When we sit down to watch a movie, there are certain expectations we might have as an audience. The leading man defeats the bad guy, saves the world, wins the girl’s heart, and all that jazz.
But sometimes the Big Bad Guy (or their henchmen) doesn’t get their just desserts, and there are several examples of that in mainstream cinema. Here are some examples of movie villains who win, or at least get away with what they’ve done.
5. Hal the Orderly (Happy Gilmore)
In Happy Gilmore, the main character Happy Gilmore’s entire motivation is to buy his grandma’s house back from the IRS (who might arguably be the real villains here).
While his grandma is temporarily homeless, she has to live in a nursing home, presided over by a deranged orderly who has a sadistic streak longer than his handlebar moustache (played by an uncredited Ben Stiller, no less).
Hal the Orderly takes delight in verbally abusing the elderly people in his care, and even using them as slaves to knit quilts for profit. In a hard-hitting drama, you’d expect him to get his comeuppance; in a wacky comedy, surely that’s a guarantee, right?
Wrong! Hal the Orderly gets off scot-free. There’s a deleted scene in which Happy Gilmore launches him off a balcony after his crimes become apparent, but it’s unfortunately absent from both the theatrical release and DVD release of the film.
4. The Barracuda (Finding Nemo)
OK, sure, the Barracuda gets less than 30 seconds of screen time in Finding Nemo. And yes, the Barracuda is simply acting how any apex predator would in its situation. But he sets the entire story of Finding Nemo in motion, so we can’t just give him a pass, can we?
It’s never hinted that the Barracuda will return in the film, but you’re kind of hoping he will just so we can witness some kind of justice—whether that’s being eat by another shark, being injured by a boat’s propeller, or something else entirely.
Alas, the Barracuda gets to live another day and potentially devour another generation of innocent clownfish.
3. Vice Principal Vernon (The Breakfast Club)
What could be more surprising than an 80s teen comedy bad guy who doesn’t get what he deserves in the end? If you answered “Nothing,” then congrats… You’re correct!
Vernon runs a tight ship in The Breakfast Club, mercilessly berating the students he’s meant to nurture—and in one case, he even outright threatens them. He never comes across as a caricature or satire, but as a real person who abuses his authority in an all-too-realistic fashion.
However, this makes it all the more disheartening when the credits roll and he hasn’t been taught a lesson. Instead, he’ll probably double down on his dickish behavior and foster another generation of the very students he seems to despise. C’est la vie.
2. Honest John, Gideon, The Coachman & Stromboli (Pinocchio)
What’s even rarer than an 80s teen comedy bad guy not getting his comeuppance? How about a Disney villain who gets away with it? Or worse than that, 4 Disney villains who get away with it? Well, look no further than Pinocchio for that.
First up, we have Honest John and Gideon, the fox and cat who lure poor Pinocchio to a messed-up-even-for-Disney fate.
Then, we have The Coachman—a big red-faced Satan stand-in—who transports our puppet pal to Pleasure Island, where Stromboli uses him as a star attraction in a stage show.
The other boys who are brought to Pleasure Island all engage in delinquent behavior, like drinking and smoking, and are transformed into donkeys as a result of their misdeeds.
Most of this leaves a rather sour taste in our mouths in 2021, and is arguably too dark for what should be a family-friendly Disney movie. But factor in that none of the villains who participate in this child slave ring receive even a hint of justice? That’s just too much.
It could have been worse, though. The directors could have more faithfully adapted the insane book on which the film was loosely based. That even-darker alternative story would have seen Pinocchio beating Jiminy Cricket to death with a hammer.
1. Blofeld (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
Although he would later be dropped from a helicopter into a chimney stack in For Your Eyes Only, the Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service gets the last laugh in one of the rare moments in Bond canon that actually humanizes James Bond as a character.
In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, after his usual spy hijinks, James Bond is ready to settle down with the boringly-named Tracy, one whom he sees as marriage material. Alas, it’s not to be.
After cheating death numerous times, Bond and his bride-to-be stop briefly on the side of the road to pick flowers. Blofeld chooses this moment to enact a drive-by shooting, killing Tracy with a headshot (another rarity for a classic Bond film).
Bond then cries over the lifeless body of his betrothed, as Blofeld drives off. The End. No car chase or action sequence where he catches up with Blofeld and avenges his dead lover. Just fade to black over the sound of 007’s tears.
It’s not often that Bond ends on a downer, and even rarer that the baddie gets off scot-free. A unexpected two-four-one.