Science fiction films are responsible for some of the most memorable antagonists in all of film. But for every Darth Vader and Predator, there are others that don’t get the recognition they deserve. These are memorable characters that are often left in the shadow of more prominent baddies.
Whether a memorable sidekick or the antagonist in a sequel, many science fiction baddies are criminally under-appreciated. And we feel that needs to change. So, here are 10 under-appreciated sci-fi movie antagonists that deserve some recognition.
10. Gozer – Ghostbusters (1984)
When people think of the original Ghostbusters, they tend to remember the performances of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis. And when they think of the antagonist of the movie, people’s minds tend to wander back to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
While that’s fine, but let’s not forget the real antagonist of the movie — Gozer. This evil spirit takes over the body of Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) and threatens to take over the world. While Gozer was not as funny as the rest of the cast, this baddie provided some narrative heft and a sense of menace that the film sorely needed.
9. Roy Batty – Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner is mostly remembered for its great special effects and atmosphere. However, the movie would not have worked at all unless it had a central antagonist. That credit goes to Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), the evil leader of the Replicant androids that Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is tracking.
Batty is a morally conflicted character. Desperate to extend his own existence, he will do anything to circumvent his own built-in expiration date. Dressed in a long black leather jacket with a shock of white hair, Batty is legitimately scary. Yet the speech he gives at the end of the movie is heartbreaking and thoughtful.
It is Roy Batty that gives Blade Runner its emotional center and elevates it beyond a straightforward chase movie.
8. Alex – A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The early scenes of A Clockwork Orange remain memorable to this day. They see the main character Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his band of Droogs carry out a string of ultraviolent crimes. These crimes include assault, rape, and murder. McDowell brings Alex to life with a brutal force, showing him to be a callous, amoral and violent predator.
While much of the credit for A Clockwork Orange has gone to director Stanley Kubrick, the movie would not work unless audiences both appreciate and are repelled by Alex and his behavior. Indeed, the image of Alex in his white coveralls, combat boots, and bowler hat endure to this day.
7. The T-1000 – Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
The T-800 Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, gets all the love and attention. But what about the T-1000 that appeared in Terminator 2: Judgement Day?
Played by Robert Patrick and his quiet determination, the T-1000 was a considerable upgrade over the older model T-800. After all, it was made of liquid metal, could assume the identity of anyone it came in contact with, and produced some pretty cool stabbing objects. No other bad guy could keep Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton on the run for an entire movie.
6. The Borg Queen – Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Arguably the best movie starring the Next Generation cast, Star Trek: First Contact features plenty of the fan favorite Borg. But it is the Borg Queen as the leader of the assimilated cyborgs that really stands out.
Cunning, ruthless, and evil, the Borg Queen is super creepy. So creepy, in fact, that she can send shivers down spines — just ask poor Data. Unfortunately, the Borg Queen often gets overlooked when people consider this movie.
For pure creepiness, you can’t do much better than the Borg Queen. Resistance is futile!
5. Agent Smith – The Matrix Trilogy
The two Matrix sequels were not well-received by critics and audiences. This poor reception may explain why Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) does not have his face immortalized on the sci-fi antagonist Mount Rushmore along with Darth Vader, The Terminator, and Khan. However, when it comes to unadulterated fun, you can’t find a better antagonist than Agent Smith.
Presented as a corporate stooge, Agent Smith is the computer virus used to dispatch Neo and the band of rebels that fight against the Matrix. Smith is both dastardly and amusing. His dry speech and long, drawn-out sentences through gritted teeth are iconic.
4. The Facehugger – Alien Franchise
Although the Alien Queen from 1986’s Aliens gets all the attention, let’s not forget the importance of the facehugger in the Alien universe. In fact, the original 1979 Alien film was marketed around an alien egg opening to reveal the facehugger.
Without the facehugger, the alien embryo wouldn’t get implanted and none of the chest-bursting, acid-spewing carnage that follows would ensue. Plus, the facehugger is absolutely terrifying.
Without the facehugger there would be no Aliens, no film franchise, and no terrifying nightmares.
3. The Humungus – Mad Max: The Road Warrior (1982)
When people think of a terrifying bad guy wearing a hockey goalie mask, they naturally think of Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. However, it was The Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) from Mad Max: The Road Warrior that first made wearing a goalie mask scary. In fact, he actually inspired the producers of Friday the 13th to give Jason the goalie mask in Part III.
As the leader of the rogue bikers and freaks in The Road Warrior, The Humungus is legitimately terrifying and a worthy adversary to Max (Mel Gibson). He is a shirtless mass of rippling muscles and bad intentions.
2. Clarence Boddicker – RoboCop (1987)
The main antagonist of 1987’s RoboCop is pretty disarming at first sight. But make no mistake, Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) is mean, cruel, vicious, and violent.
In the corrupt city of Old Detroit, Boddicker rules with a loaded gun. He shoots cops for fun and never hesitates to pull the trigger. Yet the character has never fully gotten his due. This is because of his appearance and the fact that he does not have any special powers or unique traits. However, he goes toe-to-toe with Robocop, so that’s saying something.
1. Emperor Palpatine – Star Wars
When it comes to Star Wars, it’s all about Darth Vader. Always has been. After all, Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. Darth Vader, is both the protagonist and antagonist of the first six Star Wars films. However, there is one baddie in Star Wars who is more evil, more powerful and, frankly, more awesome than Darth Vader. And that is Darth Vader’s boss, Emperor Palpatine.
Let’s not forget that Darth Vader is essentially Palpatine’s henchman. He’s a Senior Vice-President, at best. Palpatine is the CEO of the Dark Side.
Who can forget seeing Palpatine for the first time in Return of the Jedi? The pale face. The craggy voice. The electricity coming from his fingertips. This guy is the personification of evil. Unfortunately, it is Palpatine who always plays second banana to Darth Vader and his family hang-ups.
Enough already! It’s time that people recognize Emperor Palpatine for what he is — the evilest evildoer in all the universe. Mr. Dark Side himself. The Grand Poohbah of Nastiness. Practically immortal. And Darth Vader’s ultimate undoing.