5 Movie Psychopaths We Can’t Stop Watching

There are spoilers in this article

Do you ever get bored of watching those macho action heroes save the day? Sometimes we don’t want the good guy to steal the show, we want a bit of sinister fun. As actors often say, ‘Villains are the most fun to play.’ I didn’t just make that up, I think, but if I did, I’m sure they’ll agree. However, villains aren’t just the most fun to watch because they’re totally unpredictable whackjobs (for some that may be enough), it’s because they can be great tools to make arguments about society (they can!), all the while giving us a bit of black humor. Something those pesky macho do-gooders can’t. There’s something that just keeps making people come back to these awesome psychopaths. And there’s something even more special about watching these five listed below.

Patrick Bateman – American Psycho

A yuppie killing, Phil Collins loving, axe grinding Wall Street investment banker we all can stop watching, why?

Because he’s not only a stark reminder of the yuppies in the 90’s and their shallowness in the business world where they lived lavish lifestyles without care or empathy for those less fortunate, it’s the quirky absurdity of Bateman’s psyche that makes him so damn watchable. His passion for analysing song lyrics and the dispensing of victims in his Giorgio Armani bag is so absurd you can’t help but laugh at the predicaments he gets himself into. His final shootout through the empty streets of New York plays out like an action sequence in a video game. It helps that Bateman is a force for genuine laughs as it makes him both a dangerous yet fun presence whenever he’s on screen. The line that might sum him up perfectly is when he surmises his exit from a venue, “I got to return some video tapes.”

Best scene: Huey Lewis and the News.

Max Cady – Cape Fear

An obsessive vengeful psycho who stalks a lawyer, Sam Bowden, who sent him away to prison for rape, so why can’t we stop watching him?

Cady’s almost like a Jason type. Just when you think he’s definitely dead, he comes back, tracking the Bowden’s down like a human GPS. He’s a character you can’t take your eyes away from, partly due to Robert De Niro’s ballistic performance. De Niro’s previous psycho role, Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver may have been mentally unstable, but here he’s more of a sinister presence. His overbearing physical nature and dead eyed smile and biblical tattoos create a simmering psychopath whenever he’s on screen. Despite being this out and out whack job, his character is deeper than your average psycho. He’s got a valid motivation for being angry. Cady’s wife divorced him and took custody of his child years before the rape. After he was sentenced, he tried to find God. However, his God may be a little different to most, as he believes his God asked him to do the all the awful acts towards the Bowden’s for some unidentified reason. Something tells me the cops won’t buy it though.

Best scene: this entirely improvised scene between Juliette Lewis and De Niro.

Charlie Meadows – Barton Fink

Meadows, the warm insurance salesman living in the room next to Barton Fink, if only Barton would just listen!

There are two very strong reasons why we can’t stop watching the madcap Meadows. First, his role in the plot takes us by surprise. Before Barton Fink came out Goodman didn’t usually play the out and out psycho role. And two, his actual role in the story is so ambiguace, it just wants to make us analyse everything about what his character says and does. Meadow – apart from being crazy – can be interpreted in quite a few ways. In the film, Barton Fink is a play writer who insists he only writes about the common man, and can only relate to their stories, however, when Barton meets one of these common men (Meadows) he doesn’t realise it. Never listening to what Meadows has to say or even much give a damn about him. So with Meadows simply being the common man, it’s not much sense for why he’s so crazy right? There are many hints that Meadows is in fact the devil and pro fascism. Hints being: the hotel begins to burn down when he arrives back from his ‘trip’, and that the hotel is so hot and humid. That Hollywood is a living hell for Barton and Meadows is the devil making everything worse i.e. the box. Some people who analysed this film also though there are hints of fascism. One instant that points to this is when Meadows says to the doomed detective with his schnozzle to the shotgun, “Heil Hitler.” Anyway, just trying to uncover who Meadows really is, is why we can’t stop watching him.

Best scene: “I’ll show you the life of the mind!”

Amy Dunne – Gone Girl

She’s the child book author turned murder victim turned murderer turned mother! Is that enough reason to not want to watch her?

I’ve said she makes Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction look like Mary Poppins. Rosumand Pike was worryingly believable in this role, and the fact her character, like Meadows, switches halfway through to a crazed, obsessed psycho is all the more entertaining as we want to go back and watch again to pick up the early warning signs. Like all psycho’s she was crazy from the start of the film, but she’s one of the cold and calculated ones, and it makes her all the more frightening, for men. What makes her one of the most memorable is her sheer dedication to her acts. The beating her eye with the hammer, the neck cutting, the wine bottle… uh, you know I wouldn’t be allowed to describe it. Her commitment stretches further than this though, wanting to have a baby and condemn Nick Dunne to a life of hell is one committed psycho move that cements Amazing Amy as one we can’t stop watching.

Best scene: Bedroom fun.

Annie Wilkes – Misery

Annie’s a former nurse living in a cosy little farmhouse who loves reading romantic novels. She seems so endearing; until you find out she loves their authors a little too much.

The scary thing about Annie is the fact that no normal conversation or reasoning can be had. She plays with the author, Paul Sheldon like a toy. Her scariest feature is that she doesn’t use swear words, child like passive aggressive words like, “mister man,” “dirty birdie.” She’s creepily cartoonish, and Kathy Bates balance the cake baking nerd girl innocence with the flashes of psycho flawlessly. What makes Annie all the more creepy is that she was based on, Genene Jones whose allegedly killed up to 50 children in her two years as a nurse. It’s safe to say I will never look at her in another role and pretend it isn’t Annie Wilkes, ever.

Best scene: “God, I love you.”

Now the list is over I know you maybe wondering, ‘So, what now? What’s next for our beloved psycho’s?’ I know you probably won’t be thinking this, but it fits nicely as a finishing paragraph. Anyway, so what’s next? Well, Nicholas Hoult is about to do the rounds as Stelfox, an A&R man looking for the next big group in the ever increasing Britpop scene in John Niven’s book adaptation of, Kill Your Friends. And luckily for us, he’s a romping psycho. Stelfox takes extreme measures to find what he wants, and isn’t shy of using drugs, sex and murder to do the job. Check out the trailer for the film below, and let me know if you think Stelfox will be a psycho to watch for years to come.