Candyman, Killmonger And 6 Other Black Movie And Television Villains That I Need To Talk About

Tony Todd as Candyman
(Image credit: TriStar Pictures)

Let’s face it. Everybody loves a good bad guy. Why else would the morally gray anti-hero, such as The Punisher, be such a popular character?  

Sometimes it's the villain, not the hero, who most people remember. I mean, for crying out loud, we’ve ranked every MAJOR version of The Joker, and that’s not even accounting for all of the “MINOR”  animated portrayals of the character, of which there are many.     

That said, I like to think that Black villains are in a special class all of their own. You see, while it’s very hard to make a compelling villain, it’s especially hard to create a compelling BLACK villain. Oftentimes, their motivations have to be somewhat relatable and simply CANNOT fall into stereotypical territory. So, here are 8 excellent Black villains that I need to talk about.  

William Marshall in Blacula

(Image credit: AIP)

Prince Mamuwalde (Blacula) 

In my article about awesome movies that call back to blaxploitation films of the 1970s, I get into how Prince Mamuwalde’s backstory is a bit of a tragic one.   

You see, Prince Mamuwalde (played by the Black actor, William Marshall) was transformed into a vampire by Count Dracula (played by the white actor and director, Charles Macaulay). But, the only reason that the prince went to see Dracula in the first place was to try to get help from him to end the slave trade. Dracula declines, though, and rebuffs him. 

But, to add insult to injury, Dracula then hits on the Prince’s wife before turning him into a vampire, and then lets her die while the Prince can do nothing about it. I mean, come on now. How can you NOT feel bad for the brother?

Yes, when Blacula is resurrected centuries later, he goes on a bit of a biting spree, but it’s not like we don’t understand his rage and frustration. Blacula is a bad guy, through and through, but Dracula, who is undoubtedly a stand-in for “the white man” (which was common for blaxploitation films of the era), is undoubtedly worse. 

The Candyman in Candyman, 1992.

(Image credit: TriStar Pictures)

Candyman (Candyman) 

Candyman's backstory, much like Blacula's, is troubling to say the very least. Depending on which version you see, whether it's the original trilogy, or the most recent movie, Candyman only really appears when you call upon him to appear.   

His history goes back to an interracial relationship, where he was essentially murdered for falling in love with a white woman. And now, he comes back because he feeds off of that story of trauma, as if, I don't know, he’s possibly YEARNING not to have his horrific murder to be forgotten. 

In the month of February, where we reflect upon many of the great achievements of Black people, Candyman is the story about how history can also be horrific, and that we must never forget that, either.  

Mr. T in Rocky III

(Image credit: MGM/United Artists Distribution and Marketing)

Clubber Lang (Rocky III) 

Due to Carl Weathers’ recent passing, I wrote an article detailing the famed actor's best performances, and of course I put Apollo Creed (twice!) on that list.      

But, here's the thing. Apollo Creed is never actually “a bad guy.” Sure, in the first two Rocky movies, he’s Rocky's antagonist, but that doesn't mean that he's bad. He's just Rocky’s rival.

But Clubber Lang? Well, as my students might say, “Oh, he bad.” However, I somehow don't hate him, even though his shoving of Rocky's trainer, Mickey, is what ends up giving him a heart attack. The reason Lang, who is played by Mr. T, wants to fight Rocky so badly though is because Rocky’s grown complacent in his many wins, even taking on a silly exhibition match with a wrestler. 

So, in many ways, Lang is essentially every frustrated person who has watched somebody on TV, and thought, “I could do what they're doing, but better.” And was he wrong? I mean, yes, his methods were a bit gauche and brutish, but again. Was he wrong? 

Penny Johnson Jerald in 24

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox Television)

Sherry Palmer (24) 

Sherry Palmer (played by The Orville's Penny Johnson Jerald) is another interesting case, because in a way, you can definitely admire her determination to vicariously live through her husband’s success. In a way, I almost feel bad about putting her on this list as a “villain,” but that's how she's portrayed on the show, so that's why I'm putting her here. 

Sherry Palmer will literally go through any length to get her husband to be President, and once he's there, she aims to keep him there by any means necessary. This includes covering up a murder, trying to get another woman to have an affair with her husband TO HELP HIM (It's a long story), and even causing somebody else’s death. 

But again, I can't help but be impressed by the lengths that Sherry Palmer will go to attain (and maintain!) power. It kind of just makes me want to say, “You go, girl.” 

Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

Mr. Glass (Unbreakable/Glass) 

Now, look. I'm one of those weirdos who believes that Unbreakable is M. Night Shyamalan's best movie, and NOT The Sixth Sense. But, a big reason for why I feel that way is the complex nature of Mr. Glass’ character.    

Played by Samuel L. Jackson, and long before he would become Nick Fury, Unbreakable marked a point where we actually felt sympathy for the villain… and we didn't even know it at the time. With his body being so fragile, but his mind so sharp (like glass!), Elijah Price, AKA, Mr. Glass is the comic book-like villain that we never knew what we wanted, but thankfully received.  

wesley snipes in demolition man

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Simon Phoenix (Demolition Man) 

Okay, so unlike a lot of the villains on this list who have a tragic backstory, Simon Phoenix, played by Wesley Snipes, is just bad. And I don't mean bad as in good. I mean bad as in a real mustache twirling SOB. In other words, he is a villain par excellence; the very epitome of the term. 

And yet, the audience can't help but love him. It might be because he relishes being bad. He will shoot somebody and laugh about it, crack jokes when he beats up the police, and when he gets a second chance at a parole hearing in the future, he immediately goes on a murderous rampage because-news flash!-he's a bad guy! But at least he's an enjoyable bad person to watch. 

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

(Image credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Erik Killmonger (Black Panther) 

Talk about tragic! Erik Killmonger was left fatherless by the former Black Panther without ever truly knowing the reason why. This, in turn, set him on a path of revenge, where he would kill anybody who got in his way and rightfully (in his mind, anyway) take the throne of Wakanda, which he feels belongs to him. 

But, Black Panther is not just a revenge story, and certainly not the reason why some people proclaimed that “Killmonger was right.” 

No. His beef is that Wakanda just sat in silence and watched Black people get enslaved and colonized. And he aims to rectify that. How? Well, by basically going to war with the world.  

That said, there's a reason why some side with Killmonger. For many, his heart was in the right place, but his mind was clouded by vengeance.  

Denzel Washington in Training Day

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Alonzo Harris (Training Day)  

There have been a number of corrupt cops in cinema, but none have been as towering as Alonzo Harris, played by Denzel Washington, who won an Academy Award for his performance. 

The two most troubling things about Alonzo Harris though are 1: He honestly doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong by being so violent (“To protect the sheep you gotta catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf.”). And 2: He’s willing to corrupt another cop to bring him down to his level, that being Officer Jake Hoyt, who’s played by Ethan Hawke

In my mind, the very best villains are the ones who see themselves as the heroes, and Alonzo Harris is one such villain. King Kong ain’t got nothing on him!

And that’s the list. What are some of your favorite Black villains? For more news on everything cinema-related, be sure to swing by here often!  

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.