Worst Movie Emperors: Part Two
Five more despots round out our look at the worst movie emperors in cinematic history.
March, Rome Month, is nearly over, so time to finish our look at the worst film Emperors of all time. Gear up as we tackled the top five, Emperors so nasty that their names live on in infamy…and in questionable fan fiction. Seriously guys, just stop it with the fan fiction. We get it already, you really really want to see Darth Vader and Darth Sidious kiss. Gross. Moving along then…
The Crimes: The most exiled man in history, Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled from his island home of Corsica for making trouble. He then made further trouble in France, though of the kind that the French government agreed with: he fired cannons at a mob of Parisians (which they probably deserved,) saved the government, and then proceeded to kick every ass in Europe with his army until the French were obliged to make him the damn Emperor already. He quickly set up a dictatorship, smashed the Ottoman and Holy Roman Empires, and ruled mainland Europe with an iron grip not seen since the O.G. Roman Empire. He crushed 6 separate coalitions of countries that tried to dislodge him, and attempted to choke out the British with a trade embargo. He was riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels until he made the fatal mistake of fighting a land war in Asia (well, technically, since most of Russia is in Asia.) Should have listened to Vizzini.
Defeated, Napoleon was again exiled, this time to Elba…where he pulled a move he saw on the A-Team, promptly escaped, and went right back to kicking ass. Finally, at Waterloo, Napoleon had his dreams of Empire decisively thwarted, and he was executed. Just kidding, they fucking exiled him to a third island. Guys, get the hint already, Napoleon ain’t scared of water.
The Films: Waterloo, Napoleon, Austerlitz, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Ultimate Fate: Exiled. The third time was the charm, and the final exile stuck. He died at age 51…and was given a heroes funeral in France. Way to be, France, way to be.
4. Qin Shi Huang
The Crimes: From a young age, Zhao Zheng (as he was known before killing anyone who opposed him) had all the makings of an evil warlord. At the tender age of 13 he was made head of the State of Qin, had his scheming older half-brother executed (along with his family,) and set about knocking the stuffing out of the 6 other warring states that occupied modern day China. All of their stuffing removed, Qin Shi Huang declared himself emperor and used his power to create a unified empire, complete with one language, one set of currency, one central system of measurements, and matching curtains. Qin Shi Huang survived numerous assassination attempts (apparently including one from Jet Li, who totally had him on the ropes, but decided that the brutal tyrant was a decent guy after all) and put down the mystical demon armies of one David Lo-Pan (*citation needed, but Egg Shen said it was so, and that guy is solid.) His ducks all in a row, the new Emperor got down to the business of all true Emperors: he went bat-shit insane.
Consumed by paranoia (having Jet Li try to kill you will do that,) Qin Shi Huang tried every trick in the Taoist book to obtain eternal life. He sent adventurers far and wide to find fabled good luck charms, became obsessed with the occult, and drank potions of heavy metals and mercury like he was at a kegger thrown by Issac Newton. His greatest crime was to create a virtual army of statues to help him rule the after-life, thereby creating the fodder for Brendan Frasier to make another shitty Mummy movie. Much like Shang Tsung, Qin must have learned some potent shape-shifting magic, because he fights Brendan Frasier wearing the BODY OF JET LI! Holy shit, he wears the souls of his defeated enemies! Bad ass!
The Films: Hero, The Emperor’s Shadow, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, My Name is Bruce
Ultimate Fate: Too much deer penis in his five-demon bag potions. Just kidding, poisoned himself to death with mercury trying to live forever. He should have listened to Freddie Mercury instead.
3. Caligula (AKA. Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus if brevity isn’t your thing.)
The Crimes: If we’ve learned anything from History, it should be that you don’t want your Emperors too young. Caligula’s rise to power started when he was just seven, as his mother entered into a disastrous bid to advance her families influence. The sole male heir to survive, Caligula somehow managed to receive the goodwill of pretty much everybody. When finally made Emperor (at the ripe old age of 25) he was the toast of the Roman Empire. He ushered in a series of reforms and disbanded the previous Emperor’s infamous treason papers (in which you received papers saying you were a traitor and promptly lost your property and head.) Things were going gangbusters…until somebody tried to poison young Caligula. He recovered, and by many accounts went promptly insane.
Now paranoid, he murdered or exiled everybody in his family tree, and a few people who were sitting under it for shade, just for good measure. He spent Rome into ruin buying safety and prestige: he heavily bribed the military, spent a fortune on building projects (most aimed at increasing his own glory,) and gave more power in politics to the under-classed in order to build up their support. When the money ran out, he started fining people like, well, crazy, even exiling, imprisoning or murdering people just to grab their assets. He seized so much stuff, he was blamed for a food shortage; apparently he had seized boats and carriages needed to transport grain!
If you’ve seen the XXX film Caligula, produced by Penthouse Magazine (you know, the “men’s magazine”) you know that these crimes were…just the tip. He declared himself equal to the gods, went about in lavish costumes, and demanded that he be publicly worshiped. Rumors of his sexual deviancy and violence abounded, including that he once threw spectators at the Colosseum games into the arena to be eaten by wild animals when he had run out of political prisoners to use. A great lover of animals, Caligula threatened to make his horse a consul (i.e. one of the highest possible political positions.) He relented, however, and the poor horse had to settle for being made a priest instead.
The Films: Caligula, I Claudius, The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators
Ultimate Fate: Done in, Julius Caesar style. He was stabbed 30 times by a group of political opponents led by a man named Cassius. At least he managed to go out like an Emperor.
2. Ming the Merciless
The Crimes: The tyrannical despot of planet Mongo, Emperor Ming the Merciless rules with an iron hand and shiny dome. Having enslaved the free people of his planet in his vast mines, created armies of robots, lizard-men, ape-men and just plain men-men, and made a monopoly of the world’s fresh water, Ming grew bored with just tormenting his own people. One day, he noticed Earth, and decided that the planet was a peculiar backwater that might be good for a laugh or two. What he didn’t notice was that this planet contained one Flash Gordon, football star and ass-kicker extraordinaire. Let this be a lesson to bored space-tyrants: maybe just read a good book instead.
The first round of Mongo versus Earth was one sided: Ming’s technology allowed him to ravish the planet with natural disasters from a safe viewing distance. Flash and his buddies Dale (a female reporter) and Dr. Zarkov (a male mad scientist) determine that the disturbances are coming from Mongo, and board a rocket ship for the planet. Once there, Ming handily wins round two, trouncing Flash and taking Dale to be his Empress. Unfortunately, round three was the melee round, and Flash rounds up all the people who Ming has pissed off and sets out to hand the haughty Emperor his ass.
Ming is guilty of slavery, genetic tampering, long-distance space-vandalism, and stealing a member of the press. His greatest crime was that of racism: named Ming (like the dynasty) from Mongo (think Mongolia) and sporting a bitching Fu-Manchu mustache, we he was the epitome of early comic books view of “Yellow Peril,” a racist reaction to immigrants that boiled over into full blown xenophobia with Japan’s involvement with World War 2. Ming not only botched Mongo/Earth relationships, he also set back East/West relations by nearly 50 years. Way to go, dick.
The Films: Flash Gordon, various comics and cartoons.
Ultimate Fate: How didn’t this guy die!? In his run from 1934 to the present he has been incinerated, committed suicide, gassed, blown up by a space ship, and impaled by a spaceship. He usually vanishes before the final killing blow (since explosions, poison, and being impaled are considered just nuisances on Mongo) so you can’t count this guy out…making him the only Evil Emperor on this list who might still be out there.
1. Emperor Palpatine (Darth Sidious)
The Crimes: Episodes 1-3. Argument over, he wins.
What, still here? Alright, we’ll enumerate. Besides crushing the soul of the Star Wars series by subjecting us to endless diplomatic haggling and discussions of trade relations, former galactic senator Palpatine was a traitor who subjected his own people to internment, exile, torture and death, just to get elected head of the Senate. Once there, he instigated a civil war (from both sides!) and used forbidden genetic meddling to create a super army of Jango Fett clones who were programmed to kill and obey only him. And kill they do, wiping out nearly every Jedi in the universe, leading to the rise of the Galactic Empire, with Emperor Palpatine it’s first (and only) head honcho.
Despite all that, his greatest crime was this guy: Darth Vader. Not just because Vader would go on to become a vicious attack dog who would murder many of the Emperor’s enemies, or because he strangled his own wife, hacked off his son’s hand, personally tortured his daughter, and murdered all the younglings! Nope, Vader is the worst crime because instead of having a trilogy featuring such unrepentant bad-asses as Darth Maul or Darth Tyranus, we have to watch Darth Sidious throw both of them under the bus so we can instead focus on the whiniest Jedi in the Galaxy, who hates sand and forces us to watch half an hour of CGI pod racing…FUCK POD RACING!
Oh, Palpatine also blew up an inhabited planet. There was that, too, I guess.
The Films: Star Wars Episodes 1-3, 5&6.
Reactor shaft, for the win.