Seven Movie Psychos

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Usually, when October rolls around, we as movie-goers are subjected to an ever growing number of masked killers and newly refurbished ways to try and get us to pee our pants. While there have been, and will be, a few new additions to the horror canon this month, another “horrific” release has garnered my interest; Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths. In the spirit of the unstable month of killers and the insane, and the fresh release of McDonagh’s latest effort, I began thinking of the greatest off-kilter characters ever put on film. So with that, I give you film’s seven greatest psychopaths.

1. Norman Bates

The obvious choice. How can anyone possibly make a list of the greatest movie psychopaths and not choose the one who all predecessors are now compared? Anthony Perkins’ portrayal of the insane mama’s boy in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is the definition of creepy. No one can argue that the final, hovering shot on Norman’s blank stare does not leave you feeling anything but chilled.

2. Hannibal Lector

Where Norman Bates is a flagrant nutjob, Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lector is a calculated genius. In his three-film series (which we’ll stick to for the sake of space) he carries an aura of sophistication, never acting as anything other than courteous and professional. It is this inability to divert from his savvy, crazy-eyed lunatic that makes Lector oh so menacing. Well, that and the fact that he eats people.

3. Anton Chigurh

Despite the Dorothy Hamill haircut, the rest of Javier Bardem’s stone cold killer is frightening as all hell. His unwavering self-instituted morals and terrifying cattle pressure pistol make audiences cringe with anticipation of something awful to come every time he’s on the screen. Not that there weren’t other factors involved, but Chigurh makes No Country For Old Men a magnificent film.

4. Alex Forrest

Glenn Close has made a career out of her ability to play any character thrown at her, but none have had the same effect as her portrayal of a woman scorned in Fatal Attraction. Her depiction of Alex Forrest implies that she’s actually a pretty normal person in the beginning but there’s a pretty psychotic individual waiting to be exposed. It takes a special kind of crazy to think cooking a rabbit will get the man you love back.

5. Principal Ed Rooney

Not all psychos have to be killers. In fact, some of the most memorable film crazies were just obsessive creeps. Enter Jeffrey Jones’ Rooney. A man so enamored with catching a student in the act of taking a day off, that he stops at nothing including breaking into his house and encountering his protective Rottweiler. No moment may amount to when he thought he saw Ferris Bueller at the arcade, and after grabbing “him,” finds out it’s just a teenage girl.

6. Travis Bickle

Martin Scorsese has directed his fair share of nuts in his career. Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas. Max Cady in Cape Fear. Bill “The Butcher” in Gangs of New York. A pretty impressive array of crazy. But more insane than those is Robert DeNiro’s titular Taxi Driver. A seemingly normal human being on the outside, the audience gets a front row seat to the soundtrack of his mind where his normal is stalking the streets of New York and taking dates to midnight pornos. A mirror scene has really never been more terrifying.

7. Randle P. MacMurphy

I thought about leaving this space open for Nicolas Cage as any of his roles because, well, come on, but I couldn’t leave off the man who first made a career off of crazy: Jack Nicholson. What I regard as the greatest performance of all time, Nicholson’s mental patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest really gives us a lot to consider about the definition of a psychopath. Is he the one who is really crazy, or is it the villainous Nurse Ratched who’s off her rocker? Nicholson treads the line of sensible and psychopath so well that it’s hard not to accept the idea that the craziest ones of all might in fact be the most sane.

Seven more: The Joker, Daniel Plainview, Regina George, Phyllis Dietrichson, Judge Doom, The Hanson Brothers and Alex DeLarge.

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