Top 10 War Movie Villains!

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Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (Full Metal Jacket)

Full Metal Jacket.

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, the Paris Island Marine Corps drill instructor that opens Full Metal Jacket has to be one of the scariest men to have ever existed.  His linguistically creative, non-stop screaming is the stuff of nightmares for Basic Training recruits across the generations.  Except contrary to the belief held by most soldiers and Marines that drill instructors can't actually physically touch you, Sergeant Hartman was happy to lay his hands on young Marines.  I'd provide some of his quotes, but the horrific language is not for the faint of heart.

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Leonard Lawrence AKA Private Pyle (Full Metal Jacket)

Full Metal Jacket.

I really feel bad for the Marines in Private Joker's platoon in Full Metal Jacket.  It wasn't enough they had to have Sergeant Hartman for a drill instructor (see the previous entry), but they also had to serve along side Leonard Lawrence, AKA Private Gomer Pyle.  Everyone who's been in the military has worked with a Private Pyle.  The screw-up who couldn't do anything right, who snuck food in the middle of the night and made everyone else pay for their mistakes, who couldn't keep up during morning runs or ruck marches.  In this instance though, Private Pyle goes crazy, loads a full metal jacket into his rifle, and becomes an infantry combat killer!  (Too bad he's still at Basic Training when he does this!)

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Colonel Kurtz (Apocalypse Now)

Apocalypse Now.

Colonel Kurtz didn't turn out in the film the way Francis Ford Coppola had intended.  He was written into the script as a fit, mean Green Beret gone crazy from combat, up river away from civilization, surround by dead bodies and decapitated heads, while a local tribes people treated him as a king.  What Coppola got was the dead bodies, the decapitated heads, the local tribes people, and a vastly obese, over-weight Brando who had to be filmed in shadows to hide his girth.  Instead of the intended action scenes with Marin Sheen fighting Brando, instead Coppola ended up with Brando in the darkness muttering to himself, "Oh the horror!  The horror!"  The thing is that it's creepy as hell, and it actually works.  Perhaps, even works better than if it had turned out as originally planned.  Brando as Kurtz does seem absolutely crazy bonkers.  And it fits the disruptive slightly crazed vision that is , which is also my vote for the best war film of all time.

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Magua (Last of the Mohicans)


Ahh, poor Magua.  He was probably a decent chap once.  But then the English had to go and kill his wife and children, and Magua went slightly crazy, and now his entire existence is devoted to murdering the "long hair and his seed" (which, in regular English means, Colonel Edmund Monroe and his two daughters, one of whom Daniel Day Lewis' Hawkeye will fall in love with, thus setting the central conflict of the film.)  As it turns out, Magua was serious about that promise to cut out and eat his still beating heart from Colonel Monroe's chest.  Ewww.  Magua also leads one of the best battles in film history!

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Staff Sergeant Barnes (Platoon)


Staff Sergeant Barnes makes an already bad deployment in Vietnam even worse.  He freely allows his soldiers to rape and murder, and when another sergeant threatens to report him, Barnes simply kills him, making it look as if he died on the battlefield.  He's a brutal, tough character, played with great and furious menace by Tom Berenger.

Click here for the Best and Worst War Movies about War Crimes.

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Lieutenant Goeth (Schindler's List)


Spielberg's Schindler's List was one of the first films to treat the Holocaust seriously.  And Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) is part of that sobering reality.  Goeteh is an obvious psychopath exalted at being freed from any restriction on his behavior.  He rapes and kills with complete indifference, and is indifferent to the suffering of children and women.  He would be just another Hollywood psycho, except that this film was based on real people and real accounts.  And that makes him absolutely horrifying.

Click here for the Best and Worst War Movies about the Holocaust.

Click here for the Best War Movies about Nazis.

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Sergeant Meserve (Casualties of War)


Like Sergeant Barnes (Platoon), Sergeant Meserve (Casualties of War) is another rapist, fellow-soldier killing, drug taking all around pretty awful leader.  Not the sort of guy the Army wants in leadership positions, except that it's Vietnam, and there's a lot that's not being reported up the chain of command.  What otherwise might be a normal "evil" character is elevated through Penn's ferocious performance.  Chilling!

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General Patton (Patton)


General Patton was supposed to be idolized in the film of the same name.  However, for anyone who's actually seen the film, Patton's hard charging general is so crazed, so lustful for violence and combat, so indifferent to the actual suffering of his men, one cannot help but wonder if Patton himself wasn't, not unlike Sergeant Barnes of Platoon, a psychopath who was finally freed into his element, an environment where he could kill without legal or moral repercussion.  I know that Patton was an American general, and apparently quite effective, but he still seems more screen villain then screen hero to me.

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Hitler (A Lot of Different Movies)


Of course, our list of war film villains would not be complete without mentioning Adolph Hitler. I can't recall a particular film where he was played memorably by a particular actor.  Nonetheless, he is one of the all time great villains of humanity, and he has appeared in a number of war films.  You can't have a list of war movie villains without Hitler on it.

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Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars)


The greatest war villain of all time?...

Darth Vader!

Star Wars is a war, after all!  Sure it's an intergalactic war that takes place in a galaxy far away, a long time ago, with species and characters and planets that no living person on Earth would ever recognize.  Yet nonetheless, Vader essentially exists as a general in charge of a military empire, seeking to destroy a small rebel force. 

That's classic war material right there! 

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Your Citation
Rico, Johnny. "Top 10 War Movie Villains!" ThoughtCo, Mar. 1, 2017, Rico, Johnny. (2017, March 1). Top 10 War Movie Villains! Retrieved from Rico, Johnny. "Top 10 War Movie Villains!" ThoughtCo. (accessed November 23, 2017).