Everyone has off days, but they must be especially tough to deal with if you’re a supervillain. You spend weeks planning the perfect heist or the most excruciating death trap, then you realize you got the address of the bank wrong, or you didn’t plug in your death machine before luring your nemesis into it. All those weeks of planning, and all you get for it is a super-speed trip to jail. The point is, not every evil scheme is a winner. But you can improve your chances of success by taking a few extra minutes to mentally review your plan and make sure nothing jumps out at you as particularly facepalm-inducing. Maybe even run it by your henchmen, and don’t kill them if they’re critical.
Too bad no one offered such advice to the bad guys on this list. These 15, quote/unquote, “criminal masterminds” allow arrogance, hubris and/or good old-fashioned stupidity to override common sense and bring their plans to ruin. Their plots are so insultingly stupid that we just couldn’t wait to see the heroes bring them to justice — not because we want to see good triumph over evil, but because we just really wanted to see these morons get punched in the face.
15. LOVE STUPID
Wannabe sorceress Selena is minding her own evil business when a mysterious Kryptonian object — the Omegahedron, which has enough energy to power an entire city — falls almost literally into her lap. Most supervillains would kill for an opportunity like this. Imagine the destruction an enterprising crook could cause with such an object!
So what does Selena do with this tremendous stroke of good luck? She uses it to make a random gardener fall in love with her, and she attacks him with heavy machinery whenever he dares to show interest in someone else. It isn’t until the very end of the movie that she realizes, oh yeah, she can use the Omegahedron to hurt her archenemy, Supergirl. Selena probably won’t be receiving an invitation to join the Legion of Doom anytime soon.
14. OPPOSITES ATTRACT
In Batman & Robin, one of the most infamous box office bombs of the ’90s, our two main villains are Poison Ivy, a former botanist who much prefers plants to human beings, and Mister Freeze, who wants to freeze the whole world. As literally everyone who has ever seen this movie has already pointed out, these goals are in no way compatible.
How will Ivy’s beloved plants survive in a frozen wasteland? How will Freeze terrorize humanity with a worldwide blizzard when mankind has been supplanted by plant-kind? It really makes you wonder why these two teamed up in the first place. Did they bond over their mutual love of terrible puns? Actually, let’s go with that. It makes more sense than anything either of them said or did in the movie.
13. NICE AIM
During the climax of 2002’s Spider-Man, the Green Goblin tries to finish off Spider-Man once and for all by shish-kabobing him with his high-tech glider. This would be a perfectly fine plan but for one minor detail: Goblin is standing directly in front of Spider-Man. When the glider skewers Spidey, its momentum will carry them both right into Green Goblin, spearing him as well.
As it turns out, the events outlined above were actually the best case scenario, and Gobby fails to manage even that. Spider-Man’s Spidey sense alerts him to the danger and he, being extremely athletic and all, easily jumps out of the way. Goblin, unable to stop the glider in time, ends up pinning himself to the wall. He dies within minutes.
12. A BIT TOO MUCH HOPE
A common problem with supervillain schemes is that they don’t go far enough. Simply killing the hero rather than sticking them in an elaborate, escapable death trap would solve ninety percent of their problems. This trope may be charming in older media, but in modern movies that so often strive to be taken seriously, it’s just plain annoying.
In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane breaks Batman’s back and leaves him in a foreign prison. Bane, meanwhile, runs off to terrorize and/or destroy Gotham, confident that his famously resourceful and athletic foe will never recover enough to climb out of the giant unguarded hole in the prison ceiling. At one point, Batman flat-out asks Bane why he doesn’t just kill him. Bane responds with something cliche about wanting him to completely lose hope first. At least, we think that’s what he said. It’s hard to understand him through the muzzle.
11. FAKE IT TO MAKE IT
In most superhero movies, the low point would be when the main villain thinks it’s a good idea to put his trust in an employee embezzling funds from his company, but Superman III is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Not only does corrupt CEO Ross Webster forcibly keep would-be swindler Gus Gorman on the payroll, he puts the clearly reticent Gorman in charge of synthesizing Kryptonite with which to kill Superman.
Gorman does a good job, right up until he learns that a small percentage of Kryptonite is composed of “unknown” material. At that point, he substitutes the mystery element with tar and calls it a day because screw it, what could possibly go wrong? Spoiler alert: The answer is everything. Everything goes wrong.
10. BAD BAT-BAIT
When Joker, Penguin, Catwoman and Riddler team up to conquer the world, they correctly surmise that they’ll have to kill Batman before they can take any real steps towards world domination. How will they accomplish this? By luring Batman into a lethal trap with his good friend, millionaire Bruce Wayne, as the bait. It’s a perfect plan, until it isn’t. First, that lousy Batman fails to show up. Then Wayne tricks his captors into untying him and escapes. Whoops.
While this may seem like just an unfortunate coincidence, this failure is still kind of the villains’ own fault. Why do they feel the need to specifically kidnap one of Batman’s friends? It should be obvious by now that Batman will risk his life to save literally anyone. Wouldn’t a random civilian off the street be good enough? Still, it wouldn’t be the ’60s without needlessly flamboyant supervillains.
Instead of showcasing a villain audiences might actually find interesting, Hulk introduces us to David Banner. David is Bruce Banner’s nutcase of a father, who years before murdered Bruce’s mother and performed human experiments that helped lead to his son’s current anger management issues. After a long stint in prison, David is back to continue his experiments and ruin Bruce’s life some more.
To do this, David attacks Bruce’s ex-girlfriend, Betty Ross, with hulked-out housepets — namely, David’s own mutated dogs. Not only do they look hilariously ridiculous, the Hulk dispatches the dogs relatively quickly. Experimenting on dogs may work as a first step in one’s evil scheme, but if he really wanted to make it as a villain, David should have moved up to tigers or bears or anything without a poodle cut before reappearing in Bruce’s life.
8. THE LIGHT OF HIS LIFE
In Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, perennial profligate Lex Luthor creates a Superman clone. He dubs his creation Nuclear Man and sics him on the Man of Steel. The problem? Nuclear Man’s very existence depends upon his having access to strong light. The minute the sun sets or someone turns out the lights, he shuts down. In other words, all Superman has to do to defeat him is lead him into a dark windowless basement.
Luthor is aware of the flaw, but inexplicably, he sets Nuclear Man loose on Metropolis anyway. The plan only succeeds as long as it does because Superman decides to show off by leaving Nuclear Man on the moon in a broken elevator. Cracks in the elevator let sunlight reach Nuclear Man, and the fight continues way longer than it should have.
7. EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR
In the cartoon adaptation of Under the Hood, we learn via flashback that Ra’s Al Ghul once tried to topple Europe’s economy. To distract the Dynamic Duo from his activities, he hires the Joker, the most notoriously unstable killer in Gotham, to act as a distraction. He comes to regret this decision when the Joker brutally murders Robin just for funsies.
Ra’s Al Ghul apparently failed to share his hard-earned wisdom with the rest of the supervillain community, because some years later, mob boss Black Mask decides to try the same thing. Sick of losing drug dealers to the murderous Red Hood, Black Mask figures he might as well fight crazy with crazy and asks the Joker for help. The Joker kills all of Black Mask’s henchmen before agreeing to the deal. And yet this supposed genius still manages to look shocked when the Joker ultimately betrays him.
6. TRY, TRY AGAIN
Whenever the Hulk shows up, it’s a sure bet the U.S. Army won’t be far behind. The military is forever on his trail, determined to either capture or kill him. But after a movie and a half of chasing their giant green nemesis, you’d think they could figure out that going after the Hulk with tanks and guns a-blazing is a bad idea. They should know that Hulk is more than capable of taking out their weaponry and pause in their pursuit of him long enough to come up with a more intelligent plan. Emphasis on should.
Partway through The Incredible Hulk, the army tracks Bruce Banner to a university and moves in quickly, exactly the same way they always have. As anyone else could have guessed, Banner hulks out and trashes the army, making them look like the knuckleheads they are before bounding off for parts unknown.
5. A NOT-SO-SIMPLE PLAN
A supervillain known only as the Octopus wants to make himself more immortal than he already is, somehow, for some reason. First, however, he must kill his heroic foe, the Spirit. Rather than shooting him when he has the chance, the Octopus and his assistant, Silken Floss, inject him with a tranquilizer and tie him to a chair so they can stand around expositing about their evil plan.
What is the plan? To hire a sword-wielding, belly-dancing assassin to hack the Spirit to pieces. Unfortunately for the Octopus, it turns out the Spirit once slept with this assassin, and she cuts him free rather than cutting him to ribbons. Then again, this is the movie that didn’t blink at putting a black man in a Nazi uniform. Logic is not welcome here.
4. ARES, GOD OF SHORT-SIGHTED PLANNING
Before 2017’s Wonder Woman dazzled audiences, there was the 2009 Wonder Woman cartoon, which also featured Ares, the Greek god of war, as the antagonist. Sadly, this Ares needs to work on his planning skills. More than once, Ares claims that battle is what sustains him. But later, both Diana and Ares himself claim that his plan is to wipe out the human race. How will he feed on humanity’s fear and violence if humanity no longer exists to be afraid and violent?
In addition to this minor hiccup, Ares travels all the way from Greece to Washington, DC to begin his worldwide campaign of terror. Why does he have to start there instead of Greece? It’s not explained, and all it does is give an injured Wonder Woman time to recover from her wounds and chase after him.
3. WITHOUT PRESIDENT
In the second half of 1990’s Captain America, Red Skull becomes annoyed by the impending passage of an environmental protection bill. Instead of hiring lobbyists or hacking an election like a normal person, Red Skull decides the only logical course of action is to kidnap the president of the United States and brainwash him into turning against the bill. He succeeds in taking President Kimball hostage and locking him up in an Italian castle.
This is the last bit of success Red Skull has in this movie, primarily because he fails to leave guards to keep an eye on his hostage. Kimball takes advantage of this by easily kicking open the door to his cell and running out onto a castle turret. Red Skull does eventually show up with a couple of gun-wielding henchmen, but all they do is watch as Kimball jumps off the roof. Be proactive, guys!
To conquer Earth, Thanos recruits Asgardian mischief-maker Loki to lead an army through an interdimensional portal and wreak havoc on New York. Now, trying to force the god of chaos to do what you want is in and of itself not real bright. But assuming Loki was successfully tortured into submission, the other warriors Thanos sends are less than impressive.
The biggest problem with Thanos’ soldiers is that they get their power from one centralized source. This issue could have been mitigated had someone bothered to keep watch over their power source, but nope. Black Widow faces no opposition in her efforts to close the portal. Nor does Iron Man meet any resistance while launching a nuke through said portal. Sure, there’s plenty of action on the ground. But on top of Stark Tower, were the all-important portal is actually located? It’s emptier than a school library during spring break.
1. KEEP A STIFF UPPER LIP
The big bad in 2004’s Catwoman is Laurel Hedare, an unscrupulous businesswoman in charge of a cosmetics company. After years of success, she learns first-hand that one of her beauty products causes users’ faces to disintegrate if they stop using the product. If they keep using it, their skin becomes as hard as rock. Hedare goes to murderous lengths to keep the product’s flaw a secret, and it’s up to Catwoman to put an end to her schemes.
First, compared with the villain’s goals in other superhero movies, this one is pretty anemic. Second, why would Hedare keep selling faulty make-up? The only way this can end is in a class action. Or does she think that having stone-like skin will protect her from angry clients and their lawyers?
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