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British actors as Hollywood villains: Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs, more

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Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia in 'Die Hard' (1988)

© Rex Features / 20th C. Fox/Everett

In the Hollywood handbook of character shorthand, a British actor is pretty high up on the list of ways to swiftly establish somebody as a bad'un. As villain clichés go, it's just above 'underground lair' and slightly below 'unexpectedly offing a loyal henchman'.

Ben Kingsley's doing his bit to keep the stereotype alive this month, playing the formidable Mandarin who makes it his mission to destroy Tony Stark's world in Iron Man 3.

Plus, just in case you've been living under a rock or in a coma, Benedict Cumberbatch plays much-discussed villain John Harrison in next month's Star Trek Into Darkness, and he's dominated Paramount's entire marketing campaign so completely that the character already feels weirdly iconic.

So with Brit baddies more in vogue than ever, Digital Spy takes a look back over six of the best...

1. Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber, Die Hard (1988)
"You oughta be on f**king TV with that accent," John McClain snarks (ironically in retrospect, since US telly is now swamped with Brits doing American accents), but there's a lot more to Rickman's terrorist mastermind than his seductive vowel sounds; he's endlessly quotable, more than a match for McClain and so charming you're half-rooting for him. Of course, Gruber himself is German, but that does nothing to diminish Rickman's turn as a quintessential example of Anglo-villainy.



2. Jeremy Irons as Scar, The Lion King (1994)
Most suave Disney villain of all time? For a lion, Scar gets impressively close, and in the absence of sharp suits it's all down to Irons' skillful vocal work. He pushes his RP accent to its sardonic limits, cutting a striking contrast with James Earl Jones and Matthew Broderick's wholesome father-son combo, and even manages to pull off a song and dance number without sacrificing his bad guy street cred.



3. Anthony Hopkins as Dr Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
While Mads Mikkelsen may be giving him a run for his money on the small screen, there's a good reason why Hopkins stands out amidst the numerous actors who've played the cannibalistic Chianti-slurper. He's famously on screen for less than 20 minutes, and yet the impact of his unnervingly still presence resonates throughout the film's running time: he's one of very few villains who seems to embody pure evil.



4. Jason Isaacs as Colonel William Tavington, The Patriot (2000)
It was a wrench not to include Isaacs' combined performances as Harry Potter's icy-haired, icy-stared Lucius Malfoy in this list, but he pipped himself to the post with William 'The Butcher' Tavington. He's about as brutal and sociopathic a villain as you'll find this side of Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List, and yet Isaacs is so charismatic in his moustache-twirling that it's guiltily thrilling to watch. Plus, these days it's hard to root against anybody who's making Mel Gibson's life harder.



5. Terence Stamp as General Zod, Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980)
Michael Shannon's got some sizeable shoes to fill this summer - Stamp's arrogant, pathologically ambitious Kryptonian general is one of the best comic-to-screen transitions a villain has had, and he manages to chew up the scenery with gusto without ever becoming campy. Kneel before Zod.



6. Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012)
For all the things that Joss Whedon's The Avengers had going for it - not the least of which was its ensemble cast - its villain ended up being more memorable than its smorgasbord of heroes. There's just enough vulnerability in Loki's particular brand of megalomania to make him hypnotic to watch, and he turns the already-audacious putdown "You mewling quim" into a tiny work of art.



Which villainous Brit performances have we missed out? Leave your choices in the comments below!

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