Five Truly Underappreciated Bad Guys in Movies

Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark in Something Wicked This Way Comes

The traveling carnival is an utterly terrifying concept in itself. A group of strangers and outsiders travel from town to town, where they build a small amusement park for a week at a time, and then they move on. And carnies and oddities have always compelled and terrified people (please tell me you guys have seen the Tod Browning classic Freaks?) so it makes sense that this movie would be somewhat unsettling.

It may look silly by today’s standards, but  when I was a kid, and I knew Mr Dark could probably charm my Mom, it messed me all up inside.

Obviously any character the late, great Ray Bradbury creates is going to be multi-layered and memorable, but Jonathan Pryce plays Mr Dark  just subtle and charming enough that, at times, even we are fooled by him and we KNOW his intent.

While some members of the younger generation weened on torture porn might find this film slow and dull, Jonathan Pryce as Mr Dark just makes an already frightening subject matter even that much more foreign and overwhelming because he is everything a bad guys ISN’T supposed to be. He is charming, and well dressed, and dapper. So that alone charms all the adults. It is the children who see what he really is, and we, along with them.

The movie comes from a time when the posters were sometimes as breathtaking as the films themselves.

Mr Dark may not slash throats or watch people have sex from another room, but in some ways, he is the darkest character on the list because he takes something none of these others do: A child’s innocence.

Wow, I really can’t believe I just typed that.

Rutger Huaer As John Ryder in The Hitcher

I know I have talked about this movie and this man before, but I have to again, because it genuinely made that much of an impression on me. To me, Rutger Hauer was ruthless and without reason in this film. He puts the main character into some scenarios that are truly stomach turning. And there is a calmness to his insanity that makes him feel like the most calculating and dangerous man on the whole planet when you watch him.

Don’t let his steely blue eyes fool you, he is pure evil.

And I will give some credit to the reboot, which cast Sean Bean ( a pre-de-headed Ned Stark)  as the lead, but nothing can touch the original. Just feel how tense this initial exchange is between C Thomas Howell ( the C Thomas Howell of my generation) and Rutget Hauer, just after Howell he picks him up:

What do you do once you realize you may have just picked up a psychopath?

This is the movie all parents should force their kids to watch when they first get their license to scare them into never picking up hitchhikers, or maybe even never driving for that matter.

Honorable Mentions:

Ben Stiller in Heavyweights. Ben Stiller as a roided out douche who picks on fat kids. You cannot fail with that formula.

Dad from The Lost Boys. Sure, he was only scary for about four minutes, but in those four minutes, he was scary as hell. Plus, that was a great plot twist.

And let us not forget he was trying to bang their Mom. That is EXTRA evil.

Tom Cruise as Vincent in Collateral. I hate Tom Cruise just as much as everyone else, but when he is good, he is good. And he was really good in this film as a emotionless assassin.

Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. The only reason this isn’t in the main list is because I would not have shut up about it. One of the best bad guys ever portrayed, hands down. You wouldn’t think Ghandi would be such a badass, but you were wrong. Weird Al called this years ago.

Angela Landsbury in The Manchurian Candidate. I want to make a “Murder She Wrote” joke here, but this role deserves too much respect for that. I still think of the Eleanor Shaw character as the ultimate dark matriarch. Kinda like Madea.

I’ll take “terrible ways to end an article” for 500, Alex.

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  1. Great list, Remy; Hitcher and Under the Mask are real stand outs, and I like how you thought outside the box with Something Wicked…

    And the finish was hilarious, because I saw the picture before I read down to it and spent the whole Angela Lansbury paragraph thinking “where the $#@% is he going with this that leads to Madea?”

  2. @Steve, Thanks,man! I am quite proud of that caption, actually. Hahaha.
    @ Ria, thank you very much. As great as this line of work is, the one drawback if you usually only hear from people when they think you messed up, so to hear from someone who actually likes what you did is a pretty awesome feeling, thanks for giving me that!

  3. Excellent list!! Its nice to see that some under the radar/lesser known films get some love. Under the mask is still a gem I’m glad I took a chance on. Something about it has a Funny Games feeling to it. Not that they’re on the same level by any means, but both are movies that can be kindof…unsettling. keep it up!

  4. Another psuedo-documentary movie about killing that is really good is Man Bites Dog. It’s a french movie about a serial killer being followed by a film crew filmed in black and white (if that doesn’t get the film hipsters running to the video store I don’t know what will… what’s that? Video stores don’t exist anymore? Damn you, Netflix!). I watched this movie on a whim while working at a video store and was very happy with the result. The movie starts with the main character killing a woman on a train then moves to him talking to the crew about how you can figure out the weight needed to weigh down the bodies of men, women and even children. It’s dark and funny and even sad at certain times.

  5. I always felt the 80’s gave us such great character antagonists but maybe it was just writing back then. I think I am the only one that wishes for a Blu-ray edition of Something Wicked This Way Comes. I actually owned that poster at one time but lost it in a move and I completely agree, you never see poster art like that any longer.

  6. @mutant turd: Man bites dog is a Belgian film. Not that this affects your post at all, but it’s something that makes me have a reason to be proud as a belgian citizen. But it was indeed an amazing film!

  7. @MutantTurd, Man Bites Dog was amazing. That first scene on the train with the old lady had me thinking I just watched snuff, messed me up for a spell.
    @JoshuaBrown, I hope for the sake of good horror every single person who reads this clicks on that. As much as I curse sequels, I LOVED that movie (so much so I made a replica Leslie Vernon mask I made hanging on my office wall) I will DEFINITELY willingly contribute to that, thank you so much for posting that.
    @Lola, come by sometime, I’ll watch it with you!

  8. I can’t believe you put a massive Game of Thrones spoiler without any warning in this article! I thankfully have watched the season already but geez that could be very unfortunate for those who haven’t!

  9. Why does everyone hate Tom Cruise? He’s a good actor in good movies. It can’t possibly be the religion thing, can it? I thought we were better than that. If there’s a scandal I missed fill me in, because otherwise I just don’t get it.

    Oh, and good list, by the way. I’ve made a mental note to at the very least check out “Behind The Mask”.

  10. @Lola, Behind The Mask was on Netflix Instantwatch last I checked. What a great movie! It progressed so well and Leslie was so good, wasn’t he? Props for featuring that movie man

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