Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic-book movie villains

March 19, 2013 | 4:00 a.m.
1benkingsleyasthemandarin Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

Will Ben Kingsley's turn as the Mandarin live up to other great supervillain performances? (Marvel Comics; Zade Rosenthal / Marvel Studios)

1genehackmanaslexluthor Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

Lex Luthor, Gene Hackman, “Superman” (1978), “Superman II” (1980) "Superman IV," (1987) As played by Gene Hackman, Superman’s arch nemesis is a wise-cracking, cravat-wearing con man who looks more like a car salesman than an evil genius. But he’s still ruthless -- willing to kill millions of people (including his girlfriend’s mother) to realize his real estate dreams. (DC Comics / Warner Bros.)

1jacknicholsonasthejoker Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

The Joker, Jack Nicholson, “Batman” (1989) In the late ‘80s and ‘90s “Batman” was synonymous with “Michael Keaton” for many moviegoers, and mentions of the Joker conjured images of Jack Nicholson dressed in a colorful ensemble with a pointed grin plastered permanently on his face. Nicholson’s Joker was no less murderous than Ledger’s, but he’s more nuts than nihilistic. (DC Comics; Associated Press)

1alfredmolinaasdoctoroctopus Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

Doctor Octopus (Doc Ock), Alfred Molina, “Spider-Man 2” (2004) In the second installment of Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy, Alfred Molina takes a critically acclaimed turn as Dr. Otto Octavius, a brilliant scientist whose darker nature takes hold after his body becomes fused with mechanical limbs animated by an artificial intelligence. The limbs moved through a combination of CGI and puppetry and gave Molina’s remarkable performance added weight – quite literally. The rig the actor was required to wear was quite heavy. (Marvel Comics; Sony Pictures)

1jenniferlawrenceasmystique Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

Mystique, Jennifer Lawrence, “X-Men: First Class” (2011) The blue-skinned shape-shifter Mystique is an enigma in the many "X-Men" comic-book series -- changing sides and sexual preferences as easily as she changes her appearance. But as played by Jennifer Lawrence in “X-Men: First Class,” she is a confused young woman battling feelings of jealousy and self-image. How her character will develop in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” due out in 2014, remains to be seen. (Marvel Comics; 20th Century Fox)

1jasonschwartzmanasgideongraves Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

Gideon Graves, Jason Schwartzman, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (2010) What’s not to love/hate about Jason Schwartzman’s slick and smug Gideon Graves — the mastermind behind the League of Evil Exes that Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must defeat if he wants to date the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in Edgar Wright’s cinematic take on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s fan-favorite graphic novels. (Bryan Lee O'Malley / Oni Press; Universal Pictures)

1tomhiddlestonasloki Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

Loki, Tom Hiddleston, “The Avengers” (2012) At once arrogant and insecure, Loki, as played by Tom Hiddleston, is a lost, damaged soul who believed himself to be a prince, and became enraged when he discovered he would never become king. “His destructiveness is motivated entirely by his spiritual desolation and the fact that he has nowhere to belong,” Hiddleston told Hero Complex. (Marvel Comics; Zade Rosenthal / Marvel Studios)
More: Tom Hiddleston hopes for redemption in Loki

1hugoweavingasredskull Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

Red Skull, Hugo Weaving, “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) Actor Hugo Weaving proved himself a convincing villain in the “Matrix” trilogy, where he played Agent Smith, a powerful program set on destroying Keanu Reeves’ heroic Neo. In “Captain America,” he portrays the Nazi Johann Schmidt, who is injected with an imperfect super-soldier serum that changes his head into a hideous crimson skull. He’s not just evil, he’s terrifying to look at. (Marvel Comics; Marvel Studios)

1ianmckellenasmagneto Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

Magneto, Ian McKellen, “X-Men” (2000), “X2” (2003),“X-Men the Last Stand” (2006) Ian McKellen brought gravitas and a smoldering, powerful anger to the role of Magneto -- the mutant who can control electromagnetic energy with his mind. As a Holocaust survivor who has witnessed unspeakable horrors, Magneto is a villain we can sympathize with, which makes him all the more compelling. (Marvel Comics; 20th Century Fox)

heath joker Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

The Joker, Heath Ledger: “The Dark Knight” (2008) Heath Ledger won a posthumous Academy Award for his portrayal of the Joker — a character the actor once described as a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” Director Christopher Nolan has characterized Ledger’s performance as “iconic,” and there’s no question that his performance remains a bravura tour de force. (DC Comics; Warner Bros.)

catwoman both1 Ben Kingsleys Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic book movie villains

Catwoman, Michelle Pfeiffer, “Batman Returns” (1992) After her boss Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) pushes her out of a high-rise office building, the shrinking, bespectacled Selina Kyle comes back to life as Catwoman, who is perhaps not so much evil as she is unhinged. “I don’t know about you Miss Kitty, but I feel so much yummier,” she says after donning her shiny black cat suit for the first time. Meow. (Warner Bros.) .
More: Tim Burton: Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman was purr-fection

When Oscar winner Ben Kingsley signed on to play the Mandarin in “Iron Man 3,” he joined a legion of super actors who have brought serious chops to villainous roles in comic-book movies throughout the years.

In the “Iron Man 3” trailers, Kingsley’s Mandarin is calm and possessed, like a Zen master of evil, as he orchestrates the destruction of Tony Stark’s world.

“Ladies, children, sheep,” he says in the first “Iron Man 3” trailer in a menacing intonation all his own. “Some people call me a terrorist. I consider myself a teacher. Lesson No. 1: Heroes. There is no such thing.”

Iron Man Quiz: How well do you know Tony Stark?

But, whether Kingsley’s performance will live up to the best supervillain turns in cinema history remains to be seen.

Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in “Batman Returns,” for example, might be hard to beat. “… her performance in that was one of my favorite performances of anything by anyone in any movie that I’ve worked on,” director Tim Burton told Hero Complex. “It was just the best. Really, I’ll never forget her in that.”

Then there’s Ian McKellen, who brought the genius and smoldering anger of Magneto to life in “X-Men,” “X2” and “X-Men: The Last Stand,” and is due to reprise the role in Bryan Singer’s upcoming 2014 film “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

And who can forget Heath Ledger’s Academy Award-winning turn as the psychopathic Joker in 2008’s “The Dark Knight”?

Above, you’ll find our list of the top 10 supervillains from comic-book movies past.

In the comments below, tell us who we left out, who shouldn’t have been included, and whether you think Kingsley will earn his place on the roster once “Iron Man 3” hits theaters May 3.

— Deborah Netburn


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4 Responses to Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin vs. the 10 best comic-book movie villains

  1. Harley says:

    Okay we have two Mr. J's, and I don't disagree with either. Ledger finally found the dark humor side that I thought The Joker was missing in both silver screen and TV screen, while Nicholson snagged the unhinged and grudge-obsessive side. But I'm surprised there's no mention of Dafoe. I've never been a fan of the Spiderman series, but I think Dafoe nailed the nutter Goblin. When he flipped his mental switch he could have pulled more on the eccentricity of Paul Smecker, but that's just me.

  2. cynic says:

    Mystique belongs on the list but Jennifer Lawrence's version of her does not. Rebecca Romijn should have had that slot instead. Romijn's Mystique was a sexy, confident character who could hold her own in any fight and whose dedication to Magneto's unhinged plans was unwavering. Mystique pursued the cause of mutant supremacy with ruthlessness and cunning, as Romijn played her. She had her moments of righteous anger, as well as flashes of perverse enjoyment of the havoc she caused. Her silence was enigmatic, but the few times she spoke at length she revealed passionate feelings about her race and her own plight as a not-quite-human outcast in society. That Mystique, the real Mystique, was far more complex and enjoyable than Lawrence's watered-down version.

  3. ERIC ERICKSON says:

    what about the ABOMINATION?

  4. Charlie Roads says:

    I loved Ben Kingsley in IM3. I also saw him recently hosting a public television program. I'm sure the outlook for the next year in his tv and movie schedule is going to be packed. He's in Ender's Game coming up. But I don't like the tattoo face look he has in the movie. His Mandarin role looked cool.

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