Fans of action movies often gauge a flick by the hero. People all have their favorites — Stallone, Schwarzenneger, Willis, the list goes on. But an action film star is only as good as his or her antagonist. Without an awesome villain to fight, the hero never gets the chance to escape from dangerous traps or foil nefarious plots.

So we thought it was time to recognize a few of the best villains who appeared on the silver screen. And since the art of the action movie was perfected in the 1980s, we’re digging through our old VHS tapes to find the best of the best movie villains.

  • 1

    Damon Killian

    'The Running Man'

    'The Running Man' is often overlooked in favor of other Arnold flicks, but it deserves a rewatch every once in a while. That is due in large part to the show's head villain, Damon Killian, played by gameshow legend Richard Dawson. Dawson's role as Killian wasn't too big a departure from his hosting duties on 'Family Feud.' This movie is full of great villains, including Captain Freedom, played by Jesse 'The Body' Venture. But Damon Killian takes home the grand prize.

    TriStar Pictures
  • 2

    Johnny, the Paperboy

    'Better Off Dead'

    OK, so 'Better Off Dead' isn't an action movie. But that doesn't mean Johnny isn't a dastardly malefactor. He and his paperboy cronies relentlessly pursue John Cusack throughout the movie in order to get his two dollars. Plus tip. Cusack's character gets stalked through a graveyard at night and is even attacked in his moving car. But $2 was worth a lot more back in 1985. Johnny probably could've bought a real switchblade.

    Paramount Pictures
  • 3

    The Duke of New York

    'Escape From New York'

    Sometimes the villain is a victim of extenuating circumstances. The Duke of New York was simply a misunderstood man with a dream -- to escape New York. Anyone who's ever been stuck in Manhattan traffic can sympathize with that. He didn't ask the president of the United States to crash into his building. But the Duke, seeing an opportunity to fulfill his dream of moving out west, simply sought to use whatever resources that were available. Really, the Duke of New York could be seen as the film's hero, doomed to meet a tragic end brought about by his own hubris.

    AVCO Embassy Pictures
  • 4

    Tall Man

    The 'Phantasm' Films

    Yes, we know that 'Phantasm' is technically from the '70s. But the first film came out in 1979, and we could argue that the franchise with all of its sequels is a product of the '80s. So we feel comfortable including the Tall Man here. He is definitely one of the creepiest, scariest bad guys to ever be captured on film. And turning dead bodies into weird dwarf zombies is one of the strangest, most evil plots ever to be hatched.

    AVCO Embassy Pictures
  • 5

    Chong Li


    Of all the villains on this list, Chong Li might be the most charismatic (insert sarcastic drawl here). But he didn't need charm to get his way. He had the chops to get what he wanted. And he was as ruthless as they come. It's hard not to cringe when he stomps on the head of Donald Gibb, whom you may recognize as Ogre from 'Revenge of the Nerds.' It was one of the most heartbreaking moments in this cinematic opus.

    The Cannon Group
  • 6



    Of all the bad guys on this list, Arnold's adversary from 'Commando,' Bennett, might be the most puzzling. Only during the '80s could a film get away with a main bad guy who's an overweight dude in a chain-mail tank top, fingerless gloves and speaking with an Australian accent. And only in the '80s would someone write the lines, "John, I'm not going to shoot you between the eyes. I'm going to shoot you between the balls."

    20th Century Fox
  • 7

    Lo Pan

    'Big Trouble in Little China'

    A man would have to truly be a badass to command a gang of immortal Chinese monsters with special powers. That man was Lo Pan. With blazing eyes and long, claw-like nails, Lo Pan was definitely an intimidating figure. That lasted up until the point when he caught a knife with his forehead. Then, not so much.

    20th Century Fox
  • 8

    John Ryder

    'The Hitcher'

    When it comes to sadistic sociopaths, no one comes close to John Ryder from 'The Hitcher.' Rutger Hauer brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the role of Ryder, making him one of the scariest villains of all time. When asked why he's gone on this killing spree, he simply replies, "I want you to stop me." Before he is stopped, though, he racks up the biggest body count of any of our villains here.

    TriStar Pictures
  • 9

    Night Slasher


    Sometimes the accessories make the villain. Such is the case in the Stallone flick, 'Cobra,' where the hero, Marion Cobretti, has to stop the Night Slasher and his weird, vague cult from killing a hot chick. Mr. Slasher has the coolest weapon of any villain here -- a bitchin' knife with a spiked finger guard and a long, gleaming blade. This slice of cinematic joy was originally meant to be filmed as 'Beverly Hills Cop,' but Stallone, who wrote the script, didn't want to make a comedy. Well, Mr. Stallone, time makes fools of us all.

    The Cannon Group
  • 10

    Frank Booth

    'Blue Velvet'

    We've saved the best for last, of course. David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet' is a nightmare of a film, in a good way. Frank Booth, played by Dennis Hopper, is a psychopathic criminal and sexual deviant. He could have made an awesome action figure for the kids, with accessories like his tank of nitrous and his cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. And he could have a string that you could pull to hear his best catchphrases, such as "Mommy!" and "Don't you f---ing look at me!" and the classic "F--- you, you f---ing f---!" We'd buy one. Hell, we'd buy two -- one to play with and one to keep in its original packaging. You missed out on a merchandising goldmine, Mr. Lynch.

    De Laurentiis Entertainment Group