Top 10 Most Manipulative Characters in Movies

5. Matt Damon as Tom Ripley in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”


A character that audiences are not used to seeing Matt Damon play comes in the shape of Tom Ripley. A polite young man who yearns to be more than what he really is, or at least what he appears to be on the surface, is sent to bring back a spoiled young man named Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) to his parents. But the life of being carefree and luxurious, in which Dickie and his girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow) lead, becomes Tom’s obsession.

At first, to Dickie, Tom is just an awkward guy who just likes to hang out with him, but what he doesn’t know is that the whole time, Tom is studying the way he lives so he, too, can be luxurious and carefree. But once Tom’s imitation of Dickie becomes noticeable, Dickie wants to be rid of their friendship, but he is unable to do this when Tom shows his true colors and murders him.

Yet the manipulation does not end with Dickie. Tom goes about life moving from place to place, from person to person, making his life seem luxurious, and whenever someone starts to catch on to his schemes, he always finds a way to shut them up, by either fear or death.

This is mainly seen at the end of the film; when he must ensure that his plans of being someone he is not are not ruined, he must kill his lover, Peter, so even he may never find out who Tom Ripley really is. Even the audience is left questioning if Tom Ripley is even real.


4. Kevin Spacey as Keyser Soze in “The Usual Suspects”

best original screenplay

Kevin Spacey’s first role on this list is Keyser Soze, or the man he wants you to believe him to be, Roger Kint, a con artist with a limp. The story of “The Usual Suspects” is told from Roger’s point of view, as he is giving information about a heist he and his friends were made to be involved in by Keyser Soze, a crime lord who is just a myth to most. Thus where the manipulation begins.

Appearing as the weakest of his group, no one would ever suspect that the meek Roger Kint would ever turn out to be the mythological creature that is Keyser Soze. He limps around and always seems as if he needs protection, for he is often just standing in the corner hunched over trying to not draw attention to himself. Little did his friends know, like he wanted them to, they never expected him to hurt a fly.

Everything is reviewed in the last two minutes of the film, when Roger walks out of the detective’s office after telling his the side of the story, which is now known to be full of lies, and suddenly going from limp to perfect walk. He disappears before Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) can catch him, thus leaving Keyser Soze still a haunting myth that will never be caught.


3. Kevin Spacey as John Doe in “Se7en”

Se7en – ‘The Box’

Detectives William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and David Mills (Brad Pitt) think they have finally caught the “seven deadly sins” killer, John Doe (yes, another Kevin Spacey role). Yet, what the two detectives don’t know, is that John Doe will do anything to finish his killer masterpiece, and he will even finish it with cuffs around his hands.

With only two sins left, wrath and envy enter the well-known box. Though John has made the detectives believe he is just with them to confuse his crimes, he still has one more trick up his sleeves. That trick is delivering David’s pregnant wife’s head in a box. John is revealed to be the sin “envy”, since he wished to have a life just like David.

William does everything to prevent David from shooting John out of rage, but unfortunately, David is unable to hold in his anger, and becoming “wrath”, he shoots John in his head, killing him. Though he does die, his masterpiece is complete and the detectives are left defeated.


2. Heath Ledger as the Joker in “The Dark Knight”


The Joker is the biggest wild card known to film. The characters of “The Dark Knight” never know what the Joker has up his sleeves next, only that it can be anything but good. His main goal is to make Batman (Christian Bale) break his rule of killing by trying to get to him.

Though he might not succeed at that, he does succeed in changing Harvey Dent, Gotham’s white knight, into the villainous Two-Face. This shows that even the purest of people can be turned to the “funny side” by just “a little push.”

He is a man without a plan, meaning no one ever knows his plan, and this is why he is one of the most manipulative characters known to any type of media.

He makes people think he will do one thing, and then when it is too late, they find out he is doing something even worse. He commits the ultimate of crimes, and even though he might seem to lose in the end, his actions and his mind games still mess with his victims, even when he is out of the picture.


1.Edward Norton/Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden in “Fight Club”


People realize you are a great manipulator when someone is able to manipulate themselves. This is the case with Tyler Durden, an anarchist and the leader of a fight club, but the catch is, Tyler Durden doesn’t even realize he is Tyler Durden.

The narrator of the film sees Tyler as a man who he just comes across and befriends, and as he watches Tyler, he realizes that the simple anarchist might be a little too much.

When the narrator is out looking for Tyler, who has simply disappeared, he comes to realize that Tyler Durden is his alter ego and that he is the one who plans to blow up buildings. He tricked himself into starting a club for lost men to fight and hook up bombs to destroy a city. Now that is some manipulation.

In the end, he does try to right some of the things Tyler was about to do. But instead, he goes along with the plan that he himself had sneakily come up with.

Author Bio: Dacie Jeanne is a film study major who is fascinated by the crazy and unique world of movies. You can also find her on her own blog which is dedicated to dressing up as your favorite film characters.