Take a closer look at the most diabolical villains ever captured on film and you may notice some fur poking out of the corner of the screen. Supervillains need love, too, and though they have little use for human beings -- aside from as expendable henchmen -- they save their cuddly, maternal side for their devoted pets. And through this special kind of unconditional love, the supervillains reveal their vulnerability and, ironically, their own humanity in the process.
Among these vile critters is Gargamel’s cat Azrael, who will soon get the CGI treatment in "The Smurfs" reboot, opening July 29. We present our list of Azrael and other beloved beasts, arranged from the most innocent companion to the most menacing accomplice.
9. Verdell, 'As Good as It Gets' (1997)
It takes one helluva dog to upstage Jack Nicholson, but Verdell’s little face could warm the coldest, blackest heart. As writer Melvin Udall, Nicholson is a bigot with OCD who goes from throwing his neighbor’s dog down the trash chute to embracing all forms of life. Udall’s first act of kindness -- taking care of Verdell while his owner Simon (Greg Kinnear) recuperates -- inspires many more, and his transformation includes spoiling the pup with bacon and piano serenades. Purists might argue that Udall doesn’t technically own this pet, but if you recall the film’s ending, Udall ends up welcoming both Verdell and Simon into his home.
8. Precious, 'Silence of the Lambs' (1991)
Jame Gumb, aka Buffalo Bill, dotes on his white toy poodle Precious with baby talk while torturing and killing overweight women in "Silence of the Lambs." But ultimately, the pooch proves to be part of this serial killer’s undoing. When Clarice Starling makes her way down to Bill’s basement, it's Catherine Martin’s pleas -- and the dog's barking -- that guide her to their rescue. Catherine is last seen clutching Precious. Hopefully she took the dog in and they grooved to Tom Petty while recovering together.
Similar Honorable Mention: Ivan Vanko, Whiplash’s cockatoo in "Iron Man 2."
7. Mr. Bigglesworth, 'Austin Powers' films (1997-2002)
Arguably, the most iconic movie-villain pet was Blofeld’s cat from the James Bond films, but it’s far more fun to discuss the hilarious parody of that relationship instead. International terrorist Dr. Evil’s kitty Mr. Bigglesworth starts out as a posh white Persian fluffball, but after "complications from the unfreezing process," he transforms into a Sphynx sight gag. Mike Myers likened embracing the hairless pussycat to "holding a warm ass," but his alter ego Dr. Evil loves the kitty like one million dollars. As Dr. Evil declares, "When Dr. Evil gets angry, Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset. And when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset, people die!"
Similar Honorable Mentions: Doctor Claw’s tabby M.A.D. Cat in "Inspector Gadget," Mr. Zorg’s elephant-dog critter Picasso in "The Fifth Element." Also worth mentioning: The Grand High Witch’s black cat Liebchen in "The Witches" and King Haggard’s three-legged pirate cat in "The Last Unicorn."
6. Diablo, 'Sleeping Beauty' (1959)
Maleficent is not your typical bumbling Disney villain. The Mistress of All Evil is dark and sinister, so her companion has to have a similarly superior disposition. Perched on her shoulder is Diablo, a clever raven with serious tracking skills who locates the Princess Aurora after Maleficent’s goblin minions fail her. It isn't until Maleficent sees her beloved bird turned into stone that she begins to lose control and conjures "all the powers of hell" to become the fiercest dragon in Disney history.
Similar Honorable Mentions: Disney villains have more pets than henchmen: Jafar’s parrot Iago in "Aladdin"; Scar’s hyenas Shenzi, Banzai and Ed in "The Lion King"; Prince John’s hypnotizing snake Sir Hiss in "Robin Hood"; Hades’s imps Pain and Panic in "Hercules"; Professor Radigan’s pet bat Fidget in "The Great Mouse Detective"; and McLeach’s lizard Joanna and Madame Medusa's alligators Brutus and Nero in "The Rescuers."
5. Max, 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' (1966)
Poor Max. Dr. Seuss’s evil Grinch spends his entire miserable, isolated existence with only his dog to complain to and order around. The abused Max can only shrug and grin at the audience as the Grinch enslaves him as a mannequin, sewing machine, mirror holder, and makeshift reindeer to help him steal Christmas from the innocent townspeople of Whoville. Yet when Max is truly in danger of being dragged off a cliff by the sleigh of stolen presents, the Grinch gains the strength of 12 Grinches and saves his best friend. The Grinch’s heart grows three sizes. Max gets a huge slab of roast beef. The Whos get Christmas. Everybody wins.
4. Azreal, 'The Smurfs' (1981, 2011)
Next to the Grinch and Max, Gargamel and Azrael are the most inseparable on this list; and they’re equally inept on their endless quest to hunt those pesky Smurfs. Despite their close bond, Gargamel is abusive towards his mangy tabby cat, berating him, holding him by the tuft of his neck, burning his tail in a lab explosion, and throwing the kitty out the front door like Uncle Phil giving DJ Jazzy Jeff the heave-ho on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Azrael is extremely vocal, and when things get rough he often clings to his master’s bald head. Azrael does have one special skill, though: He can sniff out a Smurf like a bloodhound.
3. Flotsam and Jetsam, 'The Little Mermaid' (1989)
Ursula's Flotsam and Jetsam are the only animals on this list that speak English. These slippery moray eels are persuasive at talking Ariel the mermaid into seeking aid from a certain sea witch. They succeed at every task, especially surveillance, displaying a frightening intelligence. Perhaps that’s owing to the love they get from Ursula, who was originally based on the drag queen Divine. Much like Maleficent, when her "Poopsies" get killed Ursula is enraged enough to transform into a huge monster.
2. The Crocodiles, 'Lake Placid' (1999)
There’s a chance that listening to Betty White’s foul-mouthed dialogue in "Lake Placid" provides more of a thrill than her 30-foot, killer pet crocodiles do in this schlocky monster movie. As cantankerousDelores Bickerman, White utters phrases like "Thank you, Officer F**k-meat!" and "If I had a dick, this is where I’d tell you to suck it!" For six years, she’s kept her crocs happy and full by feeding them cattle. So what if they killed three people (including her husband) and a grizzly bear? Mrs. Bickerman doesn’t give a crap. And as the credits roll, revealing her feeding several baby crocodiles, you know the old lady got the last laugh.
1. Salacious B. Crumb and the Rancor, 'Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi' (1983)
Darth Vader would look strange holding a kitten. So when George Lucas was populating his "Star Wars" universe, he made sure that Jabba the Hutt got two devoted pets, one funny and one terrifying. Kawakian monkey-lizard and court jester Salacious B. Crumb, best known for his shrill cackle, must make Jabba laugh once per day, or be devoured. At least Crumb gets to torture C-3P0 before dying in the barge explosion over the Great Pit of Carkoon.
Jabba’s Rancor experiences a much more excruciating demise. Jabba keeps his massive monster beneath a trapdoor in his chamber, so he can ogle his treasure eating unwanted visitors and insolent personnel. When Luke Skywalker crushes the Rancor’s skull, it is his caretaker Malakili who mourns the poor beast, not Jabba. As if you needed one more reason to think Jabba evil.