Why Our Villains Are Different Now (Thanos, The Joker, Killmonger) – Wisecrack Edition


Villains. Often times, the best part of a
movie. Can’t live with them, can’t feed ‘em to a pack of rabid hyenas. Usually.
Villains are the people we love to hate or fear, with the occasional modicum of empathy. But something has been happening with villains
lately. If you’ve found yourself nodding along to the logic of a diabolical plot, or
feeling more empathetic than usual towards a film’s antagonist, you’re not alone. Today’s villains, from Killmonger in Black
Panther to Screenslaver in The Incredibles 2 have become weirdly relatable, each equipped
with their own cogent critiques of the world. “People will trade quality for ease every
time.” Villainy is and has always been a reflection
of value systems and fears of the time. So how did we get from this to this, and what
does it say about our past, and our world today? We’ll find out in this Wisecrack
Edition on the Cinematic History of Villainy. And
a warning, there’s a ton of spoilers here, for movies old and new. To understand how we got here, we have to
explore multiple eras and see how film villains embody the spirit and anxieties of the times.
Now, a quick disclaimer, none of these trends are absolute. Villains can break the mold,
or jump back into the past for inspiration, but what we’re discussing here are noticeable
trends among some of the most enduring films of each era. We’re going to start our journey
from the simple mustache-twirling villain to the complex, philosophizing radical by
looking at the 1950s and the early 1960s, the height of the war that wasn’t hot. In the post-World War II, party-in-the-suburbs
era of American history, describing our world seemed pretty simple. We were the heroes who
saved the world from the evil Nazis and were now tasked with staving off the also evil
U.S.S.R. It was very black and white, and so were our villains. Well yeah, literally,
but also metaphorically. Movie screens were full of bad Russian people, bad Asian people,
and very bad aliens. What do all of these naughty dudes have in
common? They’re the “other” – an inherent, inexplicable evil that’s stoked on destroying
America and our apple pie values. Sometimes that “Other” took the form of an amorphous
red-for-commie Blob ]or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Other times, the “other”
was an alien hatched in a pod and designed to look exactly like you, as in The Invasion
of the Body Snatchers — “Where do they come from?” — which some critics say represented
the fear of Communist brainwashing and infiltration. Also in the 50s, the movie industry went way
back to basics, producing a number of biblical sagas with running times of four hours or
more. These expensive epics proved massively popular, with three ranking in the top ten
highest-grossing films of the decade. Perhaps this was partially because they so perfectly
embodied Cold War propaganda, which depicted a face-off between God-fearing Americans and
the godless communists. Ben Hur showed an aristocratic Jew being persecuted by an evil
Roman commander, while Quo Vadis pits new Christian converts against the evil Emperor
Nero and his Roman empire, and The Ten Commandments depicts good ol’ Moses staring down the
Egyptian emperor Ramses. These films all portrayed the noble “Judeo-Christian” taking on
a cruel, powerful despot of a non-monotheistic religion. These villains were representatives
of larger groups of bad people who wanted to cancel baseball and tupperware parties. Even when villains weren’t explicitly foreign
or pagan, they were just anti-American, Communist double agents as seen in a flurry of Cold
War propaganda films. Later, spy mania of the 1960s would also reflect Cold War anxiety,
with James Bond facing off against various agents of SMERSH, the imaginary Russian intelligence
agency. What all of these movies had in common was
an us vs. them mentality, with no-good Commies portrayed as pure and simply evil. One-dimensional
foreign/communist/alien/blob villains took a back seat in the late 60s and 70s
as we saw a definitive shift in the portrayal of villains. It was fitting for a time of
major social turbulence and soul-searching, as the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam made
visible some of the not-so-perfect aspects of America like racism and war. This period also saw a startling drop in public
trust of government a phenomenon that changed movie villains dramatically as outrage over
the war met outrage about Nixon’s tapes. Notably, 1970s movies shined a light on the
corrupt social systems that Americans were increasingly disillusioned with. Evil politicians
and public officials loomed large. Popular political thriller All the President’s Men
brought the Watergate scandal to the big screen in 1976. Fictional accounts also touched on institutional
corruption, like in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, which depicts a crooked mayor who cares more
about tourism revenue than keeping people from becoming shark bait. Further depictions
of the evil and mighty came in Chinatown, in which the sinister billionaire rejects
audience’s judgements of him by claiming that his evil acts were brought about by his
environment. “Most people never face the fact that in the right place, at the right
time, they’re capable of anything.” The suggestion is that circumstances of power
make the villain, rather than any innate nature. Corrupt cop films were another popular way
of portraying the power struggles taking place. Serpico, based on a true story, depicts a
world in which police corruption is an assumed fact. “You fire without looking? You fire
without a warning, without a fucking brain in your head?” In this world, bribes and brutality
are the coffee and donuts of police work, so much so that Al Pacino’s Serpico is distrusted
because he’s not willing to accept bribes. Corrupt cops were mainstays on the big screen,
popping up in The Godfather, White Lightning,The French Connection and The Conversation. Institutions,
it seems, had lost their presumption of goodwill. As a result, we started seeing villains who
embody the very broken systems people were angry about. Take Nurse Ratched from One Flew
Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, who turned a benevolent profession into one that turns vivid individuals
into drugged-up, dependent ghosts of themselves. In a similarly bleak depiction of institutionalization,
East from Alcatraz renders prisoners sympathetic heroes struggling against the efforts of an
evil warden. Something similar can be seen in Cool Hand Luke. In both cases, the person tasked with imposing
law, order or societal norms is recast as the villain. The 1970s further muddied the
waters by blurring the line between hero and villain until the distinctions became all
but meaningless. These characters are are depicted as conflicted, heavily-flawed protagonists
with questionable, even hideous morals. Even when they weren’t particularly powerful,
bad guys in the 70s were depicted as conflicted individuals struggling to navigate the lines
between good and bad, or alternately villains of circumstance. You could argue that Walter White of Breaking
Bad starts as an anti-hero – a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who starts dealing meth
to help provide for his family – but eventually after say, the 5th ruthless murder, morphs
into a villain protagonist. In Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film, Taxi Driver,
Travis Bickle is one such heroic villain, or villainous hero, depending on your perspective
swinging on the pendulum of violently bad to violently good-ish as he goes from plotting
to gun down a presidential candidate to plotting to rescue a 12-year-old prostitute. In the previous year’s Dog Day Afternoon,
novice crook and hero/villain Sonny Wortzik botches a bank robbery and spontaneously takes
all the workers hostage. However, we soon learn the reason for Sonny’s dalliance with
crime: He needed the money to help his wife Leon, get sexual reassignment surgery. “Right
away, Sonny wanted to get me the money for the operation.” We find out that Sonny is
a quality dude who pays his parents rent and doesn’t typically go around holding up banks.
Not your villain of the past. Meanwhile, one particularly popular series,
Star Wars, stands out as markedly simplistic in this era of more complex villains. It might
seem to counter our theory, as it presents a pretty basic, black and white paradigm of
good vs. evil, even if goes against the grain later on with Ewoks reminiscent of the Viet
Cong. The 1980s backpedaled hard on the anti villain
by revelling in more cartoonish villains who directly embodied the biggest threats of the
time. Effectively, it ushered back in an “us vs.
them” paradigm by tapping into fears surrounding the War on Drugs. Unsurprisingly, villains
of the time wanted a piece of that sweet sweet drug money in films like Scarface, To Live
& Die in L.A., Beverly Hills Cop and Raw Deal. This depiction of evil drug lords could be
seen as a ying-yang response to the less-than-savory cops of the 70s films. Take Tango & Cash,
which depicted two roguish cops who are treated as irrepressible protagonists, despite engaging
in some of the exact same violence Serpico condemned. However, they’re portrayed as
the best cops in the city because their unconventional tactics have cost local drug lord and rat-kissing
villain Yves Perret oodles of money. Then, said kingpin, as if schooled in the bad-cop
films of the 70s, gets them falsely incriminated for murder. The film ultimately comes down
hard on the side of cops and a “by any means necessary” model of policing. “I’ve
been a policeman for 12 years and I think it’s the best organization in the country.” At the same time, the decade saw the resurgence
of Cold War anxieties, with some historians even referring to the eras the Cold War II.
As President Ronald Reagan increased military spending and ended arms control, Americans
rediscovered their fear of nuclear war. At the same time,“evil Russians” had their
moment in the sun with films like Rocky IV, which remained the highest-grossing sports
flick until 2009. It’s also been accused of being pure anti-Soviet propaganda because
of its villain, Soviet boxer Ivan Drago, who was decidedly not a charmer. “I must break
you.” The film Red Heat really won the villain jackpot
in its depiction of Soviet drug lord, Viktor Rostavili, who, in a trifecta of evil, also
murdered the protagonist’s partner. But arguably the clearest example of 1980s Cold
War villains came with 1984’s Red Dawn, which imagined Soviet forces invading America
and worse, taking photos in our national parks. The film’s director, John Milius, explicitly
saw the film as a warning to Americans to take seriously the threat of a Soviet invasion
via Central America. And if this seems a scare-monger for you, consider that Milius was the direct
inspiration for this guy: “Smokey my friend, you are entering a world of pain.” Despite some return to “the other as the
enemy”, there are hints of the 70s skepticism towards institutions in the 1980s – when villains
are not pure caricatures from a Nancy Reagan fever dream, we see them continue exploiting
corrupt institutions for personal gain. Gordon “Greed is Good” Gecko, for instance, uses
the corrupt financial industry to fulfill his own gold-plated desires. Meanwhile, Die
Hard’s Hans Gruber emerges as one of the decade’s most enduring villains when he
and his cronies seize a high-rise building and take hostages during a Christmas party.
He operates under the guise of being a terrorist exacting revenge on an evil corporation. “Due
to the Nakatomi Corporation’s legacy of greed around the globe… they’re about to
be taught a lesson in the real use of power.” Interestingly enough, his moral high ground
crumbles when it’s revealed that, just like Gordon Gekko, he’s really only after cold
hard cash. “So that’s is what this is about, Hans? A fucking robbery? Why’d you have to
nuke the whole building, Hans?” “Well, when you steal $600, you can just disappear. When
you steal 600 million, they will find you, unless they think you’re already dead.” In the 90s, American cinema swapped out the
reds for homegrown terrorist to fit” a decade in which domestic terrorism and “going postal”
dominated headlines. Fittingly, in cinema, it was an era of disgruntled middle class
dudes and “bombers next door,” a prime-time for complex anti-villains who are fighting
small, localized battles by radical means. Take the villain from Speed, Howard Payne
as portrayed by Dennis Hopper. This former bomb squad-officer turned-extortionist turned
psychopathic terrorist is partially motivated by a sweet 3.7 million dollars, but he also
expresses a sense of superiority. “You still don’t get it, do you Jack, huh? The beauty
of it. A bomb is made to explode. That’s its meaning its purpose.” That’s… bananas. But it’s a hint of philosophy, of motivation
beyond cold hard cash. Howard’s a hint more complicated than say Gruber in that he genuinely
(it seems) desires “meaning” and “purpose.” He just goes about getting them in the worst
way possible. Same goes for Kevin Spacey’s supremely sadistic John Doe in the 1995 film
Se7en, who sees himself as “chosen” warrior in the crusade against everyday sin. “We
see a deadly sin on every street corner and we tolerate it because it’s common. Well not
anymore. I’m setting the example.” By the end of the decade, Arlington Road became
the pinnacle of the domestic terror genre, whose villain mans the grill at the block
party as he carries out plans for his militant group’s latest deadly bombing. He claims
to be pursuing a lofty noble goal: “I’m a messenger, Michael. I’m a messenger! There’s
millions of us, waiting to take up arms… ready to spread the word.” But within his
critique of government is also an indictment of the supposed niceties of Clinton-era prosperity.
“Are you happy in your godless, suburban life?” Trouble in suburbia also abounded in American
Beauty, which depicted the enemy as Lester’s neighbor, the homophobic, Nazi-memorabilia-hoarding
Frank Fitts, who kills Lester after he rebuffs his romantic advancements. In both cases,
the villains feel victimized by the system or circumstance, and seek justice on their
own icky terms. Sometimes these villains even have genuinely noble causes, as they rail
against the systems that have wronged them. Take 1995’s The Rock, in which Ed Harris’s
General Hummel, a disgraced USMC brigadier general, who holds the entire city of San
Francisco hostage, — “Fifteen vx gas rockets at the heart of San Fran. You’ve got 17
hours to deliver the money.” — demanding that the families of slain Marines be compensated
for their deaths. Here, we come to an interesting question of
whether noble ends justify violent means. In this way, the film acts as a prelude to
the very questions being explored by current-day villains, though usually on a much wider-scale.
Movies couldn’t not be changed by an event as pivotal as 9/11 and the subsequent War
on Terror. With the 2000s, came a new shift in movie
villains, as America confronted an existential threat to its sense of safety and power in
the world. Fittingly, the first two installments of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy
captured the popular imagination in this decade. In 2005’s “Batman Begins,” we see the
dangerous metropolis under attack by international terrorist group “The League of Shadows,”
and its leader, Raz Al Ghul who in a remarkably-on-the-nose metaphor, wants to blow up Gotham’s tallest
skyscraper. Arguably the decade’s most salient villain
came, of course, with Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight. The Joker
manifests as “the spirit of terrorism,” the embodiment “of anarchy and chaos of
a particularly destructive and nihilistic nature,” as critic Douglas Kellner writes
in his book Cinema Wars. “The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.” In case the comparison between the Joker and
real world terrorism wasn’t clear enough, Kellner notes that the film is bursting with
9/11 iconography. Nolan’s film also gave us one of two coin-flipping evil-doers with
the character of Harvey Dent alias Two-Face. A representation of how confrontation with
the Joker’s evils can corrupt even the noblest person, Two-Face goes about “deciding people’s
fates through a plunge into a completely meaningless existence of pure contingency and nihilism. Meanwhile, the Coen Brothers’ Anton Chigurh
from No Country For Old Men also uses a coin to decide the fate of his victims. He doesn’t
kill out of greed, self-defense or some kind of practical goal, leading one character to
comment. “He is a peculiar man. Might even say he has principles, principles that transcend
money or drugs.” Indeed, Chigurh is quite simply an active
nihilist who believes that, if all morality is contrived, a coin flip is as good a way
as any to decide who lives or dies. But you don’t need a coin to affirm the random or
meaningless nature of our lives or deaths. Take Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film, The Departed,
which featured the inimitable Jack Nicholson as chief gangster Frank Costello. From merciless
killing — “She fell funny.” — to his refusal to subscribe to any rules. “I don’t
want my society to shape me, I want to shape my society.” Frank actions seem shaped by
the belief that life is meaningless. “How’s your mother?” “She’s on her way out.” “We
all are, act accordingly.” Frank, who we later find out was an FBI informant, sees
life as one long struggle during which any actions that sustain you for just one more
day are entirely excusable. Of course, plenty of other villain archetypes
punctuated the 2000s. But if the 2000s were a time when the villainous creed was no creed
at all, we’ve come a long way since then. Today, our villains are the product of an
increasingly divided America bracing itself for impact. With trust in government, media
and religious faith at all all-time low, villains reflect America’s innate skepticism towards
systems, any systems, all the systems! Villains simply embody solutions that are way too radical
and usually mind-bogglingly violent. The polar opposite of a 1950s villain, who
represented an evildoer infiltrating an inherently good system in hopes of corrupting it, today’s
villains increasingly face objectively evil systems which they want to change for the
better. The only thing that makes these characters villains rather than starry-eyed heroes is
their means of carrying out that change, the classic caveat of “you’d be really
cool if you weren’t trying to kill half of the world.” For instance, Black Panther’s Killmonger,
played by Michael B. Jordan, has an entirely legitimate critique of how the world treats
its black citizens and Wakanda’s passivity as they suffer. In fact, Killmonger would
argue that the real villains of the film are Wakandans who sit on a stockpile of vibranium
while pretending to be a helpless Third World country. Where Killmonger’s perspective
gets debatably tricky is in the means – he wants to ship Wakandan weapons all over the
world and instigate a militant uprising. “The world’s gonna start over, and this time, we’re
on top. The sun will never set on the Wakandan empire.” Though T’Challa defeats him and stops the
scheme, he does go to the UN to admit Wakanda’s real capacities, and even establishes a Wakandian
outreach center in Oakland, suggesting an end to Wakanda’s isolationism. So Killmonger’s
radicalism actually brought about a less radical, but positive change in policy. Then, there’s Mission Impossible 6’s new
utilitarian villain, August Walker/John Lark, who wants to destroy ⅓ of the world in the
hopes that the other ⅔ would come together in the wake of the attacks. Or as he says:
“There cannot be peace without, first, a great suffering and the greater the suffering,
the greater the peace.” Or Infinity War’s Thanos, who wants to kill half the world to
solve resource scarcities that plague the universe. Or The Incredibles 2’s villain
Screenslaver, who uses hypnotic screens to mind-control her minions. Her personal beef
with the system? That the endless repackaging of life into consumable media has made us
all lazy passive observers, and that superheroes are an integral part of the equation keeping
us docile and meek. Her plan to change the system: mind control superheroes, cause a
huge accident and ruin superhero’s public approval ratings so people will learn that
they have to protect themselves. What all these villains share: A majorly out-there
plan that appeals to our country’s growing fears that the world is screwed beyond repair,
and the only way to fix it is to tear it down. In this brave new world of villainy, we’re
able to empathize with the villain’s critique of the system, and their desire to change
it. In this “through the looking glass” reinterpretation of villainy, the heroes are
almost inevitably cast as slightly-flawed protectors of a status quo that nobody’s
really happy with. In the grand scheme of things, contemporary
villains seem to be a weird mirror image of 50’s villains, who want to corrupt good
institutions – Killmonger-types want to affect good change in corrupt institutions
– they just go about it in very bad ways. At the same time, our contemporary villains
seem to have merged the complexity and sometimes, apparent innocence of 90s villains while broadening
the social critiques of the 70s, and standing in opposition to the nihilism of the 2000s.
They do believe that there is a cause worth fighting for, and if they drafted different
blueprints for creating social change, they might just resurface as… complex heroes.
So what do you think? Are today’s villains more interesting than
past evildoers? And what do you think will come next for Hollywood bad guys? Let us know
in the comments and as always, peace!

100 thoughts on “Why Our Villains Are Different Now (Thanos, The Joker, Killmonger) – Wisecrack Edition

  1. I honestly just thought that villains were getting more complex because the audience was becoming more sophisticated. It's difficult to scare an audience in 2019 with a jello mold oozing down the street!

  2. Best movie villains:

    Thanos
    Joker
    Davy jones
    John doe
    Hannibal lecter
    Terminators (t 800 and t 1000)
    Jigsaw
    Michael myers
    I'll add others later

  3. Hideo Kojima already beat the movies of today with a understandable villains in the Metal Gear Solid games. He should deserves the respect.

  4. "Cartoonish villains" as if it's unrealistic that some people in real life are just that simplistically evil. Some people really do just want to watch world burn.

  5. My problem is that the heroes and villains today are more ambiguous. We have sacrificed good vs. evil for kinda good vs. sometimes bad. To the point where even killing a lot of people to achieve a good goal isn't as bad as we once thought (pathetic). I never agreed with the philosophy that means justify the ends but understand where it comes from. I think previous villains were better only because, regardless of the system they were trying to destroy, there was a definitive evil to associate with them. Also, literature and entertainment did a better job in relating normal people to heroic acts. John McClain is a normal guy, he wasn't perfect in anyway. You can put yourself in his situation and imagine yourself being that heroic to stop evil.

  6. I’m completely unempathetic to Killmonger. Despite being depicted as a Pan-African nationalist. Killmonger was completely insulting to Africa. Instead of focusing on African problems it was all about African Americans. Not saying there aren’t huge racial injustice problems in the US, but Killmonger doesn’t even mention colonialist corporation driven child slavery in central Africa, and instead embodies African problems by citing police brutality in Oakland.

  7. The 80s had the steroid laden villains which weeded out all the mamby pamby hippies from the previous era. The 90s was the 80s, just in a more sophisticated environment as the villains were somehow even more psychotic…..I believe this had something to do with the discovery of all these freaking cults ( like heaven's gate, the branch Davidians, Children of God ) and UFO conspiracy theories which were revamped aaand kids went to school dressed in bondage leather S and M, so it's really no wonder the Horror scene climaxed here, then went flaccid for the next two decades.

  8. One of the most likeable villains who first appeared was Eli Wallach in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

    You understand where he came from when he discussed his survival story with his stuck up priest brother whom he called out on his bullshit.

    Not every villain was always hated, nor should they be. We never got a background on the Joker and what drove him, we did get a background on Ras al Ghul and Bane and found a measure of compassion for their villainy.

    I can't say that I'm always on the side of the white hat good guy. I've had so many people in my life that appeared as the white hats only to show their dark evil hearts later on due to actual character instead of said beliefs and appearance.

    I on the other hand have bent over backwards to give of myself even though I have little to give and yet and received nothing in return other than more abuse and false accusations.

    The pain and isolation I've felt has not led me to feel revenge or hurt on anyone other than a man I know that raped 5 little girls and still is walking today, with a family and kids himself. Never spent any time in prison or labeled as a sex offender, and the young women's lives he ruined, are in fact…ruined. they cannot ultimately move on or live in peace without restitution and true punishment for evil.

    I have felt that dying is the only way out, but suicide is not on my list. Though I have begged those around me for restitution, those around me mock me by saying they dont need to repent in order for me to forgive them.

    Therefore, we cannot restore or repair any relationship.

    God himself does not forgive those who refuse to repent. Love and forgiveness are different attributes. Since I feel the abuse and hatred, I literally have separated myself from these whitewashed villains only to see myself viewed as a man standing up for what's right or true principals, but as the black sheep, the villain itself.

    It's very disheartening that change and restoration and peace is ultimately impossible in humanity.

  9. Today's Villains is certainly more interesting than past Villains. Mainly because villains in the past is so flat and one-dimensional, while the modern villain is nearly as well fleshed out as the protagonist and/or hero.

    I strongly suspect it steams, in part, from how people in today's society is more prone to approach outsiders with understanding, rather than quick judgments. Or at least, those are the moral values of the modern world. Judging is bad, empathy is good.

    If someone went bad in the early 1900's, people blamed that person. They must be just magically born Evil. Nobody really looked at WHY they did what they did. But in today's world, with the dissolution with the world and the system, as well as the wide-spread reach of the internet, and thus easy access to all sides of the story, the old black-and-white view no longer works.

    It is like Dalai Lama said: Once you truly understand someone, it becomes impossible to hate them.

  10. The Joker is still the best villain of all time
    Thanos was incredible but not as good as the Joker
    Killmonger needed more screen time for development
    Joker was a truly terrifying character

  11. The philosophy of our modern-day villains
    How their plans are good but their means of achieving the plan aren't and that's what separates them from heroes
    Would be incredible for the Red-Hood story arch in the Batman movies

  12. Thanos dosent have good intentions.
    He's complex and such, but Endgame shows in the end Thanos is a Narcissist who wants to be seen as the Hero, when he sees the universe wasn't grateful for what he did, he decides to destroy all of them and remake the universe and make one that Sees him as their savior.

  13. actually you are wrong about starwars not fully following this pattern,if you watch james cameron's story of science fiction,george lucas clearly says that empire was supposed to represent west(usa) and the rebels are the viet congs,so it does support your idea

  14. Great vid. Cinema is indeed a reflaction of the ideas and attitudes shaping the culture. What i find troubling however is the growing number of ppl that not only are sympathetic to many of todays villains- they dont view them as villains at all. Theres been a number of films for example, where the villain is concerned with climate change and so think depopulation is the answer. Im sitting there watching it in the cinema thinking " theres gonna be a large number of ppl in here secretly rooting for this person." And i empathize with these ppl because all the heroes do is stop them from succeeding with their plans whilst the actual real core issue that motivated the villain is not adressed or fixed. This again is a sad reflection of the real world. I know many peeps who rooted for thanos or wanted Light to succeed in Death note. Its simply a reflection of the ammoral, nihlistic, pragmatic deteriation of western civilization.

  15. Next up: movies where you're not quite sure which characters are supposed to be the heros and which are supposed to be the villians.
    (Please someone do that)

  16. People who don’t call Killmonger or compare him to Hitler annoy me greatly.
    In spite of his bloodthirsty nature and his violent methods, Killmonger truly believed himself to be doing the right thing. He saw the world as a brutal and violent place that has been hopelessly corrupted by colonialism and imperialism and believed that the only solution was to destroy global society in its entirety and rebuild a new world order under his rule. He looked to empower poor, disenfranchised, and oppressed groups throughout the world (particularly racial and ethnic minorities, especially those of Sub-Saharan African descent) and enable them to take revenge on powerful nations who oppressed them. However, Killmonger was a hypocrite I acknowledged whose hatred, bigotry to those he viewed beneath him and egotism blinded him to the fact that he was ultimately no different than the imperial powers he despised. In truth he wanted revenge for the little guys he wanted the world to feel like he felt he was a sociopath who didn’t care the lives that were lost he just wanted the world to suffer as he suffer he was a poor black kid with no mom and dead father he found and guessed died by his uncle hand. He grew up hating the world Wakanda and included because he believed since the world turn its back on him he should turn its back on the world he would unleash chaos the rich and powerful would know his pain and he didn’t particularly care for Wakandans they were tools to goals why should he care about his father people when they abandoned them in his mind.

  17. I'm surprised you didn't factor Magneto from the x-men films into the story of villains today. He was similar to Killmonger in that he was right, but the means to do it was never moral.

  18. I dislike how everything from modern movies is show to be the first time it was ever done. We had sympathetic villains long before thanos.

  19. Sometimes a villain can be totally unsympathetic and still be entertaining and even likeable. The reason can as simple the villain was raised to think the universe is his birthright and that everyone else is a talking insect. I.E Frieza, arguably the best and most famous villain from Dragonball z

  20. I think the perfect next step for the cinema is Marvel's Civil War
    A fight for principles, where no one is exactly good or evil.
    We don't have a hero or a villain, we have two opposite points of view battling each other.
    Like Syndrome said in The Incredibles 2: "When everyone is a hero, no one is"

  21. the modern villains you talk about in this video are all examples of anti-villains, someone who doesn't want to be a villain but does it out of necessity because they believe they must do this terrible think to set the world right or server some greater good.
    Magneto is a great example of an anti-villain.

  22. Something I just thought of with the coin is it's not really chance at all. They bought the gun and the coin, they chose the location and the person and they decided which side equals death. If they hadn't done any of that the people would probably still be alive. So it's not really fair at all.

  23. He shows the creature from the black lagoon while talking about the'evil other' but the creature is shown to be a victim of man encroaching in his environment. Then he says all Bond villains are communists and shows the ultra-capitalistic Goldfinger. I know there has to be some generalizations in these cases but it still leaves a rather bad impression.

  24. I find it increasingly difficult to accept someone's assessment of villains when they don't agree with my economics or philosophy. I find it much easier to identify with villains who disagree with me on fundamentals than the descriptions given by others. Still I appreciate this video and that villains have become more and more relatable.

  25. My guess would be that next progression would be villains who offer people solutions to systems in the form of complex deception or extremely convincing lies and propaganda.

  26. I think the Purge is worth a mention Excluding the sequels as they just point more to the government being the villain. In that, society as a whole is the villain. But they try to morally justify it.

    I think the only mainstream villains that didn’t get a mention is robots and AI. The most modern villain that addresses our concerns that our own creations will out smart us and turn on us. Tron, terminator, Matrix Ex machina.

  27. Progression of antagonists: Villains are villains, heroes are heroes, no ones a hero, no ones a villain, heroes are villains, villains are heroes
    Next up on the docket: Heroes are villains when they are heroes.

  28. the world is so wide and human nature is so contrarian that you could create the most unlikeable villain ever and said villain would still have a church of edgelord stans defending them.

  29. Jesus fucking Christ did you really just call Killmonger "complex and philosophizing?" I expect more from you, Wisecrack. I'll give you the benefit out the doubt and assume you're just pandering.

  30. How is the woman battering killmonger relatable ? Because he,s black and people dont dare call him out for been a dick incase you get called racist

  31. WHATAFUCK Creature from the black lagoon wasn't evil, it was a creature of nature, attacked by evil colonization(a.k.a. Humans).

    I feel it is a strong movie for its era, strip the damsel in distress and you kinda understand it, even by todays standards..

  32. today's villains are reflection are people trying to change a corrupt system. villains of the sixties and seventies were the opposite they wanted to break down a good system. today's villains want to break down a corrupt system. like when I grow up you watch the western movie from the 50s 60s and 70s movie the Native Americans were bloodthirsty Savages if you watch a western movie of today they're the Vigilantes protecting their people

  33. Legend has it that somewhere Wisecrack manages to get through an entire video without mentioning Heath Ledger's Joker.

  34. Your reaching , if there is a theme it seems more like an excuse for the failure of socialism stating that" it could have worked if it were done right " but alas , i think the villains are more intricate because the genre is evolving and they are handling villains better , these villains are the very same ones from comics of the 80s 90s , magneto has always been relatable , – joker is a different story all together he is more Machiavellian , – it might be more a maturity of the genre than the political climate per say ,but if your saying that they are injecting politics into cinema then i would say bingo ! ps most of the villains are flat "platitudes" "platitudes" , joker is the only one worth mentioning honestly and umamu even more so but umamu had no screen time , thanos is only interesting because the villains before were dull or clones ,

  35. I'm not a huge super hero movie fan, but the Dark Knight is among my favorite movies of all time and it's all due to the Nolan/Ledger Joker. In my view, the Joker is the absolute star of the movie, and almost makes batman a side character. Although I agree with much of the way this video categorizes movie villains over time (obviously grossly simplifying things, but that's what you do in building a theory), I don't feel the Joker in the Dark Knight is done justice by just stating he's a nihilistic terrorist.

    To me, what makes this character stand out so impressively, memorably and durably is the extent to which Nolan and Ledger were able to keep and his motivations, identity and character so ungraspable, while positively packing the movie with close and seemingly revealing scenes of the Joker.

    What I see most movie critics get wrong about the Joker in the Dark Knight, is that they take his statements for truth. Most notably, when he talks to Harvey Dent in the hospital and describing himself as an agent of chaos. In actual fact, by that point in the movie we've already been given a dozen examples to show you can't trust the Joker in what he says he is or what his motivations are. One of the most brilliant examples being the two stories about how he got his scars. The only deeply disappointing thing about the movie was when the Joker began to explain his scars in such a mundane way as a violent father that cut him…only to absolutely blow my mind when later in the movie he simply tells a completely different story. In the hospital scene, the Joker accuses society and its elite of being full of schemers. He says he has no plan and is like a dog chasing a car, not knowing what to do with it if he ever caught one. But this is just after he has just successfully masterminded and executed a plan that was intended to make Dent, Batman and Gordon believe they were entrapping the Joker, when in actual fact he wanted and needed to get caught to get to his objective (Lau) and successfully got away with Lau and the gangsters’ money. This guy is not a schemer? This guy doesn't have a plan?

    The thing that makes this villain so unique is that you can feel in your bones that something relentless is driving him, but you can never fully make out what it is. You never really can tell when he’s following a plan and when he lets chaos and randomness rule or how and why he chooses to follow one or the other. All attempts to classify him fall short of grasping the full picture, even including Alfred’s description of a man that just wants to see the world burn.

    In light of this video, I think that puts Nolan/Ledger’s Joker in a whole new category of his own.

  36. Yeah, it’s interesting to be able to relate to a villain, but it’s just not how it works. You don’t say “Hitler was bad… but I can relate to genocide”

  37. Every single cowboy is the bad guy versus Native Americans in westerns , it's all backwards , history is a joke . movies too.

  38. I will summarize the current-gen villains in a sentence. Do good but with evil execution.

  39. Killmonger's take on things was decided for him mainly because he fell for the lies told by people in power. Lies they still spread daily.

  40. Villains today are not real villains, but people stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, and trying to fix a problem that cannot be fixed, or need to be fixed but the price is too high.

  41. 18:53 No, Killmonger does not have a valid viewpoint. He is a racist tyrant who wants to commit genocide against half the world.
    21:07 Holy shit. You actually said it. You think Killmonger wants to "affect good change". Wow. You thinking killing white people and becoming a tyrant over everyone is a "good change"? Wooow.
    I didn't think you were evil, but you just admitted to it.

  42. Nothing wrong with some of the anti-USSR or communist propaganda. Most here never lived through or in them and experienced their attrocities

  43. It's weird that you blamed the decline of trust in government on Nixon, when it clearly started with Johnson… even visible on your graph.

  44. The greatest villains are not the ones who are mindlessly over-the-top evil with motivations so outlandish. When you can empathize with a villain, when you can understand their motivation, and even when you sort of like them, they have the power the transcend the mundane and become iconic.

  45. The entirety of Lloyd Webber's musical/movie Jesus Christ Superstar is told from the perspective of Judas, and had the audience empathise with him (the movie is accused of Antisemitism because only the Jewish priests are portrayed as truly evil), and even Star Wars, despite it's simplicity (as you say) has generated a landmark. It's most famous character is its primary antagonist, Darth Vader. The villain is clearly "lovable" if they become the most popular character of their movie.

  46. I do think they have changed and have gotten more complex, does it have anything to do with an increase in complexity in protagonist, more complex people should have more complex problems to solve and question for there to be any intrest, no?

  47. Why do the Wakandans care more about relatively rich black americans being slighted than it cares about an entire continent of desperately poor black africans actually struggling to claw their way into the 21st century?

  48. Smersh (short for "смерть шпионам", death to spies) was a real counter-espionage agency though. And a really hardcore one. My grandpa was part of it during WWII, and you don't want to know what his mental health was like in later years.

  49. The next villain is a social media mogul who uses their influence and reach to amass a large following of zealots. Then uses that following to try to overthrow progress.

  50. What is considered villainous is a sign of times. What many praised as heroic or admirable qualities are being broken down. Why are they doing it and who does it benefit or hurt?

  51. Why Our Villains Are Different Now – Our more immediate fears are that of the known, rather than that of the unknown suffice to say ,popular opinion dictates within our intellectual realms, and are reflected by their depicted familiarity.-Your Welcome

  52. I think you missed the ideological aspect to this. Two face is taking extreme action to counter crime, an authoritarian move to go beyond the power of existing power structures while the villains in the kingsmen movies are fighting climate change and the war on drugs. generally anti existing power structures stances that are also portrayed as authoritarian power grabs in those and with similar enemies. A third type seem to have a more politically neutral stance, like thanos that see suffering in the world/universe and try to alleviate it through authoritarian control through mass murder as part of a God complex. Some of that is pandering to audiences of one part of the spectrum or another but I think there is also some expression of fearing corrupt systems, the problems they are failing to address, but also the solutions proposed to those problems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *