Who can ever forget Joe Pesci in Goodfellas for shooting a young mafioso in training point-blank in the foot. Not only does he shoot the guy he demands that his question be answered and shoots him several more times. Pesci plays a brutal and unpredictable character, but we cannot stop watching. And then there's Robert DeNiro in Taxi - 'you're talking to me? - yeah? you're talking to me? Are you talking to me?" And of course, Al Pacino in Scarface, delivering a drunken, incoherent performance in a restaurant where he wavers and points his gun at the guests and declares, "Yeah, I'm the bad guy. People can point their finger at me and say, there he goes, he's the bad guy." Pacino’s ability as an actor took filmmaking to new heights in Scarface and The Godfather.
The Joker in Batman, of course is art; never before in film has there been a villain with such evil and artistry. His evil does not come from the barrel of a gun, but the sheer power of his performance. Any actor can pull off a scene with a gun in his hand; real performance comes from the soul. Marlon Brando in The Godfather is surely one of the top three super villains. When he meets with other mafia bosses and in answer to a question, says, "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse," when the offer was refused, the character finds the head of a dead horse in his bed. That sort of brutality had never been done. And when the godfather stands with the undertaker over the bloody and shot-up body of Sonny, and asks, "are you ready to do me that favor now?" the undertaker does not refuse. There is mafia loyalty and he is repaying the debt. "Fix him up," the godfather added. "I don't want his mother to see him like this."
Few scripts for mafia movies has been written as well as these. Mario Puzo made a name for himself, the mafia family gained new respect, and actors like Pacino, de Niro, Pesci, and Brando all needed a wheelbarrow to carry their money to the bank. The old new boys on the block are Christian Bale, Guy Pearce and one or two others. This excludes the fine performance by the English actor, Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. There are many other super villains, but the ones mentioned here, including Hannibal Lector whose delivery alone could strike fear in your heart, are the best.