In 2007, pop culture consumers were treated with more than our fair share of villains; the celebrity world gave us Jason Wahler, Joe Francis, Michael Lohan, Victoria Beckham, and the Big Three, the music world gave us Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty, and the sports world gave us Michael Vick, Bill Belichick, and everyone who played baseball between 1987 and 2004, but why dwell on fake people and their fake problems? 2007 was full of real, exciting movie and tv characters whose engaging villainy did not make us abandon our faith in humankind.
Why only Top Eight, you ask? Well, “Eight” rhymes with “Hate,” but more so, I just couldn’t in good conscience put that Davey Jones Squid thing anywhere near the word “Best.”
8. Frank Lucas, American Gangster
Wearing the title of “American Gangster,” Denzel Washington had some big shoes to fill, but after slapping on his period-piece-ass hairstyle and scrawling “I will not just reprise my role in ‘Training Day’” onto a blackboard a thousand times, Denzel turned Frank Lucas into one of the year’s most sympathetic big-house-buying heroin kingpins this side of 80′s MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e. He doesn’t kill many innocent people, and he never shivs his grandmother with one of his heroin needles, but for a former Sexiest Man Alive, Washington makes a pretty damn good villain. Almost as good as Harry Hamlin, even.
7. Taylor, Kid Nation
Forget backstabbing Survivors and homophobic Real Worlders and people on Big Brother who do the opposite of whatever it is people are supposed to do on that show — 10-year-old Taylor from Georgia turned Bonanza City into Bonanza Bitchy Dictatorship and spawned the phrase that’s six months away from being slightly dated enough to make a funny t-shirt: “DEAL WITH IT.” I couldn’t tell if Taylor was the producers’ Narc or just Angelica from “Rugrats” come to life, but regardless, I mentally delayed having children of my own by another decade every time she spoke a sentence. Right now, I’m looking at the year 3180.
6. Phil Leotardo, The Sopranos
Season 6 1/2 of “The Sopranos” oversaw the transformation of the Brooklyn mob boss from being Tony Soprano’s worthy adversary to just being a whiny bitch who made you a little less happy whenever he appeared on the screen (unless the previous scene involved A.J.) I understand the mob world is ruthless, but who orders a hit on Bobby Bacala? Did Bobby cross the line of being too lovably oafish? Either way, at least Frank Vincent had the courtesy to be the only regular on the show not to outact the sh*t out of Stevie Van Zandt.
5. Drew Carey, The Price Is Right
He may not have done anything intentionally villainous in his first year hosting “The Price Is Right” (well, besides this) but Drew Carey’s mere existence is a grim, nostalgia-crushing reminder that time always marches on, that even us children of the eighties are getting older, and that Bob Barker’s shoes are impossible to fill for more reasons other than because they were always lined with emergency commercial-break condoms. You could take the show “Oprah” and replace frickin’ Oprah and it wouldn’t be as different as “The Price Is Right” without Bobby Thinmic.
4. Anton Ego, Ratatouille
Peter O’Toole’s monolithic, loveless food critic looks like he just stepped out of an Edward Gorey book, thoughtlessly ripping on the drawings all the while before tossing aside my pathetic attempt at a literary analogy. His jaded solitude doesn’t stack up with the multiple-murderers on this list in terms of conventional villainy, but (semi-spoiler alert) his eventual change of heart is more triumphant and fulfilling than a million dead Bond villains. Also, I was going to mention that Ego’s willingness to freely criticize without attempting to create makes him kind of like a blogger, but, well, we all know would have been waaaay too predictable. Please.
3. Billy Mitchell, The King of Kong
Has there ever been a more intense scene in a documentary than when Hotsauce McMullet strolled into the Funspot Arcade and refused to make eye contact with Steve Weibe? Before you name a bunch of documentary scenes that definitely were, I’ll answer for you: NO. Whenever I watch documentaries, I’m always intentionally cognizant of the filmmaker’s bias (they totally made those Enron guys look like criminals!) but there was simply no way anyone could come out of this movie and say anything other than the literal sentence, “Man, Billy Mitchell really seems like a douche.”
If Michael Emerson offered me a glass of water, I’m pretty sure I’d psychologically tear myself to pieces wondering whether or not to accept it. Still, just as we Lost conspiracy theorists were beginning to believe that Ben’s cryptic, bug-eyed advice might have been for a greater good, we were treated with a flashback of Ben murdering his father with poison gas because he just daggum couldn’t remember Lil’ Benny’s birthday. Jack’s cathartic pummeling of Ben in the season finale reminded me of Sam finally beating the crap out of Gollum in the third “Lord of the Rings” movie. But with a goofier looking bad guy, of course.
1. Anton Chigurh, No Country For Old Men
Remorseless, unstoppable, and damn near magical, Javier Bardem’s ghostlike hitman in “No Country For Old Men” was so damn convincing, I sat in the theater assuring myself that the golden ticket from “Last Action Hero” was real and that Chigurh was definitely going to step out of the screen and murder me. I came away from this film vowing to never pick up a sack of money, use a take-a-penny at a convenience store, accept a Christmas gift, read a magazine at a doctor’s office, or enjoy a sunset, fully convinced that any such actions would result in my being imminently brained by a wacky, air-powered Super Soaker. Maybe George Wendt could protect me?
Other great villains in 2007? Leave them in the comments!