With Spectre taking top billing in the new James Bond film, we thought it would be a good idea to assemble a sort of “atlas of evil,” as it were — a guide to the most evil fictional criminal groups in the world. We’ll be surveying movies, TV shows, games, and comics to seek out evil scientists, tyrannical terrorists, and other organized scumbags.
The shadowy forces that hindered Mulder and Scully as they tried to probe for proof of extraterrestrial life. They originally started as a secret group within the State Department, but went off on their own in 1973. Their main goal was to create a human-alien hybrid, but also tried to infect humanity with what was basically magical black oil to create a race of slaves. Some prominent members included the Cigarette Smoking Man and Mulder’s dad, and their henchmen (the Men in Black) are a notorious trope for conspiracy theorists.
As led by the flamboyant dictator M. Bison, Shadaloo is a criminal syndicate that extends its nefarious tentacles into all sorts of unpleasant activities in the Street Fighter universe. Bison’s ultimate goal is complete world domination by making the governments of all nations subservient to him, but spends some time hosting fighting tournaments because it gets him off. In addition to his multicultural Fight Club, Shadaloo has been shown to dabble in narcotics trafficking, extortion and, for some reason, real estate? Whatever brings in the money, I guess.
As seen in the Resident Evil games, the Umbrella Corporation is responsible for the creation of the virus that unleashes a horde of zombies onto the world. One of the key tricks of an evil organization is to hide in plain sight, and what better cover than a humble pharmaceutical company? Umbrella researchers and employees have hatched dozens of berserk plans, including performing bioweapon tests on innocent civilians and trying to ransom world governments. Amazingly enough, Umbrella was brought down not by the actions of heroic members of S.T.A.R.S., but rather by their stock prices plummeting into the toilet.
When Hasbro brought back GI Joe in the 1980s, they didn’t have any plans to make villains for the patriotic heroes to fight. Archie Goodwin at Marvel Comics convinced them they needed an antagonist, and the masked marauders of Cobra were born. Led by the charismatic Cobra Commander, the ranks boasted unforgettable characters like the steel-skulled Destro, the sultry Baroness, and creepy twins Tomax and Xamot. In addition to their plans for world domination, Cobra also dabbled in arms dealing and other nefarious activities.
When we first were introduced to the world of Star Wars, the Galactic Empire was a monolithic military force capable of building weapons powerful enough to shatter whole planets. Under the rule of the cadaverous Emperor Palpatine, the Empire stamps out any dissent from the Rebel Alliance using a horde of clone Stormtroopers and the powers of the dark side of the Force. George Lucas created one of the modern era’s most chilling manifestations of evil, willing to use any action to keep the known universe under their boot heel.
It can be tough to penetrate the fictional world of the Assassin’s Creed games, but there’s one thing we know for sure: the Templars are nasty. Based on a real-world religious military order, the Templars of Ubisoft’s game series are recast as a secret society that has been manipulating human history for centuries, responsible for atrocities ranging from the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to the start of World War II. Their stated goal is to create a “more perfect world,” but that means one that is completely under their control.
It’s a telling fact about life in the 21st century that several of the most evil fictional organizations of our time are massive corporations. Case in point: Weyland-Yutani, the multinational from the Alien franchise that is willing to make any sacrifice in the name of profit. Owning a private military force helps them out in their quest to recover a living alien xenomorph to breed into some kind of super-soldier, but they also dabble in all sorts of other nefarious dealings.
Crime syndicates are a dime a dozen — it seems like you can’t get three greasy hoods in a room together without them either teaming up or trying to kill each other. But Intergang, which made its DC universe debut back in 1970 courtesy of the magic pen of Jack “The King” Kirby, is a little different. The ostensible leader of the gang was Bruno “Ugly” Mannheim, but the actual power behind the throne was none other than Darkseid, ruler of the planet Apokolips and master of the Omega Effect. Over the next few decades, Intergang plagued dozens of DC heroes with all sorts of bizarre plots, including kidnapping scientists and trying to overthrow America.
Wolfram & Hart
Lawyers are generally considered to be the epitome of evil in the real world (second only to IRS agents and maybe ISIS), so it’s no surprise that a well-funded satanic law firm lands a spot on this list. Named after a trio of demons, Wolfram & Hart debuted on Angel and soon came to occupy a dark place in the Buffyverse’s cosmology. Run by the “senior partners” from another plane of existence, W&H gains occult strength from humanity’s evil, and as such works to keep scum out of jail. In addition, their Special Projects division conducts all manner of illicit ops. They’re not even fun to work for — underperforming employees are summarily executed or banished to literal torture dimensions.
The true sign of an evil powerhouse is the ability to rebound from defeat. No matter how many times James Bond foiled the myriad plans of SPECTRE, the multinational terrorist group always came back for another go. Led by the brutal Ernst Stavro Blofeld, SPECTRE worked to destabilize nations during the Cold War, pitting the East and the West against each other to weaken them both so it could then seize power in the chaos. Their plots have included attempting to spark all-out nuclear war, using a deadly germ to sterilize the world’s food supply, and stealing two A-bombs and holding them for ransom.
So, there we go: eleven agglomerations of wretched villainy poised to completely destroy the civilization we hold dear. Better get your resume ready, thugs, scumbags, and other henchmen — hiring season’s coming.