A psychopath is characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, a lack of empathy and remorse, and sometimes an ability to imitate empathy without genuinely feeling it. Many psychopaths are highly intelligent, which has sparked debates recently that many high level CEO’s, business people, and politicians are actually functioning psychopaths. Meaning, not everyone with some characteristics of a psychopath is a maniacal killer with no control over their actions.
But in the movies, a character who is a psychopath is often as crazy as possible. The movies shows the extreme version of psychopathy that rarely exists in the real world. Real life psychopaths (although it is difficult to diagnose with 100% accuracy) have included Ted Bundy and Dennis Rader, both prolific serial killers. Some of their characteristics may even have inspired characters in movies. Here are 15 of the craziest movie psychopaths.
15. Patrick Bateman – American Psycho
Patrick Bateman, a wealthy investment banker who moonlights as a serial killer, was created by Bret Easton Ellis for his novel American Psycho. Christian Bale portrayed the character in the film adaptation which has become a cult classic. Bateman embodies the ultimate yuppie stereotype of greed, materialism, and lack of regard for anyone but himself. He kills because he doesn’t care about people, he just uses them for what they’re worth and tosses them aside. He’s a rapist and murderer, and his self-loathing leads him to kill anyone who makes him feel inadequate, which is basically everyone.
14. Michael Myers – Halloween
Michael Myers killed his sister when he was six years old. If that isn’t a warning sign for a psychopath, then what is? His creator, John Carpenter has described Myers as “almost a supernatural force – a force of nature. An evil force that’s loose.” His mask makes it so he never has a facial expression. He’s just an evil being who’s only purpose is to murder people, and his dark holes for eyes portray his complete lack of feeling or remorse. Myers is also unkillable, and can’t be stopped, making him one of the scariest movie psychopaths of all time.
13. Alex Forrest – Fatal Attraction
Thanks to Glenn Close‘s portrayal of Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction, men everywhere think twice about who they choose to have an affair with. Or at least they should be. After the married man she sleeps with rejects her, Alex starts to stalk him, threatening to hurt his wife and daughter if he doesn’t continue to see her. When he refuses, she kills his daughter’s pet rabbit, and puts in a pot to boil. The character shows how unstable and obsessive people can get about love, and why having an affair probably isn’t worth it.
12. Leatherface – Texas Chainsaw Massacre
As far a crazed serial killing monsters go, it doesn’t get much more terrifying than Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. He chases down his victims with a chainsaw and wears the skin of the people he’s killed as a mask to cover his own deformed face. And it’s based on real life serial killer Ed Gein, who wore a mask made of human skin. One the scariest things about Leatherface is that he’s a killer slave sent to do the bidding of his inbred family. That means you can’t reason with him (not that you can reason with most psychopaths), and he will do whatever he’s told.
11. Norman Bates – Psycho
The iconic role of Norman Bates was first portrayed by Anthony Perkins in the 1960 film Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Norman suffered severe emotional abuse at the hands of his mother who taught him that sex was wrong and all woman (except her) were whores. After killing his mother, he develops dissociative identity disorder, and assumes his mother’s personality, keeping her corpse in his house, and continuing to run the Bates Motel. Even though she’s dead, Norman can’t escape his mother’s control and he kills, believing she’s the one doing it the whole time.
10. Anton Chigurh – No Country For Old Men
Anton Chigurh is the unstoppable hitman from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, and then the film adaptation of, No Country For Old Men. He’s a ruthless murderer who kills almost everyone he meets, unless of course a flip of a coin spares their life. Most of the time whether or not he kills someone is based on how convenient it will be for him to do so. Chigurh is completely devoid of remorse and compassion for others, which is conveyed in his straight to the point way of killing. He doesn’t play games (except for the coin flip thing). Javier Bardem won an Oscar for Best Actor for the role, and even his haircut was described as “strange and unsettling”.
9. John Doe – Se7en
Everything Kevin Spacey‘s John Doe does in Se7evn is highly calculated and for a higher purpose. He has every murder planned out, and he even incorporates the detectives who are investigating him into his sick game. All his murders are based on the seven deadly sins, and he has no intention of letting anyone get in the way of his master plan. Even when the detectives think they’ve caught him, they have no idea they’re playing right into his hands. He’s even willing to sacrifice himself in order to prove a point and finish his masterpiece.
8. Freddy Krueger – A Nightmare on Elm Street
The serial killing villain in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Freddy Krueger, is especially terrifying because he stalks you in your dreams. You could try to stay awake to avoid him, but eventually, no matter how much coffee you drink, and how hard you fight to keep your eyes open, you’re going to fall asleep. Krueger was conceived after his mother was gang raped by inmates at a mental hospital she worked for, which made him “the bastard son of 100 maniacs”. As an adult he started murdering children, and was eventually killed by the parents of all his victims. He returns as a ghost to take revenge on the people who killed him.
7. Mickey & Mallory Knox – Natural Born Killers
Mickey and Mallory Knox, played by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis, are the mass murdering duo from Oliver Stone‘s controversial Natural Born Killers. After enduring childhoods full of abuse, Mickey and Mallory meet, fall in love, and embark on a crime spree across multiple states. The media glorifies them, making their crimes into something interesting for people to watch on TV, and they are eventually caught and put into a mental institution. The film was banned in multiple countries, and has even been accused of inspiring copy cat crimes.
6. Jigsaw – Saw
John Kramer is the original Jigsaw in the Saw franchise. After he finds out he has terminal cancer, he tries to commit suicide, but survives. This inspires him to start testing other people’s will to live by putting them in impossible situations and telling them there is a way to escape, but they’ll have to make a sacrifice. Throughout the series, the murders become more elaborate, and more gruesome, and although Kramer doesn’t get to see his “project” to the end, he manages to recruit others to do his dirty work. No one is safe either, because we all have flaws, which is exactly with Jigsaw exploits.
5. Jack Torrance – The Shining
While in Stephen King‘s novel, The Shining, Jack Torrance is portrayed as a tragic hero who had a rough childhood, in Stanley Kubrick‘s film adaptation, he’s pretty much insane from the very beginning. The ghosts of The Overlook hotel influence an already weak Torrance to kill his wife and son, and he goes on a rampage to do just that. Trapped in the hotel during a winter snow storm, Wendy and Danny Torrance have to hide from Jack, but he’ll do anything to find and kill them. Jack Nicholson‘s portrayal of Jack Torrance is one of his most well-known roles, and The Shining has been called one of the best films of all time.
4. The Joker – The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger’s portrayal of DC villain The Joker earned him a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in The Dark Knight. Ledger interpreted the character as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy,” and he took cues from Alan Moore’s graphic novel The Killing Joke. The Joker is one of DC’s most prolific villains as he enjoys elaborate plots to kill large groups of people at once. He’s a criminal mastermind who will stop at nothing to cause destruction, especially if it’s at the detriment of his arch nemesis, Batman.
3. Hannibal Lecter – Silence of the Lambs
Psychopaths don’t get much more iconic than Anthony Hopkins‘ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, a sadistic murderer and cannibal who loves to get into people’s heads. Although in the novels by Thomas Harris, Lecter is classified as a sociopath, onscreen he is called a psychopath. He has no conscience and he tortured animals as a child, but he is highly intelligent, with refined tastes in art, literature, and food. Even though Lecter is behind bars for much of Silence of the Lambs, he still has a way of inspiring fear, and the possibility of him escaping (which inevitably happens) is everyone’s worst nightmare.
2. Damien – The Omen
There isn’t much creepier than an evil kid, and sometimes evil is born, not made, which is the case with Damien in The Omen. Damien is adopted after his mother dies during childbirth, but his adoptive mother has no idea he’s not her flesh and blood (her son died minutes after birth, and everyone decided not to tell her). A priest warns Damien’s father than his adoptive son might not be human, and upon further investigation they figure out the Damien is most likely the Antichrist. How do you kill the Antichrist? It won’t be easy, that’s for sure.
1. Annie Wilkes – Misery
Another psychopath created by Stephen King is none other than Annie Wilkes (portrayed onscreen by Kathy Bates). In Misery, Wilkes happens upon her favourite author, Paul Sheldon, who has just been in a car accident and broken both his legs near her remote home in Colorado. She brings him back to her house to take care of him, but then she refuses to call a doctor, or let him leave. Wilkes forces Sheldon to write a new novel in her favourite series, and tortures him both physically and mentally for months. One of the most infamous scenes involves her breaking both of Sheldon’s ankles with a sledgehammer to prevent him from escaping. Wilkes has been on numerous best villain lists, and Bates won an Academy Award for her portrayal.