Two of the scariest bad guys in any of John Wayne’s 172 films are Lee Marvin and Richard Boone. We’ve pulled two clips to compare these tough hombres: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) with Marvin and Big Jake (1971) with Boone. Take a look at the two scenes below, then let's compare!
LEE MARVIN Look at that fancy vest, the garter on the shirtsleeve, the ostentatious belt—the clothing of a self-important peacock. He’s a petty tyrant with a maniacal laugh, ready to take offense when none is given. He’s also a dangerous character. It’s not just the gun on his hip (notable for being holstered backward, like a true pistolero), but also, and perhaps more menacingly, the sheathed knife hidden in the small of his back. This varmint is evil incarnate, and has the weaponry to make it actionable.
RICHARD BOONE That face is enough to scare rust off an iron fence, but his lackadaisical manner and conversational threats mark the banality of brutality. In this ransom scene, Boone is large and in charge, but not in a kick-your-ass physical way. No, he’s the villain with the smarts, the scoundrel who has rigged the game so only he can win, and one to whom violence is not a reluctant choice. But more than anything, it’s his eyes. His eyes seem to say, Try to beat me and you…will…die. His quiet form of evil seems at first benign, until you look into those eyes.
VERDICT The very fact that Liberty Valance threatens John Wayne’s Tom Doniphon and then leaves the room without following through is enough to sway the judges’ decision in this one. Valance is a loudmouth popinjay, a strutting bully, and not a man to strike fear into the heart of the Duke. Richard Boone, on the other hand, is quiet, well spoken, and appears to mean exactly what he says. His wickedness and moral degeneracy might be easy to overlook—until big bad Boone looks into your eyes. Then you know he means business. Our verdict for best bad guy between Lee Marvin and Richard Boone goes to R.B., hands down.