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The twelve best actors that play bad guys. read over 3,000 times

Updated on May 12, 2015

Some were born to be bad!


The dastardly dozen!


The Nature of this List- This list is not like an AFI ranking. No, it is from me, an avid movie goer and buff. I am not a movie promoter or a critic.

Hollywood's famous bad guys. The villains that make us laugh, cry, and some, cheer when they die!

The Surprises- These are the ones that may surprise you because they did not make the list.

Gary Olman- I liked him in Air Force One, and The 5th Element, but, I found him to be boring as Dracula and I hated lost in Space. He almost made the list, but I just couldn't do it.

Christopher Lee- He played many evil villains, but did he ever make you hate him, or scare you? Not me. He was good but I can't place him among the best.

Arnold Schwarzenegger- He was awesome as the Terminator, But was a good guy ever since. And Mr. Freeze? Pleeze!

Peter Cushing- He played one of Emperor Palpatine's Governors in Star Wars, and was in many Hammer Horror Productions.I left him out because he was so drab and lifeless.

Robert Englund- He was good as Freddy, but was that such a hard role to play? Besides that was his only bad guy. I struggled with this one, but in the end, Freddy went back to Elm Street!

Killian Murphy- Though he played a bad guy many times, and was good as the Scarecrow in the dark knight movies, he is generally a bit boring.

Those I hated to leave out- Lon Chaney Jr. I loved Lon Jr. but could not add him because he usually didn't play a bad guy. In the Wolfman he was cursed, not evil.

Anthony Perkins- He played a good guy too often, though I thought he was outstanding as Norman Bates. Also, Norman was a sicko and a psycho that most of us pitied rather than hated.

Oliver Reed- The brute from Oliver Twist, and many other movies, was better known for his dramatic roles as a good guy (ie. Marco Polo,The 3 Musketeers , and Gladiator).

Ricardo Maltolban- He was great as Khan and the assassin in the Naked gun Movies. He just didn't play the bad guy enough to get included.

James Coburn- He played a mean old bird as well as almost anyone.

Claude Riens- I loved Claude as the Phantom, and he played the original Invisible Man, but he was just too good as a polite gentle man and good guy to place him on this list.

Ray Parks-I know what you are thinking, who is he? Parks is a martial arts expert and a "fight" choreographer, turned actor. When he was training Liam Neeson in sword fighting, the two of them were so impressive in practice, and Ray was so intense that he was given the role of Darth Maul, in Star Wars, episode 1. Since then, he has played a bad guy in many movies such as the X-men, as the disgusting but deadly "Toad".

So, here are the Dirty Dozen. I wrote down why I thought they were great, but feel free to comment on the bottom and tell me what you think!


13. Tim Roth- Though he was a cop in Reservoir Dogs , his best roles were as the hated nemesis. Quentin Taratino liked him and used him as a bank robber, who got set straight by Samuel L. Jackson, in Pulp Fiction. However, I liked him best in Rob Roy as the ruthless Archibald Cunningham, and thought he was great as the twisted Abomination in The Incredible Hulk. Though The Planet of the Apes was not very good, he played a great part as an evil simeon.

13. Alfred Molina- Alfred bit the dust in the famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and was the villain who swore to kill Mel Gibson in Maverick. His most famous part as an evil madman was when he mastered the role of Doc. Oc. in Spiderman 2.

12. Rufus Sewell- He will likely move up in time. He is very unique and different from the norm in Hollywood. He is best known for "A Knight's Tale", "Bless the Children", and "Abraham Lincoln..." where he played the head Vampire who started slavery and the Civil War. He always plays a very smart villain with a following. He taunts the good guy into a fight he seemingly can't win. This ruthless brute will star in many more films to come I am sure!

11. Mark Strong- He has been in a lot of movies, and usually plays a very confident villain. He is often cold and bent on ruling or taking power over a country or class that he resents. He was excellent as Lord Blackwood in Shelock Holmes. He was also the Thune in John Carter, and the bad guy in Kick Ass, and many other action movies. He was a big surprise as Sinestro in The Green Lantern.

10. Lon Chaney Sr.-Though he stared in many films and was named the man of 1,000 faces, he will always be best known for portraying the original Phantom of the Opera in 1925.

9. Heath Ledger- Though he didn't play the bad guy often, he was great when he did! He was great as a scum bag in Lords of Dogtown, and of course is best known for taking the Joker to the next level, and an Oscar. Heath will never be forgotten!

8.Sean Bean-This actor plays a good guy turned bad usually. Sean is best known for his roles in The Lord of the Rings, Patriot Games, and 006 in Golden Eye. He is very intense and shows no fear when playing a man on a mission...a bad mission, that is.

7.Billy Zane- Though he is famous for playing a real creep in Titanic, I liked him best in the "Tales from the Crypt" making of Demon Knight. Being a smooth, methodical killer as he also was in Ed Wood's I woke up early..., and Posse, is Mr. Zane's M.O. His first roles ever were where he played a thug in the Troma production of The Toxic Avenger, and one of Biff's cruddy buddies in back to the future. Yes he was in the convertible when it got filled with manure. Billy, is bad to the bone!

6.Jack Nicholson- Yes, Jack has played a good guy in some movies, but come on, you don't remember him best as The Joker, and the creep in The Shining? I do!

5. Bela Lugosi-The Master of the Vampire! Bela did Dracula as no one else did, and he also knew how to play a mad scientist bent on destruction. It is too bad that his career and his life ended with him playing roles in many of Ed Wood's B rated horror films.

4. Vincent Price-The ghoul with the voice. He was sometimes just a smart man getting revenge, but none the less, he was best when being bad! He was down right evil in The Ten Commandments, and The Haunting...

3. Boris Karloff-No, Boris did not make the list for his role as Frankenstein's Monster, but rather playing the Mummy, a wizard, and many mad scientists. Born in England as William Henry Pratt, this great actor will never be forgotten as one of the best in classic horror.

2. Anthony Hopkins-What more needs to be said then...Hannible Lector?

Wait! Read this before you see who made number one.

Number one may surprise you, but think of how natural he is when he plays a ruthless, determined villain with no conscience at all. Not just in westerns, not just as a driven murdering Dr. who didn't care who he had to kill in order to test new drugs, but also a bald, and insane genius who would stop at nothing to rule the world. No he wasn't even afraid to challenge Superman. Think before you react. How could any list exclude the actor that I have at number one? I love this guy, and many of his movies. In fact, some of his films would have flopped if not carried by him!


1. Gene Hackman- The scoundrel that movie goers love to hate!

Please check out my list of the most evil actresses too!


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    • MikeSyrSutton profile image

      MikeSyrSutton 5 years ago from An uncharted galaxy

      Yes, but there are so many that I had to leave out.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      What an interesting hub. Did you consider Rutger Hower at all? Ooo, those icy eyes (shiver).

    • MikeSyrSutton profile image

      MikeSyrSutton 6 years ago from An uncharted galaxy

      Well, the same can be said about many that I left out. I would have had to put Alan Rickman and James Coburn on the list before Kevin. I like Bacon but just didn't see him as being better than all but 11. Thanks for the input!

    • profile image

      ruffridyer 6 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      How about Kevin Bacon? He can play a nice guy you want to watch football with, like in footloose, or a monster you want to strangle with your bare hands. Think of him in Sleepers as the child raping guard.

    • bwhite062007 profile image

      Brianna W 6 years ago from East Coast

      Great choices! I love Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector, those series of movies are one of my all-time favorites!

    • mquee profile image

      mquee 6 years ago from Columbia, SC

      Great hub! Gene Hackman, Anthony Perkins and Tim Roth would be at the top for me. Being the exceptional actors they are, they could make you hate them in their villainous roles. No doubt you have a great list here. Enjoyed!

    • CJamesIII profile image

      CJamesIII 6 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Great list! Gene Hackman is truly one of the greats!

    • Wonder Referrals profile image

      Wonder Referrals 7 years ago from Chicago

      I really enjoyed reading this hub!

      Thanks for taking the time to read my hubs !

    • memoreton profile image

      memoreton 7 years ago from Blaina South Wales UK

      From your list, I'd go for Anthony Hopkins- Hanibal Lecter being number one. Good list.

    • MikeSyrSutton profile image

      MikeSyrSutton 7 years ago from An uncharted galaxy

      I appreciate the feedback! Arnold did not make my list though. I couldn't add Abraham Murry because there isn't the star power and he played a bad guy in a spoof and the remake of 13 ghosts. Not enough there.

      I considered Basil Rathbone, but he was more famous for playing a good guy, eventhough he was good in the 3 Angels(I think), and as Dr. Frankenstein.

      Last, I wasn't a huge Hopper fan, but again better as a good guy.

      Keep your comments coming!

    • Mr. Smith profile image

      Mr. Smith 7 years ago from California

      This was great. We had fun with this one at my house. Good job.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 7 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Nice list. I'd have included Basil Rathbone, Dennis Hopper and F. Murray Abraham, but it's a good list. The only one I question is Arnold Schwarzenegger. (He didn't impress me as Mr. Freeze.)

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      I agree with your choices, Mike, but would add one more as my number one villain - Javier Bardem who played the killer wearing the kooky Prince Valiant wig in "No Country for Old Men." He was scary!

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

      Excellent choices. Yes I do remember the Shining and yes he was one creep dude. Will you have a lis of those who had bad roles as in not the macabre type. I would like to see the guy who played Sawyer on LOST be up there. He has also played a few bd guy roles since then too. So has the guy that played Locke. He had some roles before LOST too.

      How about women in those naughty roles too. Geeze I am sorry to fill you head up with other hubs. LOL