Some of the Best Psycho Performances in Modern Media

I saw The dark Knight this weekend, and was very impressed with Heath Leger's performance. It made me think of the great actors and actresses who could take mundanely scripted villains and make them into truly frightening psychos and iconic characters.

In the spirit of Leger's "it's not what he said, it's how he said it" turn as the Joker, I present the best TV and movie villains of modern media (past 20 years or so)
that don't already get WAY too much praise...

These are in no particular order:

1. Heath Leger, The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)

Honestly, I thought his performance was going to be disappointing considering the hype surrounding the circumstances of his death. Also, "Oscar Buzz" has had a historical subtext of "overrated".

Not so this time. Leger's controlled passion in this role lights up the screen, and makes the viewer anxious for his next appearance. Even the cliche' throw-away jokes he makes are delivered with the undertone of instability Leger brings to the character. Unlike Nicholson's "happy-sociopath", Leger's Joker brought the instability and anarchy of an unhinged mind to right under the surface of the character. You keep waiting for the explosion, but, like in the penultimate scene, it never arrives. A great performance of a man trying to bring the world in line with the chaos of his mind.

Quotable Quote:

"Do you know how I got these scars?"

2. Brad Pitt, Jeffery Goines in 12 Monkeys (1995)

Lots of folks don't remember Pitt's turn as the bi-polar son of an industrialist who turns into an ecoterrorist, but to me it was one of his best.

Pitt's portrayal of a typical nut-house crazy person is tempered by his often clever and lucid scheming in helping Cole (Bruce Willis)escape, and releasing the animals from the zoo.

Quotable Quote:
** no great line, but the middle-finger gesture is not to be missed...

3. John Malcovich, Mitch Leary in In the Line of Fire (1993)

Pure sociopath, Malcovich calmly torments his victim, secret service agent Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood). As he proceeds with his plot to have another president killed on Horrigan's watch, Leary is by turns polite, well mannered, charming and utterly ruthless.

Quotable Quote:
"Why did you have to be from Minnesota?" (a question I ask my friends often...)

4. Jack Nicholson, Col. Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men (1992)

I know...I know... he's done better psychos...but remember the time constraints (past 20 years) That means "CooCoo's Nest" and "The Shining" are out. Besides, Nicholson's delivery of extremely clever dialog just before he takes a left turn into completely inappropriate really epitomizes the brilliance of his portrayal. The lines just wouldn't make any sense if anyone but Nicholson said them.

Quotable Quote:
"You know, Danny, it just hit me...she outranks you... If you haven't had a blow job from a superior officer, then your just not living life the way it should be... of course, I'm a Colonel, so I'll just have to wait until they elect some gal president..."

5. Kevin Spacey, Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects

After you realize the twist ending...consider how Spacey narrates this series of cold-blooded murders while pretending to be a snivelling, fearful wretch. Spacey is a master of the dead-eyes sociopath If the last lines of the film don't give you chills, well, then, you just aren't paying attention.

Quotable Quote:
"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

NB: He was good in "Seven", too, but had more of a performance in this one.

6. Edward Norton, Aaron Stempler in Primal Fear (1996)

Faking a multiple-personality disorder is nearly impossible for anyone to do. No matter how unrealistic the premise of this film, the way Norton seamlessly transforms from snivelling, clueless Aaron to abusive, psychotic Roy is brilliant and compelling.

Quotable Quote:
Veil: "So, there never was a 'Roy'?"

Stempler: "Mr. Veil, I'm surprised at you. There never was an Aaron."

7. Zach Quinto as Sylar in Heroes (2006-Present)

This guy oozes menace from every pore. Even at his most charming, something about him is simply unsettling. It will be interesting to see if that is acting, or if a Young Mr. Spock will be equally creepy.

Quotable Quote:
"This is usually the part where people start screaming."

8. Ron Rifkin, Arvin Sloan in Alias (2001-2006)

What do you get when you cross a Jewish accountant with a reptile? Arvin Sloan from Alias. While orchestrating fantastic plots and manipulating his family and friends, leading some to their deaths, he never loses the veneer of a Gila monster bathing in the sun. This guy so rarely loses his sh*t, it's a sight to behold when he does.

Quotable Quote:
"For you who pay witness, I can only believe there is a common thought amongst you all - this is as it should be. I do not disagree. My only request - that if my daughter is in fact found alive, that she understand my actions. That she understand that this day's events are the net result of her father's passion to find her... to know her... to love her."

If I missed anyone, feel free to comment.

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