Heroes and Villains

The decade's plague of monolithic fantasy villains are just as tortured. Voldemort and Magneto are timeless and timely embodiments of evil: intolerant, fanatic, corrupted. Yet like so many morally iffy heroes, these scarred rogues have world-saving ambitions, albeit warped by hateful worldviews. The Joker and Saw's Jigsaw Killer are psychotic vigilantes persecuting society for failing to live up to their potential or ideals. We need more from pop culture than just seeing good guys and bad guys in action — we need to see how they're made. Case in point: Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling's seven-book saga took us deep inside the boy wizard's trial-and-error transformation from a world-wounded young boy to a young man who saves the world without compromising himself or his values. We believed it, because Rowling — and Harry — did the hard work of proving it.

The era of the reconsidered hero will continue this year with a succession of high-profile flicks that aspire to reboot old favorites with new relevance: Wolverine, Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, Sherlock Holmes. Hollywood clearly knows that we are not only fixated on heroes and villains, but deeply familiar with their whole history, too. In our heroes and villains photo galleries, you will find the ones who have best captured our imaginations, and below, the results of an EW.com poll asking for your picks. (Judging from your No. 1 good-guy choice, old-school heroism isn't totally dead. Now if only they could re-create a movie franchise worthy of him.) You will also find a gallery celebrating four of the most dastardly villains ever to appear on screen. They're nice people, as it turns out, though the one with the hungry eyes just might make you fear for your liver...

Readers' Poll

The top 10 heroes, as voted by readers at EW.com:

1. Superman
2. Batman
3. Buffy
4. Indiana Jones
5. Harry Potter
6. Jack Bauer
7. Han Solo
8. James Bond
9. Luke Skywalker
10. John McClane

The top 10 villains, as voted by readers at EW.com:

1. The Joker
2. Darth Vader
3. Voldemort
4. Maleficent
5. Benjamin Linus
6. Hannibal Lecter
7. Hans Gruber
8. Lex Luthor
9. Emperor Palpatine
10. The Wicked Witch of the West

Originally posted Mar 27, 2009 Published in issue #1041 Apr 03, 2009 Order article reprints

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