Disney movies also have some memorably clever villains in them...
The Lion King: Scar is the most notable example. First he merely wants Simba out of the way, but then when Mufasa interferes he decides to kill the Lion King. Halfway through the film, he kills the Big Good Mufasa, convinces Simba that it was his fault, and then sends the Hyenas to kill him when he runs. When Simba does unexpectedly come back, he's only thrown for a moment, and once he realizes it's his nephew not his brother, he immediately turns the situation around and manipulates Simba into admitting he killed Mufasa. Not a single one of the heroes knew he was the villain until mere moments after the climax. And through it all, he stays completely composed unless it suits him to appear nervous. He's the first Disney villain to actually kill someone, and then he goes on to basically rule the world for several years.
Aladdin: Jafar. While he was a Smug Snake (and a literal one) in the first movie, he learned of his mistakes and graduated to a Magnificent Bastard in the second movie. The first thing he did when he was freed by Abis Mal was to play on Mal's greed for gold, fear for his life and his hatred for Aladdin in order to make him at first waste two wishes at nothing and then convince him to help him with promises of large riches and revenge on Aladdin. Once he had Abis Mal around his finger, he decided to force his former ally Iago to work for him again and use the trust Aladdin had developed for Iago into fooling him and the Sultan away from Agrabah into a trap, while himself took care of Genie and Abu. When the trap proved successful, he made it look like Aladdin had killed Sultan simply by placing his hat, slashed, in Aladdin's room. Then he impersonated Jasmine and ordered Aladdin to be executed. If he had turned more attention on Iago's conflicting behavior, then maybe he would've been the one who won.
Jenner, from The Secret Of NIMH. He's Faux Affably Evil, as well as very competent, being one of the most successful movie villains in history, seeing how he succeeds in killing Nicodemus by cutting one of the ropes used to carry Mrs. Brisby's home to another location and causing the house to drop, drag him with it, and crush him under its weight. And not only that, he makes it look like an accident so that no one suspects his evil deed. Now, had he focused his attention on Mrs. Brisby warning the other rats of NIMH about exterminators coming to kill them, as well as Sullivan telling Justin about his plans, he would've gotten away with his plan to prevent the rats from moving to Thorn Valley.
Films — Live-Action
All About Eve: Addison De Witt. You know you've met a larger than life character when he has "wit" in his name. A Deadpan Snarker, Gentleman Snarker and Chessmaster, De Witt is a theatre critic with astonishing power and influence. He can destroy the reputation of top actresses in a single column. Smug Snake Eve Harrington makes the mistake of crossing Addison and suffers a Villainous BSOD when he gives her a Breaking Speech.
Anaconda: Paul Sarone plays everyone like a fiddle in his quest for the snake. Only the expedition leader momentarily catches on to his play, but is none the wiser as Sarone paralyzes him with a poisonous wasp. He set up the whole thing with Matteo from the start, while keeping the clueless passengers in the dark that they were to be used as bait. He suggests to Owen Wilson's character that he needs a partner and they could split the profits, them lets the Anaconda eat him as soon as his prize is at stake. He's proven correct pretty much every time the crew decide not to take his advice. He seems to accept his impending death by a vengeful killer, only to swiftly murder her when she hesitates. His manipulation is so effective that he never needs to resort to outright violence until they finally catch on to him.
The Bad and the Beautiful: Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), the main character. The impoverished son of a legendary movie mogul who died bankrupt, he built up his own studio from nothing and made five Best Picture winners...and cheerfully stepped on everybody he had to in order to get it done. Some highlights: he got his best friend and creative partner to tell him all about his dream project, then stole the credit for all his ideas and gave the directing job to someone else; he recruited the alcoholic and mentally unstable daughter of a Hollywood legend to star in his next big movie, seduced her to get her through production sober, then started boffing one of the extras before the premier party was over; and he got his hot new screenwriter to finish his script by paying one of his Latin Lover leading men to seduce the guy's wife to keep her from distracting him...until the lover and the wife died in a plane crash the day they finished the final draft. So what's so magnificent about all this bastardry? In the film's final scene, all three of those people, who have gone on to become industry titans, agree to do one more film with him, saving his studio from bankruptcy. The man is just that damn charismatic.
Children Of Paradise: Lacenaire, the poet, playwright and murderer from the French movie classic is an outstanding example of this trope. He's proudly evil ("I'll hold my head high, until it falls into the basket"), spends the second half of the movie manipulating events even when they don't go his own way and treating the other characters in the movie as if they are figures from his plays, is charming and foppish to the point of dandyism (in the original sense of the word, he lives during the era when the term was coined), he's witty and calm even when the lesser villain, the Count of Montray, has him bodily ejected from a theater and he gets even with the count with first a Crowning Moment of Awesome and then a Crowning Moment Of Badass that must be seen to be believed. His real life namesake and counterpart was pretty salty himself, holding all Paris spellbound during his murder trial and inspiring writers like Baudelaire and Dostoevsky, who used him as one of his models for Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Richard B. Riddick, the series' titular Anti-HeroBadass. A Genius Bruiser, he's also a skilled planner who routinely makes it appear as if he planned each step. This is especially true when he is fighting the Lord Marshal and is able to think fast enough to figure out where he's going to be moving next.
Ra's al Ghul from Batman Begins. Aside from the fact that he has trained Batman, he is a competent schemer, manipulative, and very charismatic. Even when his initial plan failed, he was ultimately responsible for the massive outbreak from Arkham Asylum which led to the Joker's rise in Gotham. If that didn't work out, Bane his former disciple rebuilt his organisation and set out to finish whatever he started. If it helps he was also played by Liam Neeson.
The Joker from The Dark Knight is an unorthodox example of this trope. There's something about the supreme competence and control he exhibits throughout the film that can make one forget (almost) that he's a psychopath. When you manage to convince a man that it's not your fault you killed his wife-to-be, but the fault of those who were working to save both of them, and that it wasn't anything personal because you were just trying to teach Gotham a lesson in mayhem; all while WEARING A NURSE'S OUTFIT, you're a Magnificent Bastard. The best example, however is when he goes through his elaborate plot to kill Dent, gets locked up in jail, but plants a bomb in the stomach of another prisoner, which he sets off.
Bane from The Dark Knight Rises also qualifies. Being a Genius Bruiser of epic proportions and possessing gifted eloquence, Bane is able to challenge Batman in ways that not even the Joker was able to do before him. This is emphasized during their first fight, in which Bane recites a segmented "Reason You Suck" Speech while effortlessly beating the tar out of poor Bruce. After that, he goes on a literal reign of terror over Gotham by toppling the city government by setting off explosions around the city, which traps the police force underground through a well planned Batman Gambit, holds the entire city hostage with a nuclear bomb, and incities a (faux) class revolution by liberating all of the city's criminals, all in one stroke. All of this in order to spiritually torment Bruce (who's able to follow everything over a conveniently placed television set) just before the city gets wiped off the map. The most magnificent part is that he accomplished everything the Joker set out to do, halfway through the movie. Pretty awesome for an otherwise "minor" Batman villain.
Dial M for Murder: Tony Wendice. After discovering his wife Margot is cheating on him, he creates a complex plan to kill her while arranging a perfect alibi for himself and mentally punishing the man who cuckolded him at the same time. When Margot proves more resilient than he expected and kills the man he blackmailed into doing the deed, he only needs a few minutes to come up with a new plan to make it appear that she committed the act in cold blood. Even when his scheme is in danger of being exposed, he is quickly able to come up with a new way to turn the situation to his advantage. And finally when against all odds his whole plot is exposed, he turns out to be one of the all time great Graceful Losers, pouring wine for everyone who had a hand in finding him out (except a cop who he notes is still on duty).
His brother, Simon Gruber, the Big Bad of Die Hard with a Vengeance, proves that Magnificent Bastardry must run in the family, holding an entire city hostage, fakes out the police, and nearly bluffs his way into victory, without losing audience sympathy.
A Fistful of Dollars: The Man With No Name rides into a town and plays both feuding sides against each other for fun and profit. Even when he gets found out, he still manages to dupe one gang into killing the other, then manipulates the remainder to his advantage in order to kill them off too.
Fracture: Anthony Hopkins' character with a bit of Gambit Roulette hatches a plan that allows him to shoot his cheating wife, hide the murder weapon, confess to his crime, have his charges acquitted and be immune against further trial, cause the suicide of the man sleeping with his wife, pull the plug on his comatose wife, and get away with it all. Until the last two minutes of the film anyway... which in all honesty, wouldn't get him behind bars. The evidence was obtained illegally, and he wasn't technically the one who killed her. The doctors did that, and if her death was ruled a murder, then it would mean that any and all doctors who have ever invoked a patient's "right to death" rights would have to be dragged in on counts of murder.
Gangs of New York: Bill "The Butcher" Cutting has the hero at his mercy at one point in the movie, but instead of killing him decides to build him into a Worthy Opponent so they can have a Final Battle because having everyone living in terror of him is boring. Well, not quite. He lets the hero live because he considers him Not Worth Killing, who views being left alive by the Butcher as shameful. Which, in fact, may add to this magnificence. It helps that he's played with gusto by Daniel Day Lewis.
Inglourious Basterds: More like Magnificent Basterd, Standartenfuhrer (Col.) Hans Landa, aka The Jew Hunter of steals the show with his awesomeness and magnificence. Despite being a brutal, sadistic maniac tasked with searching all of France for Jews in hiding, his wit, intelligence, romanticism, and charisma make him the real star of the show, not Raine and his Nazi-hunting Basterds. By the end of the film he's managed to take credit for killing the Nazi high command and ending the war in Europe, and got a nice seaside house in Nantucket on the side, all while allowing everyone else to do the work for him. The only hitch in the otherwise flawless execution of his plan is the swastika permanently carved into his forehead and Raine's shit on his chest.
Inside Man: Dalton Russel takes a bank hostage and creates a foolproof plan to achieve his objective (hint: it's not robbing the bank) while escaping by literally walking out of the front door. Keith Frazier's entry into the plot doesn't even faze him. Russell merely modifies his existing plan and turns Frazier into an unknowing accomplice. Ms. White from the same film has a reputation as this, but since she's a secondary character it remains an Informed Attribute at best.
Jackie Brown, who manipulates almost every character in the film against one another, while she steals millions of dollars and is granted freedom from prosecution, with only her lover the wiser.
Raoul Silva from Skyfall is arguably the most magnificent of the Bond villains. He's essentially The Joker of the Bond franchise when it comes to how he sets up and executes plans, as Bond and the rest of MI6 is just barely able to prevent Silva's plans from being completely successful, let alone try catching up to him. Silva's most elaborate plan in the film involved him escaping from MI6's prison, shooting up Parliament where M is being held on trial, and trying to kill/slow down Bond with a subway train he derailed-all of this happening within a single hour.
John Carter: Matai Shang is certainly a Manipulative Bastard of epic proportions. The guy plays his cards perfectly, and even comes out on top at the end of the film (even though his plans are temporarily smashed). Really, the only reason why things don't go his way is that the protagonist (and his dog) are such massive badasses, and he couldn't forsee everything.
Labyrinth: Jareth. The Large Ham aspect of this trope is definitely present. As is the manipulative part, as evidenced by his plan with the drugged peach. He's also very charismatic, and manages to keep Sarah from realizing he can't directly influence her until events are down to the wire.
Last Action Hero: Benedict, an action-movie villain who escapes into the Real World. Toward the end of the film, he becomes so Dangerously Genre Savvy that he's able to anticipate and exploit the genre-savviness of his rival Jack Slater.
Benedict: (shooting at Slater, who's in cover) *bang* *bang* *bang* *bang* *click*
Iron Man: Obadiah Stane manipulated Tony Stark's kidnapping, sold weapons to both sides of an armed conflict, and was thorough enough to eliminate the witnesses not on his payroll. Who knows what else he'd been up to before the film started? If he'd just killed Stark instead of leaving him to die of heart failure, he'd have succeeded with his plans to mass-produce Iron Man units. But we see his brilliance slip up when he tasks the very terrorists that he sells missiles to with killing the guy that makes the missiles! Of course they would kidnap Tony and force him to work for them!
Loki of Asgard. In Thor, he Manipulates the events behind his brother's banishment, then helps the king of the Frost Giants attack Odin only to kill him and launch what seems to be a justified attack on Jotunheim, all while keeping Thor in the dark on Earth. Like the above example, his downfall is in lying to Thor about what's happening in Asgard, as it motivates Thor to become worthy of his hammer and reveals Loki as the villain after Thor reunites with Sif and the Warriors Three. Loki's role as a magnificent bastard is solidified in The Avengers when he kicks off the film by opening a portal, stealing the Tesseract, killing about a dozen people, and taking control of the minds of Hawkeye and Selvig. He later reveals his plot to seize control of Earth—all fueled by a personal vendetta against Thor. And in Thor: The Dark World, Loki goes from being confined to a jail cell, hated by all, never to see his mother in person again, for the rest of his very long life to the King of Asgard, having faked his own death and taken on Odin's countenance. As a result, he now possesses the Tesseract, which was his goal for The Avengers. Bravo, Loki - you little shit!
Agent Smith is certainly a Magnificent Bastard. He has a goal, and unlike most agents he is more individualistic, charming and has well laid plans. He eventually subverts the entire Matrix to his plans, and his power bleeds out into the real world.
The Merovingian seems to fit the trope closer than Agent Smith. The Frenchman is cultured and honourable in keeping his promises, but he is still a bastard. His magnificence is mostly hinted at but he has colourful henchmen, a hot wife that he cheats on, digital love potions, an underground railroad, legions of minions, a chateau in the mountains etc. Also, this is after surviving multiple reformats and rewrites of the reality he inhabits, most designed to (as a side effect) eliminate him or reduce his potential power. He's even gained Vetinari Job Security in the process, being the only undisputable leader for the variety of misfit programs ("monsters") under his control, though this became more relevant in the (defunct) MMORPG than it did in the films.
Millers Crossing: Tom Reagan is a fine example of a Magnificent Bastard protagonist. He's The Dragon to Leo, an Irish-American mobster, but it's clear who has the brains in the operation. Tom is a duplicitous alcoholic who's sleeping with Leo's fiancee and spends the movie double-crossing everyone he meets (and usually being beaten within an inch of his life by them). Then, at the end, it turns out the whole movie was a Zero-Approval Gambit on Tom's part. Everything he did, he did for Leo. He manipulates Leo's enemies into killing each other, personally kills the Smug Snake who was blackmailing him (with a truly badass Pre-Mortem One-Liner, no less), ensures that Leo remains firmly in power, and leaves his life of crime behind for good.
Oceans Eleven: Though possibly more of a Guile Hero, Danny Ocean exemplifies the protagonist angle of this trope. A persuasive, imaginative, charismatic and highly organized professional criminal with an impeccable sense of style, Danny Ocean pulls off an impressive plan; robs the central vault of three casinos and gets his ex-wife to break off her relationship with the antagonist.
The Professional (aka Leon): Norman Stansfield is a corrupt DEA agent who casually shoots up an apartment, tells the owner he stopped right in front of him because Beethoven gets boring after his overtures, and even convinces the cops that it was self-defense, despite a single person in the apartment having a gun.
The Quick and the Dead: Gene Hackman's Herod. This magnificent bastard not only holds an entire town hostage as his own little kingdom, once killed a group of priests who nursed him back to health and burned down their mission, shoots and kills a boy who loves and looks up to him as a father, and was the man who forced a small girl (the protagonist) to accidentally shoot and kill her own father as she attempted to shoot through his hangman's noose (Y'know, for kids!), but he also hosts an annual picnic-and-quick-draw competition where anybody who wants to take a shot at him (literally) can do so (and most likely end up dead for the effort), all with an eat-your-heart-out smirk on his mug the whole time!
Repo! The Genetic Opera: Rotti Largo, who planted poison in Nathan Wallace's home lab, thus killing the woman they both loved. Then he convinced Nathan that Marni's death was all his (Nathan's) fault and made him work as a Repo Man for Gene Co. And that's not much considering some of the other stuff he gets away with (and tries to get away with) in the movie. In a deleted scene he managed to get Shilo to extract zydrate from her mother's corpse.
Rocky Horror Picture Show: Dr. Frank N Furter (Tim Curry) is this at times. He's able to manipulate two people whom he's barely met (IE: Brad & Janet) into sleeping with him, tricks said people into eating the remains of someone he killed out of pure spite (Meatloaf, anyone?), and FINALLY brainwashes not only Brad and Janet, but also his groupie Columbia and his own creation Rocky into performing a floorshow with him. All the while, for the most part, maintaining a very charismatic appeal to him.
The Royal Tenenbaums: Mr. Royal Tenenbaum, Esq. is a rotten husband who refuses to give his wife the divorce she requests, who worms his way back into the affections of his children and estranged wife by faking cancer, who is likely 90% responsible for the failures of his prodigious offspring, who introduces his adopted daughter as "my adopted daughter," who shot his own son (while on the same team, a fact he cavalierly dismisses) with a BB gun, and who starts a fight with the estranged wife's new beau by using antiquated racial epithets is still, somehow, mourned when he dies at the end of the film! A breathtaking and awe-inspiring bastardy magnificence.
The Shawshank Redemption: Another rare heroic example is Andy Dufresne. Upon discovering the deteriorating condition of the wall of his cell, he slowly (as in over the course of twenty years) carves an escape tunnel through it. Meanwhile, he works his way into the trust of the Warden, who is under the mistaken assumption that he is the Magnificent Bastard. Twenty years later, Andy escapes from the prison, taking a new identity—that he happened to create for the purposes of laundering the Warden's embezzled money, thus making himself a millionaire—and having the Warden and sadistic guard both arrested...all without mentioning a single word of his plan to anyone...not even his best friend. Andy is like the heroic version of Keyzer Soze, and gives us one of the most satisfying endings in film history.
A Shock To The System: Graham Marshall (Michael Caine). He methodically murders his bitchy wife and sleazy boss, beds his beautiful coworker, gets her to help him cover up the crimes after she finds out he did it (and drugged her to create an alibi), rubs the homicide cop's nose in it, and in the last scene takes out the chairman of the board and takes his place. And does it all with a Deadpan Snarker narration that is 200-proof Michael Caine gold.
Spy Game: Nathan Muir demonstrates a certain amount of Chessmaster proclivities, risks his pension and his retirement to get his protege free, and manages to charm his way into the information he needs to get the job done. The scene at the end, where his coworkers discover that he was never married, and he's been lying to all of them for years just for the hell of it, cements it. The best intelligence agencies in the world don't even know his birthday.
Star Trek Into Darkness: John Harrison plays just about everyone with ease and style. And then it's revealed that he's Khan, one of the franchise's most magnificent villains. It was perfectly obvious that he would inevitably fit this trope with ease even before the movie was released.
Star Wars: Senator / Chancellor / Emperor Palpatine. Sith-ness notwithstanding, he managed to shape the entire galaxy in his image, had manipulated every major event for the past two decades or so, and had kept everyone assured of his respectability and trustworthiness while doing so. As he declared himself ruler-for-life (and was applauded by the Senate for doing so) he could justifiably claim to have earned it. And his start to political prominence was over a seemingly minor trade dispute. Which he started. It helps he's motivated by pure ambition.
Street Fighter: Everything about M. Bison in the movie is larger than life (except, of course, for his actor Raul Julia's slight frame). He kidnaps AN delegates to ransom them for seed money so that he can, among other things, build a mall (with the help of outside investors, no less!). Not to mention creating his own currency and valuing it against the British pound, with the justification that the British banks will honor that amount after he kidnaps their queen. And when his men capture AN soldiers intent on killing him? He turns them loose one at a time so he can fight to the death on live television! Not to mention that, for him, killing peoples' fathers is just a Tuesday. Raul Julia based his performance on Richard III from Shakespeare's play of the same name who was quite the Magnificent Bastard himself.
Swan. He has no other name. His past is a mystery, but his work is already a legend. He wrote and produced his first gold record at 14. Since then, he's won so many that he tried to deposit them in Fort Knox. He brought the blues to Britain. He brought Liverpool to America. He brought folk and rock together...Now he's looking for the new sound of the spheres, to inaugurate his own Xanadu, his own Disneyland...the Paradise, the ultimate rock palace. This film is the story of that search, of that sound, of the man who made it, the girl who sang it, and the monster who stole it.
Swordfish: Gabriel Shear may in fact be the ultimate epitome of this trope. Gabriel is essentially an amalgamation of James Bond, Tyler Durden, and Keyser Soze, the ultimate Magnificent Bastard. To quote Axl Torvalds- " He exists in a world beyond your world. What we only fantasize, he does. He lives a life where nothing is beyond him. But it is all an act. For all his charisma and charm. For all his wealth and expensive toys. Beneath it all he is a driven, unflinching, calculating machine,who takes what he wants, when he wants, then disappears " To examine:
Brilliance- A mastermind who plots and flawlessly executes the largest heist in human history, all while getting away with it in the end with absolutely no trace, and not even his true identity being revealed
Smooth Operator- Always keeping a calm, jocular demeanor, even when a SWAT team has guns to his head
Goal- A visionary villain, he is a fanatical counter-terrorist who has stared too far into the abyss and is willing to kill, say, an innocent teenager and the surrounding police, to protect America from the greater terrorist threat
Charisma- When not committing elaborate heists, he spends his days partying, drinking, and driving expensive cars
Badassery- More than happy to pull out a machine gun and fire out the door of a moving car when need be
Genre Savvy- Dangerously so. Even uses the flaws of Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon to describe why pragmatic mercilessness will bring success to his robbery. And he is right.
Thick As Thieves: Keith Ripley (Morgan Freeman), a master thief who has been manipulating the steps of Miami thief Gabriel Martin (Antonio Banderas) from beginning to end, in order to pull off a heist for some Faberge Eggs from a high security vault, and he does this with so much class that you have to just love the guy.
The Third Man: Harry Lime. "Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax—the only way you can save money nowadays." And he's played by Orson Welles.
Unforgiven: Little Bill Daggett. Play by his rules while in town, particularly by handing over your means of defending yourself, and he's smiling, affable, and friendly; charming, really. Cross him, however, and he'll first put you in a position where you can't fight back and then beat you within an inch of your life or kill you outright for sheer fun. He even has a speech mid-way through detailing that what makes him formidable isn't speed or skill so much as his willingness to stand his ground and count on his manipulation of the odds where other people would piss themselves with fear. He has a speech detailing that what makes him formidable is that he takes the time to aim THE trait that makes all formidable gunfighters formidable to this day.
Watchmen: Ozymandius, arguably more so than his comicbook counterpart as his masterstroke doesn't rely on a fake, alien, psionic squid thing. He fakes an assassination attempt on himself, easily manhandles the competition in combat, has two different plans to deal with the setting's god figure, and when the heroes arrive to stop his plan reveals that he did it twenty minutes ago.
Whiplash: Fletcher. Luring Andrew into a false sense of security so that he could embarrass him in the film's final performance made for a devious reveal. Luckily, Andrew is able to save face with his drum solo.
Yojimbo: Kuwabatake Sanjuro. Not only does he play two rival gangs like fiddles, causing them both to collapse with little suspicion drawn to himself, he's able to turn his capture, which he didn't plan to his advantage.
Youth in Revolt: Nick shows signs of a budding one. Francois on the other hand takes it to the extreme. Though subverted when Nick stops letting Francois control things; he tries to be magnificent, but goes all smug instead.