In the new Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Ultron (voiced by James Spader) is one of the best baddies we've seen for ages.
He strikes fear into the hearts of anyone who is already suspicious of artificial intelligence (or has seen i-Robot), and in his honour, we asked pop culture junkie Catherine Bray to take a look at some of the bad guys who completely stole the show and were almost (or definitely were) better than the good guy...
Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in _ Apocalypse Now _ (1979)
The force that is Brando hangs over Francis Ford Coppola's entire epic like an eggy fart. In the book, Kurtz is a tall, emaciated man, so when Brando showed up overweight, knowing none of his lines, you could've forgiven the director an instant firing. Instead he was allowed to improvise rambling 18 minute speeches including the immortal line "You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill." Legend.
The Joker (Heath Ledger) in _ The Dark Knight _ (2008)
Do you want to see a magic trick? Absolutely not, you massive psycho. There's a reason literally every suburban sixth former tried emulating the look of the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
for fancy dress the year this film came out, and it's the same reason they hadn't a chance in hell of pulling it off: it's a study in pure nihilistic glee.
Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) in _ No Country For Old Men _ (2007)
What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss? If you ever come face to unflattering-bowl-cut with Anton Chigurh, we're talking more than settling whose turn it is to get the surly dude from IT to come and unjam the printer. Can anyone remember anything about the plot of No Country? Something about some money, maybe? Who knows. All we remember was the man in the bad Beatles wig.
Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) in _ The Thick Of It _ (2005)
Come the fuck in and meet one of the greatest villains ever to grace the corridors of power or fuck the fuck off. Peter Capaldi subsequently even went head to head with Alistair Campbell in a charity swear-athon. It was basically Alien vs Predator, if aliens and predators had a penchant for calling people fucking faff arses.
Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) in The Wire (2002)
The Wire was never about straight-up heroes and villains - it was all about the shades of grey - which means that to stand out as a double hard bastard above all others, you really had to have your double-hard bastardry nailed. He even outshone his own supposedly bigger, badder bosses. Where's Wallace, Stringer? WHERE'S WALLACE?
Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
That Sir Anthony managed to turn one of the most frankly ludicrous mannerisms ever committed to camera - a slurping noise? - into a genuine chiller is enough to justify that Oscar. Add to that his complete upstaging of the real villain of the piece, who lest we forget, was a dude making "a woman suit" and you have one of cinema's all-time greats.
The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in _ Serenity _ (2005)
"I'm a monster. What I do is evil… but it must be done." A philosophical assassin labouring under no illusions about the fact that he's, y'know, the villain of the piece, Joss Whedon's provided a showcase for Chiwetel Ejiofor's considerable talents long before 12 Years A Slave came along.
Cruella De Vil (voiced by Betty Lou Gerson) in _ 101 Dalmatians _ (1961)
Disney is pretty great at villains in general. But the one that well and truly eclipsed the 101 heroes of the film's title was Cruella De Vil. The demonic fur-obsessive who wants to kill, skin and wear all those adorable puppies could hardly have seemed eviler if her surname spelled out "devil". Oh wait.
_ Words: Catherine Bray _