Westerns are all about manly men doing manly shit like drink whisky, fighting over card games, and romancing the local town whore. Of course, there’s always the even more manly thing of kicking the ass of a crooked sheriff or an outlaw. Westerns are full of shifty characters, so for this Movember 5 For Friday, here’s a look at The 5 Most Badass Villains in Westerns.
5. Liberty Valance, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
As Lee Marvin plays him, Liberty Valance deserved to get shot. It doesn’t matter who shot him because he’s just an enormous dick for really no good reason. He’s a mean drunk with a sadistic side to him and he really has something against Jimmy Stewart’s character. He’s like a high school bully that gets his kicks by picking on someone weaker just because he can. If you think about it, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is basically just a western version of My Bodyguard, which means Lee Marvin is Matt Dillon and John Wayne is Adam Baldwin.
4. Loco, The Great Silence
Not much is usually written about spaghetti westerns that weren’t helmed by Sergio Leone, but if there’s one that I put in the same tier as any of the Master’s films, it’s The Great Silence. Like most other spaghetti westerns, the violence is brutal but elegant, and one of the things that make the movie work so well is the villain Loco, played by Klaus Kinski. He’s ruthless and unfeeling and (SPOILERS!) the fact that he gets away in the end makes this film a unique viewing experience.
3. Ben Wade, 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
If there’s one thing you can call Ben Wade, it’s charismatic. That’s what makes him such a great villain. He’s as ruthless as anyone else on the list, but with a wink and a smile, everyone forgets that he just basically said he’s going to murder everyone when they least expect it. It’s also probably the last time we’ve seen Russell Crowe in a role that he seems to be having fun with and his performance is what makes this remake better than the original.
2. Little Bill, Unforgiven
Gene Hackman, to me, is one of the most underrated actors of his generation and this film shows off exactly what he can do. Unforgiven is a masterpiece of the genre and Little Bill is an asshole that can’t build a proper house. The whole movie is basically a deconstruction of all the tropes of the genre, but it doesn’t make Bill any less of a heartless piece of shit and Hackman, who always seems so likable, plays him perfectly.
1. Frank, Once Upon a Time in the West
After a long career of a leading man, the role of Frank for Henry Fonda was a pretty big departure. A film of Once Upon a Time in the West’s scope needed an ultra baddy, and Frank filled that role. He wastes no time, killing an entire family before we even catch a glimpse of him, and then he proceeds to make sure that we realize he’s the guy we’re rooting against. He is a loose cannon, set free by men with money in order to get more money, but Frank does shit his own way and gets rid of those that prove to be useless to him. He’s a shit and a badass and that’s why he’s the best.