When I think of truly great villains, it's not the Emperor Palpatine, the Joker, or the Hannibal Lecter who gives me the chills. It's Dolores Umbridge, HAL 9000, Grand Moff Tarkin, Nurse Ratched, Annie Wilkes and Noah Cross who make me feel like the world is a scary fucking place.
Why is that? Why is it that I can enjoy the Joker's theatricality but still go to sleep at night but hope to God that I never come across a Dolores Umbridge? Why does Hannibal Lecter delight me while HAL terrifies me? Why does a rich old man like Noah Cross scare me more than the Dark Lord of the Sith?
Even though iconic villains kill more people and spread more mayhem, why does it feel like these more unassuming characters do more damage? Is it because what they do seems more real somehow? Is it because these examples of ordinary evil are closer and more widespread than we often like to admit? I don't mean these questions rhetorically, either. I'm genuinely interested in figuring this out.
What do you think?