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December 19, 2013

The villains of 2013

Is there a Hans Gruber in the house?

Can Hannibal Lecter come out and play?

Darth Vader, please report to the principal’s office.

You know where I’m heading with this: It’s our annual list of the most memorable movie villains of the year.

Heroes are only as good as their villains are bad. A worthy adversary is necessary in measuring the worth of our heroes.

Every actor will tell you that it’s more fun to play a villain than a hero. The good guy must stay within a structure and conduct himself by certain rules of behavior, which can be confining for an actor. But a bad guy doesn’t have to play by the rules so it is inherently more freeing than a leading man role.

But not all villains are created equal.

Some villains are dastardly but delightful, like the aforementioned Hans Gruber, played so well by British actor Alan Rickman in “Die Hard.” Likewise, Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader are villains we love to hate.

The flip side to those lovable villains, of course, are the movie characters we don’t like so much but love to watch on the big screen. Amon Goethe, the sadistic Nazi camp commandant of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” played with chilling efficiency by Ralph Fiennes, and Nurse Ratched of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (Louise Fletcher) are not the kinds of people you’d like to meet in a dark alley, although you love them in a darkened movie theater.

The performance of a great villain is etched in our movie memories. Not-so-great movie villains are forgotten before you get to your car.

So, how does this year’s crop of movie villains look? Do any of them have staying power? Will any of them be remembered 10, 20 or 30 years from now? The only test is the test of time.

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