Often as alluring as they are revolting, movie villains fascinate us. Every convincing hero needs a believable antagonist, one who challenges the audience’s perception of right and wrong, even if their own hubris and evil spells their ultimate end. With over 50 years of storytelling, Lucasfilm’s diverse mix of adventures have introduced more than one memorable villain, including many from outside the Star Wars galaxy. In celebration of Halloween, here are 10 in order of appearance, going back to Lucasfilm’s very first production even before there was a galaxy far, far away…
Antagonists can come in many forms, from a hot rodder to a sorceress to a goblin king.
1. Bob Falfa
Some villains exist only by reputation before making an actual appearance. In their small California town, the characters in American Graffiti (1973) hear the roar of an intimidating roadster tearing its way up the streets. Local racer Jon Milner (Paul Le Mat) is warned of a “very wicked ‘55 Chevy” eager to challenge him. When the mysterious car at last appears, it’s driven by one Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford), a silver-tongued, self-assured young man who sports a distinctive cowboy hat.
Falfa’s presence looms over the film like an eerie reminder of the dangers of taking life too seriously in this small town, and the risks of acting without one’s emotions in check. When Falfa and Milner finally race at sunrise, it’s the former’s overconfidence that leads to his failure. The jetblack Chevy careens off the road, flips over its side, and bursts into flames. The villain nearly dies in his pursuit of cheap glory, and almost takes his passenger, teenaged Laurie Henderson (Cindy Williams), with him.
Bob Falfa, of course, was also our Lucasfilm introduction to the gruff and irascible likability of Harrison Ford. His cunning smile, punchy dialogue, and undeniable coolness made him impossible to ignore.
2. René Belloq
A good villain knows how to anticipate the actions of the hero, and René Belloq (Paul Freeman) always seems one step ahead of Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). “Once again we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away,” the Frenchman tells his American adversary at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). He isn’t terrifying because of physical prowess or maniacal behavior, but rather because of his cool, seductive intelligence.
It can be hard to disagree with Belloq. Indy himself relents to the villain’s coercion during their standoff in a desert canyon. “You and I are simply passing through history. This,” Belloq says, pointing at the Ark of the Covenant, “this is history.” The antagonist understands that the way to take down the hero is from the inside out, and as a self-described “shadowy reflection” of Indy, few are better equipped for the task. All the same, even this cunning archaeologist cannot resist the temptation to become a part of the very history he professes to be passing through.
3. Synonomess Botch
With fiendish, unkempt energy, the one and only Synonomess Botch (Marshall Efron) is the villain behind Lucasfilm’s first animated feature, Twice Upon a Time (1983), made in partnership with San Francisco filmmaker John Korty. A so-called “Nightmare Producer Extraordinaire,” Botch is the rival of the peaceful dream makers in the fantastical realm of Frivoli, and enacts an evil plan to manipulate time and bombard the world in perpetual nightmare.
Botch pursues his nefarious ends at the expense of his loyal minions who work in the industrial wasteland of his nightmare factory, the Murk-works. He tells his flock of vultures, “For those of you who are going to pay with everything you have, rest assured the world is going to be a little bit worse because of you.” His leadership style proves anything but effective when the petulant, childish Botch is finally carried away by those same vultures.
4. The Goblin King
Another seductive villain is the Goblin King (David Bowie) from Labyrinth (1986), Lucasfilm’s collaboration with Jim Henson. When the movie’s young hero, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), becomes impatient with her baby brother and wishes for him to disappear, the flamboyant Goblin King offers to make her wish come true. A naive Sarah agrees, only to see her brother whisked away as the maniacal King challenges her to navigate a fantastical labyrinth to rescue him.
With musical flair, Bowie’s Goblin King is a classical villain who tempts the hero with giving them the very thing they selfishly desire. A human-like being, he rules over the quirky, grotesque goblins who wreak havoc throughout the labyrinth, a realm part Alice in Wonderland and part Wizard of Oz. “Fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave,” the Goblin King says. Only Sarah’s purity of heart can dispel his siren-like promises of elegance and power at the cost of freedom.
Darth Vader from Star Wars might have found redemption from the heroism and sacrifice of his own child, but no such outcome seems possible with Bavmorda (Jean Marsh), the wicked sorceress in Willow (1988). Ruling the dark lands of Nockmaar, this fearsome queen is ruthless and impatient. Hellbent on destroying the very spirit of the blessed infant Elora Danan, Bavmorda is unrepentant even after her own daughter, Sorsha, gives up their evil cause.
Another common weakness among villains, hubris at last spells her doom. When the opposing sorceress Fin Raziel fails to ultimately defeat Bavmorda, Willow Ufgood is the only defense left between the evil queen and her prey. Laughing scornfully at this unimposing hero, she falls for an all-too-simple sleight of hand, as the apprentice sorcerer utters a spell, unfurls the baby’s wrappings — and the child is gone! Shocked and furious, Bavmorda raises her wand to the sky and unknowingly catches a bolt of lightning
6. General Kael
With a mask like that, he had to make this list. Commander of Bavmorda’s forces, the towering General Kael (Pat Roach) makes for a more than formidable foe in Willow as he leads the hunt for Elora Danan. His haunting head gear notwithstanding, Kael’s skills with a blade are nearly unmatched — until he meets Madmartigan.
7. Captain Schiller
Trained as a spy, teenaged Indiana Jones goes undercover in the Middle Eastern campaign of World War I in Daredevils of the Desert, a feature-length episode of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones. Infiltrating the desert settlement of Beersheba disguised as a trader, Indy encounters Captain Schiller (Daniel Craig), an intense and suspicious German intelligence officer.
Arrogant and self-assured, Schiller condescends his Turkish allies, who in fact operate a better spy network than he does. Although he plays into Indy’s elaborate deception, Schiller proves himself one of his toughest opponents in hand-to-hand combat, as the pair engage in a lengthy match of fisticuffs. (This would not be actor Daniel Craig’s only Lucasfilm appearance; over two decades later, he’d play a brief scene as a stormtrooper in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens).
8. The “Eerie Voice”
It’s opening night at Chicago radio station WBN, and just about everything that can go wrong, is going wrong. The setting of Lucasfilm’s screwball comedy Radioland Murders (1994) is a madcap, 1930s broadcast studio where just about every member of the cast and crew has a grudge against someone else. But even these shoot-from-the-hip professionals are caught off guard when a strange, eerie voice interrupts their program.
“Dig and dig to find some dirt,” the otherworldly character says. “Dig too deep and you’ll get hurt.” Moments later, as WBN’s house band opens the evening lineup, the trumpet player collapses after a piercing high note — dead. As the night goes on, this mysterious voice continues to interrupt the broadcast only moments before another gruesome murder. And just who among the assemblage speaks these ominous words? You’ll have to watch this hilarious whodunit and find out!
9. Irina Spalko
With a mind as sharp as the rapier she wields, Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) is the single-minded, imposing villain from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Indy himself finds Spalko puzzling and unpredictable, and although he’s long since abandoned the obsessive hunt for an otherworldly crystal skull, the Soviet agent thinks of little else.
Spalko’s self-admitted advantage is her ability to “know things,” surprising and disarming her foes by unveiling their deeply held secrets. But her own unquenchable desire for knowledge proves an enemy stronger than any outward opponent. Like René Belloq, she lacks humility, and her desire to see and know everything brings her to a similarly painful end.
10. The Bog King
Although he spends a good deal of time attempting to rid his kingdom of beauty, this Lucasfilm villain manages to find a happy ending. Often indignant and cynical, the Bog King (Alan Cumming) only appears to be the true antagonist of the animated feature Strange Magic (2015). Ruling over the Dark Forest on the borders of the Fairy Kingdom, the grotesque, almost bug-like creature detests romantic love, thinking his appearance too ugly to be its recipient.
It is only when the Bog King meets the fairy Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) that his feelings begin to change. Equally demur about falling in love, the unlikely pair finds a bond in the understanding that appearances can be deceiving. This bond surprises them both as Marianne and the Bog King unknowingly develop a genuine romance. Almost like Han Solo in Star Wars, the Bog King only thinks he is selfish and out for his own good. His heart and actions show otherwise, something his thoughtful mother Griselda makes clear from the beginning.