The 10 Most Underrated Movie Villains of The 1990s

Primal Fear (1996)

Throughout the decades, cinema have given movie-goers villains. While not the people audiences root for, they do stir up an array of complex emotions that add interest to a film. Fear, anger, infatuation, and so on are just some of the feelings that antagonists can create. No matter what the genre or time period, villains are clearly an essential part of the creative filmmaking process, and the cinematic endeavors of the1990s are no exception.

Here is a list of top 10 underrated 1990’s villains that audiences love to hate.


10. Rose McGowan as Courtney in Jawbreaker

In an attempt to be the Heathers of the 1990s, Rose McGowan shines as the mean queen bee in charge. Jawbreaker’s story follows a clique of teenage socialites, Courtney (Rose McGowan), Julie (Rebecca Gayheart) and Marcie (Julie Benz), who accidentally murder their friend, Liz (Charlotte Ayanna), on her birthday. Unfortunately, nerdy reject Fern Mayo (Judy Greer) finds out the truth about Liz’s death, and in return for her silence on the matter, Courtney grooms Fern to take Liz’s place.

While this is arguable another film that did not fully succeed in its execution, McGowan as Courtney does give movie-goers a solid villain. Courtney comes across as the Bette Davis of high school. She is insanely confident, forthright, commanding, and a bit over-the-top at times. This combination of an iconic Hollywood personality, murder, and high school pettiness may appear disjointed, but it does work for the character of Courtney in a bizarre and amusing way.

With a ton of help from McGowan’s performance, Jawbreaker transforms into an adequately entertaining and rewatchable film.


9. Timothy Hutton as George Stark in The Dark Half

The Dark Half (1993)

Through the power of film, the main antagonist known as George Stark is given new life and put on the big screen with this 1993 adaptation of Stephen King’s the Dark Half. Like the King story, The Dark Half follows Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton). He is a writer who uses both his real name for some novels and his pseudonym, George Stark, when writing his thrillers. When it is shared with the public that they are one and the same, the author holds a fake funeral for Stark. But after a series of brutal murders similar to the ones in the Stark books, Thad and his wife, Liz (Amy Madigan), realize that Stark has become real and must work with Sheriff Pangborn (Michael Rooker) to stop his killing spree.

Praise must go to both Hutton and the director, George A Romero, for making George Stark come to life as a menacing villain deserving of a spot on this list. Starting with Hutton, it is impressive to seem him act both the antagonist role and the nice guy role effectively and without any mishandle. Stark is also a solid juxtaposition when compared to the awkward and clumsy Thad. Stark is stern, self-assured, and intentional. In fact, another element that makes Stark a threatening villain besides his personality is his look. Romero takes the well-known Elvis, a rebel figure that any repressed introvert would find alluring and turns the image on its head. Elvis’s slicked-back hair and sideburns are paired with black leather and a character with murderous intentions.

The portrayal of George Stark in this film adaptation does justice to the original literary material and provides movie-goers with a menacing villain.


8. Kevin Bacon as Wade in The River Wild

For a movie whose parts are better than the entirety of the film, it contains an excellent baddy in the form of Kevin Bacon as Wade. In this thriller, a family (David Strathairn, Meryl Streep, and Joseph Mazzello) on a white-water rafting trip are taken hostage by a pair of dangerous fugitives (Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly).

Bacon taps into a vital element of Wade that makes him a great and intimidating villain. While Wade becomes more and more sinister as the plot progresses, he starts out insanely charming. Viewers become invested in the character and let their guard down a bit when meeting Wade in the beginning. However, The River Wild is a thriller, so there needs to be a turn and the antagonist must be revealed. Again, Bacon tackles this transition wonderfully as the change from nice guy to villain genuinely bums out audiences and leads Bacon to not only show range as an actor but to clearly have some fun with his antagonistic role.

The River Wild is far from a perfect film, but Bacon as Wade is anything but subpar.


7. Rebecca De Mornay as Peyton Flanders in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle

Rebecca De Mornay as Peyton Flanders is without a doubt the nanny from hell. In the Hand that Rocks the Cradle, a woman named Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra) is assaulted by her doctor, and instead of facing prison, the doctor kills himself. As a result of his suicide, the doctor’s pregnant wife, Peyton (Rebecca De Mornay), has a miscarriage. Wanting revenge on Claire, Peyton poses as a nanny for the Bartel family to seduce Claire’s husband (Matt McCoy) and permanently take over her life.

Peyton is truly soulless. It is only in her crazed plotting of her next move that audiences see exactly who Peyton is. Along with her demeanor, it is the way she inflicts her cruelty that strikes audiences hard. Rather than needing weapons to threaten, Peyton just needs a nanny outfit and a sweet girl façade to infiltrate Claire’s family and perform her dastardly deeds. The illusion of a caring and sane woman is shattered forever with the haunting image of Peyton breastfeeding Claire’s baby. From here on, it is a battle between Peyton and Claire to the death.

Exhibiting the worst of motherly fears, Peyton Flanders hits a nerve with viewers that sends shivers down their spines.


6. Al Pacino as John Milton in The Devil’s Advocate

Devil's AdvocateDevil's Advocate

The Devil’s Advocate produces a lively and enthusiastic Lucifer in the form of John Milton. In the film, successful southern lawyer Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) gets hired by a prominent New York City law firm, but there is just one problem: his new boss, John Milton (Al Pacino), is Satan.

Using both horror melodrama and comedy, Al Pacino provides viewers with a wildly amusing devil full of energy. While Pacino’s shouting, elaborate fits of anger, and scene chewing may be distracting to some, it actually works in an extremely humorous and appropriate way. Milton is a satanic lawyer (literally) who is all about excess and decadence regarding materialistic, vapid, and violent matters. He loves to talk about thoughtless sex, physical appearances, money, and has an extremely grotesque sense of humor. In addition to his self-indulgent nature, Milton also has no problem sending his demonic cronies to kill when someone dares challenge him.

With all these devious qualities, Milton is a joyous and wacky devil who fits in well with the movie’s wild direction.