There are a couple of actors in Hollywood who love to live on the wild side. These talented thespians enjoy taking roles that exist on the fringe and the characters they play are often deranged, insane and very troubled. Of course, it would be easier to take safer roles assured of being box office hits, but for these actors, the thrill comes from attempting something thrilling and exciting. There are even some roles that have been known to adversely affect the real lives of the actors who played them – Heath Ledger playing the role of The Joker in The Dark Knight is an example of that. Below are 15 actors who are known for playing psychotic and deranged characters. See below:
15 Ron Perlman
14 Nicolas Cage
There are some actors who were just born to play the parts of crazies in movies. They have the natural temperament, the right look and the innate acting range that lends perfectly to these characters. Nic Cage is one such actor. He has acted in films like Face Off, Ghost Rider, Bad Lieutenant, Lord of War and Leaving Las Vegas – all these films involve him playing characters who were far from normal. And the truth is, he knocks it out the park every single time.
13 Javier Bardem
In the last few years, Spanish actor Javier Bardem has been steadily building a name for himself as a versatile and talented actor in both North America and Europe. He has a knack for finding a deep and mysterious darkness in his roles that can send chills down your spine. He showed this ability to perfection when he played the role of a scary villain in the movie No Country For Old Men. He did the same in 2012, when he played the insane and deranged bad guy Raoul Silva in the Bond movie Skyfall. He’s also rumored to have been cast in the next installment of Pirates of The Caribbean dropping in a year or so.
12 Mickey Rourke
Sometimes to play the role of a crazy person, it is important to have gone through lots of trials and tribulations in your own personal life. Actor Mickey Rourke has definitely had several personal demons, and all those skeletons were put to mazing use in the harrowing yet poignant movie The Wrestler. He followed that movie up by playing a demented villain bent on revenge in the blockbuster Iron Man 2 – he was also pretty excellent in the Sin City movies playing a violent, ex-convict.
11 Edward Norton
Even though, he hasn’t been as prolific in recent years, Edward Norton started off his career with some extremely impressive movies. A lot of those roles he played were of psychotic, mentally unstable and very disturbing individuals. One of those movies was Primal Fear in which he played a murderer with split personality and another one was American History X in which he played a violent white supremacist. He has a new highly-praised film called Birdman with Michael Keaton, so hopefully he’s back to making great movies again.
10 Daniel Day-Lewis
There might be one or two more actors who could possibly compete, but at this point in time, you would get very meagre resistance by saying that Daniel Day-Lewis is currently the best actor in the world. His level of dedication is second to none and when he decides to sink his teeth into a role, you better watch out. In the ingenuous film There Will Be Blood, Day-Lewis plays the role of a determined, borderline insane oilman who will stop at nothing in his quest for money, power and respect. It’s a remarkable performance indeed and proof of this actor’s rare and incredible talent.
9 Heath Ledger
It’s truly sad that Heath Ledger past away at such a young age. The trajectory of his career was certainly heading in the right direction, and he was picking all the right movies to be a part of. He will definitely be remembered for the role he played in groundbreaking Brokeback Mountain, but the true jewel of the Aussie’s acting career was the villainous Joker role he played in 2008’s The Dark Knight. He absolutely stole the show with his disturbing, deranged and brilliant performance. Perhaps one of the best complete performances delivered in film in the last decade.
8 Robert De Niro
What can you say about Robert De Niro that hasn’t been said in the past? He is undoubtedly one of the most respected and skilled actors living today, and his list of excellent films is long and extensive. There are also several psychotic roles he’s played that he was absolutely magnificent in. One of those includes the 1976 movie Taxi Driver in which he played a mentally unstable Vietnam War veteran. Another one of his scary roles was the movie Cape Fear in 1991 in which he played the role of a released convicted rapist going after the family of the lawyer who originally defended him in court.
7 Kathy Bates
If you ever want to see a twisted role played to perfection, all you have to do is get on your hands on the 1990 movie Misery written by Stephen King. The movie is about a popular novel writer who is rescued from a car accident by a former nurse (played by Kathy Bates) who also happens to be one of the author’s biggest fans. When this mentally unstable nurse realizes that the author is killing off one of her favorite characters, she starts to reveal her crazy and violent side. We won’t play spoiler here, so if you’re a fan of thrillers, this is one movie you need to see. Bates is also really good in the scary FX show American Horror Story.
6 Jessica Lange
The show American Horror Story is created by the same team behind Glee, and the shows couldn’t be more different. The former is described as an anthology series, and each season serves as its own self-contained mini-series. The first season debuted in 2011 was The Murder House, the second season was “Asylum,” the third was “Coven” and the current season is “Freak Show.” And in all those seasons, the superb Jessica Lange has taken a variety of lead female roles – all equally scary and demented. It’s definitely one of the best shows on television at the moment.
5 Ben Kingsley
The 70-yr-old Sir Ben Kingsley is nothing short of a legend among actors. Over his lengthy career, he has proved time and time again that his amazing range and acting ability can only be matched by few. Movies like Gandhi, Schindler’s List, The House of Sand and Fog, are all perfect examples of his skill. When it comes to playing psychotic and deranged roles, you have to see the British gangster flick Sexy Beast. If you thought all he could play were noble, safe roles, this film will be quite the shock to you. It’s a great film though, and it’s highly recommended viewing.
4 Christian Bale
If you are looking for an actor that can play the hell out of a psychotic role, it might be wise to place your bet on the never-disappointing Christian Bale. Just run down his list of critically-acclaimed movies, and it’s immediately clear that this guy is an acting genius. Some of his most demanding roles depicting troubled and unstable individuals include the films: American Psycho, The Machinist and The Fighter. Next up, you can see him in the Ridley Scott directed film Exodus: Gods and Kings – this movie looks like it will be extremely entertaining too.
3 Anthony Hopkins
The movie Silence of the Lambs based on the book by Thomas Harris is perhaps one of the most terrifying psycho-thrillers ever made. The reason the movie was so good is because Jodie Foster did a great job acting as a determined yet troubled FBI agent and Sir Anthony Hopkins was brilliant as the deranged, conniving and unpredictable cannibalistic killer Hannibal. To date, actors who have to play similar roles probably look up this movie to see how the masters do it. Even though Hopkins has put out quality movies since then, Silence of the Lambs will always be a zenith in his long career.
2 Mads Mikkelsen
Sometimes being able to play a deranged and mentally insane character starts with having the look that fits the role. When it comes to that criterion, there might be few better than Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. He plays the current lead role of Hannibal in the highly stylized NBC interpretation of the cannibal-themed thriller and he acts the character with chilling efficiency. Very scary indeed. To see him play another noteworthy psychotic role, see the Bond movie Casino Royale in which he played Le Chiffre.
1 Jack Nicholson
The 77-yr-old Jack Nicholson is without a doubt one of the greatest that America has ever produced. His roles over several decades have been widely varied and extremely impressive. Some of these roles he has played have been of some very deranged and mentally disturbed characters. These films include The Shining, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and his role as The Joker in the 1998 movie Batman.