This is undoubtedly a very broad topic, but it's a bit more challenging for me since I don't watch many films in the action, horror or crime genres. In fact, some of these are from movies I wouldn't have watched were it not for MovieBuff25's influence. ;-)
There will be glaring omissions, simply because I'm not including characters from movies I haven't seen (e.g. A Clockwork Orange, No Country for Old Men). Please add your own selections in the comments section, and I'll add them to the list.
Which are your favorite movies are characters on this list?
Here we go (in chronological order):
1. Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) Strangers on a Train (1951)
His life would be so much better if he could just get rid of Daddy. Then he could live comfortably, on his father's money, which his affectionate and looney Mom. He just needs the right guy to help him pull off the perfect crime.
2. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) -- Psycho (1960)
|I may seem like an ordinary guy who still lives with his mommy.|
But wait'll you see what I've got in my basement!
Dubbed by NPR as "a most terrifying mama's boy," this character brought the Oedipal psycho-killer into popular consciousness. Director Alfred Hitchcock took great pains to make sure the now-famous "twist" would not be revealed before his film hit theaters.
3. Hannibal Lecter (Sir Anthony Hopkins) -- Silence of the Lambs (1991)
There's nothing like having somebody for dinner, with a side of fava beans and a little Chianti.
4. Maynard (Duane Whitaker) Pulp Fiction (1994)
Ah ... this movie is overflowing with fodder for this list. But I decided to pick just one, so here's the winner. This is one of the most inexplicably sadistic, bat shit crazy characters in the history of movies. Of course. Who else would take on Marcellus Wallace?
"Nobody kills anyone in my store except me and Zed ... (doorbell) That's Zed."
"Forget the briefcase. Bring out The Gimp!"
5. Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) -- Dead Man Walking (1995)
When I saw this movie, I was working as a counselor with troubled youth. I'd met a few who I believed to have antisocial personality disorder for whom I held little hope. This is a brutal thing to say about a teenager. But sometimes you just know. It's not purely based on diagnostic criteria. You just get a "vibe." There's something missing in their eyes. And you wonder why.-- when most humans come into this world innocent and amply equipped to experience love and empathy -- does this happen?
I experienced all this watching Sean Penn's performance. He had that exact look in his eyes. I actually found the movie so disturbing I had to pause it and leave the room several times.
6. Begby (Robert Carlyle) -- Trainspotting (1996)
You've got your cold, calculating sociopath, silently planning his next move. And then you got Begby. This guy could go from some semblance of normal to raging, bat shit crazy on the turn of a dime.
7. Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) -- Fargo (1996)
The chemistry between him and his chatty, sidekick Carl (Steve Buscemi) -- who is sleazy but less cold-blooded and has an eye for prostitutes -- is priceless. Gaear is strictly business, as in "Shut the fuck up! Or I'll throw you back in the trunk, you know?" And he sure is handy with a wood chipper.
8. Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) -- Jackie Brown (1997)
"AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes."
9. Hayley Stark (Ellen Page) -- Hard Candy (2005)
After three weeks of chatting online with a 32-year-old photographer, 14-year-old Hayley Stark meets him in a coffee shop. After some flirtation, he takes her home. This seems like the kind of scenario your mother warned you about -- being picked up online by a sexual predator.
But all is not as it seems. Hayley slips a little something in the guy's drink. He wakes up tied to a chair. Hayley accuses him of being a pedophile, and the torture begins.
Oh, and she's an aspiring medical student and is eager to perform a do-it-yourself castration. I challenge any male to make it through this movie without being doubled over on the floor, cringing. I'm just sayin'.
10. Gabriel Engel (André Hennicke) -- Antibodies (Antikörpe) (2005)
|I look better in red.|
Although this film has been glibly referred to as "the German Silence of the Lambs," it is very different and -- in many ways -- more complex. Child rapist and serial killer Gabriel Engel is arrested in a spectacular police strike. Hoping to close a case in his own jurisdiction, small town cop Michael Martens travels to the big city to interrogate him.
Meanwhile Michael is dealing with the brutality of his father-in-law and disturbing signs of antisocial personality disorder in his own young son. Michael is a very repressed person, his life carefully circumscribed by his work and his strict religious beliefs. His encounter with Gabriel brings Michael in touch with darker parts of his own nature. And -- in true Hannibal Lecter style -- this nut job is damn good at getting into your head.
This is a rich, complex psychological movie and an interesting character study of Michael. It made me think of the Jungian concept of "the shadow" -- we all have a dark side, and the more fiercely it's repressed the larger it looms when it does creep out.
What spoiled the movie for me was the ending ... SPOILER (highlight to read). I disliked the film's attempt at a dramatic ending, when Michael sets out to kill his own son, who he believes to have committed a rape and murder, and is stopped by proof of his son's innocence which is -- literally -- flown in at the last minute. First of all, I thought the allusion to the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac was laid on WAY too thick. Trust your audience's intelligence, and make those biblical allusions subtle, please. Second, I was sorely disappointed by what had been a complex, interesting movie ending with a deux ex machina. If anyone has seen Antibodies and has an opinion on the film or the ending, I'd love to hear it!
11. Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) -- In Bruges (2008)
Ralph Fiennes was -- as always -- amazing as a psychotic, unyielding English crime boss. The Sicilians have nothing on this guy! He also happens to be a family man with a wife and three kids who probably wonder why he spends so much time away "on business."
12. Nate (Noah Taylor) -- Red, White & Blue (2010)
Part of the unholy trifecta therapists are told to watch out for, when assessing potential antisocial personality disorder in childhood, is #1 cruelty to animals & #2 setting fires. Guess what this guy did when he was a kid? He set his sister's pet bird on fire. Yup.
As an adult, he finds a niche with the U.S. military -- my guess is that he was trained in doing interrogations. A skill he puts to good use when his life goes down a darker path.
This movie totally freaked me the fuck out. Like the iconic "gimp" scene in Pulp Fiction, I found it incredibly hard to sit through. How much human brutality and evil can a wimp like me be expected to take in one sitting? And it was hard for me to see Noah Taylor in this role after he was so adorable as the tormented young musician David Helfgott in Shine (before he grew up and became Geoffrey Rush). But he is undoubtedly a magnificent actor.
One wouldn't expect a sociopath like Nate to feel genuine love. But humans are often not so clear-cut. And Nate truly does love the young woman with whom he connects -- a person who is arguably as damaged and dangerous as he is. That is an area in which indie British film-maker Simon Rumley really shines -- creating morally ambiguous characters, people we fear or loathe but can't dismiss altogether.
13. Henry (Michael Rooker) -- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
from IMDB: Henry likes to kill people, in different ways each time. Henry shares an apartment with Otis. When Otis' sister comes to stay, we see both sides of Henry; the "guy-next-door" and the serial killer. Low budget movie, with some graphic murder scenes. Written by Rob HartillMyerla --
14. Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) -- Blue Velvet (1986)
I'm glad Myerla reminded me of this character, the highlight of what was -- hands down -- the most disturbing movie I saw during my undergraduate years in college. And nobody did ape shit crazy quite like Dennis Hopper.
Blue Velvet starts with Jeffrey, an innocent young man who makes an unpleasant discovery while walking through a cornfield. When you find a severed ear on your way home, you can be pretty sure that isn't a good sign. This is the first breadcrumb on a trail leading him into Frank Booth's dark, vicious world.
15. Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) -- Misery (1990)
When best-selling novelist Paul Sheldon crashes his car in a freak blizzard. he is critically injured. As luck would have it, he's rescued by former nurse Annie Wilkes, his "number one fan", who takes him back to her remote house in the mountains. As the title of the movie makes clear, nothing good can come of this. Kathy Bates was unforgettable in this role.
"YOU! YOU DIRTY BIRD, HOW COULD YOU!"
16. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) -- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
A nurse entrusted with the responsibility of ministering to patients with severe mental illnesses, Nurse Ratched is unwaveringly calm, unbendingly dictatorial, and completely devoid of compassion. Her attack on Billy Bibbit, after he makes a brief foray into independence, was excruciating to watch. And no one will ever forget the brutal revenge exacted against resident troublemaker R.P. McMurphy.
17. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) -- American Psycho (2000)
Tippi --From IMDB: A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies.
18. Mavis Gary -- Young Adult (2001)
Tippi mentioned this character for reasons she discussed, below, in the comments.
From IMDB: Mavis Gary, once the high school 'It Girl', now an alcoholic divorcée who writes a soon to be canceled young adult fiction series, makes the decision to return to her childhood home in Minnesota. There she embarks on a plan to win back her former sweetheart, Buddy. The fact that Buddy is now married with a baby doesn't dissuade her. Along the way, she forms a bond with Matt Freehauf, another former classmate, who has been left disabled by a beating he took from a bunch of jocks.3Guys1Movie --
19. Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) -- No Country for Old Men (2007)
From IMDB: In rural Texas, welder and hunter Llewelyn Moss discovers the remains of several drug runners who have all killed each other in an exchange gone violently wrong. Rather than report the discovery to the police, Moss decides to simply take the two million dollars present for himself. This puts the psychopathic killer, Anton Chigurh, on his trail as he dispassionately murders nearly every rival, bystander and even employer in his pursuit of his quarry and the money. As Moss desperately attempts to keep one step ahead, the blood from this hunt begins to flow behind him with relentlessly growing intensity as Chigurh closes in. Meanwhile, the laconic Sherrif Ed Tom Bell blithely oversees the investigation even as he struggles to face the sheer enormity of the crimes he is attempting to thwart.
20. Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) -- The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
from IMDB: The 1950s. Manhattan lavatory attendant, Tom Ripley, borrows a Princeton jacket to play piano at a garden party. When the wealthy father of a recent Princeton grad chats Tom up, Tom pretends to know the son and is soon offered $1,000 to go to Italy to convince Dickie Greenleaf to return home. In Italy, Tom attaches himself to Dickie and to Marge, Dickie's cultured fiancée, pretending to love jazz and harboring homoerotic hopes as he soaks in luxury. Besides lying, Tom's talents include impressions and forgery, so when the handsome and confident Dickie tires of Tom, dismissing him as a bore, Tom goes to extreme lengths to make Greenleaf's privileges his own.Paige --
21. The Joker (Heath Ledger) -- The Dark Knight (2008)
From IMDB -- When Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent launch an assault on the mob, they let the clown out of the box, the Joker, bent on turning Gotham on itself and bringing any heroes down to his level."I believe whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you…stranger."
22. Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) -- A Clockwork Orange (1971)
From IMDB -- In future Britain, charismatic delinquent Alex DeLarge is jailed and volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society's crime problem... but not all goes to plan.
Great post! I love that you included Bruno Antony, Gaear Grimsrud, Hayley Stark, and Harry Waters. They aren't popular picks, but they totally should be.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Josh! I was a little disappointed that I only had one female on the list. But Hayley was really chilling, especially since she was only supposed to be 14. I really wondered about her back story.Delete
Hannibal is the most charismatic sociopath I've ever seen on screen - good call! I now really want to see Hard Candy. I'm alternately terrified and fascinated.ReplyDelete
I had mixed feelings about Hard Candy, but without a doubt it was very well acted.Delete
Lots of great performances here! Anthony Perkins scared the hell out of me in Psycho when I was teenager :)ReplyDelete
I recently watched Henry: Portrait of a serial killer (1986). A dark, effective character study. Underrated, and equally as chilling as some of the other choices on your list above.
I've never seen Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer -- it sounds fascinating and disturbing. I'll look it up and add it to the list. :)Delete
I wouldn't want to meet these down a dark alleyway that's for sure. For me Hopkins' Hannibal Lector is the best. He is intelligent and charismaticReplyDelete
Personally I would add Frank Booth from Blue Velvet to that list. The guy is insane.
Also how about Annie Wilkes or Nurse Ratched, Annie is equally insane as Frank Booth and Nurse Ratched is lacking completely in empathy.
Sorry to point out an error, but on number 2, I think you meant Anthony Perkins rather Hopkins. =)
Frank Booth from Blue Velvet is an excellent choice! I'd forgotten about him. Nobody can do ape shit crazy quite like Dennis Hopper.Delete
I don't know who Annie Wilkes is, so I'll look it up. But Nurse Ratched is a great choice.
Thanks! And thank you for pointing out my mistake. I always appreciate having an error pointed out. Fixing it now.
Annie Wilkes ... oh, right! That character in Misery. She was magnificently psycho.Delete
No Patrick Bateman? My God! :) Really nice list right here, some absolute classics like Lecter or Bates. I really need to see Red White and Blue. I also need to rewatch Fargo, it's such a briliant movie and I only saw it once, years ago.ReplyDelete
I haven't seen American Psycho, but I'll add him to the list. :)Delete
You should definetly watch it, really entertaining and fun movie. Bale was terrific in it.Delete
Margaret, I just added it to my list. :)Delete
LOVE this topic ("The Sociopath Next Door" is one of my favorite books), so I'm kind of sad to realize I haven't seen most of these. Though I'd argue that Kathy Bates in Misery isn't a sociopath; she's so deeply attached to a character that it drives her insane (or at least is a focal point for her insanity); a sociopath wouldn't be able to feel that attachment.ReplyDelete
I would suggest that Mavis from Young Adult would fit the bill. When looking at the kindergarteners' "How do I feel today" chart, she states flat-out that she sometimes doesn't feel anything, and she doesn't even understand why that's not normal. I might attribute that to depression, but throughout the film the only emotions we see from her are anger, jealousy, self-pity, and frustration. No empathy or understanding, no remorse or conscience.
Not all psychopaths are criminals. (DUN DUN DUUNNNNNN)
I haven't seen Young Adult, but I'll add her to the list. True, not all sociopaths are criminals, though that seems to be the sort that gets the most play in cinema. :-) And I'd argue that not all sociopaths are incapable of feeling emotional attachments -- it's a bit more complicated than that.Delete
Okay fair enough; but they wouldn't have an attachment like the one Kathy Bates' character seems to feel, which is deep affection and empathy for a character. She's genuinely hurt, sad, and angry on behalf of a character she cares about, because she wants to see good things for her. Typically a sociopath would be attached to someone solely because of self-interest: this person helps me, takes care of me, makes me feel good, etc.Delete
io9 ran an interesting article a few days ago on why Sherlock, despite appearances (and his own self-diagnosis) isn't a sociopath. Great read: http://io9.com/5933869/stop-calling-sherlock-a-sociopath-thanks-a-psychologist
Well, Tippi, in all fairness I haven't seen Misery in many years and I don't remember the character well. And you made some interesting and persuasive points. ;-)Delete
I also haven't seen Sherlock yet, though I'm a big Dr. Who fan, especially "new Who." I'll take a look at the article.
I strongly disagree on Mavis. She feels great pain that's why she is on self destructive route. She is visibly hurt during Buddy's wife performance and she feels remorse as she gets back to hotel and finds her dog who she realizes she abandonded for days. She may be numb from the pain but sociopath? No.Delete
I don't have an opinion on Mavis, since I haven't seen the movie. But your point makes a lot of sense. I think most (though certainly not all) people who seem to lack personal responsibility, "normal" emotions, and conscience are damaged human beings rather than sociopaths.Delete
Tippi, as your beloved co-blogger, I have to disagree about Mavis. I wouldn't let her step foot in the list above.Delete
Mavis visibly suffered from severe depression...hence the sense of withdrawal, lack of emotion or caring and her dependence on alcohol. I agree with Sati, because she did feel remorse. She knew she had serious problems, which she openly admit, but I don't think she was strong to become proactive about tackling her mental problems.
Stephanie, Now that is a good list of people I would not want to share a cab with :-). I think another good choice would be Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) from No Country for Old Men. I especially like your selection of Maynard from Pulp Ficton. We named out softball team Bring Out the Gimp.ReplyDelete
Your cab remark cracked me up. And naming your softball team Bring Out the Gimp is hysterical. If that doesn't strike fear in the hearts of your adversaries, I don't know what will. ;-)Delete
I didn't include the character from No Country for Old Men simply because I haven't seen the movie. I should. I am a big Coen fan.
Happy to see Gaear from FARGO on here. One of the lines from the film that has stuck with me since the first time I saw it in high school was:ReplyDelete
Marge: There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don't you know that? And here you are and it's a beautiful day. Well, I just don't understand it.
It was when she was talking to Gaear toward the end. And as she spoke to him, we could tell that he probably didn't feel bad about the murders and everything. I thought it was a great scene.
Also love feeling some love for my favorite Tarantino film to date, JACKIE BROWN. Also, IN BRUGES is just wonderful. I think Colin Farrell's best movie by far. Harry Waters was scary... especially on the phone!
Will catch ANTIBODIES soon. Netflix keeps recommending it to me for some reason. Maybe it's because of all those serial killer movies I've seen. lol
My pick is none other than Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) in Anthony Minghella's THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. I was absolutely fascinated and charmed by him. To make a sociopath someone we can care about AND root for to get away with what he did, that's brilliant.
I agree -- that simple interaction between Gaear and Marge was so powerful. I saw The Talented Mr. Ripley and remember liking it, but it was so long ago I remember almost nothing about it. It's probably time for a re-viewing.Delete
Hehe, LOVE this list!ReplyDelete
That's funny. You were commenting on my blog just as I was commenting on yours. :)Delete
Loved Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Amazing.ReplyDelete
And I'm happy you included Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Loved that book, but the movie was amazing to me, thanks to his work.
What about Malcolm McDowell's Alex, from A Clockwork Orange? That movie still freaks me the fuck out.
O.K., Paige, now you've convinced me to see American Psycho. Or read the book. Or both.Delete
I'm glad someone mentioned Clockwork Orange. I hadn't included it because I haven't seen the movie yet. I'm kind of afraid to. Not sure whether I can handle that level of fucked upedness.
Heath Ledger's Joker is a nice choice. He was so talented -- what a tragedy.
Christian Bale in "American Psycho" was crazy-good. I love his speech about Whitney Houston. Damn. Just thinking about it makes me happy... in a twisted... sort of way...Delete
Franz -- *Laughing* Some things do make us happy in a twisted kind of way. Like watching Pulp Fiction. Definitely going to watch American Psycho.Delete
Steph, I can loan you Anerican Psycho- the book and the movie.ReplyDelete
Thanks! :) I sent you a FB message.Delete
I was the only one of my friends who actually enjoyed Ripley. I own it and still enjoy watching it. Damon is at his best in this move.ReplyDelete
Unfortunately I hardly remember it -- I just remember liking it. I need to watch it again soon.Delete
typing too fast
List is perfect but I have to say I don't agree with Young Adult. I really hated the movie, but that's just me. Otherwise, the others are perfect.ReplyDelete
Thanks! Young Adult was a reader pick -- I haven't seen it. So as Marvin said in Pulp Fiction, "Man, I don't even HAVE an opinion." :-) I am interested in watching it though, since I enjoyed Juno.Delete
What a fun post! I tend to like the baddies in books and film. You list some of my favorites here, Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. I had forgotten about Dead Man Walking. Sean Penn was his usual brilliant self in that film.ReplyDelete
lol Ralph Fiennes scares the crap out of me, especially in the HP films and Voldemort. Gosh, theres sooooo many baddies in film...my favs are Michael Myers from Halloween, Jack Torrence from The Shining and Tony Montana from Scarface. oh, and the lady who boiled the rabbit in Fatal Attraction! Glenn Close plays her.
Yes, the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction was seriously bent, and the rabbit was just over the top. :-) You gave great examples! And Fiennes is really creepy as Voldemort.Delete
what a fun read, you and thd readers have written most of my fav 'bad' people.ReplyDelete
I also like Kevin Spacek in se7en, I forgot his character's name. Cillian as Jackson Rippner in Red Eye is also interesting even though the ending of the movie is terribly bad. I Have just watched an Indonesian movie called Forbidden Door, Gambir (the main character) is really fun to see...he slashes his friends' throat in very casual way.
I haven't seen Se7en or Red Eye. I also haven't seen Forbidden Door (I wonder whether it's available in the U.S.?) The way you describe him ... "slashes his friends' throats in a very casual way" ... wow! :-) That sounds like a villain not to miss.Delete
You haven't seen se7en? you must!! it's one of the best serial killer movies ever made. I hate Brad Pitt but don't mind seeing se7en more than 3 times.Delete
My friend told me, she had to order Forbidden Door, so it's not available in US then :(
I have just written my review if you're interested.
Ohh what a great bunch of nuts you’ve listed here. LOVED the inclusion of Maynard. “The spider just caught a coupl’a flies.”ReplyDelete
I think my pick, of those not listed, would be Mark “Chopper” Read, played by Eric Bana in Chopper. That is as disillusioned and charming a nutjob as I’ve ever seen. The fact that he's a real guy just makes the character that much more mad.
Thanks for your encouraging words. :-) There were so many nut jobs in Pulp Fiction, yet Maynard stood out!Delete
I've never heard of Chopper -- it sounds worth checking out. Isn't Eric Bana the guy in The Time Traveler's Wife? (One of those "Meh. The novel was better." kind of flicks.) :-)
Yep, that's him. Chopper was his breakout role, and he is unrecognizable in it. So big and brooding and badass. A completely nut.Delete
so I'm checking your website, and of course, sociopaths it's what immediately catches my eye. I still need to see some of these, but most of the choices are perfect, of course. I know I really regret not finishing Dean Man Walking - though it was 4AM already, so... Of course Patrick Bateman is one of my favorites characters of all time, both book and film are absolutely brilliant.ReplyDelete
I'm particularly curious about In Bruges, I always enjoy watching Fiennes loose his shit.
Haha, this is a great list! And Hard Candy sounds nothing like I've heard about it - that makes me want to watch it more! :)ReplyDelete
Excellent post! You have to admit though, the psychopaths are the best roles aren't they? They really allow the performers to let loose. I've seen and love so many of these.ReplyDelete
It's a great site you guy are running here. I shall return.
I'm quite sure that Norman Bates is NOT a sociopath. He most definately suffers from psychosis and probably other mental illnesses, but he doesn't really fit any of the crtiteria of a sociopath.ReplyDelete
It's insane that Lisa from Girl, Interrupted ISNT included.ReplyDelete
The movie "Bully" from 2001 is another one for the list.. it's a true story about teenagers from Florida and the cast includes Bijou Phillips.ReplyDelete
The teens are still in jail. I think they should be set free because if the sociopath wasn't stopped, he would have killed all of them -- but that's a different discussion.
Very good list ! except you forgot to mention some other good examples of psycho characters such as Mickey Knox (Natural Born Killers), Brick Top (Snatch) another crazed mobster beside your Harry Waters, Simon Phoenix (Demolition Man) and Jean Vilain (Expendables 2), beside the chaotic villains your mentioned on the list :)) OHH and Tyler Durden from Fight Club. These are definitely some prominent figures that, in my opinion and just as a simple suggestion nothing more, deserve well to be here :DReplyDelete
Wish you the best !