Top 5 button-down psychos

Sitting having lunch outside recently my eye was drawn to a rather odd fellow walking past. With a bolt upright posture and off-kilter gait, shirt tucked neatly into high waisted chinos and a backpack pulled super tight, he instantly put me in mind of a psycho.

Not an overt ‘Begby’ style one a la Trainspotting, but a buttoned-down average Joe, one of those blue-collar types. The kind that no one notices… Until it’s too late.

To paint you a better picture here are some creepy characters that sprang to mind. Pray you never meet them as your day will most likely get a hell of a lot worse.

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William Foster (Michael Douglas) Falling Down
Douglas’s Foster is the most average Joe on this list (if you couldn’t tell from his outfit) and managed to dominate every situation he encountered – in a zen like way only achieved by a man who’s long ago fought the devil of insanity and lost but grimly accepted the outcome.

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John Doe (Kevin Spacey) Seven
Whatever you do, ensure you know where your wife is at all times, especially if you’re on the hunt for an unassuming chap like Spacey’s Doe. Only appearing completely in the flesh near the end of the movie, he still made a profound and visceral impact.

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Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) No Country for Old Men
Beyond his supremely creepy haircut, which just screamed psycho, Bardem gave his character a really understated level of malevolence and menace. His weapon of choice, too, was inspired, and should earn a place in the psycho hall of fame.

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Don Logan (Sir Ben Kingsley) Sexy Beast
Barely concealed fury personified. In Logan, Kingsley created a character which, in other actor’s hands, could have been laughed at or dismissed as thinly drawn; yet here he commands you watch and fear him. Ray Winstone looked scared to death.

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Kevin (Ezra Miller) We Need To Talk About Kevin
This film didn’t grab me initially but there’s no denying Miller’s consummate performance as Kevin. The subtle yet brazenly disturbing way in which he torments his family – particularly his sister – before letting loose on his school is truly frightening.

Who are the top 20 most intense actors of recent times?

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I do like an intense character and performance when I’m watching a film. Someone who literally rivets and welds you to the screen, look away at your peril. Some people probably like their films bright and breezy. I don’t mind those too, but there’s something about intensity that leaves a lasting impression. You remember those performances.

As such I thought I’d offer a couple of lists of actors and actresses that have had me mesmerised, entranced and – at times – a little frightened. I’ve most likely left off a lot of vintage performances and characters, but this is MY list so I’m allowed. Let me know your thoughts. Who would you have liked to have seen included?

In these lists I’ve put links to clips from some performances you might not have seen before, or maybe just want to revisit. Remember though, best not watch alone though, these lot are intense!

The guys

  1. charlie bronsonDaniel Day Lewis (Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting, Gangs of New York; Daniel Plainview, There will be Blood)
  2. Heath Ledger (The Joker, The Dark Knight)
  3. Tom Hardy (Charles Bronson, Bronson)
  4. Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman, American Psycho; Batman, The Batman Trilogy)
  5. Kevin Spacey (John Doe, Seven)
  6. Christopher Walken (Vicenzo Carcotti, True Romance; Frank White, King of New York)
  7. Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men)
  8. Christopher Waltz (Col. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds)
  9. Vincent Cassel (Jacques Mesrine, Mesrine)
  10. Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills, Taken)
  11. Jeremy Renner (Sergeant William James, The Hurt Locker; Jem Coughlin, The Town)
  12. Gary Oldman (Drexel, True Romance)

The gals

  1. helena bonham carter harry potterHelena Bonham Carter (Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland; Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter)
  2. Cate Blanchett (Galadriel, Lord of the Rings)
  3. Marion Cotillard (Mal, Inception)
  4. Angelina Jolie (Lisa Rowe, Girl, Interrupted)
  5. Melanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus, Inglourious Basterds)
  6. Charlize Theron (Aileen Wuornos, Monster)
  7. Famke Janssen (Xena Onotopp, Goldeneye; Jean Grey, Xmen: The Last Stand)
  8. Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

So, there’s my list. You’ll notice there’s more men than women, I’m not sure why. I think, perhaps, there’s a tendency – particularly in Hollywood – for studios to shy away from films with intense, female leads. I wonder if they are more of a risk commercially? I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more to do with a lack of decent scripts for women, ones that don’t play to stereotypes.

One thing I’ve noticed is how top actors portray intensity – for me – it’s in the eyes. I think it’s what separates great actors and actresses from the rest. If you allow yourself to be drawn into their gaze, there’s so much depth there. Depending on the character they’re playing, it can be equally exciting, captivating and terrifying. Watch Pacino in The Godfather, making the decision to kill with his eyes. A lesson in intensity.

Right, I need to go watch some comedy now to level out. It’s all got too much. I’ll finish with artwork of Marion Cotillard, not because it’s intense, but because it’s simply beautiful – and that’s all the reason you need.

Marion Cotillard artwork