There are a lot of bad guys out there in the real world. So many, in fact, that some of the most iconic big screen villains have real-life counterparts.
Osama Bin Laden vs The Joker (from The Dark Knight)
These two have a good deal in common, beginning with the disheveled appearance — to be fair, personal hygiene doesn’t typically figure into the routine of a supervillain. Notably, both of these men employ a network of brainwashed, mentally unstable followers to do their bidding — why risk your personal safety when a hired thug can easily get your point across? There is also a shared love of theatrical gestures — their twisted plots are about delivering a potent message. Invariably, both men just want to watch the world burn as they look on with a fiendish grin. There is one fundamental difference between these two megalomaniacs, though: according to the comics, the Joker has never been killed. America!
Col. Moammar Gaddhafi vs Darth Vader (from the Star Wars series)
Between Col. Gaddhafi and Lord Vader, there is much talk of “crushing the rebel alliance, once and for all.” Hey, it’s an understandable reaction — nothing spoils the joy of autocratic leadership like a mass civilian uprising. Systematic eradication of the opposition becomes a high priority, whether one chooses to utilize a nationalist militia or the Death Star arsenal to accomplish this goal. Of course, neither of these men were born purely evil. Namely, the combination of negative outside influences and the death of a beloved family member ultimately led them to rule with an iron fist for decades. It goes to show that a tyrant is a tyrant, whether his domain is North Africa or a galaxy far, far away.
Donald Rumsfeld vs Col. Nathan Jessep (from A Few Good Men)
In A Few Good Men, Col. Jessep, commanding officer at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, orders a couple of low-ranking noncoms to haze a weakling in their unit — an unofficial military procedure otherwise known as a ‘code red.’ Unfortunately, this kid dies in the process, and the colonel lets his subordinates take the fall. When Jessep is finally asked to explain his actions, he barks that what he has done might be considered offensive to some — but, ultimately, American soil is a little safer because of his unpopular executive decision. If this isn’t a microcosm for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I don’t know what is. One thing’s for sure: the Gitmo tie-in is priceless.
Mel Gibson vs Col. Hans Landa (from Inglourious Basterds)
In most social settings, either of these men might seem composed, articulate and even somewhat charming to others. However, the breakneck speed at which this tempered countenance transforms into violent rage is startling, to say the least. Perhaps it is unfair to judge a man’s entire character on a few moments of knee-jerk hostility — we all have ugly moments from time to time. However, in the case of Gibson’s storied pattern of bigoted, misogynistic outbursts, it’s hard to differentiate between the actor and the performance. Incidentally, neither of these men are very fond of the Jews, either. Let’s just hope the scope of Gibson’s anti-Semitism never reaches that of The Jew Hunter’s.
Jim Gilchrist vs Bill the Butcher (from Gangs of New York)
Patriotism does crazy things to certain types of crazy people. In these cases, a deep love for one’s country can lead to an overprotective attitude in regard to its borders — and this can easily evolve into xenophobia. Before you know it, you’re starting your own nativist gang that keeps the foreigners at bay through intimidation and physical violence. For men like these two, it all boils down to a basic principle: every sick, tired, huddled mass we allow into our nation effectively weakens our collective fiber. We didn’t get to be the greatest country in the world by taking the rest of the world’s leavings, they might argue. I’m sure Jim and Bill have plenty of conjecture to justify their respective ideologies — but at the end of the day, both just look like barbarically racist blowhards.
Bobby Knight vs Biff (from the Back to the Future trilogy)
When I got picked on as a young kid, Dad reassured me that my tormentors weren’t really as strong as they seemed. They were merely trying to appear larger — a defensive tactic also associated with cougar attacks, so I’m told. As I grew up, though, I noticed that some people never quite outgrow this mindset (who knows what their fathers told them). They make a point to be the loudest and the meanest, never realizing it does not necessarily make them the most powerful. Well, their insecurity is certainly our gain — guys like this are, if nothing else, loads of fun to watch as their ferocity ultimately leads to their own undoing. Serves ’em right, the buttheads.
Spencer Pratt vs Johnny (from The Karate Kid)
The sniveling Aryan is one of our time-honored, perennial American archetypes. He has money, athletic prowess, handsome features, dating skills — so why be cruel toward those whom he perceives to be weak? Sure, Spencer never clad himself in a skeleton costume and instigated a gang-style beatdown of the new kid — that we know of — but I can imagine this little prick’s high school and subsequent adult cliques bear a striking resemblance to the Cobra Kai. I don’t have any proof, mind you — all I know is that if I ever meet him on the street, I’m going straight for the crane stance.