Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

The Greatest Villainous Performances?


Recommended Posts

I'm a big fan of movie villains, whether they be psychotic killers, scary monsters, underhanded creeps, nasty Nazis, power-hungry megalomaniacs or just slimy jerks, they are often my favorite part of the movie. I have a few performances that I hold near and dear to my heart. A few that come to mind...

 

Robert Mitchum in The Night of The Hunter. The most striking part of an incredibly striking film. This character seems to crawl right from a nightmare. Our discussion about this film had some people comparing other villainous characters, which inspired me to make this thread. If anyone knows if a thread like this already exists, please direct me to it.

 

Fredric March in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I've seldom seen heavily made-up actors project such a great performance past the mask, but he had so much enthusiasm and demonic energy that he wore it like his natural face. The jerky movements and constantly licking his chops, not to mention such athleticism, made him an exceptional monster.

 

Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers. He was hilariously creepy  with his pasty white skin, and a cartoonish grin that looked like it took hours of practice in front of a mirror to perfect. I was mesmerized by that surreal character. What a great movie.

 

Roland Young in David Copperfield. I know it was a small role, so many in that film were, but for the short time he was on the screen he was delightful. (So many in that film were.) A quite different sort of character for him to play, nevertheless he was marvelously repulsive down to the tip of every finger, like pond scum in the form of a man.

 

Andy Griffith in A Face in the Crowd. That line between the charming country boy and maniacal hick was never better danced (unless you can think of one, but I have my doubts). When he cracks up his face becomes a wildly crazed caricature. I've always admired people who could do that.

 

Arch Hall Jr. in The S a d i s t. Speaking of maniacal hicks, this was a remarkably low-brow

performance. It's very frightening when the villain almost seems more animal than man, more devoid of reason and predictablility. A mean thing to say about someone, I know, but he was a mean guy. 

 

I'm sure I've overlooked many, but there will always be more. There are a lot of actors that I want to get better acquainted with, like Jack Palance, for instance, but I haven't had to opportunity to see their films. I'm yet to see so many films, I hope to learn about some future favorites here.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I loved Andy Griffith's performance in "A Face in the Crowd."  It was fantastic to see him in a role so different from Andy Taylor. 

 

My favorite villains:

 

Bette Davis in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" -- She cranks the crazy up to 11 in this movie.  She is absolutely insane.  It's fun to see what she's going to put on Blanche's dinner plate next.  Poor Blanche, she had to spend her days terrified at what Jane was going to do to her next.  Bette's makeup in that movie is insane. 

 

Anne Baxter in "All About Eve"- She's more subtle about it, but she's a villain nonetheless.  I love how she quietly and discreetly insinuates herself into Margo Channing's life and manages to steal a plum part from her and gets Margo's friends to campaign against her for a plum role in Lloyd's new play.  Only Birdie and Addison see through Eve.  It takes Birdie to finally get Margo to realize what's happening.  The other characters come to realize it on their own. 

 

Barbara Stanwyck- in "Double Indemnity."  Barbara was fantastic in this movie.  I loved her performance.  Her cool demeanor and cheesy wig just added to the "deliciousness" of her femme fatale role.  My favorite scene is when she and Fred MacMurray are trying to be discreet in the grocery store; but they stick out like a sore thumb.

 

Glenn Close- in "Fatal Attraction."  Alex was just nuts.  "I'm not gonna be ignored, Dan!"

 

Faye Dunaway- in "Mommie Dearest," this movie is campy to the max, but it is amazing at the same time.  I know that some friends/family/close acquaintances of Joan Crawford's said that this film was a farce; but Dunaway's performance was fantastic.  "No wire hangers, ever!"

Link to post
Share on other sites

Conrad Veidt in A Woman's Face comes immediately to mind. The attic scene near the end of the movie is the best. He is the Arch-Fiend himself, symbolically at least. There is a Shakespearen ambience to this scene that nevertheless emits a contemporary frisson. Chilling Conrad doing great stuff.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers in: Rebecca (1940). 

 

She is the embodiment of ruthless cunning and uses whatever personality holds the most power in any situation. She becomes the mere representative of social decorum when she lectures Mrs. de Winter that a personal maid is a requirement and by this implies that Mrs. de Winter is ignorant of social graces. She acts obsequious in the presence of Mr. de Winter while subversively transferring blame for an incident from herself to Mrs. de Winter's failure to obey even the most simple of duties of a lady of the house. She turns Svengali when she entrances Mrs. de Winter by recounting Rebecca's grace, beauty and regal nature while firmly establishing that the new Mrs. de Winter is unworthy of the house. She adopts Sun Tzu's technique of appearing to retreat in the face of a battle which she can not win so as to create false confidence in her enemy and uses the false peace created in order to develop and unleash a plot which will cause Mrs. de Winter to destroy herself.

 

Her monomania reaches its height when she symbolically destroys the world rather than be defeated.

 

I believe that the most eerie aspect of her personality is that she is: Mrs. Danvers. This implies that there was once a: Mr. Danvers. One must wonder what evil inspired her to take a man and one must pity the man she chose, married and obviously discarded when he was no longer of use.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

As terrorizing as Robert Mitchum is in "Night of the Hunter", and he is, his performance as Max Cady in "Cape Fear" matches his work in "NotH' and maybe surpasses it.. He makes you squirm in your seats as he goes after Gregory Peck and his family. Mitchum's performance is like that car crash you can't take your eyes off of.

 

The scenes on the houseboat when he attacks Peck's wife Polly Bergen was almost all improvised. His crushing of the raw eggs in his hands. Accidentally cutting his hand and grabbing Bergen with bloody hands , pushing her through doors that were accidentally locked and losing it in his character. Bergen said he scared the hell out of her. She looked into his eyes and knew he {Mitchum} was not there. The crew had to rush in and physically stop the scene.

 

Newsweek magazine listed Max Cady as one of the best villains in Cinema history and the AFI puts Max Cady in the top 50 movie villains of all time.

So, if you want to be scared, forget about most of  the Horror films today. Sit down with Robert Mitchum and get the living daylights scared out of you....

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Dark, JACK WESTON was delightfully cast against "type" in WAIT UNTIL DARK too.  I also thing Edward G. Robinson's villian in KEY LARGO was much better than "Sea Wolf".

 

Martin Landau and James Mason were two of the most chilling villians in NBNW.

 

Sepiatone

Link to post
Share on other sites

"Is it safe"...to mention one of MY favorite villains here???...

 

AV-37-1228768613.jpg

 

(...now fess up...how many of you STILL think of Larry here as you ease into your dentist's chair for those 6 month check-ups, HUH?!)  ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites

The greatest of movie villains are the Nazis. And perhaps the most villainous of them all was Amon Goeth, the real-life character portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List"  (1993). Fiennes' Goeth was an amoral SS officer who could exterminate Jews as easily as he would squash a bug. And yet his hatred of Jews didn't affect his decision to take one (Helen Hirsch, played by Embeth Davidtz) as his mistress.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

jakeem,
 

Had it not been for the threat of Communism and a European take-over by Russia, if it had been up to me after the War, I would have broken Germany up into 4 parts, with no more unified Germany at all, because of what they did and their cause of the deaths of more than 40 million people in Europe during the war PLUS their cause of the deaths of many millions during WW I.

Link to post
Share on other sites

jakeem,

 

Had it not been for the threat of Communism and a European take-over by Russia, if it had been up to me after the War, I would have broken Germany up into 4 parts, with no more unified Germany at all, because of what they did and their cause of the deaths of more than 40 million people in Europe during the war PLUS their cause of the deaths of many millions during WW I.

 

The only problem with that is how it might have negatively affected the eventual reunification of Germany when the Cold War ended, circa 1989. Germany is a major ally of the United States now, which is amazing when you consider how our WWII allies, the Russians, have been a major thorn in our side for almost 70 years now.

 

By the way, I would love to see TCM do a month-long retrospective on the Nazis, whether they are portrayed in true stories ("Schindler's List"), fictional stories ("Casablanca," "Raiders of the Lost Ark") or documentaries ("The Sorrow and the Pity"). It would be perfect for the 70th anniversary next year of V-E Day. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know if I could take a month of Nazis.

 

It would be easier than trying to program a month of movies about the Pacific Theater of the war for V-J Day!

Link to post
Share on other sites

It would be easier than trying to program a month of movies about the Pacific Theater of the war for V-J Day!

This keeps coming up, so I'll keep repeating, Robert Walker in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, followed by Cagney in WHITE HEAT.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, Dargo, please tell me the film, because there's certainly no guarantee that I'll catch the reference, no matter how obvious it may be. :)

 

I love Conrad Veidt and Basil Rathbone, too. Whenever one of them is in the film I always try and catch it, especially if they're playing a villain, but really any way I can have them, regardless.

 

"Brute Force" is the first film I remember seeing Hume Cronyn in. Afterword I described his performance as "hilarious." I've been a fan ever since.

 

Bette Davis' performance in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" is truly one of the great villainous performances of the silver screen. I like Bette Davis, but somehow I have trouble buying her in films unless she's crazy or evil or both.

 

I'm going to order "Cape Fear" from my local library soon, I've wanted to see it for a while now. I'm yet to see a lot of the films mentioned here, which is good. I like to think the best is still ahead.

 

How could I forget this favorite from my initial post? Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed. My dad showed this film to me when I was quite young, and I remembered that I felt a special hatred for that horrible little girl. When I saw it again years later I absolutely loved her, and she is matched by Henry Jones as the gardener. So many strange, great performances in that film. I love it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, Dargo, please tell me the film, because there's certainly no guarantee that I'll catch the reference, no matter how obvious it may be. :)

 

 

That would be Olivier playing the Josef Mengele-type Nazi doctor who is torturing Dustin Hoffman because he believes Hoffman knows more than he actually does about a cache of diamonds the Nazis had looted years before and are now stashed somewhere in NYC...in 1976's "Marathon Man".

 

(...and this is the scene where supposedly before it was filmed Hoffman stayed up all night in order to look as haggard as he could, but when Olivier heard why Hoffman did that, he reportedly said, "Why don't you just try acting, dear boy?!")

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh! Thanks. I didn't even recognize Laurence Olivier. What a long and varied career he had.

 

Actually that film looks very scary to me. I'm quite squeamish when it comes to torture flicks.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh! Thanks. I didn't even recognize Laurence Olivier. What a long and varied career he had.

 

Actually that film looks very scary to me. I'm quite squeamish when it comes to torture flicks.

 

The beauty of Olivier is that two years after playing the ultimate Nazi in "Marathon Man," he starred as the ultimate Nazi hunter -- a Simon Wiesenthal-like character chasing the villainous Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) --  in "The Boys from Brazil." What versatility!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Boyer was so good as the villian in Gaslight they even named that type of abusive relationship after him--they call it "gaslighting" :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

 

Henry Fonda was interesting as the villain in Once Upon a Time in the West--his cold blue eyes worked especially well in this instance, given Leone's focus on the eyes to telegraph tension. I know it's been mentioned before, but to me it was almost shocking to watch, after his playing good guys all those years.

 

For someone who has spent that past couple decades playing nice old ladies, Angela Lansbury made a great villain, both as Mrs Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate (betraying our belief in mother love) and before that as the tarty maid in Gaslighting, helping Boyer mess with Ingrid Bergman's head. She was also very good, despite her youth, playing Kay Throndike in State of the Union (a movie which would have been improved by having more scenes between Hepburn and her--the chemistry between the two of them was electric).

 

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2022 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...