I’ll be honest. My severe triskaidekaphobia made it hard for me to not limit this list to just 10 psychos, or even to not expand it to 11, 12, or 14, but these 13 just felt right. Each psycho on this list, in one way or another, is so far removed from what society deems normal. Their immoral behavior and lack of empathy have helped to ingrain these maniacs into the minds of audiences. Some are scary, some are funny, and some are both. Here are, in no particular order, the 13 most memorable movie psychopaths:
1. The Joker – The Dark Knight
The Joker, a self-described “agent of chaos,” is about as psychopathic as one can get. He doesn’t care about how he looks, ritualistically smears makeup across his scarred face, and relishes any scheme that undoes order. Nicholson’s Joker was a clown, but Ledger’s Joker was a frightening, unpredictable terrorist. The Joker’s abandonment of all societal norms, coupled with his violent, disruptive behavior makes him one of the more memorable movie psychos.
2. Hannibal Lecter – The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal
The infamous Dr. Lecter is a genius with a taste for flesh and brains, an unnerving paradox of sorts that helps cement him in the mind of anyone who happens to cross his path. Being a serial killer is psychotic enough, but Lecter’s got cannibalism on his resume, too, raising the bar for psychopaths everywhere. Simply put, Lecter is one dangerous S.O.B. Also from Silence of the Lambs, Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb is a memorable psycho, but his mangina doesn’t hold a candle to Lecter’s psychopathic tendencies.
3. Patrick Bateman – American Psycho
If there ever was a lovable psycho, it was the privileged elitist Patrick Bateman. With good looks, wealth, and a remarkable sense of style, Bateman personifies the 80s Wall Street yuppie. The irony that is Pat Bateman, though, is that despite being a psychopathic killer, he’s more in touch with emotion and reality than his superficial, materialistic peers. We can debate whether Bateman really did kill people or if it was all in his head, but either way you look at it, Bateman is one sick puppy. If you’ve read the book, by the way, you know that the book version of Pat Bateman makes the movie version look like a saint. Don’t just stare at it, eat it!
4. Norman Bates – Psycho
Perhaps associated with the term “psycho” more than anyone else in this rundown is Norman Bates from the movie, um, Psycho. There’s no question about Bates’ sanity in Hitchcock’s classic: the dude keeps his mother’s corpse as a memento and fancies dressing up in her clothes when he’s slashing one of his victims. I defy you to watch this movie and then shower comfortably right after. The dressing up in Mom’s clothes part, though? Par for the course since I went through puberty. Does this blouse bring out my eyes or what?!
5. Mr. Blonde – Reservoir Dogs
“Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie, or are you gonna bite?” Tough guy Mr. Blonde had no problem feeding lead to innocent civilians, but even knowing that bit of information couldn’t prepare you for how he’d treat one of the boys in blue. Just as Norman Bates forged an association with showers, Mr. Blonde will forever be linked to Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle.” It’s impossible – if you’ve seen Reservoir Dogs – to hear that song and not think about a razor slicing through your ear.
6. Anton Chigurh – No Country For Old Men
Sure, Anton has a structured code by which he lives his life. The thing is, Anton’s code doesn’t exactly integrate smoothly into normal society. And neither does Anton, with his Dutch Boy haircut and Harvey Dent-esque coin flips of fate. Javier Bardem won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the terrifying Anton, conveying fear and tension every time his character was on screen. No Country for Old Men is a tremendous film, in terms of both scale and tone, and a significant amount of this can be attributed to the warped and intriguing character of Anton.
7. John Doe – Se7en
John Doe’s plan to turn each of the seven deadly sins against the sinner is brilliant, coming to fruition only because of the wrath of Detective David Mills. Doe believes he is on a mission from God, making him the worst kind of crazy. But does John Doe know that he’s crazy? I think Detective Mills phrased the question best when he asked Doe – and I’m paraphrasing – “When someone’s crazy, as you clearly are, do they know they’re crazy? I mean, do you sit around reading Guns & Ammo, masturbating in a pile of your own feces and say ‘Wow. It is unbelievable how f*cking crazy I am?'” Doe doesn’t think he’s nuts, and despite Mills’ claims to the contrary, Doe is much more than a movie of the week or a f*cking T-shirt.
8. Alex – A Clockwork Orange
The ultraviolent narrator of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is psychotic to his core. After murders, rapes, and drinking drug-laced milk with his Droogies, Alex is finally imprisoned and subsequently subjected to experiments designed to eliminate his violent nature. The experiments work – sort of – but after Alex attempts to commit suicide, the process is reversed, returning Alex to his bloodthirsty, psychopathic old self. Which is a good thing: Alex rules. Viddy well, my little brother. Viddy well.
9. Annie Wilkes – Misery
Annie is a crazed fan of author Paul Sheldon, but her obsession is not that of a normal person. Whether her intentions of keeping Paul a prisoner in her home are to keep him as some sort of trophy pet or to expedite the creation of his next novel, Annie is a horrifying, demented woman. I’ve said it before – I adore the “hobbling” scene in this movie. It’s not so much for the hobbling process itself, but for Annie’s cold, calm demeanor when she slugs Paul’s ankles with a sledgehammer.
10. Dez and Edele Hansel – Running Scared
With the oft-criticized Paul Walker as the lead, I’m guessing lots of people passed on Running Scared. It’s their loss. Running Scared is one of those underrated, visually dynamic and wholly engaging movies that fly under the radar. There’s many memorable and seedy characters throughout the movie – which doubles as a contemporary fairy tale for adults – but none are more fear-inducing than the pedophilic couple of Dez and Edele Hansel. The scene with Dez and Edele was perhaps the most disturbed I’ve ever been while watching a movie. The sinister couple lure children into their home, molest them, and then torture and kill them. Oh yeah, and it’s all recorded for their future viewing pleasure. Each video is then rated on a “star system,” presumably based on the “quality” of the video.
11. Max Cady – Cape Fear
Max Cady somehow believes that the “she was asking for it” defense is appropriate to counter accusations of rape. I’ve seen like 2.5 episodes of Law & Order, and even I know that just ain’t the case. In Scorsese’s Cape Fear, Robert DeNiro portrays the psychopathic rapist, a job he did so well that it earned him a Best Actor nomination. Cady’s determination and willingness to brutally abuse and rape women much weaker than himself earn him a spot on this list of memorable movie psychos. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
12. Alex Forrest – Fatal Attraction
Alex Forrest has a brief affair with a married man and soon becomes obsessed with him. OK, seriously, just that bit of information alone should send a chill down your spine. There’s nothing worse than a smothering woman. Alex, however, is far, far worse than “smothering.” She kidnaps her obsession’s child and – in the now infamous scene – boils a bunny in a pot on the stove. Wow. The guys who read this site (both of you) will probably agree: psycho bitches are way scarier than any male maniac with a weapon. Just ask John Bobbit.
13. Aileen Wuornos – Monster
Former prostitute Aileen Wuornos was a real-life killer, and Charlize Theron portrayed her impressively in Monster, winning an Academy Award for her effort. After being raped by a client, Aileen kills him, catalyzing later and more brutal murders. Soon enough, Aileen is murdering men who aren’t even clients of hers. Theron gained 30 pounds and wore prosthetic teeth for this role, helping to create the monster that was Aileen Wuornos.
So there ya go: the thirteen most memorable movie psychopaths. Did I miss anyone? Should Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver had made the cut? I don’t think he’s a psychopath. I just think he’s got watermelon-sized testicles. Maybe I’m wrong, though. Feel free to comment and let me know if I missed anyone, as well as notifying me of what objects you’d like me to shove directly into my rectum. Thanks for reading!