When I closed my eyes and pictured the greatest villain costumes in sci-fi movies, I was surprised how often hair -- and headpieces -- come into play. That makes sense for those of us who are not costume purists because we're thinking of the character as a whole, and in movies we're very often looking at close-ups of villains. We want to get up close and personal, to study the sneer, to examine the evil eyes, to absorb the dismissive scowl, to observe the raised eyebrows.

Isn't it the whole package that sells a character as a villain? The actor makes all the difference in the world, no matter if he's buried under a ton of makeup or becomes nearly unrecognizable, but the costume plays an important role. In honor of all those who will sally forth this weekend in costumes that are good, bad, and ugly, we salute the designers of the top ten (plus a couple of bonus selections) greatest villain costumes in sci-fi movies, and the actors who wear them.

The Emperor Ming (Flash Gordon)

It takes a truly evil villain to pull off this particular outfit. Arrayed in varying shades of deep red and gold, Ming (the always game Max von Sydow) threatens to steal the show when those eyebrows are raised. Somehow Ming looks both sartorially forward-thinking -- what is that raised cowl doing back there except to frame his bald head -- and ridiculously, gloriously silly.

categories Features, Sci-Fi