6. Scorpio (Andrew Robinson) – Dirty Harry
The AFI listed ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan as the 17th greatest hero in cinematic history. Dirty Harry is not a performance of great dramatic range, but Eastwood’s character is as iconic as they come – it laid the blue print of the modern anti-hero. However, it’s a pity that Callahan’s nonchalant magnetism seems to have eclipsed what is the best performance of the film – Scorpio.
Played with sadistic abandon by Andrew Robinson, Scorpio is an utterly demented serial killer who operates with no moral compass whatsoever. He delights in tormenting the San Francisco Police Department as he kills women, a priest and a black child.
After Eastwood spotted Robinson during a performance of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Don Siegel cast him because he had ‘the face of a choir boy’. This was a sage decision, for it is Robinson’s boyish manner and appearance that makes Scorpio so memorable.
He relishes violence and deception with an excitement you’d expect of a child with his favourite Christmas present. Indeed, Scorpio displays a twisted affinity for children, such as when he looks on at a busy playground with a wistful smile or when he sings nursery rhymes on a school bus he has hijacked, only to start hitting the children when they stop singing along.
His juvenile nature also manifests itself in a groveling cowardice whenever his back is against the wall. This is particularly apparent when Harry violently interrogates him on a playing field, causing him to squirm like an upturned cockroach. It’s such a brilliantly deranged performance.
Thankfully, justice is served by way of magnum force in one of most strikingly cool showdowns in cinematic history.
7. Albert (Michael Gambon) – The Cook, The Thief, his Wife and Her Lover
In the opening scene of Peter Greenaway’s notorious, nauseous cult classic, Albert’s entourage pin a man to a car bonnet while Albert smears dog shit over his face, chest and legs. He then unzips his trousers and urinates on him. Need I explain any further why he deserves to be on his list?
I do? Well, Gambon also plays the character with a wondrously theatrical Dickensian cockney accent while he delivers lines like ‘next time I’ll make you eat your own shit, after first forcing it out of your dick like toothpaste!’
Albert is a crass, corpulent pig who lords it over everyone like an X-rated Bill Sykes – it really is a challenge to think of a more boorish individual.
8. Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his crew – RoboCop
RoboCop is a film that positively bursts with villainy. Not only is there Clarence and his band of psychopathic criminals, there’s also Ronny Cox as Dick Jones, the ultimate corporate devil. Both men are nasty bastards, but Jones is just about the lesser of the two evils.
Clarence is quickly established as a man who cares about no one, not even his own accomplices, one of whom he throws out the back of a van into the windscreen of a pursuing police car.
He then abets the shockingly vicious murder of Officer Murphy, whose corpse will be reanimated as RoboCop. For Clarence, killing a cop is a sick game; he blows Murphy’s hand off with a shotgun and remarks to the others: ‘Well give the man a hand!’ His minions then shoot him to pieces before Clarence finishes him off with a shot to the head. The way the men laugh is so sadistic, especially the shrill, hyperactive chortle of Joe Cox (Jesse D. Goins). It’s a genuinely unpleasant scene.
Outside of this though is a character you love to hate, especially when he delivers RoboCop’s best line: ‘Bitches, leave.’
9. Paul and Peter (Arno Frisch & Frank Giering) – Funny Games
The introduction of this list outlines how some villains are a pleasure to hate while others cause the proverbial red mist to descend. Well, Peter and Paul fall firmly into the latter category.
The premise of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games is simple – two young men raid a family’s home and submit them to physical and psychological torture. Haneke’s commentary on society’s supposed celebration of violence is ill considered, but he certainly displays his talent for creating excruciating cinema – it really is a tough watch.
Paul and Peter are the most hateful villains on this list because they are given such free, unaccountable reign to be evil. Paul also breaks the fourth wall, smugly tormenting you as well as his hapless victims.
Funny Games is a film that leaves you so indignant you feel like throwing the damn thing in the bin – it’s not easy for a filmmaker to get under your skin like that.
10. Krug Stillo (David Hess) – The Last House on the Left
Like Funny Games, The Last House on the Left is a film about senseless violence, this time perpetrated against two kidnapped young women – Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) and Mari (Sandra Peabody). It’s a rough, dated piece of work, but it still retains some visceral power.
Krug is a hairy, leering serial killer who has escaped from prison with Junior, his heroin addicted son; Sadie, an unhinged nymphomaniac; and Weasel, a scrawny, child abusing sexual degenerate. Determined to continue their mindless campaign of cruelty, it isn’t long before Junior – entirely servile to his father who provides his next fix – manages to trap the two girls while promising them marijuana.
The litany of sadism quickly commences. Krug punches a woman in the stomach, carves his name into the chest of another and even convinces a man to commit suicide, but he’s most offensive when he forces to Phyllis to urinate herself and drools on Mari’s face as he rapes her.
Author Bio: Jack Hawkins is a film and history writer from the United Kingdom. He likes cinematic realism, New Hollywood and boring, black and white documentaries about wars. Follow him on Twitter: @hawkensian.