How Do Movie Villains' Personalities Compare?

A good deal has changed since the days of actors Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi: movie villains aren't all sneering and snarling, lurking perpetually in the shadows and constantly cackling with menace. Nowadays, a good movie villain is just as rich with humanity and character as his or her heroic adversaries. A movie villain can land anywhere on the personality spectrum — nearing the smooth and debonair or the neurotic and calculating — a fact proven by the latest bits of news involving the major stars of two gargantuan franchises.

First off, Idris Elba is in talks to play the heavy in director Justin Lin's Star Trek 3 , promising a villainy peppered with suave coolness (as are all of Elba's roles). Secondly, we finally get glimpse of a bald-headed Jesse Eisenberg, readying up for his role as Lex Luthor in Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice . Even more of a trans-project thoroughfare than Elba's smoothness is Eisenberg's anxious neuroses, which will no doubt find its way into his interpretation of the Metropolis criminal.

And living somewhere in between Elba and Eisenberg is a gangplank of varied villains from the past 15 years, ranging from cool to kooky to callous to calculating. Check out this spectrum celebrating all variations of modern big screen menace below.

Idris Elba, Star Trek 3


We may have only just gotten word that Elba might be stepping into the villainous role in Lin's Star Trek film, but we can hypothesize a whole lot of charisma piping from the intergalactic baddie.

Javier Bardem, Skyfall

An upper-crust etiquette allows him to lord manipulation over Agent James Bond, although he does go a little haywire later in the movie.

Kevin Bacon, Super

Not quite as sophisticated as he thinks he is, Bacon's generally cool-as-ice character can flip a lid when provoked. But he'll resist losing his temper, even if you go so far as to touch his car.

Tom Hiddleston, the Marvel Cinematic Universe

He's got a thespian affect, which lands him somewhere between entrancing and alienating... depending on the volume of his bellows.

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Here's where psychological follies and the ability to command a room meet at even levels. The Joker sure can put on a show, but he's got bats in the belfry to boot.

Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

Lighter on the stage presence and heavier on the kookiness is Mason, the most delightfully nutty piece of the out-of-whack adventure film Snowpiercer.

Ian McKellen, the X-Men movies

The first in our league of "intellectuals," but McKellen distinguishes himself from those yet to come with an inborn charm that allows Magneto to come off as slightly less sociopathic than he otherwise might.

Alfred Molina, Spider-Man 2

Deeper into the brain and further away from a discernible personality, Molina's tortured madman (a victim of his own design) is driven by science and grief. He has no time for making alluring speeches.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Star Trek Into Darkness

Practically playing a robot, as seems to be his M.O., Cumberbatch delivers a performance so stoic as to suggest complete marriage to the intellectual side without concern for

Jesse Eisenberg, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice


Finally, Eisenberg, who's all brains and not a lick of "cool" or "poised" in just about everything he does. We don't know yet exactly how Eisenberg will carry himself as Luthor, but I can bet he'll be less Gene Hackman and more Mark Zuckerberg.

Images: Getty (3); MGM/Columbia Pictures; IFC Films; Disney; Warner Bros; RADiUS-TWC; Sony Pictures; Paramount Pictures; 20th Century Fox