12 Most Terrifying Action Movie Villains

Those characters so evil they still make your skin crawl...

Terminator 2
20th Century Fox

In the world of film, having a good villain is key to having a hit. That's never more apparent than in the action genre - the hero needs a strong baddie to go up against and there's a better payoff at the end of a movie when you really feel like they've put the good guys through the wringer, often with permanent consequences along the way. It's part of the formula to making an action film successful when the villain is able to successfully defy the odds and outmaneuver the protagonist, in some cases even remaining undefeated by the film's climax.

Some classics have actually missed the mark when it comes to making the bad guy stick. The MCU has a reputation for unsuccessful baddies of little consequence (Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World spring to mind), Suicide Squad remains a disappointment on all fronts (and that was, ironically, full of bad people), while even long-standing action franchises like James Bond have had evil world dominators come off as more camp than scary.

But this article isn't about them. This article is about those villains that hit the mark and kept us glued to our screens from the start, continuing to haunt our dreams after. Here's the 12 most terrifying action movie villains ever...

12. Mr Benedict - Last Action Hero

Terminator 2
Columbia Pictures

The highlight of 1993's Last Action Hero is arguably the menacing Mr Benedict, played with all manners of eccentric villainy by the talented Charles Dance.

In the film, Benedict is the right-hand man of mobster Tony Vivaldi in the fictional movie world of Jack Slater, but comes into his own as the main antagonist after he makes his way out of the film and into the real world. A capable mastermind, Benedict is brutal and ruthless, and Dance is clearly having fun with the role throughout, acting with maniacal glee at times. That's especially realised in the film's third act, when he taunts protagonists Jack and Danny about bringing more fictional horrors, such as Dracula and Hannibal Lecter, into our realm.

If anything, a villain of his calibre is probably a bit much for what is essentially a kid's film, and there were likely a few children left with nightmares after watching this sinister character.


Jamie is a freelance broadcast journalist and writer, with a particular obsession for sci-fi, theatre and politics. In his spare time he enjoys amateur dramatics and making homemade curries.