Between the alien monsters, the crazed androids and the malfunctioning ships, space is already totally scary before you start factoring in humans and all their potential awfulness. And yet, there’s something about space that seems to attract a lot of arseholes. Case in point: All seven of these guys.
Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) has the very bad luck to be on the same ship as Jim (Chris Pratt) in Passengers. Image: Columbia Pictures
7) Lt Zander Barcalow, Starship Troopers
Planet Earth is already in a world of hurt thanks to an ongoing war with vicious alien bugs. On top of that, soldier Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) gets horribly dumped by his high-school girlfriend, Carmen (Denise Richards), who’s training to be a pilot alongside Johnny’s former rival on the “space football” field: Zander Barcalow (Patrick Muldoon). All of that taken together would be bad enough, but Zander is also a smarmy snob who rubs his higher rank and new closeness with Carmen right in Johnny’s face. The fate of the humankind is at stake, and that’s where your priorities are? There’s a reason the entire audience cheers when the brain bug slurps through your skull in act three, Xander. A damn good reason.
6) Rockhound, Armageddon
Rockhound (Steve Buscemi), like all of the oil drillers who willingly follow Bruce Willis’ Harry Stamper into space to annihilate a very inconvenient asteroid, is a good ol’ boy, working-class-hero type. He also happens to be a genius. That is, until he comes down with, uh… “space dementia”, which inspires him to straddle a nuclear warhead, act out scenes from Dr Strangelove, and start firing weapons that are (inexplicably) included with the drilling equipment, cackling, “This is so much fun it’s freaky!” With the mission already hanging by a thread thanks to equipment failure, personality clashes and sheer ridiculousness, there’s no need to further endanger everyone (by which I mean, the entire population of Earth), and yet he does it anyway. He’s duct-taped to a chair for the duration, and this is the kicker: Just as the survivors are landing back on Earth, Rockhound suggests everyone just keep “that incident with me and the gun on the asteroid” under wraps, since they’re all heroes now. ALL EXCEPT YOU.
Image: Fox Searchlight
5) Pinbacker, Sunshine
The Sun is dying and, like that one Twilight Zone episode, the Earth is slowly freezing over. After a first attempt to reignite the Sun fails, a second team of astronauts aboard the poetically named Icarus II are tasked with saving the world as we know it. This mission requires getting dangerously close to the still-fiery star, which is risky enough without the added peril of becoming addicted to staring at the Sun and achieving literal enlightenment. We know this is a thing from the Icarus II‘s sun-obsessed doctor (Cliff Curtis), but we get a real taste of its madness when we meet Pinbacker (Mark Strong). Once the captain of the Icarus I, he’s now a fully insane, very crispy solar worshipper who does his best to sabotage the Icarus II‘s mission. See, he believes the Sun’s death is God’s plan, or something. The movie may be called Sunshine, but it is incredibly bleak, and doombringer Pinbacker is a huge, Freddy Krueger-looking reason behind that.
4) Commander Filitt, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Even in a gorgeously art-directed future, where most of the galaxy’s species are able to live together in some semblance of harmony in the titular space-station city, there’s always gotta be one dickhead who’s ready to make sure pain and suffering keep their place among the stars. Not only is Commander Filitt (Clive Owen) pompous and preening, he’s completely soulless, having ordered the near-genocide of a race of peaceful, sparkly aliens to cover up his own battlefield blunder – and then making up a huge lie about a dangerous epidemic to keep anyone from discovering his deception. He also commands a terrifying squadron of hulking robot soldiers programmed to mow down anyone that gets in his way, but that’s to be expected of someone capable of mass murder. Oh, and he’s the main character’s boss, so he’s ostensibly pretending to be on the side of the good guys, which somehow makes everything worse.
Image: Columbia Pictures
3) Jim Preston, Passengers
After an accident aboard a colony ship jolts him out of long-term hibernation, Jim (Chris Pratt) doodles around for a year before growing desperately lonely – so he decides it’d be OK to awaken another highly attractive passenger, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). In doing so, he ensures that she’ll grow old and die on the journey before reaching her destination, just like he will. Naturally, he lies and says her early revival was an accident like his, allowing her to fall for him before she realises the crap he pulled. She eventually forgives him and – even after they figure out a way to stick her back into stasis – decides to stay with him anyway, because Passengers is about people who make wrong choices. And even though (unlike pretty much everyone else on this list) Jim is a nonviolent guy who actually has, like, feelings and stuff, what he does to Aurora is so, so, so wrong.
2) Dr William Weir, Event Horizon
Deprived of much-needed time off thanks to an urgent last-minute assignment, the crew of the Lewis and Clark already regards the reason for their mission, Dr William Weir (Sam Neill), with a bit of disdain. But they have no idea what hell (literally) they’re in for once they board the long-lost Event Horizon, a ship whose Weir-designed gravity drive has led it to some very dark places. Tangling with a haunted ship that preys on one’s worst fears is plenty terrifying on its own. But then the troubled Weir becomes possessed by the ship’s evil mojo, which leads to rampant murder, sabotage and grisly self-mutilation – not to mention a magical resurrection back from an indisputable on-screen death to cause even more fatal chaos. You can’t get rid of him. Seriously, he’ll even pop up in your PTSD nightmares after the fact. If you see Dr Weir anywhere near your spacecraft, do not let him on board.
Image: 20th Century Fox
1) Carter J. Burke, Aliens
You knew that Burke (Paul Reiser), the sci-fi character we all love to hate the most, was going to be number one on this list. The two-faced Weyland-Yutani sleaze pressures a shell-shocked Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) into returning to LV-426, despite the fact that she’s already had enough alien encounters to last several lifetimes. Then, when the people who’ve been heroically protecting him start dying right and left, he puts his corporate bottom line above human lives, including the little girl who is the only survivor of his company’s decimated terraforming colony. Fortunately, Ripley soon sees through his duplicitousness, and the very monster he was trying to bring back to his bosses ends up killing him. But despite his gruesome end, that combination of pretending to be a nice guy while plotting against everyone around him – plus his scheme to smuggle the alien back to Weyland-Yutani HQ, while knowing full well it could easily break free and wipe out the entire human population – makes him the most odious creep imaginable.