5. Dr. Christian Szell – “Marathon Man”
In terms of depravity, Nazis rank pretty high. Nazi dentists are even more terrifying, as illustrated by John Schlesinger’s “Marathon Man”. Many Nazi war criminals were able to escape punishment and live out the rest of their lives in relative comfort, coasting on the spoils of war.
That is the case of Dr. Christian Szell (played by Laurence Olivier), who must emerge from hiding to claim a massive collection of stolen diamonds. He eventually encounters Babe (Dustin Hoffman), whose government op brother (Roy Scheider) is involved in the diamond smuggling ring.
“Marathon Man” is most notorious for its dental torture scene, and Szell’s ceaseless questioning of Babe in the form of “Is it safe?” For all intents and purposes, Szell is not human. He expresses no remorse for his actions (past or present), and is only motivated by his desire to collect what he believes is rightfully his. His torture of Babe remains disturbing despite its lack of discernible gore, because it is rooted in reality.
Szell (and his real life counterparts) inflicted far greater atrocities on innocent victims throughout World War II, and many of those responsible for the worst atrocities escaped justice. While Szell is eventually thwarted in the end, his limitless evil continues to haunt Babe, as well as the viewer.
4. Ichi – “Ichi the Killer”
For awhile, Takashi Miike was the bad boy of Japanese cinema. “Ichi the Killer” was the director’s 2001 gore fest, and it became a must-see for lovers of over-the-top carnage. In the film, a seemingly retired young man named Ichi (played by Nao Omori) turns into a violent and sexually-charged aggressor whenever he experiences rage. This makes him a prime tool for the Yakuza, who mentally manipulate Ichi to take advantage of his homicidal bloodlust.
Ichi is a bit different than many other characters featured here in the sense that he has no control over his admittedly frightful behavior. He is also used as a pawn by others, many of whom are far more wicked than him. Ichi’s repressed demeanor and inability to control his actions recalls real-life stories of serial killers, who often appear mild-mannered to the general public regardless of their psychotic underpinnings.
3. Withnail – “Withnail and I”
“Withnail and I” comes complete with its own drinking game, which should give you an indication of just the sort of depravity on display. Withnail and his fellow reprobate Marlow (or simply “and I”) make a habit of doing absolutely nothing between bouts of excessive drug and alcohol usage. In a fit of boredom, they retreat to a distant relative’s pastoral home, where they indulge in even more bad behavior until being driven back to the city due to various offenses.
Played by Richard E. Grant, Withnail is the type of character young artistic types hope to become, before they realize what a farce he truly is. While most of his bad behavior is relegated to self-abuse, he remains a pompous blowhard who overestimates his own abilities. He is most talented at consuming virtually every intoxicating substance known to man, including lighter fluid in one instance.
While his partner in crime appears to have some semblance of humanity under his bored and listless demeanor, Withnail seems to be without any redeeming qualities.
2. John – “Snowtown” (“The Snowtown Murders”)
Unlike many of the other characters on this list, there is nothing fun or likable about John of “Snowtown”. While he is first shown to be a guiding light for the disenfranchised residents of a small Australian town, he soon proves himself to be just as sick as those he’s targeting.
This vigilante begins by setting his sights on people accused of abusing children in the most horrific manner imaginable, but his quest quickly veers off track as he uses this excuse to kill indiscriminately within the confines of his home turf.
John is shocking in the sense that he seems so ordinary. You can imagine the parents of abuse victims, stuck in an impoverished situation with seemingly no access to outside help, looking to John for guidance and reassurance. You can also see the change in him, or the moment when his true self becomes evident.
As he is dining with the son of a woman with whom he’s become friendly during his crusade, you see the shift from well-meaning individual to cruel psychopath. The scene ends with the boy dispatching John’s pet dog at his urging. This is merely practice for what’s to come, as John grooms the boy to participate in a string of grisly killings.
1. Johnny – “Naked”
“Naked” is a filthy (yet brilliant) film about a filthy (yet brilliant) man named Johnny. Played by David Thewlis (aka Remus Lupin of Harry Potter fame), Johnny may or may not be a rapist, but he is most definitely a pretentious egomaniac who takes joy in wielding his intellectual heft among the lesser rabble surrounding him.
As a result, pretty much everyone despises him, from ex-girlfriends to random people he runs into on the street. This culminates in a brutal beatdown that isn’t exactly unwarranted, even if you feel some sort of affinity for the character.
Johnny is the type of low-key scumbag that most people can easily recognize. He’s that guy sitting at the end of the bar alone every night, because he doesn’t want to be bothered by those he deems mind-numbingly mediocre.
Perhaps with a bit more ambition, Johnny could convert his misanthropy into actual rage, but that would undoubtedly take too much effort. Accordingly, Johnny relegates most of his hatred for humanity to much easier targets, such as those poor unfortunate women who cross paths with him.
Author Bio: Eustacia Adams is a drinker with a writing problem. She has a degree in film theory and likes to annoy people with her meticulous knowledge of B-movie actors.