Syndome in The Incredibles

Top 10: Film Villains With Justifiable Motives

WatchMojo has a great idea for a list this week with the Top 10: Movie Villains With Justifiable Motives.  The best villains believe they’re the hero of their own stories.  The elite make the audience believe their actions, no matter how heinous, are justifiable.  Think of the best screen villains, and you usually know why they’re doing the things they are.  One of the MCU’s biggest problems until recently was a lack of motivation given to the villain.  Most non-MCU comic book films focus on the villain almost to the detriment of the hero (most Batman films), but the MCU took the opposite route and poured all its character development time into the heroes.  Phase 3 took a different approach and gave us more nuanced villains like Ego, Killmonger, Zemo, and even, yes, Thanos, were given a twisted logic for their crusades.  WM went with The Vulture for their list, and that’s a good pick.  I actually don’t have much of a problem with any of their picks: Silva from Skyfall, Syndrome from The Incredibles, Koba, Magneto, etc.  I think the only flaw in the list is that it doesn’t go back any further than 1982’s Blade Runner for candidates, but I’m sure everyone can think of a few baddies who had motivation enough for some sympathy.  Who would you have put on this list?  Javier Bardem in Skyfall

4 thoughts on “Top 10: Film Villains With Justifiable Motives”

  1. Maybe “understandable” would be a better word that “justifiable.”

    When it comes to Batty, I am with him 100%. In fact, he’s almost the protagonist.

    But when it comes to Cipher, you waver. If you’re a normal human being, you’re not going to kill your friends, but the question of whether you would want to know if you were hooked into the Matrix… it’s kind of an elephant in the room. So Cipher is crucial to the movie’s theme. And the fact that he is so screwed up and despondent that he would kill to plug back in… it drives home the film’s premise and conflict.

    Syndrome is a bit grayer. I don’t believe Bird saw him as that justified. Remember when Mr. Incredible tells his wife, “We keep finding new ways to reward mediocrity?” Obviously the theme of the movie. Moments like that are woven through. During the climactic sequence, Syndrome loses the remote control that he’s using to manipulate his robot monster, and he’s suddenly helpless, and the monster almost kills everyone. Syndrome is, however, totally understandable, and he’s one of the great supervillains of all time. I hope the villain in the sequel is as serious and creepy as he looks in the trailer. Variety is always good, and direct comparisons are always bad, and he has an inspired creation to live up to.

    I have to point out one thing about Skyfall, one of the only things that bugs me. Cyanide. It is not a corrosive acid. It would not have disfigured Silva. That is all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Understandable is probably the better word, but it’s Watch Mojo’s list, not mine. Yes, you’re right about cyanide. There’s a particular cyanide combo that is corrosive and I think that’s what they seized on, but it’s not what they specified in the film. It’s still the best Bond film of all-time. I’m still not over how badly Spectre ruined the Craig run.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dave, I’m afraid the evidence is mounting (and TLJ is only the latest piece) that it is very, very hard for a series of films to sustain its quality. Actually, the evidence has been there since time immemorial. But I’m forced to face it. Only very rarely is it possible to go home again.

        I was stoked after The Matrix, I was stoked after the Dark Knight, I was stoked after The Force Awakens, I was stoked after Skyfall. Argh, OK movie, Argh, Argh. I waited years and years for the Star Wars prequels, for the Hobbit, for Twin Peaks. I got through the prequels because of low expectations, I am not a fan of the Hobbit, after sitting on to for a bit (sorry, I know you’re a huge fan), and Twin Peaks… let’s just say I had been hoping for something different, that did not sideline the main character by turning him into a catatonic zombie. I’m also a fan of Alien and Aliens. Prometheus was just plain bewildering.

        It’s rare that the Hollywood process goes smoothly. One person, high up in the chain of command, gets one bad idea in his head, and it’s all over. I’m going to try to enjoy Solo in the moment, divorced from future and past, unless the past is 1980, and involves a matte painting of Cloud City.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In the franchise age, yeah, it’s really hard to maintain quality. How the MCU defies that with the quantity of the films they put out is a minor miracle. There really are no perfect franchises anymore, and I’m really hoping Solo palate cleanses the TLJ away so I can get back in a SW groove that hopefully future films will keep going. The fact of modern movie making is that if a franchise is successful, it’s going to keep going whether story dictates it should or not. Obviously, that shouldn’t be the case from an artistic standpoint, but art isn’t driving Hollywood (nor has it ever). It’s a business. So you take the best, try to get over the worst, and embrace great entries when they come along.


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