It might seem a bit cruel to have a slightly hapless cartoon cat on this list, particularly as he almost always came off second best against his miniature nemesis. But think of this: Even the other characters on this list who killed only ever did so as a means to an end. But Tom? He was simply consumed by blood lust. Killing was the end in itself. He has spent pretty much every waking moment since his 1940 screen debut trying to kill Jerry.
So what if his traps, explosions, schemes and machinations almost always backfire on him: The intent was plain to see, m’lud.
And so we come to the only woman on the list. But boy, was she a piece of work. The role was originally intended for Sophia Loren, but it seems impossible to imagine anyone but Joan Collins in what was a career-defining role.
As Blake Carrington’s embittered British ex-wife, Alexis was consumed by a near-pathological desire to ruin her former amour. More often than not, this resulted in some truly marvellous physical battles with Blake’s new wife Krystle (and I can’t have been the only one secretly hoping that goody-goody would come off second best).
Married four times, Alexis also had more romantic partners than your average Love Island contestant, including one who she effectively (and accidentally) killed in flagrante.
4. Monty Burns, The Simpsons
He’s just an old businessman in a cartoon. How evil can he be? Well, aside from running a nuclear power plant where every conceivable corner is cut in the name of profit, Mr Burns’ yearning for more money makes Gordon Gecko look like a lily-livered philanthropist.
His list of crimes includes the following: Attempted murder, hit-and-run, sexual harassment, making shells for the Nazis, bricking Homer up in a crypt, blocking out the sun, literally taking candy from a baby, and attempting to make a coat from a litter of puppies. THAT’S how evil he can be.
3. Richard Hillman, Coronation Street
He was in the soap for just under two years, but made something of a lasting impression. Mind you, you’ll do that, if you turn out to be a mad-as-a-box-of-snakes serial killer.
Seemingly a respectable businessman, Hillman calmly watched colleague Duggie Ferguson die on a building site without lifting a finger to help, because the two had had something of an argument. He then killed his ex-wife Patricia with a spade and buried her in concrete, before convincing his mother-in-law she had Alzheimer’s, and then killing one of the soap’s most popular characters, Maxine. So much for the respectable businessman.
On-screen wife Gail Platt said it best when she finally saw through him. “You’re Norman Bates with a briefcase.” He tried to kill her and her kids, too, by driving them into a canal, but while they escaped, he drowned.
2. Simon Cowell, X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent
The only non-fiction character on this list (if you can call these increasingly manufactured and spontaneity-free shows non-fiction) Cowell makes it because of his magnificently grumpy persona.
One of the reasons to tune in is to watch as he comes out with his painfully honest critiques of people’s performances. This, by and large, involves reaching into someone’s chest, ripping out their still-beating heart and stamping all over it.
He also makes the list because his trousers are too high and his shirt is buttoned too low. Others might suggest that he also makes the list of TV villains because his tide of carefully-scripted talent shows with extra schmaltz thrown in is destroying popular culture. As Number 7 on this list would say, “You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.”
1. JR Ewing, Dallas
In all honesty., how could it be anyone else? Larry Hagman’s gloriously unpleasant JR was the ultimate proof that bad guys have the most fun, in stark contrast to his too-good-to-be-true (and rather dull) brother Bobby.
A master manipulator involved in bribery, blackmail, threats and intimidation, there was no low to which he would not stoop in the name of his beloved Ewing Oil. He was also serially unfaithful to longsuffering wife Sue Ellen, and when he was shot in 1980, the question “who shot JR?” was one that gripped the world simply because pretty much everyone on the show had a motive.
That the tapes for the big reveal had to be brought into the UK under police guard shows the level of hysteria surrounding the show. JR Ewing also gets extra bonus points as the only character on this list to have a Norwegian hardcore punk band named after him.