
Sherlock’s Moriarty certainly offers up a different take on the character than any before. Really in many ways he is to the character of Moriarty what John Simm’s version of the Master was to that character.
The fact that he is so crazy, whilst deviating from the source material still nevertheless allows the character to be far more unpredictable than other versions of Moriarty. Probably my favorite moment is when he sticks a gun in his mouth and shoots himself to stop Sherlock from breaking him. This too me really showed how twisted he was that he would casually take his own life just to spite his mortal enemy. I think they undermined that somewhat by having him survive. Still it will be interesting to see where they take the character next, and Scott and Cumberbatch certainly have a great dynamic with one another.
5/ Alti/ Xena The Warrior Princess
One of my fave villains. I was thinking about putting Callisto, Xena’s archenemy on this list, as Callisto is pretty crazy too. Callisto is for all intents and purposes a female version of The Joker. However I decided to settle on Alti played by Claire Stansfield as Alti manages to outdo Callisto in terms of being a psychotic bitch, and that’s saying a lot.
Callisto at the very least was a somewhat sympathetic character. She had been driven down the path of lunacy, and much like Simm’s Master later found redemption, ironically like him by saving her mortal enemy. Alti however always was, and always will be an absolute monster through and through.
Alti slaughters and tortures hundreds and thousands of innocent people so she can imprison and torture their souls and draw energy from their tortured spirits to make herself more powerful. She steals babies souls, curses Xena so that her child will never know her love (which comes true) and even (in an aborted timeline) has Xena tortured, dragged through streets of Rome, crucified and stabs Julius Cesaer to death (whilst they are making love) and takes his place as Emperor of the world!
She is practically the only villain in the entire series who manages to bring Xena to her knees and makes her actually weep and cry on the floor like a little bitch.
Its not surprising though when you consider that she can kill you with her stare. Literally, just by looking at you she can make you feel the worst pain you have ever felt in your entire life. Later this power expands to being able to make you feel the worst pain from your past, present and future in not just this life but every life throughout all eternity, hence her catchphrase “You are experiencing the pain of a million lives past, present and future.”
We also discover that Alti’s spirit can never be destroyed. She will always be reborn in some way or another and cause mayhem throughout all of eternity. However apparently both Xena and Gabrielle will always be reincarnated alongside her to stop her at the same time. So even though Alti will continue to slaughter billions of innocent lives throughout all of eternity, she will still always get her ass handed to her by the Warrior Princess.
Alti is definitely my favorite female villain. I want to see more female villains like her who don’t have to rely on their looks (even though she looks like Claire Stansfield!) and who are complete and utter monsters through and through. In their own way these characters are just as empowering for women as heroic ones are like Xena and Buffy. They too help to break down barriers and allow women to play roles that are normally only played by men. Lets be honest parts like Alti and the other characters on this list are the roles that most women and men would rather play anyway.
4/ Emperor Cartagia/ Babylon 5
Babylon 5’s most twisted villain. Cartagia is obviously based on the famous Roman emperor Caligula. He is shown like Caligula to believe himself to be a god, though in his case he believes he will have to sacrifice his entire world to become one, and he is more than prepared to do that.
However by far and away his most horrifying moments are when we see him torture G’Kar. Cartagia tortures G’Kar for days on end simply because he wants to hear the Narn scream in pain. G’Kar resists however even though the pain of doing so causes him to pass out.
Eventually however Cartagia does manage to make him scream when he has him whipped to the point where if he doesn’t he will die. Its a truly heartbreaking moment watching G’Kar finally give in as Cartagia sits at the back smiling.
Sadly even then it doesn’t end for G’Kar as Cartagia later on a whim has one of his eyes plucked out.
Fortunately G’Kar manages to get back at the lunatic by helping to orchestrate his death with a little help from Londo and Vir. Whilst it is satisfying to watch him die knowing that his dream of becoming a god will never happen, one can’t help but feel its too good for him.
3/ Davros/ Doctor Who
This guy is arguably the most destructive villain on the list. We are talking about a man who in his first ever episode wiped out two entire races, one of which was his own!
The fact that he created the Daleks, the most evil race in the entire universe alone is testament to his madness. When the fourth Doctor tells him that the Daleks have destroyed billions of worlds and countless innocent lives in the centuries he has been asleep in “Destiny of the Daleks” his first response is to shout “ONLY THE BEGINNING”.
Davros’s crowning moment of madness however comes in the revival in the story “The Stolen Earth/ Journey’s End” where we see him literally steal planets to power a superweapon called “The Reality Bomb” that when detonated will destroy every single universe, all of creation itself. Something which Davros refers to as his ultimate victory.
In all fairness however Davros had actually always been this insane as seen in “Genesis of the Daleks” his first ever appearance when the Doctor asked him if he had created a virus capable of wiping out all life, would he use it, and Davros gets very excited at the prospect. He even at one point states “That power would set me up above the gods AND THROUGH THE DALEKS I SHALL HAVE THAT POWER!”
2/ The Joker/ DCAU
Now this version of the character is the one that appeared in Batman the Animated Series and other series set within the same canon.
This version of the character was voiced by Star Wars actor Mark Hamil. Many fans, including this blogger consider Hamil to be the definitive Joker.
That’s not to say anything bad against the other actors who’ve played the role, but for me and many others its Hamil’s voice that we hear whenever we read a Joker comic.
I think what made Hamil’s Joker so brilliant was that he combined both the sillier lighter aspects of the character and the darker elements.
Most versions of the Joker only tend to embody one characteristic. Cesar Romero’s Joker for instance obviously only embodied the lighter, more comical qualities, whilst Jack Nicholson and the late great Heath Ledger only embodied the darker characteristics. Hamil however could do both just as effectively.
His Joker could one minute stick a pie in Batman’s face, then the next he could burn someone with acid. You really never knew what he would do next and that to me actually made him the most frightening.
Whenever I watched Jack or Heath I knew what to expect, but with Mark’s Joker anything could happen. It could be a funny moment one minute, then an incredibly brutal one the next, sometimes even within seconds of each other.
His Joker really captured the playful and bitter madness of the villain better than any other and that’s why he is my favorite. Also I think it can be agreed that Hamil has arguably the best, and certainly the most distinctive laugh of any Joker.
1/ Caligula/ I Claudius
John Hurts incredible performance as the insane Roman Emperor Caligula is for me the daddy of insane tv baddies.
He was really one of the first villains on tv that we saw like this who had absolutely no shades of grey and was a completely depraved, psychotic and unhinged character all around.
Hurts Caligula throughout the course of his time at the show murders his own father when he was a child. He kills him by poisoning him slowly to the point where his heart becomes weak, then he frightens him to death by taking away an amulet that his superstitious father believed would protect him from spirits, and then places several omens in his room which include the remains of several humans, including an infant Caligula killed and then gutted.
He later goes on to sleep with all 3 of his sisters, taunts and sexually assaults his great grandmother as she is dying, orchestrates along with Tiberius the murder and rape of innocent men, women and children, murders Tiberius to take his place as Emperor, goes completely insane to the point where he believes he is a god, murders a young boy because his cough irritates him, impregnates his sister and slices open her stomach and devours the fetus!
The scene where Caligula eats his own child from his Sisters stomach is one of the most disturbing moments in television history. Its the way Hurt plays Caligula as having almost developed clarity in that moment. Even Caligula has realized what he has done which is why all he can say to Claudius as the blood of his unborn child literally drips from his mouth is “Don’t go in there, don’t go in there”.
John Hurts performance as Caligula was an inspiration on John Simm’s performance as The Master. Hurt’s Caligula was meant to have been driven mad by a constant galloping in his head.
A lot of people think Florence is talking about the Master here, but maybe she is talking about Caligula instead?
My favorite moment with Caligula however is when he calls Claudius and several other men to his palace late at night. All of them think he is going to kill them and are ready to say their goodbyes, however instead well watch.
This was the performance that made me a fan of Hurts for life. He is one of my all time favorite actors and with Caligula he really I feel laid down the template all crazy villains on tv were to follow. John Simm’s Master, Andrew Scotts Moriarty they can all be traced back to John Hurts insane despot.