10 Smartest Action Movie Villains Of All Time, Ranked

Every great hero needs a great villain. Without a great villain, the hero can't shine. This rule can be applied to any type of movie, especially the action genre. Great action movie villains need more than just intimidating appearances. They need a mega-evil plan that can shake a whole nation’s foundation. That requires intelligence!
Honestly, playing the bad guy is a lot harder than being the hero. These guys deserve a round of applause for how hard they nailed these roles. Without them, we won’t have these memorable antagonists. Who is your favorite action movie villains?

1. Moriarty

action movie villainsSource: Warner Bros. Pictures/ Courtesy of Everett Collection

Moriarty is a math professor with a Ph.D. from Cambridge. He is the mortal enemy of the world's greatest detective Sherlock Holmes. He outsmarted Sherlock many times and kept the detective on his feet throughout the entirety of the franchise. Sherlock has to admit Moriarty is his intellectual equal, which is no small title considering how the detective holds himself in very high regard.

2. Hans Gruber

action movie villains Hans GruberSource: 20th Century Fox/ Courtesy of Everett Collection

Hans Gruber is a former German terrorist who is now hellbent on obtaining wealth by any possible means. Gruber created a master plan that made him look like a terrorist engaged in a political act when in reality he and his subordinates were attempting to steal hundreds of millions of dollars in bearer bonds. It was a well-thought strategy. His plan would have worked if Bruce Willis hadn't gotten in the way.

3. Hans Landa

action movie villains Hans LandaSource: Universal Pictures/ Courtesy of Everett Collection

Landa knows at least four languages. Thanks to his intelligence, he was recruited as an SS officer. He was awarded the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold, an award granted to people with substantial non-combat achievements to the dictatorship. He pieces clues together quite fast and almost ruins the assassination plan. However, Landa was cunning enough to switch sides at the last minute, using his knowledge about the plan to make a deal with the American government.

4. Raoul Silva

action movie villains Raoul SilvaSource: Sony Pictures/ Courtesy of Everett Collection

Raoul Silva previously worked for MI6 before leaving to become a cyber-terrorist with connections to SPECTRE. He is one of the world's top hackers. He used his talents to acquire massive wealth and power, staged a gas leak to seize an island as his headquarters, meddled with Ugandan elections, and manipulated stock markets to damage the economies of numerous countries.

5. Ernst Stavro Blofeld

action movie villains Ernst Stavro BlofeldSource: United Artists/ Courtesy of Everett Collection

Speaking of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld is the cunning leader of this international criminal organization and a great Bond villain. Blofeld became MI6's target after becoming embroiled in the Cold War. He stole satellites from both Russia and the United States to stir up tensions between the two nations. Blofeld created one of his most cunning plots while on the run from Bond, using cosmetic surgery to make human decoys of himself.

6. Simon Peter-Gruber

Simon Peter-GruberSource: 20th Century Studios/ Courtesy of Everett Collection

Before he became a terrorist, Simon Peter-Gruber was a colonel in the National People's Army. Simon created a strategy that few could have imagined. He set up a series of complex games and riddles to distract John McClane and the police force while his primary goal was to carry off a heist.

7. Cyrus 'The Virus' Grissom

Cyrus 'The Virus' GrissomSource: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution/ Courtesy of Everett Collection

Grissom has lived most of his life in jail, yet he has succeeded in getting two degrees during his time behind bars. One of his degrees is a Juris Doctorate, the highest law degree available in the United States.
He spent his time in prison developing a clever escape plan while committing gruesome murders. Along with other inmates and a South American underworld boss, Grissom staged an elaborate breakout while on board the prison plane Jailbird.

8. Howard Payne

Howard PayneSource: 20th Century Fox/ Courtesy of Everett Collection

Payne has a plan B for every possible scenario. His master plan included rigging a bus with a bomb that would detonate if the vehicle's speed dropped below 50 mph. To ensure everything goes out as he wanted, Payne also placed an extra bomb on the bus. The smaller bomb was concealed beneath the bus's stairs and he could detonate it if anyone attempted to escape. He also had explosives hidden at his location.

9. David Collins

David CollinsSource: Picturehouse/ Courtesy of Everett Collection

David utilized his intelligence and skills to infiltrate his former military friend's family. While with the family, he used violence and an excellent understanding of the law to control events (and the family members themselves) to make anything he desired to happen. At the end of the movie, David had taken down an entire military unit, faked his death, and gotten away under the disguise of a firefighter.

10. Stephen

StephenSource: Sony Pictures Releasing/ Courtesy of Everett Collection

Calvin Candie enslaved Stephen, yet Stephen was respected and held power over Candie's home. Stephen was clever enough to gain his captor's respect, even though Candie was a cruel racist who had power over other enslaved people. Not only was Stephen the man in control at Candie Land, but he was also the first to notice the link between Broomhilda and Django.
Do you think these guys deserve the title of the greatest action movie villains of all time? For more great villains, check out our previous post about relatable antagonists here. You might find your favorite bad guys there!
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