The 25 Greatest Sports Movie Villains
From The Jesus to The Judge
15. John Kreese, The Karate Kid (1984) and The Karate Kid, Part III (1989)
Sweep the leg.
14. Team Iceland, D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994)
As a kid, I assumed that half of the players in the NHL must be from Iceland on account of this movie. (Worth noting: Not the case.) Props to the Disney writer who decided that Iceland would be the most believable home for a top-ranked youth hockey team. Team Iceland oozes the inoffensive evilness that is the hallmark of any good Disney movie. Just look how generically evil their coach is:
Like, really generically evil.
13. Ben Chapman, 42 (2013)
A newcomer to the pantheon of bad guys, Steve the Pirate had a solid performance as Ben Chapman, the racist manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in the Jackie Robinson biopic. According to an interview with The Atlantic, the performance wasn’t too far off from what Chapman was actually like in 1947:
“Is it true,” I wanted to know, “that you said those things to Jackie Robinson? You know, the names, the words, that everyone said you used?”
“Heck, yeah,” Chapman said with a loud guffaw. “Sure I did. Everyone used those kind of words back then. Heck, we said the same things to Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg.”
Chapman’s abuse of Robinson is recreated with chilling effect. What hit me like a fastball to the side of the head, though, was the next scene where reporters grill Chapman (played by Alan Tudyk): The movie Chapman defends his behavior in almost exactly the same way the real Ben Chapman did to me.
12. Clubber Lang, Rocky III (1982)
More than anything, Clubber Lang is just a jerk. He made a pass at Adrian, gave Mickey a heart attack, and then screamed at a near-unconscious Rocky after beating the hell out of him. The man had issues that needed to be addressed outside of the confines of a boxing ring. But yeah, Rocky knocked him out and then everyone was happy, so … yay?
11. White Goodman, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Yes, Goodman was pretty much the same character Ben Stiller played in Heavyweights, but it’s tough to complain considering how well the shtick worked in Dodgeball. Without Stiller and Rip Torn as Patches O’Houlihan, this movie probably gets buried into the depths of cinema hell along with hundreds of other long-forgotten sports movies. But White Goodman and his perfectly-feathered hair make Dodgeball required viewing whenever I see it on TBS.
10*. Ross “The Boss” Rhea, Goon (2011)
Liev Schrieber—who is the narrator of HBO’s excellent NHL 24/7—was fantastic in Goon as retiring enforcer Ross “The Boss” Rhea. What makes him a particularly memorable bad guy is that he wasn’t really even a bad guy: He wasn’t necessarily evil nor did he feel any ill-will towards any other character. Hockey is a game that is ultimately grounded in respect—specifically, the respect that the players have for the game and, on a deeper level, each other. This is exactly what is portrayed above, when Rhea meets up with Doug Glatt (played by Seann William Scott) at a diner and exchanges something resembling pleasantries before calmly explaining that “If ever there comes a time when it gets down to the marrow, and it’s you and me: Kid, I will lay you the fuck out.”
[*Editor's note: Treadway is Canadian, so: Hockey.]
9. Bud Kilmer, Varsity Blues (1999)
Jon Voight amplified the “win at all costs” aspect of the West Canaan football coach to an almost cartoonish extent, and in the process he set the standard for all victory-obsessed silver screen skippers.
On an important related note, here’s James Van Der Beek saying “I don’t want [beat] yo life”:
8. Roy Turner, Bad News Bears (1976 and 2005)
Vic Morrow and Greg Kinnear each injected their own flavor into the role of Roy Turner. While it’s difficult to top the original, Kinnear may have the edge comically. Still, it was Morrow who managed to, in one scene, paint a dark picture of the strained relationships that are caused by overbearing sports parents. Despite the movie’s somewhat whimsical tone—one that was masterfully set to the music of George Bizet’s “Carmen”—it was Turner’s silent walk back to the dugout after striking his son that stands out as the most memorable scene.
7. Johnny Lawrence, The Karate Kid (1984)
Man, I hate this guy. You do too. The motorcycle, the shameless arrogance, that … face. Johnny Lawrence was such a great bad guy because he was a stand-in for every high school bully. He wasn’t actually a bad person; he was merely a product of an environment that encouraged him to be a bad person.
When asked during an interview how to play a good bully, William Zabka responded, “A lot of people, when they approach a bully role, they think, ‘I’m the bad guy,’ but I think the key to being a good bad guy is to look at yourself as the hero. So where, if the movie was told from your point of view, you’d actually be the good guy.” There’s no question that his character did have a lot of depth, and could possibly even be forgiven for his actions, given the poor tutoring he received from No. 15 on our list.
Even so, that face.
6. The Judge, The Natural (1984)
I’ll admit: It was a bit heavy-handed with the whole “always sitting in the dark thing,” but the Judge still earns a spot for simply being all-around bad, seemingly just for the sake of being bad. The amount of money he could have made from fixing games to ensure his team lost likely paled in comparison to what he would have made if he just bet on his team winning and properly marketed around Roy Hobbs. But the Judge placed being evil ahead of a sensible long-term investment, and that earns him high marks on this list.