We don’t know why evil looks so good onscreen, but there’s something about watching crazy characters which excites us while making our blood curdle. Perhaps it’s the suaveness or surety that all psychopaths have in their behaviour, perhaps it’s knowing that there’s something outrageously delicious about giving in to the dark side. Anyway here are 8 movie characters who took psychopathy to the next level:
Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver
Perhaps Robert De Niro’s most iconic character, Travis Bickle is an ex-soldier who suffers from insomnia and decided to drive a taxi to fill the time. He is pushed over the edge after the girl he likes ditches him after a first date at a porno theatre and grows disillusioned with life in the city. Procuring guns and exercising to get in shape, Bickle turns into a vigilante obsessed with cleaning the city of its filth. He looks to murder a prominent politician and ends up rescuing a young prostitute by shooting her pimp and other customers. But perhaps his craziest moment was the one where he points a gun at the mirror asking, ‘You talking to me?’
Joker – The Dark Knight
The Joker has always been Batman’s arch-nemesis and while Jack Nicholson did justice to the character in the original, Heath Ledger’s performance in the reboot was just mind-blowing. To get in character, Ledger would spend days alone and it showed on screen. The Joker was a villain no one could predict and he completely drove our hero insane. His introduced anarchy everywhere he went and in Ledger’s own words was a ‘psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy’. His dialogue in the movie: ‘Why so serious? Let’s put a smile on that face’ still spends a chill down our spines. Heath Ledger died shortly after filming finished for the movie which makes the performance even more enthralling.
Hannibal Lecter – Silence of the Lambs
Perhaps the most demented and intelligent of all psychopaths in filmdom, Anthony Hopkins was marvellous as Dr Hannibal Lecter – the psychiatrist who could make anyone’s skin crawl with his cannibalistic behaviour. He comes to the police’s aid to catch two serial killers and then evades police security to continue his reign of terror. He was undoubtedly the scariest of them all.
Frank Costello – The Departed
Jack Nicholson’s Irish gangster character was fundamental to the plot of the Scorsese classic The Departed in which two double agents – one undercover cop and one dirty one – try to take down two opposing factions. In the middle of it was Frank Costello, a psychopathic gangster who had a thing for women, kills people without any hint of any remorse and even toys with a severed hand on the dinner table.
Max Cady – Cape Fear (1991)
De Niro may have been understated as the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II but he was downright bonkers as Max Cady in Cape Fear. A convicted rapist who wants to get revenge against the lawyer who sent him to jail and even a beating by some thuggish friends of the lawyers doesn’t abate his madness. A remake of a 1962 movie, the 91 version had De Niro as an unreasonable madman who would do anything to destroy the lawyer who sent him to jail.
Patrick Bateman – American Psycho
Christian Bale has proved his acting chops time and again and long before he became Batman, he was Patrick Bateman. Regarded as somewhat of a joke in his social circle, he has thing for prostitutes and nothing he can buy fulfils the void he has in his life. Unable to deal with it anymore, he kills a homelass man and a dog, a co-worker for having a better designed business card and even two women with whom he had a threesome. Bateman was the most upper class of all the psychos in our list.
Anton Chigurh – No Country for Old Men
Javier Bardem’s characterisation of Bond villain Raoul Silva who goes a little homo on James Bond in bondage in Skyfall was almost laughably cute when compared to his earlier portrayal of Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. Chigurh was downright terrifying as the assassin for hire with a weird bowlcut to boot. Killing everyone he comes across, he sees himself as a God dispensing justice at times and is truly terrifying.
Jack Torrance – The Shinning
Did supernatural forces turn Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) mad or was it his alcoholism? We’ll never know but in this adaptation of the Stephen King book, Torrance turns into a crazy man who is led to believe that he must kill family to get a better job! Nicholson simply scared the bejesus out of anyone who watched the movie.