The science fiction genre features some of the most terrifying and iconic villains of all time, from the hulking and imposing Darth Vader to the cybernetic menace of the Borg Collective to the destructive and cruel Thanos. A good hero is never without an adversary scheming and undermining them until the bitter end. Whether it’s in a galaxy far away or a space station orbiting planet Earth, the genre rarely fails to present frightening and enthralling villains audiences love to hate.
There are plenty of lists on the internet ranking some of the most famous sci-fi baddies, but this list belongs to the underrated and obscure. They may not have the star power of figures like Darth Sidious or the Xenomorph, but they still proved they could outwit the brave and honorable and give our favorite heroes a run for their money. Time to activate your lightsabers and set your phasers on kill. Here are Five Underrated Villains from Science Fiction.
Chuck Nelson- Mothra
Unlike some of the villains on this list, there’s no nuance to Chuck Nelson (Jerry Ito). From the moment he appears onscreen in the 1961 kaiju film Mothra, Nelson’s motivations are abundantly clear. His wicked self-serving smirk immediately reveals the type of person this greedy entrepreneur is. In the film, Nelson is a member of an international expedition to the remote and irradiated Infant Island after civilization learns of its native culture, which worships the insect deity Mothra. Nelson unsurprisingly exploits the island for his personal and financial gain and kidnaps Mothra’s 12-inch heralds, the Shobijin. He brings them back with him to Tokyo and forces them to perform in front of a theater audience, prompting Mothra to begin her destructive journey to the city to rescue the Shobijin.
What makes Nelson a great villain is his unashamedly evil nature and absolute glee in gaining power and riches. Villains don’t always need to be complex to be enjoyable, and Nelson is the embodiment of character created to be hated and rooted against. At the end of the day, he only cares about himself, and his wealth and government connections enable him to get what he wants no matter the cost. This handsome, calculating, selfish man is used to things going his way, but when they don’t, his cold fury spells doom for whoever crosses his path.
Kai Winn Adami- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Deep Space Nine boasts some of the best villains in the entire Star Trek franchise (Gul Dukat, Weyoun, and the Founder all come to mind), and Kai Winn Adami is no exception. Played to steely perfection by Louise Fletcher (best known for her role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Kai Winn is the ambitious, calculating religious leader of the Bajoran people. Power is the endgame for this space priestess who’s willing to do whatever it takes to climb the ladder. However, behind all the scheming and political machinations is a woman who was once willing to give her life for her people and is frustrated by the gods she believes betrayed her.
“Those of you who were in the Resistance, you’re all the same. You think you’re the only ones who fought the Cardassians, that you saved Bajor single-handedly. Perhaps you forget, Major, the Cardassians arrested any Bajoran found to be teaching the word of the Prophets. I was in a Cardassian prison camp for five years, and I can remember each and every beating I suffered. And while you had your weapons to protect you, all I had was my faith… and my courage. Walk with the Prophets, child… I know I will.“
Kai Winn hides her inner conflict with a mask of contempt and self-righteousness and subtly manipulates those who are desperate or downtrodden to carry out her dark deeds of sabotage and political power moves. She’s one of the most hated villains of the franchise, but there’s no denying Louise Fletcher played the double-dealing two-faced kai with villainous relish.
General Roth’h’ar Sarris- Galaxy Quest
Galaxy Quest is a hilarious 1999 comedy starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman. The film follows a group of mostly washed-up actors mistaken as the real deal and drawn into an interstellar conflict by a race called the Thermians. Much less hilarious is General Roth’h’ar Sarris (Robin Sachs), a genocidal and brutal warlord of the Fatu-Krey who relentlessly pursues the friendly Thermians to the brink of extinction. Garbed in fearsome armor and flanked by equally terrifying minions, this tall and imposing warrior seeks a mysterious superweapon, the Omega-13, and vows to rain blood and destruction on all who oppose him.
General Sarris doesn’t tolerate any weakness, and his wrath and bloodlust extend far throughout the galaxy. His terrifying persona and design are nightmare-inducing, though, in the end, he underestimated the crew of the USS Protector. Still, there’s no rule General Sarris won’t break or civilization he won’t destroy, and his pure evilness help make him a villain to remember.
Zam Wesell- Star Wars
Though she failed in her mission to assassinate Senator Padmé Amidala, very few rock purple armor the way Zam Wesell does. This shapeshifting Clawdite bounty hunter is one deadly lady who utilizes formidable weaponry, including a blaster pistol, a projectile rifle, and assassin-worthy probe droids. Zam has a fascinating backstory in Legends (non-canon material existing outside of Disney’s established canon). She was born on the planet Zolan and trained from a young age with a religious sect of warrior knights known as the Mabari. Her aggressiveness, greed, and pursuit of personal profits were seen as an affront by the sect, and she was banished and labeled a heretic.
Zam traveled the galaxy, training as a bounty hunter and building a network of contacts to ensure plenty of work carrying out assassinations. She and Jango Fett worked together at various points in both their careers until Fett ordered Zam to carry out the hit on the Senator from Naboo. Things never go well for the baddies when the Jedi intervene, and though she was only a minor antagonist in Attack of the Clones, she stole the show in every scene she was in. There’s not a lot of information about Zam in canon, but the storytelling possibilities are endless, and there’s hope the purple-clad bounty hunter will grace our screens once again.
The Martians- Mars Attacks!
In 1962, when news of the Cuban Missile Crisis dominated the headlines, The Topps Company shocked the world with their graphic and controversial trading card game, Mars Attacks, which depicted Earth’s invasion by sadistic and hideous Martians. Children were captivated by the cards, but their parents were less than pleased with the gore and implied sexual content, and the outcry forced the company to halt production.
Fast forward to 1996, and with a star-studded cast that included Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Natalie Portman, Pam Grier, Danny DeVito, and Tom Jones, director Tim Burton brought the big-brained Martians to life, and true to the cards that inspired the film, they unleash apocalyptic mayhem on planet Earth and all her people. Blowing up Congress, toppling famous monuments, burning herds of cattle, and setting the Las Vegas strip aflame are just some of the violent acts these bloodthirsty Martians carry out. They manage to wipe out most of humanity by the film’s end credits, and they have an absolute blast doing so.
They may be small, but these Martians and their weapons of war aren’t to be underestimated, and while they’re humorous and troublesome little buggers in the film, they’re pretty terrifying in the trading card set. Just remember to have some Slim Whitman music on hand when you see their ominous saucers approaching.
There you have it. Five Underrated Villains from Science Fiction. Who do you want to see on the next list? Let me know in the comments! Check out my website for all things pop culture and as always, stay nerdy!