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Although movie audiences are taught to root for the good guy, everyone loves those characters who indulge in the darker end of human impulses and desires. Whether it’s a villain, anti-hero, or just a plain weirdo, we often remember the more unsavory characters from a film over their morally upstanding counterparts.
To celebrate the freaks and foes that have graced the silver screen over the years, the New York Film Academy has put together this awesome infographic of the Top Ten Darkest Characters in Film that continue to haunt us years after they first debuted.
Please note that this list is in no particular order and if you feel like we’ve left out one of your favorite dark characters, let us know in the comments below.
1. Buffalo Bill
Movie Title: Silence of the Lambs
Actor: Ted Levine
Age: Late 30s
Character Traits: Psychopathic, Skinning Victims, Murderous
A monster of a man created by “years of systematic abuse,” Bill’s inability to qualify for gender reassignment surgery is the catalyst for his murderous goal to create a “woman’s suit” out of actual women.
2. Aileen Wuornos
Movie Title: Monster
Actress: Charlize Theron
Character Traits: Sexual, Reactionary, Abused, Unreasonable
A perfect example of a horrifying real story writ large, there is nary a soul who can forget Charlize Theron’s disturbingly harrowing performance as real life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. And perhaps most importantly, the film leaves the audience wondering if Wuornos is truly the monster she appears to be.
3. Mystery Man
Movie: Lost Highway
Actor: Robert Blake
Character Traits: Creepy, All-knowing, No Eyebrows, Stalker-y
Hand it to David Lynch to make Robert Blake’s brief, but unforgettable role in Lost Highway one of Blake’s career highlights. Coming across as a more menacing Nosferatu with his pancake make-up and shaved eyebrows, Blake’s presence is as cryptic and unsettling as the movie itself.
Movie Title: Pulp Fiction
Actor: Peter Greene
Character Traits: Authoritative, Kinky, Indecisive
In a movie with no shortage of memorable scenes, Peter Greene’s turn as the shadowy and sadistic Zed—a motorcycle-driving police officer and white supremacist with a taste for the kinky—is one that is still impossible to forget twenty years on.
5. Alex DeLarge
Movie Title: A Clockwork Orange
Actor: Malcolm McDowell
Character Traits: Sociopathic, Sadistic, Intellectual, Violent
Malcolm McDowell’s turn as Alex DeLarge is still to this day’s every parent’s nightmare: an intelligent sociopathic teenager with a penchant for anarchy and ultraviolence whose inability to feel remorse or empathy makes him all the more chilling.
6. Annie Wilkes
Movie Name: Misery
Actress: Kathy Bates
Character Traits: Obsessive, Psychotic, Paranoid, Borderline Personality Disorder
Already an iconic character on paper, Kathy Bates was the perfect choice to play the seemingly sweet Annie Wilkes whose smile hides a murderous psychosis and a virtual rogue’s gallery of mental disorders, which she cruelly takes out on those unlucky enough to cross paths with her.
7. The Lieutenant
Movie Name: Bad Lieutenant
Actor: Harvey Keitel
Character Traits: Apathetic, Addictive, Self-righteous, Arrogant
Giving the term “downward spiral” a whole new meaning, Harvey Keitel’s turn as The Lieutenant is essentially an exercise in human depravity as Keitel drinks and uses drugs excessively while only ever seeming to do his job when it serves his own ends. Oh, and let’s not forget the two rapists he not only lets go, but gives $30,000 to. Class act all the way.
8. John Doe
Movie Name: Se7en
Actor: Kevin Spacey
Character Traits: Psychopathic, Smug, Calculating, Delusional
It’s a mad, mad world and Spacey’s turn as John Doe served to cruelly remind the audience of that we are all destined to sin, calmly committing a series of macabre murders based around the seven deadly sins that only escalate in their manic inventiveness, which culminate in a package no one would be eager to receive anytime soon.
Movie Name: Saw
Actor: Tobin Bell
Character Traits: Vigilante, Pious, Merciless, Devious
While the horror genre is more than replete with a whole gauntlet of vicious fiends, Jigsaw from the Saw franchise took the ‘torture porn’ aesthetic to a whole new extreme as a self-righteous cancer victim who aims to punish those who take their lives for granted through an increasingly elaborate series of scenarios that usually leave his victims broken or dead.
10. Asami Yamazaki
Movie Name: Audition
Actress: Eihi Shiina
Character Traits: Sweet, Deceptive, Conniving, Extremely Violent
Even with Jigsaw’s inclusion, as far as unnecessarily brutal torture scenes go, Shiina’s turn as the seemingly harmless Asami Yamazaki is shocking not only for the sheer cruelty of the movie’s final third, but also in that this jaw-dropping section follows what had seemed to be a rather uplifting film.
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