24's Top 12 Villains

By Cory Barker

Apr 30, 2014

24: Live Another Day is almost here! To get hyped for Jack Bauer's return on Monday, May 5 (a.k.a. Cinco de Jack), we thought it'd be fun to look back at the show's storied past. We'll have a couple of lists for you in the run-up to Live Another Day's premiere, beginning with today's trip down memory lane with the show's 12 best villains. It certainly wasn't easy to wade through 192 episodes of a show basically stuffed with bad guys and gals. But these evil-doers are Jack's more formidable foes. 

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Peter Kingsley (Season 2), Dina Araz (Season 4), Vladimir Bierko (Season 5), Christopher Henderson (Season 5), Dmitri Gredenko (Season 6), Jonas Hodges (Season 7), Tony Almeida (Season 7)

12Phillip and Graem Bauer (Season 6)

24's sixth season was basically a disaster from start to finish, and it was particularly disappointing after the fantastic fifth season. No two characters embody that letdown more than Jack's father Phillip and his brother Graem. The show waited a long time to interject more of Jack's family into the storyline, and it would've been better off not doing so. Graem played an important role in the horrible events of Season 5, but didn't add as much to Season 6 when he had more screen time. Daddy Bauer also had his hand in a number of villain cookie jars and certainly talked a big game, but 24 simply didn't know what to do with him—other than kidnap his annoying grandson. It's hard to leave these two off the list because of their direct connection to Jack, and because both James Cromwell and Paul McCrane did fine work with what they had, but it's also hard not to think about what could have been. 

11. Victor Drazen (Season 1)

Some of the villains in the honorable mention list (and on the honorable honorable mention list) probably did more actual damage on the show, but they didn't call Victor Drazen "The Butcher from Belgrade" for nothing. The great thing about Drazen, other than the fact that he was played by Dennis Freaking Hopper, was that his crusade ended up being extremely personal against Jack and President Palmer. Although 24 quickly moved toward much more national and international plots in Season 2 and beyond, the first season's more intimate—and in many ways, more satisfying—tension made for really intense television.

10. General Juma (Season 7)

Any time you lead a deadly task force into the Potomac River for a SCUBA gear-aided infiltration of the White House that ulimately leads to explosions, shoot-outs, and a whole lot of dead bodies, you can probably feel pretty confident that you've cemented a spot on a list like this. Juma wasn't around for too long, but boy did he leave an impact. 

9. Abu Fayed (Season 6)

Before there was General Juma doing insane and deadly stuff on U.S. soil, there was Abu Fayed. As a character, Fayed wasn't particularly interesting or compelling. But as a figurehead and agent of pure terror? Pretty awesome/awful. The dude led the 11-week crusade of suicide bombings in the lead-up to Season 6, and then early on in that season he was responsible for the detonation of a nuclear bomb in Valencia, California. A NUCLEAR BOMB. Jack killing him via steel-chain hanging was pretty satisfying. 

8. Stephen Saunders (Season 3)

Saunders is sort of like the combination of Drazen's personal vendetta against Jack and the pure anarchical villainy of Fayed and Juma. He held CTU and President Palmer over the fire for an extended period of time, released a deadly virus into a hotel, forced Jack to kill CTU's Ryan Chappelle, and blackmailed Tony into committing treason. But the show made a strong effort to humanize Saunders, one of the few times it really did that kind of thing, which made the character that much more interesting.  

7. Cheng Zhi (Seasons 4-6)

For a man who appeared in so few episodes, Cheng Zhi left quite the mark on 24, and especially on Jack. Cheng's thirst for revenge against Jack helped create one of the show's most surprising season endings in Season 5. His hatred for Jack was so pronounced that even after he returned the show's hero to the U.S., he managed to capture Jack's former flame Audrey, torture her, and cause all sorts of psychological damage. And to top it all off, Cheng still managed to somehow make it out of the series alive. That's pretty impressive for this show. 

6. Sherry Palmer (Seasons 1-3)

President Palmer's wife (and eventual ex-wife) is the only character on this list who doesn't fit the traditional 24 villain mold (i.e. a terrorist or mass murderer). However, the great thing about Sherry was that she always found a way to make the worst, most selfish decision possible, consistently damaging her husband's presidency and life. Sherry covered up a handful of murders, she conspired with some truly awful people to get her husband out of office, and she eventually murdered one of Palmer's trusted allies, all before getting murdered herself. With Sherry, things were never boring.

5. Mandy (Seasons 1-2, Season 4)

Perhaps the show's most enigmatic character, Mandy appeared only occasionally during 24's first four seasons, but in each instance, she made a major impact. In Season 1, she had sex with a dude in an airplane bathroom, killed a flight attendant, lined the plane with explosives, and then jumped out. That was wild, but she somehow topped it with her brief appearance in the Season 2 finale, when she shook hands with President Palmer so she could transfer a virus that nearly killed him. There's always a chance that Mandy could return once again, and it's kind of fun having this weird, mysterious woman out there who could pop up at any time. 

4. Alan Wilson (Season 7)

Wilson isn't 24's most exciting or theatrically evil villain, nor did he appear in that many episodes (just five), but boy did his influence stretch far and wide. Wilson helped concoct at least two deadly attacks against his own country, mostly by hiding behind a wall of anonymity. While the show probably strained a bit to retcon Wilson's involvement to all the way back in Season 5, the character was a fine addition to the 24 universe because he seemed fairly realistic and pragmatic at a time when the show was growing ever more cartoonish. Well, I mean as realistic as the ringleader of a secret Military Industrial Complex cabal can be. 

3. Habib Marwan (Season 4) 

Probably the most competent season-long antagonist, right? Initially, Marwan was only set to stick around for a half-dozen episodes, but Arnold Vosloo was so good that the  kept him around for much, much longer. Marwan always seemed to be one or two steps ahead of Jack and CTU. He had an expansive network of cronies and pulled off the meltdown of a nuclear reactor that probably killed upward of 25,000 people. To top it all off, Marwan had one of the cooler death scenes by stabbing Jack's outstretched hand so he could fall off a skyscraper to his death, cackling along the way. 

2. Charles Logan (Seasons 4-6, Season 8)

Oh, Chuck. President Logan was, like so many of the dudes on this list, involved in a number of different attacks, conspiracies, and swerves. He also weaseled his way into seasons that didn't directly involve him, creating countless moments of high drama (especially when his wife was also involved). 24 probably relied too much on Logan as it reached its creative nadir toward the end of its run, but Gregory Itzin was always up to the challenge. And like Alan Wilson and Cheng, Logan somehow made it out out of Season 8 alive. What are the chances he shows up in Live Another Day? I feel like they're pretty high.

1. Nina Myers (Seasons 1-3)

As if there were any doubt, right? There have been bigger, tougher, and more ambitious villains on 24, but none of them can really touch Nina. She played Jack like a fiddle throughout the first season, only to murder his wife at the end of the day simply because Teri overhead part of a phone call. The show managed to bring Nina back for a handful of episodes in Seasons 2 and 3, most notably with her involvement in the Mexico arc in the latter, and the vitriol she produced in Jack was rightfully palpable. Her execution at Jack's hand was one of the series' more powerful moments.

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  • shokamo Aug 29, 2014

    Season 6 was just a prelude to a bigger world. Even though many may think that the season was a bit mild compared to the others, Jack's Daddy set something up that would accredit season 10 and make sense of the Russian's (mercenaries or not) trade abduction of Jack at the end of season 9. The writers are either geniuses for setting this up or had one of them stoned myatonia congenita moments when writing this. (You know when Badger and Skinny Pete were discussing the ultimate Star Trek scene (sorry, different tv show)). Anyways, my money is Jack has been abducted by the Yakuza seperatists or Hong Kong Triads. For a deal that would involve the "greater plan" that Jack's Daddy was trying to buy himself into. Lots of sinister plots here if the writers draw a blank on what to do next. :) The same organization that is puppetmastering the events to try to cause upheaval for profit in the UK, drones, bio threats or nuclear weapons to try to push their agenda. Jack is a fly in the ointment because every attempt to push this agenda has failed. The bankers of the world are getting pissed off about it. Remember Thomas Kretchmann's character, Max? The German arms dealer? Well, he didn't just have ties to the Middle East. The weapons Max sold to were high rollers, so you can imagine the same people he dealt with were the same people, Jacks Dad dealt with, which were the same people that were associated with President Palmers financial backer during his election campaign. We need to have a big boss faxtion to make the stakes even higher...well anyway. Just an idea.

  • totomomo182 Jun 05, 2014

    You forgot president Allison Taylor
    deranged woman
    who was willinng to have a nuclar bomb explode in new york

  • billmunroe9 May 30, 2014

    "Naked" Mandy is up there

  • billmunroe9 May 30, 2014

    Margot Al-Harazi may be the best since Nina..

  • dolphin_intern May 05, 2014

    Nina FTW!!! I also think that Saunders was a really well fleshed out villain I mean I was shocked to find out he helped Jack during the Drazen mission only to come back with vengeance on his mind after being "deserted" by his country and fellow agents.

  • mrjimmyjames May 05, 2014

    Tony Almeida was a great villain and deserves to be on the list. Not only was he good but he wasn't a typical villain; he had his own motivations and reasons for doing what he was doing. His entire performance and backstory of what had happened to him totally justified bringing him back.

  • mrjimmyjames May 05, 2014

    I would have liked to have seen continuity issues with Graem cleared up a little more. Season 5 made it seem like he wasn't Jack's brother with his frequent "Get Bauer!" conversations. I also thought Graem should have been revealed to be a codename. It never really seemed like it was his actual name and Jack kept referring to him as "Gray" for some reason.

  • mrjimmyjames May 05, 2014

    The execution of Jack Bauer's dad was so terrible. James Cromwell is a pretty good actor but he just seemed to come off as scummy the entire time. I wish they would have found someone a little better to play him and just add more to his motivations, background, etc. It would have been great to see the character play both sides more. Maybe make him similar to Jack (like Indy's dad); make him a government agent but he's also playing everyone too. Make him the ultimate match for Jack.

    Originally Keifer's dad, Donald Sutherland was supposed to play him. I'm willing to bet the character would have been way better.

  • gmanBegins May 03, 2014

    S5 stills leaves me with chills..
    Logan was the best..
    At the time it was Jack vs the President... the office he had sworn to protect!!
    Charles Itzin played Logan like an Evil Barney Fife! So perfectly done..He's got to come back for Live Another Day. I would love to see Tony too but maybe I'm asking too much..

  • mrjimmyjames May 03, 2014

    Graem was an unbelievable disappointment. How do you get Dr. Romano, the ultimate guy you love to hate, to play him and you basically don't do anything at all with him. He was just a bridge to set up the characters of Jack's father, former flame, and nephew (who were all so awful)! He was the best character of the bunch (as exhibited by his "and I think your wife would agree" showdown with Jack). They could have let him get away for awhile. He could have been as good as Christopher Henderson. There was so much tension to explore.

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