Posted January 21, 2014

The 25 Greatest Sports Movie Villains

From The Jesus to The Judge

Movies

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:

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 1.02.50 PM

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.


60 comments
StephenRohrbeck
StephenRohrbeck

Great List until the top two. Ivan Drago and Cancer? I also agree with the criticism listed below for including Raging Bull. While I think it is a great assessment, it is too highbrow for a list like this. It opens the door to Alcoholism in Hoosiers, being from the wrong side of the tracks/All the Right Moves, Time/ For the Love of the Game, and gender inequality/A League of Their Own. All of these are true, but too obtuse.Take out Raging Bull Drago, Cancer, and Max Baer and add Brian Shute, Coach Klein, Jean Girard (Talladega Nights), and maybe Teddy "KGB" from Rounders.

BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

I'm just glad Bolo made the list at least once.

ThomasRitter
ThomasRitter

2 HUGE omissions....

Where is the banker/brother from Field Of Dreams? The dude tries foreclosing on the best baseball field in Iowa!

What about Lucien Tucker in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, or the bad Jonathan Winters alter-ego. One is wearing a "trade me" sign on his chest while the other kidnaps Mona to prevent the Pisces from winning.

cbcatanz
cbcatanz

Ivan Drago isn't just the best sport movie villain, he's the best movie villain period. 

maxpower16
maxpower16

How about "Team Cinzano" in Breaking Away? Those guys were Euro jerks.

PatrickWelch
PatrickWelch

No list would be complete without John Goodman's football coach for the Atoms in Revenge of the Nerds.


NebojsaTodorovic
NebojsaTodorovic

Lame...  How is the coach from One on One not on this list?  So many weak entries and not including the coach tells me this is a list by somebody who hasn't even seen half the movies out there.  That was one of the early sports movies where we learned about the ugly side of college sports.

a7cv41
a7cv41

How about Mr. Bartholomew from Rollerball?

Joe R2
Joe R2

VERY slow news day

FOOLKILLER
FOOLKILLER

Dem racists in Remember the Titans needa beer on hizzy.

bfarr
bfarr

why is the guy from teen wolf not on this list?

LuzEscalante
LuzEscalante

Hey what about the head football coach in North Dallas Forty and One on One? Both charters were coincidentally played by the same actors J.D. Spradlin a fine character actor. They don't get meaner then that.

Plainview
Plainview

This list is quite good.  Kudos. 

JohnnyPavia
JohnnyPavia

Coach Riley/Reilly from The Mighty Ducks needs to be on here. He told his players to blatantly hurt Banks and take him out of the game. This dude was Gregg Williams before Gregg Williams. 

Listening
Listening

"Sweep the leg Johnny"  "Get him a body bag YEAH!!!!!"

x72
x72

You overcook it it's no good.

6marK6
6marK6

Clubber Lang by far over Drago. Stupid list!

chuloKirn
chuloKirn

Coach Klein/Mama Boucher/Colonel Sanders from the Waterboy

driva13
driva13

This seems like a good time to point out that Friday Night Lights is criminally underrated and you can make the argument that its the best sports movie ever 

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

"The self-destructive nature of man" for "Raging Bull?" Do you think there were a lot of people watching that movie going, "Boy, I just hate that self-destructive nature of man. I wish somebody would kill that self-destructive nature of man."

Also, isn't it in poor taste to cite "cancer" as a villain in "Brian's Song?" It's a true story of a sad situation. Comparing cancer in "Brian's Song" to the judge in "Caddyshack" or the perv in "The Big Lebowski" is ridiculous.

Dirtrum
Dirtrum

I can't stand that Max Baer is viewed as a "villian". There's a far more complex story to be told about this man, who wore the Star of David on his trunks when he took down Hitler's champion, Max Schmeling. Campbell did die as a result of injuries sustained fighting Max, but Max was also by his bedside in the hospital, praying for him and consouling his wife.


torrento
torrento

Good piece. Though I have no idea how Johnny Lawrence, Clubber Lang and Roy Turner are not #s 1, 2 3, respectively.

yummypeaches
yummypeaches

It did have to be Drago . A commie who cheated and killed Carl Weathers . The only thing he didn't do was spit on puppies .

LukeDB
LukeDB

I'm so glad that Drago is #1. That was my first thought before even clicking through. Thank you.

JacobReed
JacobReed

Shooter at #3? HES #1. Hes the greatest cinema villain of all time. 

jshiver15
jshiver15

@NebojsaTodorovic I would say it didn't make the list because no one has ever heard of 'One on One'.  I saw it when I was a kid only because we had it on VHS.  Otherwise, I've literally never heard anyone else talk about it.

Mike26
Mike26

@bfarr Nick is a wannabe.  He wouldn't scare a 5th grader today.

espnrefugee0218
espnrefugee0218

@JohnnyPavia Dont forget the cheap shot against Gordon Bombay ! 

I still hate coach Riley / the Stanson the Wolf...

AnthonyHughes
AnthonyHughes

@ListeningMartin Kove's John Kreese has to be higher on this list!  And William Zabka had that smarmy bully character nailed to a T in the 1980's.

Mel
Mel

@6marK6 Love Clubber Lang, but I'd take Drago any day of the week over Lang. Would I always wanted in a Rocky movie was a Clubber Lang vs. Drago fight! LOL

Mike26
Mike26

@6marK6 Maybe.  But you knew that Rocky was going to beat Clubber in the rematch.  However, you never knew for sure if Drago was going to kill Rocky too - while the Russians dropped nukes on the White House!

Ryan19
Ryan19

@chuloKirn No way is Mr. Coach Klein a villain.  You must be thinking of Coach Red Beauliieu.  

rentistoohigh
rentistoohigh

@Dirtrum Joe Louis took down Schmeling..representing America...What's with the holocaust ploy ?

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@Dirtrum, very true. Max Baer was an otherwise gentle soul who didn't even particularly like being a fighter, but it's what he was good enough at to earn money.

Mike26
Mike26

@yummypeaches That's because he grilled them - he LOVED hot dogs.  Unfortunately, it was left on the cutting room floor.

Dirtrum
Dirtrum

@rentistoohigh @Dirtrum Not sure what you mean by "holocaust ploy".  Baer fought and defeated Schmeling in 1933.  Schmeling beat Louis in 1936 and Louis won the rematch in 1938.