Every movie has a pair (or more) of characters that are quite essential to the storyline. Sometimes they are the leading couple – the protagonist and their other half; sometimes it the two best friends; and sometimes it’s the protagonist and the antagonist, the hero and the villain.
A hero-villain duo is very essential to the movies; if their chemistry is off, the movie won’t work. Over the decades, there have been many such duos that have been able to bring a certain power to the movie; that end up making the audience enthralled with these characters – their story, their rivalry, their chemistry, etc.
Sherlock and Moriarty by Arthur Conan Doyle are famous for being one such hero-villain duo in the world of entertainment. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes and Andrew Scott’s Jim Moriarty from BBC’s Sherlock gave these two such depth; bringing out the flavor of these two amazing characters, that have incredible chemistry with each other on-screen.
They are equally matched – both smart and intelligent; and their mind works in a way that is beyond us mere mortals. And the way these two characters were brought to life by these amazing actors is just phenomenal. But let’s talk movies, and find these gems of some of the very best hero-villain duos in the history of movies. Here are 10 such pairs:
10. Gandalf and Saruman – The Lord of the Rings
The two wizards – Gandalf and Saruman, were once sworn to protect the Middle Earth from the evil. Well, that was before Saruman himself turned evil and Gandalf had to go all “You shall not pass.” Now it may seem like these two characters may not be the primary protagonist and antagonist; but their characters are some of the very best in the franchise. Gandalf the Grey and Saruman the White taking it up a notch in establishing the hero/villain dynamic.
9. John McClane and Hans Gruber – Die Hard
The Die Hard movies have made John McClane’s life harder than necessary; and Hans Gruber has been the bane of his existence. When it comes to the action movie genre, Die Hard is probably one of the very best, and that in large is credited to this hero-villain duo. Bruce Willis’ McClane and Alan Rickman’s Gruber are one of the perfect examples; who made these movies worth the watch.
8. Vincent Hanna and Neil McCauley – Heat
Heat is probably one of the best crime drama I have ever watched. Al Pacino plays Lt. Vincent Hanna, while Robert De Niro brought to life robber extraordinaire Neil McCauley. Hanna is dedicated to his work; and hell bent on catching the crew of thieves whose one botched heist left three dead security guards. And the coffee shop between these two characters just shows how perfectly matched these two characters; as well as the actors playing them are.
7. Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter – The Silence of the Lambs
A serial killer who eats his own victims; someone so warped in their own head that this hunger surpasses everything else. Opposite him sits a young FBI agent, who wants his help to catch other serial killers. Their dynamic is as different as it comes; and it could even be argued that Lecter is not the villain in the movie; but Anthony Hopkins completely steals the show as Hannibal Lecter; and Jodie Foster gives him a run for his money as the young agent who wants him as a consultant for her serial killer case. A movie like that is hard to come by – and a paring like that, even rarer.
6. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader – Star Wars
It doesn’t get much better that Star Wars when it comes to the fight between good and evil. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader are probably one of the very best hero villain duo; just cuts points due to being expected. The fact that Vader turns out to be Luke’s father; and that at the end he does redeem himself in some ways; just makes for a good storytelling. And some really good fights!
5. Professor X and Magneto – X-Men
Charles Xavier’s Prof X and Max Eisenhardt’s Magneto were once the best of friends; then somehow became one of the most famous hero-villain duo. They worked together to better the future of mutants around the world that was so fearful of them. Unfortunately, their way to want to bring about the mutant revolution was quite different. Where Professor X wanted to co-exist peacefully with the humans; Magneto’s idea was to conquer the human world, deeming them inferior to mutants.
4. Wolverine and Sabertooth – X-Men Origins: Wolverine
From one X-Men duo to another who turned against each other: Wolverine and Sabertooth start of as brothers. They have been each others companion the longest; since they were children. They lived and died together, repeatedly, literally. They are equally strong, having similar powers; but in some ways Sabertooth is more animal than man, and Wolverine the opposite. They fight, they die, they come back alive and then fight again. And whereas once they fought together against others, this time they fought each other; a fight well worth the watch.
3. Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort – Harry Potter
The fight between Harry Potter and Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort, was a long time coming; 8 movies, and 10 years long. So when the hero villain duo of Harry – played by Daniel Radcliffe, and Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort come together to battle it out in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II, the anticipation was too great. And the movie delivered – the satisfaction of watching Harry win against one of the greatest wizards (albeit being evil) was nothing short of amazing.
2. Neo and Agent Smith – The Matrix
The hero villain duo of Neo and Agent Smith is one of the very best. Agent Smith is the kind of villain that makes you believe that evil is always lurking around the corner; getting ready to strike again. As much as you try to destroy it, it finds a way to come back. To fight an evil like Agent Smith, Neo is probably the best bet – someone determined to free the world of the Matrix. He would do anything and everything; as many times as it would take; to fight the likes of Agent Smith to find a way out.
1. Batman and The Joker – The Dark Knight
There are a lot of hero villain duos in pop culture history, but none can hold a candle to what Batman and The Joker have. Their rivalry is one for the ages; and no one does hero/ villain contention quite like these two. Heath Ledger gave the performance of his life as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight; but it would be amiss to say that Christian Bale did any less. The pair of them brought out the madness and darkness; and fought one another with everything they had. What they gave was both unforgettable as well as incomparable. When it comes to hero villain duos I suppose, very few can come close to what these two have; their dynamic was just too powerful.