The Top 20 Richest Villains
Payset has dug through the data surrounding some of the most famous villains - real and fiction - to find who tops the rich list of ill-gotten gains.
From Tony Soprano and his ownership of Satriale’s Pork Store or Pablo Escobar and his drug trafficking empire which generated profits that would dwarf Amazon today, we're looking at the richest bad guys out there. We’ve used tools to calculate the value of assets and the change in the value of the dollar to see who is the richest villain ever.
#20 - Calvin Candie, $71 million
Generating most of his fortune from a Mississippi plantation, the main villain in Django Unchained saw his wealth adjusted from the estimated $2 million in 1858 dollars to today's value, which holds at $3,158.48 for every 100 dollars of that period. Played by Leonardo Dicaprio, he owns the fourth largest plantation in Mississippi which he calls ‘Candyland’.
#19 - Tony Soprano, $76 million
TV’s most popular anti-hero was found in The Sopranos' New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano. It's tough to estimate his entire net worth as the typical salary of a mobster in the US can range from $16,000 to $100,000. Using infamous real-life mob boss John Gotti as a benchmark, we can estimate that Soprano had an annual income between $10 million and $12 million. Tony Soprano also ran multiple businesses including the Bada Bing strip club and the recognizable Satriale’s Pork Store as well as worked as a waste management consultant for Barone Sanitation.
#18 - Magneto, $500 million
A genius who built his fortune by looting Nazi gold, Magneto is a mutant with the ability to bend and manipulate metal using his mind. The main villain of the X-Men franchise, he excels in various fields of science and technology, even creating mutants and clones. His biggest financial pain came in the form of Vibranium, a substance that he cannot bend with his mind. This barrier negates his power somewhat and leaves the supervillain outside the billionaire club.
#17 - George Jung, $593 million
Made famous by Johnny Depp’s portrayal in Blow, George Jung was one of the most infamous drug smugglers in U.S. history and became Pablo Escobar’s right-hand man in the process. Documented in Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 Million With the Medellín Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All, the novel sums up the story of George Jung’s illicit activities and wealth. He made $100 million at the peak of his cartel employment, which in today’s dollars sits closer to $600 million. Run-ins with the authorities and failed business ventures left him with just $10,000 at the time of his death in May 2021. A far cry from the peak of his drug running, where he allegedly made $30 million a month.
#16 - Commodus, $600 million
Famously played by Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator, Commodus is best known in history for playing a significant role in the demise of the Roman Empire. Unable to step into the shoes of his father Marcus Aurelius, he indulged in a lavish lifestyle and used the empire’s wealth for unnecessary events - including personally fighting thousands of exotic animals in the Colosseum. His wealth was estimated to have been around two million denarii which is worth $600,000,000 today.
#15 - Hans Gruber, $640 million
Immortalized by the legendary Alan Rickman, the plot of Die Hard follows Hans Gruber's attempt to loot Nakatomi Plaza of $640 million worth of bearer bonds that are being held at the tower in a high-security vault. Using the false show of a terrorist attack to steal the bonds, his plan to break through a 9-lock safe and acquire the goods worked to perfection. However, his success was short-lived as hero John McClane did away with Gruber during a tense standoff. Rickman’s portrayal of the intellectual evil mastermind made Gruber one of the most popular villains of all time.
#14 - Tony Montana, $900 million
Brian de Palma’s masterpiece Scarface is renowned as an American movie classic, as it represents the good and bad of the American dream. Coming from Cuba to Miami as a refugee, ex-convict Tony Montana used his greed, desire, and ambition to build an empire that is estimated at $900 million. His drug trafficking business was aided by his shell company Montana Management Company which laundered his wealth into assets and businesses like the trendy yet dangerous Babylon Club.
#13 - Tywin Lannister, $1.8 billion
Amongst being a master manipulator and cruel leader, Charles Dance’s Game of Thrones character was above all a shrewd businessman. Deriving most of his fortune from gold reserves sat underneath Casterly Rock (the Lannister’s domain), he also made some smart financial moves to increase the Lannister's wealth. When the Lannisters take power, rather than having the Crown use Lannister's gold, he directs them to the Iron Bank which serves as a global leader in the TV series. He also ensures the Lannisters lent to other lords and houses, providing a revenue stream through interest.
#12 - Terry Benedict, $3.3 billion
The main villain of the Ocean's trilogy, Terry Benedict is the target of a $160 million robbery by the Ocean’s team. In this fictional universe, he has a monopoly on the Las Vegas strip which sees him own the Bellagio, the Mirage, and the MGM Grand casinos. A good comparison to a real-life inspiration can be found in Steve Wynn, a casino mogul who changed the Las Vegas scene forever. Wynn grew his fortune from $45,000 to $3 billion, which includes his ownership of The Golden Nugget, the Mirage, Treasure Island, and The Wynn, and Encore.
#11 - Auric Goldfinger, $6.5 billion
The line between reality and fantasy is always blurry when it comes to Bond villains. Each one has its unique style, inspiration, means of ill-gotten gains, and a grand master plan for success. In Goldfinger, the nemesis is found in the form of Auric Goldfinger, a bullion dealer and international jewel dealer. His plan of converting his assets to gold and creating a worldwide financial crisis is foiled by Bond but this doesn’t affect the fact that he was incredibly wealthy even before this. Golf courses, private jets, factories, several Rolls-Royce Phantom III's, and a Kentucky farm are just a few examples of his lavish gold-fueled lifestyle.
#10 - Meyer Lansky, $6.8 billion
Known as the ‘Mob’s Accountant’, Lansky came from a Polish background but worked his way up to the top of the mob. Along with Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, he developed the National Crime Syndicate and was estimated to have a wealth of around $300 million in 1967. After prohibition ended in 1933, it is believed that he parlayed his wealth through gambling establishments internationally. His role in the crime history of America has been portrayed by Ben Kinglsey, Richard Dreyfuss, and Dustin Hoffman.
#9 - Ozymandias, $7 billion
The anti-hero in Watchmen, Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) made the interesting decision to donate his entire family fortune to charity only to build a new empire from scratch. Maybe the most confused villain out of all on the list, he took inspiration from historical figures like Alexander the Great to be humanity’s savior. Adrian used his billion-dollar empire and superhuman intelligence to create a monster that he would unleash on New York, believing that it would unite the human race against nuclear war. His ending is ambiguous. When asked whether his plan had worked, and nuclear war had ended, Dr. Manhattan replies “nothing ever ends.”
#8 - Montgomery Burns, $8 billion
The much-beloved tyrant of The Simpsons, Charles Montgomery Burns has a strong monopoly on Springfield. He owns a laboratory, Springfield Hall, and, mostly famously, the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. A fan theory also suggests he owns the rights to the Christmas song ‘White Christmas’ after a mishap when he tried to buy Picasso’s ‘Guernica’. Owning the rights to this festive tradition would make him one of the wealthiest villains on the list by far, especially when someone like Mr. Burns would maximise every dollar from owning such a well-known jingle.
#7 - Norman Osborn, $10 billion
Another comic book villain who inherited a family fortune, Osborn is a wealthy scientist who dominates his industry in the Spider-Man franchise. He used his company Oscorp to develop a super-soldier serum that resulted in him becoming stronger and more powerful but far more insane. His insanity fueled the creation of the Green Goblin and the tech around this alter ego, whilst still furthering Oscorp to become something akin to a Tesla or Amazon of today.
#6 - Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, $14 billion
Creator and CEO of the Sinaloa cartel, “El Chapo” Guzman is arguably the world's most powerful drug trafficker. The cartel he runs is responsible for a quarter of all drugs imported into the US from Mexico. He reportedly still runs the operation even from prison. Brought to wider attention in Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico, the series details how Guzman built his empire through rigorous means of control and consolidation, turning a small cartel into a $3 billion revenue business today. Most of his wealth is hidden and as of now, the FBI has uncovered $14 billion.
#5 - Gordon Gekko, $16.5 billion
Made famous by the perfect performance of Michael Douglas in Wall Street, Gekko is the personification of Wall Street's greed and ambition. He was a corporate raider and investor that is based on the real-life characteristics of Carl Icahn, a notorious financier. He is most known for his quote “greed is good” and the creation of collateralised debt obligations. Gekko goes down for insider trading and securities fraud, serves time in prison, and is released a few years later. What’s the first thing Gekko does? Steals $1 million from his family and turns that into a $1 billion empire after shorting the banks ahead of a financial crash.
#4 - Al Capone, $18.6 billion
Capone is often viewed as America's most famous gangster. He rose to leadership of the Chicago Outfit during the Prohibition era and was the number one enemy of the city of Chicago (before they turned their eyes onto “El Chapo” Guzman). Capone was played by Robert De Niro in the film The Untouchables which details how he was eventually caught due to tax evasion and then sent to Alcatraz. At his peak in the 1930s, his fortune exceeded $100 million which would be equivalent to $18.6 billion today.
#3 - Kingpin, $20 billion
Wilson Fisk, known for being one of many Spider-Man adversaries, is a wealthy businessman and leader of the New York criminal underworld. He owns swathes of New York real estate, a private island, and is heavily invested in groundbreaking science and technology which aims to explore the multiverse. That is detailed in the film Spider-Man: Into The Multiverse where he builds a giant collider to explore other universes where his family is still alive.
#2 - Pablo Escobar, $64 billion
Labeled “The King of Cocaine,” Pablo Escobar originally started his trade through the illegal imports and exports of goods like flat-screen televisions and household goods before being introduced into drug trafficking. The rest, as they say, is history. He built a drug empire that gave him such a vast amount of wealth, that he offered to pay off Colombia’s national debt in an attempt to avoid extradition to the US. To this day, officials still find stacks of cash that were hidden in his various properties. At his the height of his power, Escobar controlled cocaine trade in the United states, making him worth $30 billion. That amount would be approximately $64 billion today.
#1 - Lex Luthor, $75 billion
Lex Luthor is a slight change from most comic book villains, as he is a self-made billionaire businessman, inventor, scientist, and philanthropist who dedicated his talents to overcoming the god-like Superman. You have to admire him for setting a high bar! Using his monopolisation in aerospace, engineering, and political prowess, he dedicates his being to the downfall of Superman.
Using reported assets, sources of income, generated wealth, and conversion of the dollar-spending-power, we worked out what each criminal’s wealth would be worth today. Using tools like Comparably to work out the expected income for some of the criminals' professions helped derive a basis of their net worth. Using officialdata.org, we found the dollar value in today’s value.
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