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Seven Screen Psychopaths

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Mark Kermode Mark Kermode | 18:01 UK time, Friday, 30 November 2012

Martin McDonagh's new movie Seven Psychopaths is out next week. I couldn't let that title go without listing my seven favourite screen psychos. What are yours?

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  • Comment number 1.

    Thank you for mentioning Patrick Bateman. I think American Psycho is seen by too many as a flyweight psycho movie but it is so much better.

  • Comment number 2.

    One of the psychos that I think was sorely overlooked was Ben in Man Bites Dog. That character is as charismatic, funny and terrifying as Patrick Bateman, but with a distinctly European twist. I mean, how many psychos do you know who recite lines of poetry to the camera?

    Thought so.

  • Comment number 3.

    I was a mixture of surprised and insulted when I didn't see Reservoir Dogs' Mr. Blonde on the list. He has to be the scariest character I've ever seen on screen simply due to the joy and light-hearted way he goes about torturing and coming close to killing the Police Officer. The blend of the dance and Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You" pushed me over the edge into a series of sleepless nights.

  • Comment number 4.

    WHAT?????? No place for Kevin Spacey's 'John Doe' from the film Se7en. The darkest most sadistic villain to hit Celluloid.......Whats in the box? whats in the box?

  • Comment number 5.

    What about Travis Bickle? I can definitely see the film as a portrait of how a man can become a psychopath, for apparently no reason.

  • Comment number 6.

    What a lovely language English is when "Seven Psychopaths of the Cinema" sounds alliterative.

  • Comment number 7.

    Asami Yamasaki from Audition, played by Eihi Shiina. The only film to ever truly curdle my blood, although Antichrist came close.

    Also, honorable mentions to Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men and Klaus Kinski in anything ever.

  • Comment number 8.

    I would nominate Anton Chigurh (Javier Badrem) too. But would also like to put in a shout for Col. Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper) in American Beauty.

  • Comment number 9.

    Mr Kermode, whilst I admire the list, I think I spot an oversight. Where was Frank Booth of 'Blue Velvet', as portrayed by the inimitable Dennis Hopper? This is the film you at first hated, and later realised is a masterpiece? I think it is very important you answer for such a crime publicly ;)

  • Comment number 10.

    Great list and I would probably add the Joker from either Nolan's or Burton's Batman and I would also like to nominate Ryunosuke Tsukue from Sword of Doom, as he was probably the first psychopathic samurai to lead a film.

  • Comment number 11.

    Heath Ledger's Joker is an obvious choice. But is there no need to talk about Kevin? I think he is one of the most interesting psychopaths of the past few years. His seemingly emotionless performance was to me very impressive and haunting.

  • Comment number 12.

    You've got a good list here, especially with Patrick Bateman and Alex Forrest. Another classic female psychopath is Annie Wilkes in Misery. Kathy Bates' brilliant performance combines an unnerving hospitality and a terrifying, unpredictable rage.

  • Comment number 13.

    Here's a quick rundown of my top seven psychopaths (in no particular order):

    1. Mr White (Reservoir Dogs) - His casual manner combined with the brutal acts of violence create a truly believable psycho. Plus who can forget "Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?".

    2. Norman Bates (Psycho) - The definitive psychopath and in my mind he still remains the scariest and most memorable in the most terrifying horror film of all time.

    3. Jack Torrance (The Shining) - I know the good doctor will not necessarily agree with this choice, but to me he represents how your average person can descend into madness and that to me is truly terrifying.

    4. Angel Eyes (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) - Without a doubt the most terrifying stare in cinema history, a man who personifies evil and cruelty, but also arguably a man who has best adapted to the brutal times he's living in.

    5. Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) - The lonely man who we can see everyday. What makes him so scary is how society glorifies his actions in the end. Surprised he didn't get a mention on the Good Doctor's list.

    6. Rupert Pupkin (The King of Comedy) - While not perhaps in the same class as the others on this list, Pupkin is a true psychopath. Worringly I found myself laughing along with his final comedy routine despite seeing what he had done to get there!

    7. O-Dog (Menace II Society) - What makes O-Dog so scary is how young he is and how he doesn't look remotely like a psychopath. Yet at only 17 he is fully immersed in a world of violence where he fits right in.

    All seven of these men leave a lasting impression on you, and despite their horrific crimes there is a strange fascination in watching them. Perhaps that is the scariest element of them all.

  • Comment number 14.

    My 7 would be 1. Kakihara, 2. Frank Booth, 3. John Doe, 4. Jack Torrace, 5. Annie Wilkes, 6. Anton Chigurh, 7. Don Logan

  • Comment number 15.

    Three psychopaths as portrayed by three Bobs. Max Cady as played by Robert Mitchum, not De Niro, in Cape Fear. Bill Sykes aka Robert Newton in Oliver Twist and Red Grant (Robert Shaw) in From Russia with Love. Those guys scared the crap out of me when i was a kid.

    A less obvious suggestion, Popeye Doyle in The French Connection. With his racism and fanatical hatred of drug pushers, he is clearly a psychopath. The ending has Doyle killing an FBI agent but not even acknowledging it because he's so fixated on chasing Charnier. The final shot of Hackman jumping through a hole in the wall in futile pursuit of his prey is Doyle diving into an abyss of madness.

  • Comment number 16.

    Good to see you've included Patrick Bateman in your list, he's always been one of my favorite screen psychopaths.

    I do, however, wish that you could have made room for Anton Chigurgh from No Country for Old Men and Kevin Spacey's portrayal of John Doe from Se7en. Both men so completely out of their minds, that they have completely justified their actions to themselves and actually enjoy the evil that they do.

  • Comment number 17.

    Keyser Soze?

  • Comment number 18.

    The movie psychopath that haunted me the most is children murderer Hans Beckert played by Peter Lorre in M. It's not just that Lorre somehow manages to look very plain and normal and at the same time very sick and scary. It's not even the frantic whistling when he dotes his young victims with candy and balloons that is a lot scarier than any bloody murder scene. It is the fact that Fritz Lange forces us to empathize with the killer when he's being chased by criminals and almost lynched by an angry mob. The strange way Lange plays with our feelings and our sympathy and expectations makes Beckert such and extraordinary movie psychopath. The fact that the film was made in 1930, makes it even more amazing.

  • Comment number 19.

    Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas would definitely be in my top seven. A callous, wayward character whose insane propensity for violence is displayed when there's mention of his 'shine box'.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    I would have to add Sir Ben Kingsley for Don Logan in Sexy Beast he plays it on such a hair trigger. Though maybe more of a sociopath than a psychopath, i never thought the man who played Gandhi could chill me quite so much, great performance.

  • Comment number 22.

    How could you leave out Malcolm McDowell's brilliant performance as Alex in Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece A Clockwork Orange, in my opinion, one of the most realistic and restrained portrayals of a psychopath onscreen? It's not just the awful things that he does, it's also the facial expressions that he makes. His direct glare into the camera lens held in the film's iconic opening shot is in perfect sync with the moog theme music, immediately arresting the viewer in a surreal state of confusion and horror.

  • Comment number 23.

    Dick Miller's character in Roger Corman's Bucket of Blood. Not a great movie but a brilliant character and story made in Corman's own inimitable style.

    Ben Kingsley out-Pesci's Pesci in Sexy Beast as the truly scary Don Logan.

    James Cagney as the deranged gang leader Cody Jarrett in Raoul Walsh's White Heat. " Top of the world, ma!"

    Robert Walker's father-hating Bruno in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. Truly scary.

    Paul, played by Arno Frisch and Michael Pitt in Michael Haneke's Funny Games. Unrelenting in his violence and psychopathy.

    Dr Christian Szell in Marathon Man as played by the national treasure that was Lord Olivier. "Is it safe?".

    Eiha Shiina as Asami Yamazaki in Takashi Miike's Audition. Be careful what you lust for!

  • Comment number 24.

    And let's not forget J.D. (Christian Slater) in Heathers. He might not quite have the body count, but he certainly has got the presence and the attitude.

  • Comment number 25.

    Max Cady - Cape Fear (1991)

    Robert De Niro as the maniacal Max Cady, a formidable piece of work combining a hulking physique illustrated by a plethora of menacing Tattoo's with a deceptive intelligence, vocalised by a primitive sounding southern drawl. Beneath the surface is a walking contridiction of a man who is part violent sociopath and cunning criminal mind with a little bit of religious fanaticism thrown in for good measure too.

    Frank Booth - Blue Velvet (1987)

    The late great Dennis Hopper will no doubt be remembered for many roles throughout his career, but arguably his finest on screen moment was in detailing the ferocious complexities of Frank Booth in David Lynch's conflicted classic Blue Velvet (1986). Hopper was if anything an intense on screen presence and in Booth it will never be more evident, whether it's his bizarre sexual behaviours or seemingly uncontrollable, unabated appetite for violent confrontation Booth is an intimidating puzzle of man.

    Anton ChIgurh - No Country For Old Men (2007)

    Armed with a Cattlegun, a fateful coin and an unstoppable sense of purpose Javier Bardem is trailing the plains of West Texas to distribute his own form of accountability. Ruthless and relentless, poised and precise Chigurh has all the qualities of a real life Terminator if not the look of a colossal Austrian synonymic with the concept. On screen rival Josh Brolin's rhetoric sums up Chigurh's unassuming threat memorably mid-film "What's this guy supposed to be, the ultimate badass?" a question that almost answers itself by the time it is asked. There is much to be said for Bardem's work here which is calculating and structured much like the persona and propensity of his character, exuding true remorseless terror with chilling conviction and genuine fear.

  • Comment number 26.

    Even to this day as a grown man when I think about Kathy Bates in Misery I get chills down my spine, just think about it you are in an accident but would you want her to save you? Another one that scares me whenever I watch Sexy beast is of course Ben Kingsley he is not like other scary gangsters he is a full on psychopath and you just don't know what will he do next and for me there's nothing scarier than expectation of a bad thing that can happen. Now John Goodman in Big Lebowski is the funniest psychopath on my list and yes he is funny but do you want him helping you. I can't forget Romane Bohringer in French movie Apartment where she brilliantly come as a real psycho bit*h that manipulates everybody around her. I also want to mention Robert De Niro hattrick in King of Comedy, Taxi Driver & Raging Bull also Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci in Conspiracy, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden & Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, Reese Witherspoon in Election, Brad Renfro in Apt Pupil, Joe Pesci in Goodfellas & Casino

  • Comment number 27.

    My comment got deleted because I made reference to a scene that had a swear word (or rather a letter and stars) in it, even though Mark says a swear in this. Go figure....

    However, my favourite 7 psychopaths are (no particular order): Anton Chigurgh (No Country for Old Men), Frank Booth (Blue Velvet), Patrick Batman (American Psycho), Asami Yamazaki (Audition), Martin Vanger (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Renard (The World is Not Enough), Alex (A Clockwork Orange).

    Honourable mention: John Doe (Se7en)

  • Comment number 28.

    Dr K I am glad you gave credit to Brian Cox, I agree his performance of Lector was my favorite. I would also add that i think Tom Noonan did a fantastic job as the other psycho in the film; the tooth-fairy.

  • Comment number 29.

    One woman That comes to mind is probably my favorite screen psyshopath, that is of course Norma Desmond. Brilliantly played by Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder's masterpiece Sunset Boulevard.

  • Comment number 30.

    Anton chigurh in No country for old men.psycho,Tommy in Goodfellas and Mr Blonde from Reservoir Dogs..."Are you going to bark all day little doggy or are you going to bite?"

    3 on screen nutters

  • Comment number 31.

    Begbie in Trainspotting, cos ive met people who were just like him.
    I like the way in that scene in American Psycho, Bateman goes absolutely beserk for 30 seconds then drops the axe and inhales a deep breath of air like he's savouring the bad chemicals in his brain, then sits down and lights a celebratory cigar. Thats such a dark but funny film, the bit where he films himself with those prostitutes with Sussudio farting away in the background is like an x rated Gillete advert.

  • Comment number 32.

    Gary Oldman as Norman Stansfield in Leon (the Professional).
    Robert Carlyle as Begbie in Trainspotting.
    Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men

    3 very violent and very scary characters. But they also all seem like real people and not that far removed from reality, which adds to their overall fearful psychoticness.

  • Comment number 33.

    I have read all the comments and I agree with almost all of them. Rupert Pupkin and Norma Desmond I 100% agree, and travis Bickle. I am very suprised that Frank Booth was not mentioned, especially how much you like Blue Velvet. He was completely memorable. I will give an honourable mention to Freeman Lowell (I guess who know who I'm talking about), just the fact that he chooses a bunch of trees and a watering can over human life. I do love that film though.

  • Comment number 34.

    What about Max in both Mad Max and Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior), his detatchment and the fact that he can be lured back into a life of violence simply through the use of a v8 engine (not to mention a scene including a leg, a pair of hand cuffs and a saw) would make him a psychopath in my book.

    Also have to mention Scorpio played by Andrew Robinson in Dirty Harry, a mad combination of impulsiveness and cold blooded planning make him and excellent villan (and psychopath).

  • Comment number 35.

    What about Daniel Plainview in "There Will Be Blood". Surely the milkshake scene counts as fairly psychotic?

  • Comment number 36.

    You'd think Britain's foremost movie critic would instead ponder our thoughts on the biggest movie news of the year - Disney's out-of-the-blue acquisition of Lucasfilm - and air his, but there you go.

  • Comment number 37.

    Richard Burton as John in Jack Gold's, The Medusa Touch. He is the ultimate psychopath! He kills pretty much everybody he comes across, including his own parents, by force of will alone! Ending with him seemingly about to destroy all human life! A fantastic performance from Burton in a massively under-rated Brit horror classic.

    Also, Darth Vader, Blofield and Begbe from Trainspotting.....

  • Comment number 38.

    .....Also have to second #34's shout for Scorpio, incredible performance by Andrew Robinson. So convincing, that he couldn't get another decent role for years afterwards

  • Comment number 39.

    I would have included Kevin Spacey's John Doe from Seven. Also Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.


    To me the undisputed king of psychopaths: Don Logan from Sexy Beast.
    Ben Kingsley makes him so unpredictable and cold, that he is just terrifying.

  • Comment number 40.

    Hollywood perpetuates the myth that psychopathy is all about, and only about, deranged murderers. The truth could not be further from the truth. It's safe to say that in real life, where psychopathic traits are easily confused with standard leadership qualities, the majority of psychopaths have more in common with Gordon Gecko than with Norman Bates, Hannibal Lecter, et al. It's only the unsuccessful psychopaths who turn violent.

  • Comment number 41.

    Haha, Brian Cox in Manhunter and Manhunt (video game). I had no idea until watching this (I'm more of a games person to be honest!)

  • Comment number 42.

    Matth Stil@36

    Mark gave his reaction to that story during the podcast for 9 November.

  • Comment number 43.

    #42 - Thanks for that. However, a blog entry dedicated to the subject would've been appropriate *hint, hint, Doc*

  • Comment number 44.

    A great question and I've struggled to narrow it down. I omitted Michael Rooker on the grounds he's already on Dr K's list...

    Ben Mendelsohn - ANIMAL KINGDOM
    Dennis Hopper - BLUE VELVET
    Joe Pesci - GOODFELLAS
    Eric Bana - CHOPPER
    Bill McKinney - DELIVERANCE
    Paul Bettany - GANGSTER NO.1
    Michael Madsen - RESERVOIR DOGS

    The following are seven honourable mentions who don't quite cut the mustard. Though I'm sure some would cut my head off, given the chance....

    Martin Sheen - BADLANDS
    Ralph Fiennes - SCHINDLER'S LIST
    Javier Bardem - NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
    Kathy Bates - MISERY
    Ben Kingsley - SEXY BEAST
    Terry O'Quinn - THE STEPFATHER
    Tim Robbins - BOB ROBERTS

  • Comment number 45.

    Great list Dr. K and great responses in the comments too! Glad to see so many people mention Kathy Bates in Misery, that movie haunts me to this day...

    Another one of my personal favourites that hasn't been mentioned is Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now". You know this guy is totally nuts when you start to see the heads on spikes near the river bank, and the way Brando delivers the dialogue, so chilling...

    Also I totally agree with Daniel Plainview making the list lol

  • Comment number 46.

    Probably not going to make the top ten just yet, but I think a recent nominee might be AnnaLynne McCord's Pauline from this year's Excision. Meister Kim Newman, an authority on all things Grand and Guignol, drew my attention to this film and couldn't resist. McCord's blotchy, stringy-haired high-schooler, who dreams of necrophilia and bizarre surgical rituals, has a dry acerbic wit, an unnatural resourcefulness when it comes to dissecting things, and, being a teenager, is pure evil.

  • Comment number 47.

    For me no list would be complete without the wonderful performance by Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu as the character Raymond Lemorne in the brilliant "Spoorloos" (The Vanishing) -
    A family man obsessed with the idea of getting away with murder - He obsessively plans and rehearses what he is attempting to achieve - He is the psychopath that walks among us and anyone could become his victim -
    One of the greatest endings ever -

  • Comment number 48.

    For a start that Genesis comment was harsh, so harsh. Now your list has some shocking omissions. Yes it does. Some if not ALL of these should have been in the list.
    Don ( Sir Ben Kinglsey) in Sexy beast
    Frank ( Hopper) in Blue Velvet
    Anton ( Bardem) in No Country for Old Men
    Lil Ze City of God
    Asami in Audition

    Whose the toughest , as Harry Hill would say there only one way to find out.If you put them all in a room and let them fight it, out my guess is, last one standing would be Lil Ze . Love to have a camera on that wall !!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 49.

    I might be one of the few people who was disappointed when Anthony Hopkins (Sir) turned up on screen as Lecter instead of Cox. Brian Cox's Lecter was much more menacing as he was more quietly cerebral compared to the scenery erm, chewing, mannerisms galore turn by the Sir. Red Dragon was a very expensive insult to Manhunter and all who made that much finer film.

    It's hard to fault the list or any of the comments above (although I really hate Man Bites Dog and the remake of Cape Fear, and, even though it hasn't been mentioned yet, Natural Born Killers). I agree the omission of Frank Booth from Mark's list is puzzling as Hopper is at his career best and pretty much top trumps. Asami Yamazaki (Audition) is chilling as she and the film completely wrong-foots us until...... And who wouldn't want to see Ben Kingsley do Sexy Beast's Don Logan redux in "Gandhi II: the Revenge"?

    Rutger Hauer as John Ryder in The Hitcher hasn't come up yet, and is certainly one of the scariest villains due to his unpredictability, and his strange fixation on C Thomas Howell. Why anyone would ever buy a Guinness from that guy is still a mystery to me.

    It is a shame that Michael Rooker has become an often OTT hardman typecast (however brilliant he is at that) when you compare it to his more disturbing chillingly almost affectless turn in Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer.

    American Psycho is not just lifted by Christian Bale's performance, but by the moments, later in the film, when the reality we're being shown is more clearly the product of his unravelling mind, and the audience can question any or all of what went on before. Without this, it would have been just a slightly satirical slasher film, with really really good business cards.

    Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview momentarily seemed like a replay of Bill "The Butcher" Cutting from Gangs of New York, excepting that There Will Be Blood gives Day-Lewis the chance to play a period psychopath in a great film, not an uneven mess.

    As for Fatal Attraction, without the OTT changed ending, Glenn Close's character may be viewed more as deeply disturbed and terribly fixated, rather than psychopathic (Pop Psychology 101). Mark is slightly wrong about one thing, he says that they reshot the ending "in which she meets a much more violent death". She meets a much more violent death..... twice.

  • Comment number 50.

    It took 31 posts before someone mentioned it, but Begbie in Trainspotting for me. I wouldn't even want to be in the same city as him let alone pub. We all know those true psychopaths - the ones who you don't even have to look at yet they'll still happily come and cave your head in!

  • Comment number 51.

    Oh, and what about Michael Caine's character in Dressed To Kill?

  • Comment number 52.

    Sorry - just thought of some more on the Caine theme. Jack Carter in Get Carter? Or his seriously cold performance as Mortwell in Mona Lisa?

  • Comment number 53.

    HAL. I'm sorry, Dave...

    On a side note, I see the future is 8K and not 3D.

  • Comment number 54.

    Wot, No Robert Mitchum? The Reverend Harry Powell has psycho-sexual violence issues, terrorises children for money, *and* he's got a song.

    "Leeeea-ning, leeeea-ning..."

  • Comment number 55.

    What no Frank? . . . . Now its dark

  • Comment number 56.

    Great list and some great suggestions from the commenters. I'd like to nominate Yoo Ji-Tae as Lee Woo-jin in Oldboy. Going through that much time and effort to make Oh Dae-Su suffer for his alleged crimes is the mark of a true psychopath

  • Comment number 57.

    I like your list. patrick bateman is a good choice. For me coldheartness, notoriously amoral behavior and the lack of empathy is iconically nailed by...

    ...Asami Yamazaki in Takashi Miike's brilliant film: "Audition". It's nightmarish ending gave me the impression that what i just saw on screen could never exist. i might be wrong.

    other suggestions:
    annie wilkes, dr. christian szell, colonel kurtz (but he actually got a point!), michael myers, frank booth, max cady and of course the sick mind that is gordon gekko.

  • Comment number 58.

    Jack Nicholson - The Shining
    That big insane grin and evil eyed look is so well known it’s part of main stream cinema history.

    Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
    Best magic trick ever!

    Robert De Niro - The King of Comedy
    That scene in 'The King of Comedy' where Rupert Pumpkin has life size cut-outs of Jerry Lewis and Liza Minnelli in his basement and pretending to be on a chat show with them, shows how delusional he is. It's disturbing and did send a shiver down my spine.

    Ralph Fiennes - Schinder's List
    What makes that character disturbing is, that guy actually existed in real life.

  • Comment number 59.

    Here's one I don't see anybody else saying, so I'll suggest it: Scott Pilgrim. Essentially, he goes out and murders 7 high-profile celebraties in a mad month-long rampage. Edgar Wright's original script ended with a gag in which the video gameish aesthetic was dropped suddenly, and the police arrested Scott and Ramona for mass murder.

  • Comment number 60.

    Given the Good Doctor's love for the film I'm surprised no one's brought up Captain Vidal from Pan's Labyrinth, excellently played by the up until then comedic actor Sergi Lopez.
    In one of his opening scenes he calmly beats a man to death with a bottle, shoots the mans grieving father to shut him up and then chastises his men for wasting his time when evidence of their innocence is found a few moments later. The Pale Man may be the more traditional movie monster but it pales (pardon the pun) in comaprison to Vidal.

    I also second the earlier mention of Lil Ze from City of God. A psychopath whose capacity for violence allows him to flourish in the crime ridden favellas who's callous disregard for human life is best summed up in a line said whilst walking home after raping a mans lover in front of him: "Wait a minute, why didn't I kill that guy?"

  • Comment number 61.

    That's embarassing, Mark. You seemed to have forgotten Frank Booth and Anton Chigurh. Maybe it's time to take some time off for Christmas. Have a well deserved break to recharge your batteries.

  • Comment number 62.

    Mark a worthy list but did you spare a thought for Robert Mitchum in 'Night of the Hunter'? Or perhaps Javier Bardem in 'No Country for Old Men'...?

  • Comment number 63.

    The only time a film has ever made me truly retch was watching Asami Yamasaki torture her victims in Audition. No one should enjoy administering acupuncture that much.

    On a much more light-hearted note (and go with me on this one!) Lola Stone in the Australian film The Loved Ones. Not what I'd call a cinematic horror classic but nonetheless a hugely enjoyable tongue-in-cheek horror with an equally tongue-in-cheek performance by Robin McLeavy as a jilted teenager seeking revenge on those who have rejected her. It's all hammed up to be intentionally (albeit INCREDIBLY darkly) comical but when you're watching her walking down an empty road in the blistering heat with a broken nose, dried blood on her face and a knife in her hand to kill her object of affection's girlfriend whilst singing the lines, "Am I not pretty enough, is my heart too broken?" then there's really only one word you can say.....psychooooo!

    One final it just me or are the majority of female cinematic psycho characters just spurned lovers?

  • Comment number 64.

    On an even MORE light-hearted note...Sid from Toy Story...remember the baby's head on the spider's body? A creation truly from the mind of a psycho!

  • Comment number 65.

    If you want to see a truly alarming example of a man enjoying his work, check out the legendary Jamie Gillis in the 1977 roughie WATERPOWER, a film guaranteed to make you change your religious beliefs.

    However, as far as I'm concerned, the most sustained and creepy portrait of human psychosis has been courtesy of the mighty David Hess in his unholy trinity of exploitation classics, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), HITCH-HIKE (1977) and THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1981).

    Honourable mention to Roger Watkins in THE LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET (1977) and Wings Hauser in VICE SQUAD (1982).

  • Comment number 66.

    Suggestions of Javier Bardem do not count. Chigurh is not a psycopath, he's an enigma without morals or reason.

    But I agree that leaving out Mr. Blonde is criminal (excuse the pun)- "Torture you? That's a good idea"

  • Comment number 67.

    Aguirre. SImple really. Those eyes. That lurch. That grimace. "I am the great traitor. I am the wrath of god".

  • Comment number 68.

    Definately Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter. The neighbours in Rosemary's Baby too. the claustrophobia they create makes my skin crawl.

  • Comment number 69.

    Chigurh in No Country for Old Men may not be a psychopath but the terrifying Romeo Dolorosa in "Perdita Durango" was Javier Bardem's brilliant portrayal of a psychopath. Having seen that film a few weeks after "Boca a Boca " where his character is sensitive and lovable was a great surprise and shows his incredible range.

    Alex de la Iglesias seems a little neglected as a director. His "The Day of the Beast" is a comedy horror classic.

  • Comment number 70.

    Hitler........see numerous films (fiction/non-fiction) for details

  • Comment number 71.

    Ben Kingsley - Don Logan - Sexy Beast (can't believe you missed this one!)

    Donald Pleasence - Ernst Stavro Blofeld (calm, calculated and cartoonishly 'evil')

    and another one that i cannot believe you missed out Mark!

    Joe Pesci - Tommy DeVito - Goodfellas (everyones favorite trigger happy psychotic gangster)

  • Comment number 72.

    Donald Sutherland as Attila Mellanchini in Bertolucci's 1900.

    He's one of the most disturbing, disgusting and twisted screen psychopaths I've seen to date.

  • Comment number 73.

    Well Done for the Mention of Peter Lorre in M. Above. He'd go on my list along with Javier Bardem in No Country, Kevin Spacey in Se7en, Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter (yes, he's more theatrical than Cox but I like that), the Starkweather/Fugate-like couple in Badlands, Johnny Depp's sonorous Sweeney Todd and finally RedLetterMedia's obese centenarian Harry S. Plinkett. (The Phantom Menace review was screened at a film festival in Copenhagen.)

  • Comment number 74.

    Chucky immediately springs to mind. But I am not sure of the appropriateness in terms of its alleged influences in certainly at least one Court case (now long complete).

    Or even the likes of Count Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster.

  • Comment number 75.

    Have to agree with the criminally overlooked Brian Cox in loveable as Anthony Hopkins is in the brilliant Silence of the Lambs and much underrated if a little ridiculous Hannibal, I do get really tired of people going on about Anthony Hopkins as the definitive serial killer and definitive portrayal of Hannibal when brain Cox in Manhunter is much more sinister, much more mysterious and much more realistic

    On the subject of Hannibal I would have to include Ralph Fiennes' portrayal as Dolaryde in Red good as Tom Noonan along with everyone else in Manhunter was, He failed to stay rooted in my mind as much as Ralph Fiennes' disturbing, complex and actually rather harrowing portrayal of another Ed Gein-inspired serial killer

    Also, how can anyone not include Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men in such a list? The film was generally excellently made (apart from the pointless closer with Tommy Lee Jones), but for me it was most certainly Javier's iconic, timeless performance, his presence, that really "made" this film...

    If supernatural entities count I'd include Bob in Twin Peaks as well, an iconic figure and timeless performance especially considering that Frank Silva (RIP) was just working on the sets originally and his natural talent was discovered by fluke...such a shame he never got to act in anything else, but his role as the not only psychotic but enigmatic and terrifying Bob will always be remembered

    Finally, I use any excuse to bring up Blade Runner, and feel Rutger Hauer's performance as Roy Batty is definitely worth a mention...seeing as the whole film's idea and message is about being human, thinking like a human, and feeling emotion (or not), we see Batty for the most part unpredictable, brutal, and remorseless, until a couple of brief (mysterious) moments such as after he murders his "father" and at the end when he tragically finally develops emotion and empathy just as his lifespan has reached its end.

  • Comment number 76.

    I'm with many of these posts in putting Frank Booth at the top of my list - genuinely terrifying.

    Surprised that nobody has suggested Killer Joe Cooper as played by Matthew Mahogany (still can't wait for you to give him that Kermode, Mark!).

    Also love Don Logan for the same "terrifying by sheer force of personality" reasons. After all, Don Logan was copied by Ralph Fiennes as Harry in In Bruges... which brings us neatly back to this blog post.

  • Comment number 77.

    Please let's not forget Pam Ferris' majestic performance as Agatha Trunchbull...

  • Comment number 78.

    Hey, spoiler warning for Fatal attraction.

  • Comment number 79.

    I was really expecting that Ezra Miller's portrayal of Kevin in "We need to talk about Kevin" would get a mention. Like the eponymous monsters in "Alien" I have no idea how Kevin thinks or why he performs the crimes he does. He is both inhuman and human at the same time, making him one of the scariest characters in recent cinema.

  • Comment number 80.

    A few of my favourites to add;

    Tim Curry as Frank N. Further, The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Never bettered, Tim Curry was frankly a revelation to my teenage self as the egotistical, psychotic and over-sexed Frank. What was even better was that despite playing this utterly insane, quite mad alien transvestite brilliantly his screen presence, his allure as it were is overpowering to the point you forget that Frank really is a psychopath; he has no morals, there are no boundaries. He is a complete hedonist and enjoys murder and mayhem as much as sex, drugs and rock and roll. That this can be missed is purely because Tim Curry manages to make Frank, despite the fact on paper being completely unlike-able, an interesting character whose sheer force of personality twists those around him. Utterly mesmerising!

    Heath Ledger as The Joker, The Dark Knight: I don't think there's been a more tormented kind of depiction of the Joker, and Heath Ledger certainly lent some serious credibility to the project with his turn that frankly stole the whole movie. For me, Batman was never the star. He was the guy trying to stop The Joker. And you know what? I'd have been happier to pay lots more money just to watch Heath continue to be The Joker. Sadly, it was not to be. I don't believe anyone will come close to that in my lifetime.

    Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge, A Clockwork Orange: As has been said, a truly restrained and very traditionally British psychopath. Clearly a complete animal, the portrayal is just stiff-upper-lip and straight enough to be genuinely unsettling. The very detached, yet incredibly imaginative, sort of man for whom such an extreme measure would be an option, and yet it still asks us if such options are wise if that is who the person is. Unflinchingly psychotic.

    Macaulay Culkin as Henry Evans in The Good Son: And finally, there's something even more unsettling than a female psychopath; a child psychopath, and Macaulay Culkin certainly delivered with The Good Son. Some mistook his detached approach as bad acting; but it's just what the character needed. ANd it's genuinely quite unsettling as well. Macaulay later did another glorious psychopath in Party Monster, as Michael Alig. But it's the children. It's the CHILDREN! That's when it gets creepy as hell!

  • Comment number 81.

    I'd add The Driver from Drive to the list. He is presented as the hero but has all of the tendencies of a psychopath being emotionless and violent.
    I also don't think any list can be complete with Heath Ledger's Joker and Kevin Spacey's John Doe from Se7en

  • Comment number 82.

    Tommy de Vito played by joe Pesci in goodfellas,what do you mean I'm funny scene,scary the first time you see it very menacing.

  • Comment number 83.

    The Serial Killer from "Man Bites Dog"
    Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet"
    Jay in "The Kill List"
    Hannibal Lector in any
    Joe Pesci Casino / Goodfellas
    Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining"
    Robert De Niro "Cape Fear"
    Harvey Kietel in "Bad Lieutenant"

    That's just a few from the top of my head

  • Comment number 84.

    What about the Child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? He mightn't be homicidal (at least, we never got to see his rap-sheet), but amongst those of us of a certain age, he's been responsible for more wet mattresses and sleepless nights than all the movie psychos put together!

  • Comment number 85.

    I heard you (Sir Kermode) bumped into my uncle Pat in St. George's Market, Belfast, this weekend. He said you bonded over your mutual fondness for the Comsat Angels (obscure 80s group, everybody). Anyway, thought I'd mention it even though I haven't commented here in a long while. I can only assume the trip to Belfast was something to do with the QFT (obscure film theatre, everybody), and I'm sorry I missed it. I do recall taking note of it; the problem was I forgot to remember.

  • Comment number 86.

    P.S. forgot to give a dishonourable mention to Tony Curtis for The Boston Strangler- chilling. Shoulda been a contender.

  • Comment number 87.

    You have indeed missed some names out here!

    In no particular order:

    1. Ralph Fiennes in both Coriolanus and Spider.

    2. Kevin Cage in Heat (seriously Dr.K not cool)

    3. Gary Oldman in Leon

    4. Kiefer Sutherland in Stand By Me

    5. Joaquin Phoenix in The Master (dear me Dr. K and so recent)

    6. Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast

    7. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in Fight Club

    8. Quentin Tarantino in Dusk til Dawn

    9. Robert Patrick in Terminator 2 (a robot psycho)

    10. HAL in 2001: A Space Odessey (gotta be there)

    11. Ray Winston in Nil By Mouth

    12. Robert De Niro in........ Mean Streets (yup)

    13. James Caan in The Godfather

    14. Vincent Cassell in Eastern Promises

    15. Vincent Cassell in La Haine

    16. Vincent Cassell in Sheitan

    17. Adam Butcher in Dog Pound

    18. Christian Bale in The Machinist, Harsh Times, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises (phew)

    19. Tom Hardy in Bronson

    20. Tom Hardy in Lawless

    21. Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises

    22. Alan Ford in Snatch (great characters in that one)

    23. Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia

    24. Laura Dern in Inland Empire

    25. Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now

    ... We all go a little mad sometimes!

  • Comment number 88.

    I've always thought Dick Laurent/Mr. Eddy portrayed by Robert Loggia in David Lynch's Lost Highway was a special kind of loon. The tail-gating scene is worth mentioning.

  • Comment number 89.

    Mitsuko from Battle Royale

  • Comment number 90.

    Comsat Angels, is it? Intense. They made Joy Division look like the Cockney Rejects. But it's very cinematic stuff, so i suppose that's what appeals . And if i'd've known you'd be in Belfast, doc, i woulda took ye to Lavery's for a hot tot.

  • Comment number 91.

    I was surprised Frank Booth from Blue Velvet wasn't mentioned. What's perhaps most troubling about that performance was how much Hopper allegedly related to the character!

  • Comment number 92.

    My Seven Favorite Screen Psychopaths Ever...

    1. Detective Harry Stansfield played by Gary Oldman, Leon: The Professional
    2. Hannibal Lecter played by either Anthony Hopkins or Brian Cox
    3. The Joker played by Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger
    4. Nurse Ratched played by Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
    5. Alex DeLarge played by Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange
    6. Amon Goth played by Ralph Feinnes, Schindler's List
    7. Verbal Kint/Keyser Soze played by Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects

    Of all these, the most underrated and menacing were Spacey, Cox, and Oldman. These three performances show villainous intent can be subtle, brutal, and disarmingly charming if played by actors at the peak of their craft. My god Cox was good as the original 1986 version of Hannibal Lecter while Oldman stole the show in what has become an almost iconic role as the maniacal Stansfield in Leon. But my absolute favorite psychopath has to Spacey as Soze. His dialogue was delivered with such stunning realness and understated evil it's hard to believe this movie wasn't even nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The more I see how genuine classics like The Usual Suspects, Leon, and other movies too numerous to count have been shunned by the Academy the more illegitimate that farce of an award becomes. For god's sake, Dances With Wolves beat Goodfellas for best Picture! How does this happen in a sane world? And don't get me started about Chicago, The English Patient, and the elongated Smurfs movie that was Avatar.

  • Comment number 93.

    number 5 pauline excision
    number 4 jay kill list
    number 3 melanie lynskey heaveny creatures
    number 2 joe pesci casino
    number one christian szell marathon man

  • Comment number 94.

    two more max cady and hannibal

  • Comment number 95.

    my favorite, in particular order
    7. Mrs. Lovvet, played by Helena Bonahm Carter in sweeny todd: the demon barber of fleet street
    6.Le Chriffe, played by Mads Mickelson, in Casino Royal
    5.The shark, played by Bruce, in Jaws
    4.Wild Bill, played by Sam Rockwell in The Green mile
    3. Silva, played by Javier Bardem, in Skyfall
    2. The Joker, played by heath ledger in the dark knight
    1. Sweeney Todd, played by Johnny Depp in sweeney todd: the demon barber of fleet street

  • Comment number 96.

    My better list:
    1. Vernon Wells, Bennett, Commando
    2. Shatner, James T Kirk, Wrath of Khan
    3. Sean Connery, James Bond, From Russia with Love
    4. Russell Crowe, Sid 6.0, Virtuosity
    5. Bolo Yeung, Chung Li, Bloodsport
    6. Jean Claude Van Damme, Edward Garrotte, Replicant
    7. Ronny Cox, Dick Jones, Robocop

  • Comment number 97.

    everyone goes crazy sometimes

  • Comment number 98.

    Here's my seven,
    1.Robert De Nire: Taxi Driver and the King of Comedy - Brilliant pyscho and essentially two sides of the same character. Taxi Driver being the obsessive hero and King of Comedy being the obsessive entertainer
    2. Dennis Hopper - Blue Velvet: Absolutely terrifying and magnetic at the same time. The scene when he cries at Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" is mesmerizing. He remains for me Lynch's best character.
    3.Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight: The scariest and most charismatic villain in the history of the comic book movie. The complete lack of explanation for his psychosis makes him truly terrifying in the classic movie villain way.
    4. Hal - 2001: At once a frightening instrument of cold-hearted self-preservation and an oddly human psychopath. How can a disembodied red light be the source of so much terror? The scene with only his voice and the astronaut's breathing is among cinema's scariest.
    5. Robert Duvall - Apocalypse Now: Not all psychopaths have to scare the living daylights out of us. Kilgore's crazed approach to war is both funny yet forever on the edge of tragedy. The best part in a wonderful film.
    6. Brian's Mum - Life of Brian: Peter Jones takes the medal for the funniest on screen psycho, but let's be honest she is one dangerous woman.
    7. The Mystery Man - Lost Highway: No one does a psycho like Lynch

  • Comment number 99.

    Since the other comments more than adequately cover the movie archetype of a psychopath as a volatile, violent, and largely male, predatory killer, I'd like to suggest a somewhat different example: Linda Fiorentino's character Bridget Gregory from the Last Seduction.

    The definition of a psychopath derived from psychiatry emphasises the traits of manipulative cunning, superficial charm or attractiveness, sexual promiscuity and a callous lack of empathy. Fiorentino's brilliant portrayal of the ultimate femme fatale who succeeds in bending to her will everyone she encounters (in particular the male characters) in the pursuit of her wholly selfish aims, combined with the absence of any sense that the character is capable of any genuine feeling whatsoever, surely counts as a perfect example of a true movie psychopath.

    In fact, the more I think about it the more I realise that the noir genre often places a protagonist at the centre of a film universe in which they successfully manipulate everything and everyone around them to a conclusion that is satisfying to the main character (which often coincides with the desires of the audience) and there's nothing more psychopathic than the idea that all events should revolve around the desires of a specific individual, it's just that in the case of The Last Seduction the moral dimension of the classic noir is stripped away allowing us to see the psychopathy inherent in the main character much more clearly and creating a much more unsettling conclusion as a result.

    The other example that hasn't been mentioned so far is one drawn from history. There are very few real-life psychopaths, even the most "successful" serial killers, that can approach the heinous reputation and devastating effect on humanity achieved by one Adolf Hitler. Bruno Ganz's performance in Downfall surely stands as the definitive portrayal of a man who manipulated an entire nation but who in his private life was incapable of forming any normal, personal emotional relationships (in other words a textbook psychopath). In Downfall, Hitler's grandiose belief in his own place in history seemingly remains unshaken, despite all the evidence to the contrary being available to anyone even marginally more sane than him, and as his warped vision is dismantled by the Allies and the Soviets, Gantz manages to project the hatred and fury of a psychopath confronted by what he sees as the failure of reality around him to live up to the manifest destiny he sees himself as embodying.

  • Comment number 100.

    I'd like to put forward Marlon Brando's stunning presentation of General Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. The head's on spikes as Martin Sheen floats towards his fate seem almost quaint when we are actually shown the terrifying yet alluring power of his personality. Most cult leaders are shown to be all too human when we get inside their heads, but somehow Kurtz is all the more frightening when we see that his amorality is a logical and poetic extension of the madness of war. What I found most interesting is that the end leaves us not with a sense of satisfying finality or triumph but that Sheen's character seems to fulfill the psychopathic ritual that's almost set out at the start of the film.


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