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Top 10 Cinematic Psychopaths

Shane Dayton

If you say you’re a horror movie fan, that’s not really giving a lot of information. There are so many different types of horror movies and sub-genres of horror movies that two big fans of horror movies may like completely different films. While zombies, vampires, and werewolves all have their place, one of the most intriguing type of horror movie villains are psychopaths.

Human, yet incredibly evil, psychopaths are able to pass themselves off as another normal human being, yet how can you know that person standing next to you in an elevator is evil incarnate? While there are literally dozens and dozens of great psychopath movies, here is my list of the top ten movie psychopaths, based on charisma of the character, and scariness (so even though Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is a classic, you won’t see it on this list).

10. Highwaymen 2003

Highwaymen

This movie stars Jim Caviezel as the protagonist, Rennie Cray, a husband whose wife was murdered by Fargo, a serial killer who gets kicks murdering women with his 1972 Cadillac El Dorado. Most of Fargo’s body are prosthetics, but he managed to make his car like an extension of his body, and he travels around the country murdering women, and leaving clues to taunt Rennie as he tries to follow him from town to town. Fargo is cruel and taunting, and he picks his victims out and hunts them down. While the movie is an iffy B movie, Fargo is a great modern psychopath.

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9. The Good Son 1993

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Macaulay Culkin as Henry Evans proves that you don’t have to be an adult to be psychotic. Something about having a boy that young with no regard for human life whatsoever is creepy beyond belief. How often can a movie show a child smile, and you become chilled to the bone?

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8. Silence of the Lambs 1991

The Silence Of The Lambs Poster

Hannibal Lecter is one of the most infamous and bone chilling psychopaths to ever grace the big screen. Even more amazing is how long Lecter stays in your nightmares and gives you chills, considering in the movie “Silence of the Lambs,” this cultured, eloquent, and articulate cannibal and serial killer only has 17 minutes of total screen time.

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7. Peeping Tom 1960

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You have to hit the vaults to find this classic treasure. This movie was so disturbing that Director Michael Powell’s career never recovered after he directed this extremely controversial film. This film features the psychopath as the main character, as insane voyeur Carl Boehm films his female victims’ dying gasps as he impales them with a sharpened camera tripod. Even 50 years later this film is still scene as a ground breaking film in psychological horror.

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6. The Night of the Hunter 1955

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Movie psychopaths don’t come much more terrifying than the one portrayed by Robert Mitchum. He plays “The Reverend” Harry Powell, a religious fanatic who is on a crusade to rid the entire world of what he calls “perfume smellin’ things.” Reverend Powell is a twisted and murderous misogynist well known because of the switchblade he conceals in his pocket (take a guess at what he uses that for) and he has the words “Love” and “Hate” etched on his knuckles. Mitchum’s portrayal of this psychopath will stay with you long after the movie is over.

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5. American Psycho 2000

American-Psycho

Kudos to actor Christian Bale, who adopted a perfect American accent and a male model’s physique to play the part of white collar psychopath Patrick Bateman – a Wall Street hot shot by day who spends his spare time as a blood thirsty butcher in this gory cinematic gem. The scene where Bateman uses an axe to hack apart a rival piece by piece while dancing to Huey Lewis’s “Hip To Be Square” is well deserving of its infamy.

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4. The Shining 1980

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Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, writer turned mad man. “Here’s Johnny!” “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…” One of the most convincing movie psychos of all time, that big insane grin and evil eyed look is so well known it’s part of main stream cinema history.

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3. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 1986

Henry Serial Killer 01

What is so frightening about this film is how mundane the act of violent murders are to the psychopaths in this film. It’s just normal, like picking up the mail, or shopping for some groceries. This film starts with a blue collar type of guy teaching a friend how to murder without getting caught. This is loosely based on a real life story of a serial killer, and Michael Rooker’s portrayal is unsettling because he seems like such a common man. After watching this movie, even you’re most normal of neighbors can seem threatening, if you’re the paranoid type.

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2. No Country for Old Men 2007

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Javier Bardem as sociopath Anton Chigurh is nothing short of evil personified in this film. Anton Chigurh almost took the top spot on this list, but one man barely held him off. Ice water doesn’t even begin to explain what runs through this psychopath’s veins, and the inventive weapon, refusal to stop, and the strange code of honor (heads or tails to see if you live or die—Friend-O) makes him even more terrifying. This is one of the best and most interesting psychopaths ever, which is appropriate since this is one of the best movies to come out in years.

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1. Cape Fear 1991

Cape Fear

Robert de Niro’s character, convicted rapist Max Cady, goes to prison. His defense attorney had a document that could have gotten him acquitted because the rape victim, a 16 year old girl, was promiscuous, but knowing what his client was like, he hid the document. In prison, Cady learned to read and vowed revenge. After 14 years in prison he tracks down the lawyer, starting by killing people related to the family. The scene involving a bed and hand cuffs is one of the most disturbing in the history of psycho movies, and Max Cady is too insane, too vengeful to bump out of #1, even if it was close.

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Any honorable mentions list could include dozens of psychos, but this list is the top ten movie psychos of all time, and each film will deliver the chills and psychological horror that you yearn for.

Contributor: Shane Dayton