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15 Famous Movie Psychopaths

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15 Famous Movie Psychopaths

In Bruges badass Martin McDonagh returns this weekend with Seven Psychopaths, the sophomore feature from the Irish multihyphenate and a good source for onscreen nutjobs. Colin Farrell leads the cast of not-quite-sane characters, who include two dognappers played by Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken. Still, we’re thinking this new septet of psychos has nothing on the filmic crazies that have come before, particularly the lot we’ve assembled for this list. You could repeatedly scour cinema history and return with a new batch of lunatics every time. For now, here are 15 that linger strongly in the memory, a rogues gallery that runs the gamut from clingy patient to schizo serviceman.

Sexy Beast

Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast (2000). Lodged somewhere between Ben Kingsley’s prestige projects and his penchant for crude comedy, Sexy Beast casts the veteran actor as Don Logan, a bona fide sociopath who ultimately forces retired ex-con Gal (Ray Winstone) to take part in a sketchy London heist. Kingsley’s electrifying histrionics, including the famed, shrill insistence of “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” helped to land him a lot of Supporting Actor awards love, but his character doesn’t meet so handsome a fate. After a retreat that only builds his rage, Don returns to Gal’s Spanish villa, but his vicious intents are thwarted by Gal and company, who off their unwanted guest.

Fatal Attraction

Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987). If you thought Albert Nobbs was scary, get a load of Glenn Close’s stinkface in Fatal Attraction, the movie that notoriously serves as a cautionary tale for married men with wandering eyes. Close is free-spirited and crazy-headed Alex Forrest, whose tryst with Michael Douglas’s Dan Gallagher leads to a full-blown, unreciprocated obsession. Y’all know where it goes from there—rabbit stew a la Close and a lot of butcher knife swinging. This gal will not be ignored (that is, except when it comes to winning Oscars).

Ichi the Killer

Nao Omori in Ichi the Killer (2001). In Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer, the famed Manga series from Hideo Yamamoto is brought to life, particularly by Nao Omori, who scarily embodies the titular assassin. Manipulated by the devious Jijii (Shinya Tsukamoto), Ichi is harmless until he becomes enraged, which leads to homicidal—and crazily sexual—tendecies. Ichi is implanted with painful memories and used as a killing machine, and from there, the death toll in this grizzly thriller keeps climbing.

Psycho

Anthony Perkins in Psycho (1960). Soon to be portrayed by James D’Arcy in Fox Searchlight’s Hitchcock biopic, Anthony Perkins will always be remembered as a gentlemanly nutcase, playing Norman Bates as a meek mama’s boy who’s ostensibly harmless. Even when slaying his prey, he hides his pretty face behind the guise of an old woman, placing a buffer between him and his savagery. Of course, that changes nothing about his atrocious capabilities, which range from masturbatory spying to knife-happy outbursts. Repression is the path to madness, you might say.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). Michael Rooker got the role of his career when he took the lead in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, John McNaughton’s thriller about Henry Lee Lucas, a real-life madman who murdered scads of women in the 1970s. Known for its benchmark status as a horror film with scarily realistic violence, Henry boasts a turn from Rooker that’s decidedly unironic, as eerily cold as the bodies left behind. At one point, Henry and his murderous sidekick, Otis (Tom Towles), break into a home and kill a whole family, with Otis threatening rape before doing away with the wife. Henry, meanwhile, simply likens the act of offing people to hunting and bleeding deer.

American Psycho

Christian Bale in American Psycho (2000). One man who would have certainly wept at news of Whitney Houston’s death is Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), the hyper-obsessive, yuppie murderer in Mary Harron’s American Psycho, whose ‘80s music collection is as pristine as his haircut. If Norman Bates is a killer gentleman, Bateman is a killer poster boy, perfect in all ways but for his need to shed blood. The decay of Bateman’s tony facade is the greatest part of this film, as vain sex sessions in view of a nearby mirror lead to not-so-secret chainsaw chases in an apartment building’s stairwell. All that murder, and Bateman still has time for 1,000 crunches.

What About Bob?

Bill Murray in What About Bob? (1991). In What About Bob?, Bill Murray plays the titular, fear-stricken patient of celebrated psychologist Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), who’s aghast to find that Bob has crashed the Marvin family vacation. Everyone loves Bob’s buoyant worldview except for Leo, who can’t shake his demented, dependent client. Eventually, Bob unwittingly turns the tables, and drives Leo nuts with his endless antics. The process is truly maddening to watch, and it’s always fun to learn which character gains each viewer’s sympathy.

Peeping Tom

Karlheinz Böhm in Peeping Tom (1960). Peeping Tom has famous fans like Martin Scorsese, who counts the film among the greatest about filmmaking, but it was a blow to the career of Michael Powell, who saw the movie’s controversy fatally wound his career as a director in the U.K. Featuring the first female nude scene in a British film (among other things), Peeping Tom stars Karlheinz Böhm as Mark Lewis, an aspiring filmmaker whose approach to the craft involves murdering women on camera then watching the results. A part-time softcore porn photographer, Mark also has a dark and horrid history involving his father (Powell himself), who subjected his son to eternally disturbing experiments. The apple doesn’t fall far, and Mark’s psychosis leads him to his own grisly suicide.

The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008). One wonders what Heath Ledger would have said or done had be been around to accept his Oscar in 2008. Would he have approached the podium humbly, accepting his award like the modest thespian he seemed to have become? Or would he have slithered into character, lashing his tongue and whipping his head just like he did in his iconic portrayal of The Joker? We’ll never know, but Ledger sure did leave behind a whale of a signature performance, which few would decry as the best ever in a comic book film. Ledger’s Joker lives to spread madness, and his peak is probably the infiltration of a hospital, wherein he dresses up as a female nurse before fleeing the building and blowing it up.

Play Misty for Me

Jessica Walter in Play Misty for Me (1971). Who knew Arrested Development had a direct link to Clint Eastwood? Long before she embodied Lucille Bluth on the beloved TV series, Jessica Walter played a lovestruck maniac in Play Misty for Me, Eastwood’s directorial debut. Walter is Evelyn, a loyal listener of radio DJ Dave Garver (Eastwood), who makes the grave mistake of bedding his fan. Evelyn reveals a warped personality disorder, and proceeds to attempt suicide, sabotage Garver’s career, and nearly murder the DJ’s squeeze (Donna Mills). Not even a psycho ward can rehabilitate Evelyn, who, like Alex Forrest, has a hankering for butcher knives.

The Cable Guy

Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy (1996). Ben Stiller took a step behind the camera for The Cable Guy, directing Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick in a surprisingly dark comedy about a regular Joe (Broderick) who hires Chip (Jim Carrey), the world’s craziest cable installer. Broderick’s character is soon unable to escape his newfound friend, suffering Chip’s presence wherever he goes, from his home to a little eatery known as Medieval Times. Carrey’s screw-loose highlight is a nightmare sequence, which sees Chip barrelling down a hallway with toxic green eyes, demanding some attention from his stalkee. Chip just wants to hang out. “No big deal!!!”

Apocalypse Now

Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now (1979). Francis Ford Coppola’s dense Vietnam opus completely boils down to the introduction of Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz, whom Martin Sheen’s Willard must murder by order of the U.S. military. A rogue deserter who’s certifiably batshit, Kurtz has much to say about “the horror” of war, particularly how fond of it he’s become. Tucked away in a trippy hut in a small Cambodian village, the bald-headed wackjob does not disappoint, ably living up to the hype the movie spends its near-entirety building.

No Country for Old Men

Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men (2007). “You can’t stop what’s coming,” a lowly redneck murmurs in No Country For Old Men, and so it’s true when that “what” is Anton Chigurgh, the non-discriminating killer indelibly embodied by Javier Bardem. Interpretable as death incarnate, or the odious wind of change, Chigurgh is remorseless in his murders, not to mention surgically precise. He mows through a roster of victims with terrifying stillness, ironically bringing the storm, yet acting like its eye. Like Michael Myers, Chigurgh is scary and mad enough that just looking at him could put you down.

Audition

Eihi Shiina in Audition (1999). Takashi Miike lands on the list again for conjuring up another murderously gonzo figure. In Audition, Eihi Shiina is Asami, an actress duped into filmmaker Aoyama’s (Ryo Ishibashi) faux call for actresses, which is in fact his way of finding a new mate. Asami seems too perfect, but Aoyama takes her anyway, only to find that she was a fatally wrong choice, with a notable affinity for piano wire. Miike effectively blurs the line between reality and fantasy, leaving the viewer to decide the validity of so much grisly dismemberment, but Asami’s madness is scarily authentic—a quiet trait of a pretty girl with hideous abilities.

Mommie Dearest

Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest (1981). Joan Crawford might have been a monster of a mother, but Faye Dunaway emerges from Mommie Dearest as seeming even more grotesque than the diva she’s portraying—a vain screen goddess who made life hell for daughter Christina (Diana Scarwid). A (cold-cream-coated) portrait of neuroses gone wild, Dunaway is a campy scream as the screen legend, whose obsession with cleanliness is dwarfed by her tendency to fly off the handle. No one has ever watched this movie and looked at wire hangers the same way again, and furthermore, looked at Crawford without seeing Dunaway’s psycho-camp embodiment.

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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