8 of the Most Evil Nazi Movie Villains

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Hans Landa Arnold Toht
Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in "Inglourious Basterds." (The Weinstein Company) and Ronald Lacey as Maj. Arnold Toht in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (Paramount)

Nazis have provided movie audiences with perfectly hateful villains going back to the late 1930s. They were the go-to bad guys up through the '80s, and they've even managed to play a role in the biggest modern superhero series.

Actual Nazi atrocities were difficult to understand when they were exposed at the end of World War II. Movie Nazis are usually less grounded in reality, and their generally agreed-upon evil makes them the villain that everyone loves to hate.

Of course, there are some brilliant movies that feature brutal and real-life Nazis like Amon Göth in "Schindler's List." We'll skip those true-life criminals on this list and stick to the imaginary bad guys that have fueled some of our favorite movies.

1. Col. Hans Landa, "Inglourious Basterds" (2009)

 

No other Nazi takes such delight in his work. Christoph Waltz won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Col. Hans Landa, a German officer who's proud to be known as "The Jew Hunter."

Quentin Tarantino uses the actual history of World War II as a jumping-off point into a fantastical reimagining of the downfall of the Nazi state. There's plenty of blood and guts, but there's also QT's sly reinterpretation of the facts. His Nazis may be cartoonish characters, but they're still evil.

Of course, Landa may be the Nazi-est of all Nazis because his Third Reich principles disappear after a movie theater explosion puts the outcome of WWII in question. He tries to cut a deal with Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) to defect and live out his life in luxury on a beach in the good old USA. Nazzy killer Raine's not one to disobey orders, but he's never going to let Landa get off easy, either.

"Inglourious Basterds" has just been released for the first time on 4K UHD with more than two hours of bonus content. Some Tarantino fans will argue that this is his best movie, and this upgraded HDR presentation is worth the investment if you're a fan.

2. Maj. Arnold Toht, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)

 

When Steven Spielberg and George Lucas decided to pay tribute to the adventure movie serials that they enjoyed growing up, they knew that Nazis would make the best villains and that the Bible's Ark of the Covenant would be an amazing lost artifact for their hero Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) to discover.

A substantial group within the Nazi leadership really did believe in all kinds of ancient mystical mumbo jumbo, so the idea that they'd create a unit tasked with locating legendary artifacts isn't completely far-fetched. This movie's version of Hitler believes that the ark, which allegedly holds the actual Ten Commandments tablets that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, will make the German military invincible.

Maj. Arnold Toht (Ronald Lacey) is the head Nazi in charge of the hunt, willing to kidnap, steal and kill to determine the ark's secret location in Egypt. He eventually succeeds but pays the ultimate price that almost all movie Nazis must pay.

The Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection has been released on 4K UHD with Dolby Atmos, and the results are spectacular. The bonus features for all four films are included on their own Blu-ray disc, and you get 4K digital copies of each title. You can't yet buy each movie individually on 4K disc, so you'll have to wait if you can't stand to have a copy of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" in your collection.

3. Dr. Christian Szell, "Marathon Man" (1976)

 

The mid-'70s were only 30 years after the end of World War II, and there were still plenty of living Nazis who escaped prosecution after the conflict. Laurence Olivier plays Dr. Christian Szell, a Nazi war criminal whose brother stashed a fortune in diamonds inside a safety deposit box in a New York City bank.

Doc Levy (Roy Scheider) is a government agent who's been working as a courier for Szell in exchange for Szell providing information that will help track down other Nazis. Once his brother dies, the Nazi doctor goes nuts and aims to kill all of his couriers and track down the diamonds.

Enter Doc's brother Babe Levy (Dustin Hoffman). Once Szell gets to Doc, he decides that Babe must now know the secret location of his diamonds. Babe has no clue, and Szell breaks out the dental tools for an extended torture session.

The "Is it safe?" scene is hands-down the most terrifying moment in any movie ever made, and Szell makes Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and the Jigsaw Killer look like the amateurs they are.

4. Maj. Heinrich Strasser, "Casablanca" (1942)

 

Rick (Humphrey Bogart) loves Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), but Ilsa loves her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), but maybe more because of his principles than whether he makes her go weak at the knees. Maybe she really does love Rick after all.

Of course, "Casablanca" would merely be a drippy romance without the real threat represented by German Maj. Heinrich Strasser (Conrad Veidt). Strasser is determined to hunt down Laszlo and hold him accountable for all the mean things he has said about the Nazis.

"Casablanca" may be the most-loved Hollywood movie of them all and served as a huge morale-builder just as the Allies were beginning to get real traction at the end of 1942. Strasser was a calm and ruthless killer, a villain that everyone on the homefront could understand as a threat to our way of life.

5. Dr. Josef Mengele, "The Boys from Brazil" (1978)

 

The ever-versatile Laurence Olivier is back, this time as Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman. Gregory Peck stars as a fictionalized version of Nazi scientist Josef Mengele, who was both believed to be dead at the time of the movie's production and also the subject of a worldwide hunt for Nazi war criminals.

The real Mengele was actually alive in Brazil at the time, but he was unlikely to be behind an evil plot to create young clones of Adolf Hitler who were being raised in similar circumstances to the ones that helped nurture the German führer.

The experiment goes horribly wrong for Mengele, but what can you expect when you set out to breed little Hitlers? Peck didn't play villains too often in his career, but he's terrifying as the deluded lab rat in "The Boys from Brazil."

6. Johann Schmidt, "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011)

 

What's worse than Nazi Germany? Hydra! Johann Schmidt (played by Hugo Weaving from "The Matrix") heads Hydra, the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Nazi Germany's World War II science division.

Schmidt has actually been deformed into the Red Skull by an early formulation of Captain America's super soldier serum. Once he acquires the Tesseract (which is powered by the Space Stone from the Infinity Stones), he breaks away from the Nazis to establish Hydra as the true force of evil on Earth.

If you find Marvel mythology to be either tiring or incomprehensible, just know that "The First Avenger" is the rare film in the series that makes sense for newcomers, and the Hydra/Nazi crossover is particularly easy to root against.

7. Franz Kindler, "The Stranger" (1946)

 

Orson Welles needed cash, so he agreed to direct and star in this post-WWII film noir about Franz Kindler, a Nazi war criminal who's tried to erase his past. He's reinvented himself as Professor Charles Rankin, a teacher at an elite Connecticut prep school, and even managed to get engaged to the daughter of a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

When a fellow Nazi named Meinike shows up in town and urges him to come clean about his past, Kindler strangles him. A Mr. Wilson from the United Nations War Crimes Commission (Edward G. Robinson) tracks Meinike to the small town and is determined to solve the death.

Welles' Kindler is charming, oily and terrifying all at once. "The Stranger" is one of the actor/director's most underrated pictures and the only movie he made that was a true box office hit on first release.

8. Elsa Schneider, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

 

Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) may or may not have convinced herself that she's just an Austrian art professor who's willing to do whatever it takes to find the Holy Grail, but Indiana Jones knows that she's just as much of a Nazi as anyone she's working for in the German government.

Elsa first seduces Indy's dad Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery) as she tries to use the old man's research to locate the grail. When Indy shows up, she goes for him as well but may actually be in love with him.

Jones Jr. is of course pissed off that he's been romancing a Nazi. The bad guys get to the grail's secret location first, but it's the Jones boys who have the pure hearts that allow one of them to solve the puzzle and get to the grail. Elsa, not so pure, meets an appropriate Nazi fate in the end.

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