The history of cinema is filled with interesting characters, but one that fascinates me the most are psychopaths. From their elaborate plans, to their sickening and twisted minds, they just have something so interesting and complex, that I just had to talk about it. With this article I will try to analyze and compare what I think are the four greatest villains and psychopaths in the history of cinema.
4. & 3. The Joker And Tyler Durden
These two characters are probably these two actor's best performances. Heath Ledger as the Joker and Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden. You might be thinking: How are these two even comparable? Let's first see; Tyler, is just the narrator's (Edward Norton) alter ego. When he appears in the narrator's life, he's seen by the narrator as some kind of savior — the perfect man. Great physique, good with women, agile and strong, intelligent, has cool clothes. He's everything that the Narrator wanted to be.
Tyler Durden: "All the ways you wish you could be, that's me. I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not."
And by creating Fight Club, he freed the narrator from his mundane life. What Tyler wants to achieve with Fight Club and Project Mayhem is to restore our humanity by destroying big corporations. Since our normal lives do not have that much excitement and do not test our humanity, Tyler wants to restore that feeling in the most primitive way possible — by creating pain. By making us fight and deal with pain, we then have to respond to it by trying to survive.
The Joker tries to do something similar. Instead of freeing us, he tries to show everyone in Gotham that rules and systems are nothing but facades. He makes robbers kill each other to get a bigger cut. He makes three mob members fight to death, whoever survives joins his team. He also makes normal citizens commit various crimes.
Joker: "Do I really look like a guy with a plan, Harvey? I don’t have a plan… The mob has plans. The cops have plans. You know what I am, Harvey? I am a dog chasing cars… I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. I just do things. I am just the wrench in the gears. I hate plans. Yours, theirs, everyone’s. Maroni has plans. Gordon has plans. Schemers trying to control their worlds. I am not a schemer. I show the schemer how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. So when I say that you and your girlfriend was nothing personal, you know I am telling the truth. I just did what I do best. I took your plan and turned it on itself. Look what I have done to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Nobody panics when the expected people gets killed. Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying. If I tell the press that tomorrow a gangbanger will get shot or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics. – because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, everybody lose their minds. Introduce a little anarchy, you upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I am agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos Harvey? It's fair."
What these two characters have in common is that they commit horrendous acts, but in order to show society their true horrible nature. For me, these two villains do and reveal things that we secretly want but exclude from our lives out of a sense of morality. Tyler tries to show our own violent nature and The Joker forces us to survive in a chaotic system.
2. Anton Chigurh
Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is probably the most terrifying psychopath on this list. To me, Anton actually feels kind of otherworldly. He is extremely ruthless, does not say much and does not display much emotion. He seems to act as if he was a robot. You could say he's just a cold blooded killer, that might be the case, but I think that Anton represent's something greater. Anton is almost invincible; he seems like he knows how to survive anything. Anton almost represents the devil. He kills everyone and everything that's in his way — no mercy, no regret. If he does not feel obligated to kill somebody, he will put it in the hands of fate, by tossing a coin. I have already suggested a type of evil that is necessary, and a evil that reveals the horrible truths of our human nature, but this is pure evil. A evil that has almost no guidance or purpose — it's just there. The only way he knows how to spare someone is by chance
Carla Jean Moss: You don't have to do this.
Anton Chigurh: [smiles] People always say the same thing.
Carla Jean Moss: What do they say?
Anton Chigurh: They say, 'You don't have to do this.'
Carla Jean Moss: You don't.
Anton Chigurh: Okay. [Chigurh flips a coin and covers it with his hand]
Anton Chigurh: This is the best I can do. Call it.
Carla Jean Moss: I knowed you was crazy when I saw you sitting there. I knowed exactly what was in store for me.
Anton Chigurh: Call it.
Carla Jean Moss: No. I ain't gonna call it.
Anton Chigurh: Call it.
Carla Jean Moss: The coin don't have no say. It's just you.
Anton Chigurh: Well, I got here the same way the coin did.
What Anton has that makes him different to other villains is that he is purely evil. No glimpse of hope, no one knows anything about him. He's incredibly ruthless and dangerous and shows no empathy or emotion towards anyone.
1. Travis Bickle
Now here's the real deal. This is not only one of the best performances from Robert De Niro, but also one of the greatest performances of all time. This character has so many layers, I can't even the express how complex this character is. But there was one thing about him (among many) that surprised me. Travis is lonely, everybody knows this, so to not feel lonely he talks to himself, and he does not reveal to anyone this side of his. Other people will have to make up their own ideas of who he is. To the people he drives, he's just a cab driver. To Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), he might be a very controversial person. To Iris (Jodie Foster), a savior. And to Sport (Harvey Keitel), a complete asshole. It does not matter. Let Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) explain:
Frank Underwood: "After all, we are nothing more or less than what we choose to reveal."
So in that case, Travis is anonymous. Nobody actually thought he would kill anybody. That suggests that anybody could be Travis. That is probably the only advantage of being lonely. Since nobody truly knows who he really is, he could be anyone. Therefore, he represents not only a character, but a symbol. This distant from society, enables anybody to become Travis Bickle.
These characters are all extremely dangerous and unstable, but they all have one thing in common. They are great characters. Why, you ask? Because they show us that we are good people, that everyone has a second chance. They show us that we have flaws. They show us that we can be corrupted, be evil; that sometimes we need to forget order and just act as our instinct tells us. We are not flawless, and these characters show us who we could become if we lived life aiming to being perfect. Einstein once said:
It's these flaws and mistakes that give meaning to the word "human."
Fans of American Horror Story will recognize the scenes in the video below, as they are moments from the show inspired by real-life killers and psychopaths much like those on this list:
Which of these characters do you think is the closest to real life?